City Manager T.C. Broadnax said in the 2013 Year in Review, “There
exists a renewed focus on preserving public safety.”
TPD top cop says, “Reference the public safety crowing: All that high tech stuff
in Homeland Security came from the Feds as grants. Broadnax didn't get any of
that on his own nor did he fund any of that. He stripped 60 positions from the
Department we will likely never get back. We don't have enough Detectives to
investigate most crimes.”
Mr. Interlocutor to Mr. Broarnax. Can you answer us that Mr. Teaser
in from "Call me Ishmael":
Meant to respond earlier to your excellent editorial on former Mayor
Baarsma's comments re David Brame. A classic case of selective memory. While
I like the man, and think he has always meant well, the comments I read make me
concerned for his chairing of the Historical Society. I salute the idea
of preserving Tacoma's history, but hope that history is not 'rewritten' in the
I was stunned and amazed when former Mayor Baarsma stated that David Brame
would not have been confirmed as chief of police had the city had a strong
mayor/council form of government. I have two primary objections to this self-serving
comment. First, Baarsma, whom I personally like, was nonetheless a
strong Brame supporter, as noted in the Takhoman. To suggest that a strong
Mayor would not have confirmed Brame is ludicrous.
On top of Brame being deified by the Tacoma News Tribune team of David
Zeeck, David Seago, et alia, and being anointed by City Manager Corpuz,
Brame had the strong support of (then) Mayor elect and later Mayor elected
My second concern with Baarsma's comments are more generic. Whether
there is a Council/ Manager or a strong Mayor/council/administrator form of
government, the council has to be awake, involved and concerned to prevent the
disasters (Brame, Murray Morgan Bridge neglect, pothole neglect, "The
Ting" overruns on budget,...choose from variety of embarrassments - the
list is long....) Tacoma has faced.
Over many years of direct observation of the Council members, I have
noticed that most Council members are good people, but with very small
scope. They try to do some things for their districts; they fight to be first
to support trendy, chic and/or politically correct things, regardless of
expense; they attend all politically correct functions; they speak eloquently
and expansively of their "visions" for Tacoma, and generally
accomplish rather little.
Two previously cited issues generations of council members ignored are potholes
and the Murray Morgan Bridge, a major transportation arterial to and from the
Port of Tacoma, the "commercial engine of Pierce County”. However, if you
were to interview almost any one of the council members in the last 40 plus
years, they would tell you that they "wanted to fix the problems, but
there were always 'higher priorities".
'Higher priorities' is a
euphemism used by politicians to justify doing the glitzy things that bring
photo - ops and appeal to voters as opposed to the boring, "meat and
potato" maintenance issues such as fixing the streets. "Meat and
potato" issues make the city run but do not dazzle the voters.
The citizens expect the streets to operate; they take as for granted
that the streets will be in good shape - and they should!
The excuse always offered for failure to do what should be done - mandatory
maintenance - is almost always 'budget shortfalls.' True enough, as far
as it goes, but why are there always budget shortfalls in critical areas, such
as fire, police and street maintenance? This excuse stems from the same
problem - which at best is benign neglect by council.
Former Mayor Baarsma cited some budget issues with former City Manager
Eric Anderson which have contributed to the city's current woes. However,
the Council - strong or otherwise - has the ability not only to ratify, modify
or reject budgets proposed by the manager, but also the ability to fire the
manager if they feel he is not serving well. One can interpolate that
Council could also send a strong message to a Manager in Executive Session that
they are not hitting the mark and needs to improve or they will be gone. Instead,
Council seems to let managers, such as Corpuz and Anderson, run wild and then
blame the manager - and fire him - after the fact. If Council members were
actually engaged in management of the city, rather than being the
dilettantes they usually are, Council could forestall some excesses of a
manager before they happen.
Council members in my experience have been intelligent, articulate people who
actually want to do good. Alas, they seem to define 'good' as that which
makes them happy and helps their election campaigns to their seat or to higher
office. Worse, shortly after election, they begin to believe that only
they have wisdom and that most decisions are beyond the scope of the little
people (e.g. the citizens). They - and they alone - know what is best for
the city (or county or state or nation). They also seem to have very
little contact with reality of life; many have little to no work history in
The analogy which seems to fit is to let bright and privileged children
run the family: they will have a 'really cool car,' stylish and expensive
clothes and eat dessert for every meal, but they will forget to pay the rent or
re-roof the house. After all, re-roofing the house is boring, expensive
and 'no one will notice.' The Council Members seem to have no ability to
cinch up their belts and direct the city budget to the actual needs of the
city; rather they spend the city's money on 'nice things'' 'stylish things' and
'cool things.' Further, they make decisions with little regard to
consequences, such as giving much of the Dome's parking to the Car Museum and
then wonder why the Dome is not doing well.
Their comprehension of 'ethics' is weak; several seated Council members
have violated the ethics code, but not one of them thinks he/she did anything
wrong. I doubt any one of them asked the City Attorney if what they
proposed doing might be a violation of the code prior to taking the action - or
perhaps they just hoped no one would notice. They seem to believe with a firm
conviction that their desire to 'do good things' justifies any violations they
commit (which is not unique to Tacoma, such action by politicians can be viewed
daily at the county, state and federal levels.). To suggest people such as
this, regardless of the form of government in which they operate, will take
positive action to prevent future debacles is decidedly unrealistic.
Loosely quoting Omar Khayyam, 'myself when young did eagerly frequent doctor
and saint and heard great argument about it and about, but found evermore that I
went out the same door where in I went.' This pretty well describes a
council meeting - all sound albeit without fury and signifying nothing. In
modern terms, “the more things change, the more they remain the same”.
The Charter review
can suggest any form of "new and improved" form of government
it wishes, but the city's problems will not change unless the philosophy of the
people who are elected to office changes. Dye a poodle blue or cut its
hair in a Mohawk, it is still a poodle. Do Council members want to be
gritty, frugal and really help the city but risk being voted out of office...
or do they want to be bright, clever, articulate and useless?