Saturday, March 29, 2008

Study Session Agenda: Mar. 31, 2008

UPDATE: The full packet for tonight's meeting is now available at Ruston Reports...

I didn't make it by yesterday afternoon to pick up a full packet. I will try to get any other information posted on Monday. Here is the agenda for the study session Monday night:

  • Call to Order
  • Roll Call
  • Flag Salute
  • Agenda Approval
  • Presentations
  • 1. Tom Orr - LESA Communications
  • 2. Planning Department Presenations
  • Business
  • 1. Rules of Procedure (as Albertson presented for the last meeting)
  • 2. Town Planner
  • 3. CTED Grand and MDP (bring previously supplied materials)
  • 4. Town Attorney
  • 5. Agenda Approval for Study Session April 14, 2008
  • Adjourn Meeting

Friday, March 28, 2008

Tacoma Weekly Reports

Yesterday's edition of the Tacoma Weekly had three articles about Ruston, and promises more in next week's edition.

March Snow

I don't think we've had snow stick down here by the water all year - now we get some in March??? Send your pictures of the 2008 snow to

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Going Green

Point Ruston sent out this press release today ~ Julie McBride (Mike Cohen's wife) is going to chair Olympia's Master Builders Build Green committee, proving committment behind the words...

Point Ruston Update

A reader predicted yesterday that the first Point Ruston building will get built in Tacoma, not Ruston. So I checked in with Point Ruston. Here is an update:
  • Stack Hill: The building permit for the first model home has been issued and construction is underway. Since this is a model home, I'm not sure when the value will hit Ruston's tax base. The real estate excise tax is only charged when a property is sold. Point Ruston has applied for a second building permit for the next home.
  • Waterfront: There was an update on one of the Tribune blogs about the new development on the south end of the site (in Tacoma) to be named Copperline. Permits on this development have been applied for and are under review. The City of Tacoma is expected to issue their final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) this week. No building permits can be issued until the final SEIS is done.

So, Ruston got the first building permit issued (after at least 2 years of haggling). It's still possible that completion of the first building will be in Tacoma, but the Town would have to work really, really hard to make that happen. Personally, I think we'll see several homes underway on Stack Hill before the first Copperline building gets done. At least I hope so! What's your prediction? ~ Karen

(I just noted that Exit 133 has an update on this same issue today after Point Ruston made a presentation to Tacoma's Economic Development Committee yesterday. Check it out here...)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Spruce up for Spring!

Has the gardening bug hit you yet? Spring cleaning inside and out? The bug has infected a few folks around town who think the cure is to spruce up the yard at the fire fighter's bunk house next to town hall. Anyone who wants to help should call Bruce at (253) 370-2857.

Study Session Update: March 24, 2008

From what I hear, the study session went pretty long on Monday night. Steve Marcotte spoke with the council for about an hour about his financial study on Ruston. Ordinance 1251 appears to make our part-time utility clerk full time. It was decided that the first reading needed to happen during a regular council meeting, so it will be on the agenda for April 7th.

There was further discussion on new council rules and procedures as presented by Council Member Albertson and the potential switch to a new form of government.

Carl Sticksrood, our current planner with Huitt-Zollars was in attendance to discuss the final two issues on the agenda (town planner and CTED grant to re-write the Point Ruston Master Plan), which happened sometime after 9 pm.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Something new on the Foss

A reader with a downtown office and great view of the Foss Waterway sent this picture in of the Point Ruston ferry/sales center. He noticed it today and wondered what it was. Thanks for sharing ~ enjoy that view!
There's a nice story on The Tribune's business business blog Wednesday, too.

Point Ruston Ferry Sails

In case you haven't noticed, the floating sales center for Point Ruston set sail this morning. It's not going far. They have set up shop on the Thea Foss Waterway until they can get a permit to moor the converted ferry closer to home. Point Ruston provided this update and photos:

  • The historic ferry being converted to a floating sales center will be moored at Johnny's Seafood dock on the Foss Waterway until the permit process can be completed to moor the ferry on the Point Ruston shoreline. The boat is moored at the North Pier just in front of Johnny's Seafood Co. (located at 1199 Dock Street). The Sales Office will officially open in mid-April.
  • Point Ruston via our floating sales center will also be a part of Bonneville Radio's (KIRO, KTTH and KBSG) Tacoma Condo Tour on April 19th and 20th, from 10am to 6pm.
  • Tall Ships' organizers have accepted Point Ruston's invitation to use the vessel during this July's headliner event as a social center for the sailing crews. In addition, the vessel may be used to take guests to meet and greet the Tall Ships as they arrive in Commencement Bay.

Council Study Session: March 24, 2008

There was a study session last night that I missed. Here is the agenda. I'll get some feedback on what was discussed and let you know...

Click here to read the full packet of information...

Thursday, March 20, 2008

State Auditor's Office Responds

Helen Accra inspired me.... I sent this letter out to several agencies last week. Below is a copy of the response from the state auditor's office. ~ Karen

March 19, 2008

Karen Pickett
5224 N. Shirley Street
Ruston , WA 98407

Dear Ms. Pickett:

Thank you for contacting the State Auditor’s Office with your concerns pertaining to the Town of Ruston . Specifically, you have concerns regarding the appointment process used by the Town of Ruston council members to fill the last two vacancies on the Town Council.

We have sent your concerns to our team that audits the Town. The team will review your concerns and we will report back to you the results of this review.

As part of our mission to ensure the efficient and effective use of public resources, we rely on citizens to bring potential issues to our attention. Thank you for taking the time to submit your concerns. If you have any questions, please contact Audit Manager, Mark Rapozo at (253) 593-2047 ext. 111.


Director of Special Investigations

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Desert Flowers

It's wildflower season in Tucson...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Here are a couple of reports from folks who attended the meeting (with some minor edits). Thank you!

Beth Torbet:
1.Presentation (Stebner) = Reinholds attorney, Joan Milhan ?, briefed the council and audience at the invite of Stebner, about the specifics of his lawsuit with numerous objections from the mayor & town attorney. ....she took more than 2 minutes!
2.Ordinance #1250 to amend budget for unanticipated expenses = moved forward to next council meeting for second reading with public comment. Will put in newsletter.
3.Reversal of Court Street (Albertson) = will put in newsletter for public to comment Albertson heard from residents and admitted not knowing the history of that topic.
4.MDP Update-advisory committee = council directed by mayor to make appointments. Carl said council & planning members were his suggestion.
5.Resolution #412~declaration to enter interlocal agreement w/tacoma = yes 5-0 after rules changed to allow Tacoma representatives (?) to answer council questions. Resolution allows process to begin to research concerns of each municipality.
6.Termination of H-Z (Huson) = much discussion of fees, process and procedure. I think it ended with town attorney directed to determine if another municipality could be considered without an RFP/RFQ & if so move forward with invites in a 30 mile radius ~ or if we are required to go out for a public RFP/RFQ prepare the announcement.
7.Resolution to support Point Ruston (Huson) = It will be on the next agenda.
8.Professional Services w/Bob Burke = not to exceed 15k, would be senior planner to H-Z, reason is to get 75k matching grant to review/redo? MDP. Discussion began on specifics and need to even go for the grant. Council decided to table & review specifics and need. (Not sure if this the grant we have already accepted to update the Master Development Plan for the Point Ruston site)

Huson extended the meeting two times to accommodate the citizen comment period. Meeting ended around 9:45 or so. Jim Wingard, Helen Acra, Connie M., Mike Cowen, Lorren Cowen, Sherrie Forsch, Brian (applied for PC), and Mark Shots spoke.

Craig Fletcher (Craig's full dialog is posted as a comment to the council agenda for this meeting)
Wayne's super double top secret presentation was the lawyer for Jim Reinhold's suit against the town. The mayor and town attorney both pointed out that having her speak was a violation of their buttoned lip policy and further that she shouldn't be presenting this to the council in a public meeting. She left.
Ordinance 1250, the SWAT payment has been amended and continued until the next meeting so that public can comment. Bradley wants to explore a way to charge (the man involved)... for the SWAT response. The mayor and town attorney both viewed that as pretty difficult to deal with in such a manner. Why can't Ruston hammer out a reduction in the price since the TPD guys could use the training anyway.
Court street to Baltimore one way reversal, apparently it switches regularly over time.
Res 412, Declaration of intent to enter into an interlocal agreement with TacoMa to administer an LID with Cohen's Point Ruston development. Dan did point out that Ruston has a lot to lose in the event of a default what with our very small tax payer base. However he was getting into his interrogation "gotcha" mode again even if he was making valid points.
There has been a proposal to re-review 1002 as it appears to be stopping development.
The ouster of Huitt-Zollar is on hold but there is movement on the part of the council to investigate an interlocal agreement with a neighboring town for planning and building permitting as well as the engineering aspects of same.
Re: Huitt-Zollar contract. The unsigned copy included in the packet was tendered in 1994 and Phil Parker's name is on there as Mayor. Phil took his own life in 1995 or we could ask him if he ever signed. The contract for consultant services is for Richard Carothers Associates Ltd. of 705 S. 9th Tacoma. Did Huitt-Zollars inherit the contract? I did see that Richard Carothers has an office in Seattle at 814 E. Pike which is also the address of Huitt-Zollars.

Monday, March 17, 2008

In The News

Matt Driscoll, reporter for the Weekly Volcano, has a story about Helen Accra's letter to the ACLU. Check it out here...

Council Meeting Tonight

Tonight, 7 pm at the school building, 5219 N. Shirley Street. I'm out of town and can't attend, so if anyone has a report or comments please email them to me at so I can post them. Thanks! ~ Karen

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Sunshine Week

The News Tribune reports that Sunshine Week is designed to celebrate and encourage open government. They had an interesting in-depth article today about public disclosure requests in our area to highlight 'open government'. Ruston wasn't included in the study, but probably handled more requests than some of the communities listed like Algona or Milton.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Friday, March 14, 2008

SWAT Follow-up

There was a follow up on the Tribune's blog today, a well written letter by the daughter of the man involved with the SWAT standoff. She notes that her dad has lived in and served this community for many, many years and deserves our respect as they deal with issues that many families have faced. Well said...

Egg Stuffing

Sherri Forch is calling out the troops to help stuff plastic eggs tomorrow for the Easter Egg Hunt:

Hop Hop Hop.. it's time to play Easter bunny. I need about 23 people *(at least) to stuff eggs on Saturday March 15th at 1 pm at the Town Hall (5117 N. Winnifred). I have tables, chairs are there, we can set up an assembly line~ if ea ch person stuff s 100 eggs, we can do all 2,300 in an afternoon. That's my goal. This is doable with everyone's help.

Bring your neighbors, bring your friends, this is an old time barn raisin' social...everyone is welcome and appreciated.

Thanks...... Sherri. See you Saturday..

Thursday, March 13, 2008

More $$$$

The Tribune has a report on the $20,000 bill Ruston owes to Tacoma for the SWAT team response late last year. It will be interesting to see how we swing this one amidst all the other bills and competing priorities for the Town's limited budget.

The Fish

Scott Fontaine from the News Tribune did a nice piece today on the Goldfish Tavern, one of our area icons.

More Details on Reinhold Firing

Ruston's in the paper again - more background about Reinhold's firing this time. You can view the letter exchange between Reinhold and Transue here, here and here, courtesy of the News Tribune.

Makes me wonder what secret information Council Members Albertson and Stebener got in their meeting with this mysterious "former employee". They met with this person in their official capacity as council members, but we've haven't heard anything since they authorized the meeting for themselves. We need a new soap opera - "As the World Turns in Ruston, Washington" or something catchy. What name would you give us?


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Goldfish No More?

Talk about changes brewing in our local commercial landscape. Scott Fontaine is reporting that the Goldfish Tavern is closing and more condo's may be going in.

Progress appears to have stopped on the development project next to Jungle Fever on the Tacoma side of Pearl Street, too. Change is never easy ~ it feel a bit like growing pains.

Ruston's Official Comment Letter

There is much ado in Ruston's political circles about the Point Ruston development. All indications are that we need this development to survive, and quickly. We have heard from the Point Ruston team that the Town's official comment letter on the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) was far from supportive. Here is the letter so you can judge for yourself ~

Click here to read the full 16 page document...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

ACLU Complaint Filed Against Ruston Council

This complaint from Helen Accra is on its way to the American Civil Liberties Union this afternoon regarding the recent actions of the council majority:

Dear Sir or Madam:

On behalf of the citizens of Ruston, I am asking your assistance in regard to a breech of civil liberties on the part of the Ruston Town Council.

At a January 2008 Town Council Meeting, Bradley Huson proposed a change in council meeting procedures (attached). His proposal was seconded and agreed upon by two other council members with no public discussion allowed. In effect, Mr. Bradley’s proposal disallows public comment on Town of Ruston issues until those issues have already been voted upon by moving public comment to the end of the meeting.

In addition, the council agendas are published the Friday before the Monday meeting. Council members routinely request agenda items be listed, but do not provide any information other than the 3-word agenda listing. At the meeting, the item will sometimes have limited council discussion and vote taken without any public comment. It appears the decision by the council majority is predetermined, even to the point of a scripted motion and second.

In addition, these new rules limit public comment to two minutes with each participant being allowed only one opportunity to speak. Mr. Huson stated further that if a council meeting ran too long, he would delete public comment from the agenda entirely and that he would remove all public comment if the citizens make too much noise at council meetings. All public comment is banned from any study session, which is currently scheduled for twice a month.

The council further violated our right to free speech when they banned the public from commenting on applicants for vacant council positions. On December 3, 2007 the council appointed Dan Albertson to a vacancy just 10 minutes after the resignation of the former council member was announced. At the March 3, 2008 meeting, the council appointed Jane Hunt another vacancy without allowing any public comment or public interview of prospective candidates, even by fellow council members. Besides the clear violation of free speech, these actions appear to violate the state Open Meetings Act. Rather than disband this study session, as Mr. Huson attempted to do when he left, the disorderly few should have been removed and the meeting reconvened according to RCW 42.030.060.

Bradley stated his reasons for proposing such a drastic change in the rules. First of all, he stated a concern for his own personal safety due to a disruption of a study session by two angry and frustrated citizens even though there was no threat to his person at that meeting. He walked out at the first minor disruption, causing even more disruption by his actions. A copy of the audio of this meeting is available at Secondly, he stated, he wanted to get the town business completed in an efficient manner. Without such limited public input, issues are being pushed through very ‘efficiently’ and quickly.

When approached about the possibility of citizens writing (via email or other means) to Bradley regarding town concerns, he stated that he would not respond to these concerns. He offered as a reason that there had been excessive public information requests. He stated that he would be willing to talk to people if they were to visit him at his home. So far, this has not been tried. I asked at least one citizen to go with me to Bradley’s house, and they stated they were afraid of reprisals on Bradley’s part.

Another issue is that Bradley Huson’s primary residence is in Seattle and not Ruston. He does have a home in Ruston, but it does not appear that he lives there most of the time as observed by several of his neighbors. When he is at his Ruston residence, Jane Hunt and Dan Albertson are frequently seen visiting him there. Of course, no one knows if these are just social visits or visits for the purpose of setting Town Council agendas which, of course, would be against the Public Meetings Act of Washington.

The council has not consistently applied their own rules. For instance, a builder (not a Ruston citizen) went over his two minutes expounding upon an issue that the council majority agreed upon. Wayne Stebner, one of the three council members supporting the new rules, stated at the council meeting of February 25, 2008 that the builder should be allowed to go over his time (although other citizens are not allowed to go over that two minute limit). Mr. Stebner stated that others had been allowed to go over their two minutes, which is not true. I have attended every single council meeting since the new rules took effect and never witnessed any such allowance. Clapping was allowed when the new police chief was appointed and the most recent council vacancy was filled. No clapping has been allowed for any other point of view since these new rules were imposed.

Another issue is the secret meetings three council members appear to be holding to predetermine council meeting discourse and issues upon which these three council members always agree. These private meetings and discussions appear take place, at least in part, under the guise of a Newsletter and Website called the Ruston Connection and those associated with it. As of January, 2008, only certain members of the community have access to this website. I suspect that information on that website could be quite incriminating if uncovered in terms of how a small group of citizens (I count 15 at most) are trying to take control of this town and push agendas counter to the wishes of the majority of the town’s citizens.

There is no doubt in my mind that the Ruston Connection is the vehicle through which they plan and implement their agenda. The newsletter co-editor announced in December that this is a private organization and newsletter (although it is delivered to every doorstep in Ruston monthly). The group began as a political action group called Citizens For Ruston, who ran the successful campaigns for 4 of the last 5 council seats, and who’s members have now been appointed to the last 2 council vacancies. Wayne Stebner, Dan Albertson, and Bradley Huson are closely associated with this group. Until his resignation in January 2008, Bob Everding was a council member. His wife runs their web site. I have tried repeatedly to log in to the web site and have been denied with no explanation and have repeatedly asked Virginia Caprio, one of the editors, why. She had no answer other than to ask me to call Sally Everding, the aforementioned former council member’s wife, in this regard. I have left a message on Mrs. Everding’s voice mail and have emailed her; the email response and my response to that email are attached. I have tried twice since receiving Mrs. Everding’s email to log in and have not been allowed in.

I have confronted the council about these secret meetings or communications and have been met with nothing but denials. The three aforementioned council members continue to agree 100% of the time on all issues and are pushing their agendas counter to the will and wishes of the citizens of the Town of Ruston. They come to each council meeting with obviously pre-scripted remarks regarding town issues. They have made it very clear that they do not care to hear from us.

The reason this is happening, I believe, is due to power-grabbing by a small minority of citizens. They don’t want any discussions counter to what they desire to happen in Ruston. By keeping us silent, they can pretend they have our agreement. There is a strong sense of oppression at meetings now. Even people who had spoken routinely at previous meetings are no longer using their limited 4 minutes per month to speak.

What steps have we taken? We have repeatedly spoken up about these issues at council meetings. I know others have spoken at meetings and in private with these council members. There have been some limited silent protests at meetings and some media coverage (attached). I submitted a formal letter at the March 3 meeting to the council to ask them to reverse these rules. I am copying the auditor’s office. The local newspapers have been contacted again. A complaint on the most recent council appointment will be filed with the state secretary of state, attorney general and the state and local elections office for violations of the Open Public Meetings Act.

All this attention and effort has not even produced an acknowledgement of a problem from the council, much less any change. The only response was for Mr. Huson to call us “caged animals” or that we were “worse than the women at Purdy prison”. (see attached).

I would like the ACLU to demand that the council cease and desist with their limits on freedom of speech on behalf of the citizens of Ruston and to investigate the role the Ruston Connection and its participants are playing in this regard. All public business should occur in open public session. We demand a council that will not only allow input from their constituents, but will act in the best interest of the full community, not a small special interest group.

We are very anxious to have the situation addressed quickly. The council has seemingly unlimited power at this point and can do great damage to the Town of Ruston if not stopped soon. Documentation is listed in the enclosures section and is being sent to you along with this letter.

Helen Accra

Cc: Auditor’s Office

Articles from The News Tribune and The Volcano (local weekly publication)
Copies of The Ruston Connection
Letter to the Ruston Town Council
Letter from Bradley Huson
Article from Ruston Connection web page with Bradley Huson’s council rules
Article from Ruston Connection web page with Bradley Huson’s rules for recent council appointment
Transcript of portions of council meetings
Ruston Town Council Meeting Minutes and Agendas

Tribune Mentions

Jane Hunt's council appointment was on the Tribune's political blog on Monday and a repeat in the local "In Brief" section today.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Study Session Discussion: Mar. 10, 2008

Before I get to the details of the discussion, I have to note that Beth Torbet and I had a very refreshing civil dialogue with Council Member Huson after the meeting. He may be working on getting public comment back sooner than the formal adoption of the council rules (which may make take a few weeks). Stay tuned for more details about other pressures that may be helping that change of heart. We'll have more details by 1 pm tomorrow. Regardless, it is a welcome change that is good for our community. ~ Karen

There were only few residents to observe tonight, and Mike Cohen of Point Ruston with two of his staff. Mr. Cohen was invited to speak about his concerns with Ruston's current planning consultants. As per the new council rules, no one else was allowed to speak or ask questions.

The mayor was not able to attend tonight, so Huson was appointed mayor pro-tem. The council wanted to meet in a round table format, so Huson and Hunt pulled chairs up and had their back the audience. It made it hard to hear at times.

Albertson had researched the change to a council-manager form of government. The council could pass a resolution and put the issue up for a vote at the next general election. Or the issue could be placed on the ballot by a petition of the people. Hedrick suggested using the petition method because it would give a better sense of what the community wanted. Alberston noted that if the change was approved, all the council seats would have to be voted on again at the next general election (2009). That would impact Huson and Hedrick, but the rest are up for re-election anyway.

There was some discussion of hiring an executive manager to assist with the administrative work rather than changing the form of government. Stebner said the Municipal Research and Service Center (MRSC) thought Ruston would be the smallest municipality to function as a council-manager if we make the change. 80% of Washington's cities and towns have the strong mayor form of government like we currently do. There were several questions that will be researched further and more information brought back to the next study session.

The council majority liked Fircrest's council rules and procedures. Alberston will alter to their rules to say Ruston instead of Fircrest and eliminate the reference to a city manager. He will bring a draft back to the next study session. Hedrick asked for a change to require two readings (at two different meetings) for ordinances.

The discussion on the town planner centered on Cohen's complaints about Huitt-Zollars. Albertson wants to fire them (terminate their contract) at the council meeting next week. Hedrick is concerned about leaving the town with no planner. Council members will research other options for planning services, such as hiring another municipality and bring information to the next study session. Huson may have Thurston County make a presentation.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Study Session Agenda: March 10, 2008

Here is the agenda for the study session next Monday, March 10th (7 pm at the school building). Remember, only the council and mayor are allowed to speak during the meeting. You may approach council members before and after the meeting or at their home in your free time. Meeting materials are available at Ruston Reports (all 63 pages).
  • Study Session Called to Order
  • Roll Call
  • Flag Salute
  • Agenda Approval
  • Business
  • 1. Process for reorganization (Council-Manager)
  • 2. Rules of Procedures
  • 3. Town Planner
  • Study Session Adjourned

Friday, March 7, 2008

Fire Department Update

In case you haven't heard yet, Ruston is enhancing the fire department as recommended by the fire committee last year. The house next to Town Hall has been converted to bunkhouse for firefighters. Almost all the furnishing have been donated with a heartfelt thank you from the firefighers. Our volunteers are taking turns staying overnight and by mid-March we will have a resident firefighter committed to providing additional daytime coverage.

Purchase of the new engine is proceeding, too. I'll note for the Ruston Connection editors who wondered in their latest newsletter that this really was a real emergency need, really. Even though our reserve 1968 engine was functioning when the fire committee conducted their study last year, the pump failed in late 2007. The committee did note the challenges the department faced keeping their equipment running on the shoestring budget the council allotted. Old equipment can only last so long. It's not a conspiracy, really, really...

Thank you to the mayor and council for making these important enhancements to what was already a great department. We are grateful for your committment to public saftey. And thank you to our wonderful volunteers. Your gift of time and expertise makes us a better community. ~ Karen

Changes Documented

Want to see how the Point Ruston site has changed over the last century? Check out the Tacoma Sun blog. The aerial photos really show the evolution.

Business District

Our Ruston-Point Defiance Business District is inviting new members. This is the only local business district to cross municipal boundaries and offers unique opportunity to work for the broader good of the whole area. The district covers the entire peninsula north of N. 46th.

Business member dues is $50 per year, community members only pay $15. The district is looking into things like signage, group advertising and litter clean-up, to name a few. The group has sponsored a successful music festival on Labor Day the last three years, but may transfer that energy into a smaller scale farmers market or several mini-festivals throughout the year. Community help is especially needed for this effort ~ its something we all enjoy, so please lend a hand.

Everyone is welcome ~ at-home businesses, community members, shop owners... Tacoma is very committed to their business districts and a group voice has greater influence on our elected leaders. Contact district President James Bennett (Primary Source Books, 5104 N. Pearl) at or (253) 686-7632.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Today's Commentary

I attended a City Club meeting last night, first one in a long time. I was once pretty involved with this lively group of trendsetters, but work commitments have changed. Most my conversations last night centered on Ruston politics.

I spoke to a couple of folks that were part of the murder trial about 20 years ago of Pete Brudevold, our former mayor. They were struck even then with the intensity of Ruston politics. For those who don’t know, a house guest killed Pete (not our politics). The defense claimed that Pete made a homosexual move that caused the attack. It was quite a story at the time.

I responded to the comments that politics are even worse now. To be sure, there is no comparison between physical harm and our current political battle. But the oppressive burden we are struggling against is still very dangerous. The fear and hatred that seems to be the driving force of the council majority has taken its toll on our community. Many of us leave the meetings feeling beat down, heavy and just plain oppressed. Few even speak during our 2-minute opportunity any more – where do you start when the council has already voted on the issues and you know your thoughts will ignored or ridiculed?

One of the primary change management principles in my MBA studies related to open or closed systems. Closed systems always fail. The more closed they are, the faster they fail. Open systems are those that invite input and are structured to respond quickly to new information. No matter how right the Ruston Connection folks may be, the tightly closed system they have set up is destructive.

They have closed off memberships to their web page, they only consider the opinions of those from their inner circle, they think only their friends have contributed anything of value to our community, they appoint only their most trusted people to leadership positions. There is no balance, no consideration of even a neutral position on issues. There is no vision of where we are going, how to build anything positive – it’s all about what/who is wrong and how to make the poor sucker pay for disagreeing with them. Just ask Ruston's mayor.

That’s my philosophical statement for today. What do you think? ~ Karen

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Parting Gift

Former Council Member Del Brewer presented this empty photo album as a gift to Council Member Wayne Stebner at the last council meeting. For more background, see the update on Ruston's lawsuit about The Commencement condo's sales center, which the Ruston Connection crowd wanted to rent out to a ballet studio.

Karen Hoover

Karen's obituary ran in today's News Tribune. You can sign an on-line guest book to leave messages for the family. There is a celebration of life at Point Defiance Pagoda this Saturday, March 8th at 4 pm.

She will be missed. Rest in peace...

Monday, March 3, 2008

Council Meeting: Mar. 3, 2008

  • The discussion on the Eisenhower & Carlson contract was removed from the agenda prior to approval (because of the executive session that was held just before this meeting according to Council Member Huson).
  • Jane Hunt was appointed to the council as expected. Council Member Hedrick noted that the public was not allowed to interview candidates, but asked if council members were also prohibited from asking questions. Huson told him he should have called the candidates on his own time to ask the candidates any questions. Hendrick noted his struggle with Ms. Hunt after hearing from three people about her false statements during the last campaign that there would not be a response if residents dialed 911 in Ruston. Council Member Albertson noted he saw 3 superb resumes (Hunt, Walker, Carpio), but no one knew more about land use law than Ms. Hunt and she wasn't even a lawyer. The motion passed 3 to 1 with Hedrick voting against. There was no comment on the fact that Ms. Hunt had applied for the wrong council seat.
  • The motion and resolution to purchase the new fire engine was approved 5-0.
  • Claims and Payroll was approved after the $20,281.72 bill from the City of Tacoma for SWAT services was removed. The mayor noted that a budget amendment would be needed to find money to pay that bill. He encouraged the council to consider renewing the contract Ruston once had with Pierce County Sheriffs office for extraordinary services such as this. The cost would likely have been lower. Council Member Stebner thought we should ask Tacoma if they would like to offer such a contract. The mayor will have the new chief look into what several jurisdictions might offer.
  • The mayor wanted to know if Huson was still working on a job description and salary for an in-house attorney and planner. Time was important since we loose our attorney at mid-year. Huson said he was working on it.
  • The mayor noted he is still willing to negotiate with the council on budget allocations that he felt were not adequate for town needs.
  • The mayor is pursing the contract with Steve Winterbauer (personnel/labor attorney) at $250 per hour with a one year contract.
  • The town has received a memo from Tacoma that the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for Point Ruston is continuing.
  • Town planner Carl Sticksrood in working on a white paper on affording housing rules that will apply to Ruston based on a conference he recently attended.
  • The mayor will have the clerk check into Ruston seats on local boards that the council should consider filling such at the Growth Management Council.
  • Council Member Stebner confirmed that the new police chief has the same salary as the last one.
  • Stebner wants the next agenda to note a presentation, but he refused to say what the subject would be.
  • Council Member Huson, after some procedural discussion, announced that there will be a study session next Monday, March 10th at 7 pm to discuss the town planner, town attorney, changing Ruston’s form of government and new council rules. After the meeting, he stated the new rules should be available by the end of the week for review prior to the meeting. Future study session agendas will be presented later. (Note: no public comment is allowed at any point during study sessions)
  • Council Member Albertson was concerned that no one had been appointed to the civil service commission yet. He knew of two people that had been rejected and he did not like the way the rejection letter had been worded.
  • Albertson still felt that the town planner’s bills were too high.
  • Albertson had spoken to the assessor’s office and they told him they did not require full plans on building permits. The mayor noted the clerk had been told the opposite, so she will check further. The council requires that all building permits be submitted to the assessor within 24 hours so that new taxes could be assessed on the improvements as soon as possible.
  • The mayor encouraged the full council to hold a study session with the current town planner before making a decision on hiring an in-house planner. Council Members Huson and Albertson had met with them in the past and that information should be made available to the full council.
  • Several members of the public got their 2 minutes to comment on the votes that had already been taken and the meeting adjourned by about 8:15 pm.

Commercial Changes Brewing

I note that some of Ruston's commercial properties are for sale:

  • Ruston Inn is listed at $1.8 million
  • Former Purple Cow (now an office building just behind the Edward Jones office on Highland) for $949,000
  • House at 5105 N. Shirley is zonned commercial for $275,000
Things just keep on changing around here...

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Open Meetings Act

RCW 42.30.010: Legislative declaration:

The legislature finds and declares that all public commissions, boards, councils, committees, subcommittees, departments, divisions, offices, and all other public agencies of this state and subdivisions thereof exist to aid in the conduct of the people's business. It is the intent of this chapter that their actions be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly.

The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.

Except in Ruston... How many more predetermined decisions will we have to witness before our Ruston council members understand this principle? We'll see another on Monday when they appoint one of their friends to the vacant council seat. They've made sure we don't even get to protest since they won't allow public comment or any public interview of candidates.

It's the norm for the council majority to arrive at the public meeting with clearly scripted votes. One will make the motion, another will second. If he's lucky, Council Member Hedrick will get a quick comment, which is difficult since no one knows what the issue is in advance (other than a couple of words on the agenda). Then the group all votes in unison. Back in the old days when the public could comment before the vote, we would often hear scripted support of their action from their friends in the audience.

We saw it last Monday when Council Member Alberston made the motion and Stebner seconded the authorization for the two of them to meet privately with a mystery "former employee" to discuss allegations against the mayor.

Just my thoughts for today. What are yours? ~ Karen