Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Council Member Stebner Threatens Casino

Ruston Council Member Wayne Stebner proposed an ordinance that is ready for a vote on Monday to increase the gambling tax on Point Defiance Cafe and Casino from 2% to 20%.

Steve Fabre, the owner of the casino, was understandably concerned when he heard this rumor. He called Council Members Huson, Albertson, Hedrick and Stebner to ask what was going on. Only Hedrick and Stebner called him back. Stebner's message: Either close the casino now or it will close when Tacoma takes over.

Stebner made this proposal during council time at the last meeting (after public comment had closed). The ordinance is set to be voted into law without any public notice at the very next meeting. Anyone who happens to attend the meeting will be allowed 2 minutes to comment under the new council rules.

This is billed as a way to raise tax revenue. But Fabre says he cannot afford to absorb this increase. It will force him to shut down most of the gambling operation and potentially put 60 people out of work.

Interesting message from our elected leader, especially one who has close ties with the Ruston Connection. Ruston Connection just settled a lawsuit that alleged they were attempting to put the casino out of business. What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

More Hand Outs

This material was passed out during the study session last night from Huitt-Zollar regarding the state grant for updating Ruston codes for the Point Ruston project.

Study Session: April 28, 2008

The meeting was called to order at about 7:05 pm by the town clerk. Council Members Albertson and Huson were a bit late from a meeting with Point Ruston. Council Member Stebner was at a Boy Scout meeting with his son and arrived about 8:15 pm. Council Member Hedrick was appointed mayor pro-tem (looking a bit surprised).

There was no presentation by City of Tacoma regarding the potential of Tacoma taking over Ruston’s planning and building services. The head of Tacoma's planning department had sent an email asking the Town to formally pass a resolution that authorizes the mayor and two council members to begin negotiations on the issue through the city manager’s office. The resolution will be drafted by Albertson or Huson and sent to the town attorney for review so it can be voted on at the meeting next week.

Council Member Hunt and Huson met with Tacoma Council Member Spiro Manthou (who represents this area of Tacoma). He expressed support of this concept. He will discuss an inter-local agreement with his council members.

Council Member Albertson commented that he thinks the current town planners (Huitt-Zollars) are the Freddy Kruger of Ruston, the council keeps trying to kill them and they won’t die. Someone keeps interfering with the council. He is more than frustrated.

Hunt asked Point Ruston how the plat is coming along. Mr. Cohen said they should be done with the on-site improvements in about 10 days. They will have a list of improvements for the council to bond ready soon. (not sure what this means)

Huson and Hunt went over their handout (below) that outlines the reasons they want to change to a council-manager form of government. Hunt’s research showed most city managers get paid $75,000 to $125,000 annually.

Albertson noted that the council feels they are not getting cooperation from the current mayor, and this change is a way to solve that problem. A hired manager would answer directly to the council, not an elected mayor.

The council noted that there would need to be an "education" of the voters on this issue. Council Member Hedrick cautioned the council that town funds or other support could not be given to a political campaign that is supports one side of an issue like this.

There were 8 residents in attendance with several questions and comments. I’ll let those who attended post their comments here. But an editorial note: during Beth Torbet’s comment time, Albertson was upset that she winked in the direction of the mayor’s table. It’s a friendly gesture that is instinctive to some of us, not a sign of conspiracy or need for public ridicule.

The Huitt-Zollars representative noted that the state is concerned about meeting the timelines for the grant they awarded to Ruston. The town administration feels that to make the Point Ruston developer's agreement work (which cannot be funded by the grant) there are some key updates necessary to Ruston’s codes. She passed out a schedule that correlated to the schedule proposed by Point Ruston to implement these changes:

  • Update the Comprehensive Plan to accommodate the Point Ruston plan

  • Pass development code that allows for binding site plans such as proposed with the developer’s agreement

  • Repeal Ruston Ordinance 1002, which has different requirements for the development than are currently proposed

This work would proceed concurrently with the developer’s agreement and would be funded mostly by the grant. It would ensure that Ruston has laid the necessary foundation for the developer’s agreement and includes a great deal of public involvement.

The grant system provides that Ruston would spend $25,000 by June 30th (which has already been approved by the council and budgeted). Once that condition is met, the state would release another $50,000 in grant money to complete the work. The Town can choose to hire Huitt-Zollars or some other planner to do this work. This issue will be discussed at the next meeting.

There was some discussion about a Memorandum of Understanding that would allow Point Ruston to remove their land use application for the hotel development. Without a pending land use decision, council members would then be free to individually discuss the issue with Point Ruston. (Background: Council members cannot talk about issues privately where they may have to make a “quasi-judicial” ruling, such as land use decision on a specific property. They are supposed to base their decision on the same information provided to the public that would be presented in a public meeting.)

The meeting adorned about 8:30 pm.


Monday, April 28, 2008

Study Session: April 28, 2008

The winking eye and Freddy Krueger - Council Member Albertson was generous with his commentary tonight. I'll fill more details tomorrow...

Study Session Tonight: Apr. 28, 2008

City of Tacoma may be doing a presentation about Ruston contracting with them for all our planning and building services (at least the issue is on the agenda) - and the council is asking for public comment on changing our form of government. So please attend and join in the conversation! 7 pm @ Ruston School, 5219 N. Shirley, Room 100

Friday, April 25, 2008

Gambling in Ruston

The issue of Ruston increasing their gambling tax, apparently targeted at Point Defiance Cafe and Casino, has generated several comments.

For those who don't know, this business has been the focus of some intense criticism by some who think a casino does not reflect the residential/family neighborhood that Ruston has become. It also opened during the time that Kim Wheeler was mayor (with his support). In my opinion, the business got splashed with some of the anti-condo, anti-Wheeler paint by the very well-organized opposition group. On a side note, I think allegations of an attempt to drive the casino out of business was part of the lawsuit between it and the Chinese Christian Church and the Ruston Connection.

Everyone acknowledges that taxes openly aimed at a specific business is illegal. But given some of the responses I observed when this tax increase was announced, this may very well be covertly targeted at the casino. I haven't confirmed this rumor that Council Members Huson and Albertson threatened to shut down the casino, but I did confirm that a similar rumor about Council Member Stebner was false.

Here are the comments so far. Chime in with your thoughts, questions or observations:

Anonymous said...
It seems to me that the Casino brings in about $60,000 to $70,000 in tax revenue per year to the Town. What other source in Town pays more? I'm not one for gambling. But I have yet to hear of any negative issues regarding this establishment. Is it fair to raise taxes by 16%. I'm not good at math-is that 200% or 400% increase? Looks to me like someone wants them out. We stand to lose yet another law suit. When will we learn.
April 22, 2008 8:38 AM

Anonymous said...
This targeted tax increase is designed and will put the Point Defiance Casino and it's 300 employees out of business. The courts have been very harsh on taxing authorities using their POWER TO DESTROY a business. But this is not surprising following Huson/Albertson visit to the Casino threatening to shut it down if they did not remove there sign. And when the RC jumped all over it. I guess this was a foregone conclusion. BALLET lawsuit now GAMBOL lawsuit?
April 22, 2008 9:26 AM

Anonymous said...
I was told to take a look at local web sites that are currently reporting on community events. Information on local blogs are very important to our decision to invest in a particular area. We found this area to be an up and growing community. My company inquired to the Liquor Board about licensing a business in the Town of Ruston. We have been solicited to work with the state (by the state) to have a gambling license in the Town of Ruston.

We have decided against a new business in Ruston because we have heard we would have to deal with a council that does not support new business. Maybe someday soon this attitude will change. We will keep am eye to the future. I just hope someday soon this community will understand economics and the ability to enjoy the quality of life that a compact mixed use community can provide.
April 22, 2008 11:49 PM

Anonymous said...
The hope here is to clearly become a berg of Tacoma. We will be a residential neighborhood with limited business ventures. Unless of course you happen to own property on the water front. Makes little or no sense, but this is what we have created. We are not just members of NIMBY, we have the President of the club on our Town council. Tax the rich, feed the poor, until there is no rich no more. Alvin Lee
April 23, 2008 8:07 AM

Anonymous said...
Boosting the Gambling tax from 4% to 20% is absurd. I dislike, gambling, but I dislike over-taxing government a lot more. This business is bringing in a LOT of revenue for the town. We can't afford to lose them. I'm getting sick and tired of politicians manipulating business climates based on whether or not they like a certain establishment or not.
April 23, 2008 11:41 AM

Anonymous said...
If you look at any quality mixed use areas you will find they have a blending of retail, service, and residential. They all co-exist and profit from each others existence. I have yet to see a quality mixed use area that has a casino – can you name one? Would you buy a condo above a casino? Not sure many people would want one in their backyard - just ask the voters in Tacoma. In fact - maybe we should ask the Ruston voters if they want casinos in their neighborhood. Tacoma set the precedent and Ruston could do a “me too”. So, either make good money for the town, and $60-$70k isn't enough given what our police department has to deal with - like the shooting in the alley behind the casino? Oh, but our then chief of police was quick to dispel any connection to the casino. So if they weren't patrons then it’s safe to say we all have gun toting people in our alleys at all hours? Not so! The late night establishments draw unsavory crowds and tax our services. Its time they pay their fair share and help us upgrade our police and fire departments. Money has to come from somewhere – so you have to pay to play.
April 23, 2008 3:07 PM

Anonymous said...
Anonymous #6 must have been written by investigator Bill Walker. Just cuz you want it to be because of the casino doesn't make it so. I don't worry about the gun-toting criminals, it's the mean, crooked politicians and the minority of small-minded petty people in this town that scare me.
April 23, 2008 8:56 PM

Karen said...
A couple of things to think about regarding the casino. Even if we as a community (that means all of us, not just a few in power) decide we don't want this type of business (emphasis on "type", not this one building) then we need to go through the correct process and write that into the zoning code. It is entirely unfair to try to drive this business out of town when they are operating legally. Compared to the last couple of operations in that building, this is by far the cleanest business, much less of a drain on our public safety resources than the psychedelic rock and roll dive bar that was there before. With the current antagonism against our local businesses by Ruston’s leaders, I expect this building might sit vacant for years, just like Coles has been.
April 24, 2008 9:33 PM

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Point Ruston Request

The Tribune has a full story on Point Ruston's request for a tax abatement. Tacoma is considering some zoning code changes to enhance the project, along with the policy change to the tax incentive. Give the story a read and let us know what you think...

No Change in Ruston's Library Card Requirements

The cooperative exchange between Tacoma and Pierce County's library systems will not change things for Ruston residents. We will still need to purchase a library card from Tacoma. But that card will now include access to the Pierce County library system. The News Tribune has more here...

Walk The Waterfront

A group is working to enhance the walking waterfront of Tacoma's Commencement Bay. Ruston is invited to be part of the discussion. Read more here...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Thoughts For Today

“It’s not political dialogue, it’s shameful!” So says Council Member Albertson, who does not like the caricature of a fellow council member on the free-speaking Ruston Truth blog. Nor does he think I am entitled to discuss civility since I provide a link to this offensive material on this blog. It doesn’t matter that this page also links to Albertson’s favored Ruston Connection (RC) site, where many offensive (dare I say even shameful) lies have been promoted under the guise of “advocacy”.

Mr. Albertson has his own shame issues. In January, he misled the public about a supposed contract he was negotiating with Tacoma Fire. Rather than face the music when it was discovered Tacoma had withdrawn their offer, he used the next meeting to berate Ruston’s fire chief, asking him repeatedly to provide reasons why the council should continue to explore using Tacoma. His actions rank right up there on the “shameful” scale.

I’m not going to defend this picture that Albertson dislikes. It’s a much stronger expression than I am comfortable with. But I will defend our right to express what we think even if it makes me uncomfortable. We don’t all think alike - thank God. Some of us react with force to censorship (the basis for this picture). I’ve learned to allow for these personality differences. Elected officials need to do the same and take the criticism along with the praise for their actions. It’s all part of the reality of politics.

I hope these blogs will provide various formats that encourage dialogue. Some people like the hard-hitting exchanges, some want to focus our collective memories, some like the timely presentation here on Ruston Home. These are open conversation about the issues that are important to us.

In time, I hope even the RC faithful will join in. We are a better community not only when all voices are allowed to speak, but are heard. Just because some of us get labeled “caged animals” by council members does not make our views less valuable. It’s time to get beyond how the message is delivered to what is being said.

Those are my thoughts for today. What are yours?


Ruston Fire Fighters Help

Our fire fighters helped with a fund raiser for fellow Riverside fire fighter Matt Simmons who is battling a rare disease. The effort was documented in the on-line journal Hero To Hero. Well done!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Council Meeting: Apr. 21, 2008

Here is a synopsis of things I found interesting at Monday's meeting. There were other issues discussed, so please attend and hear all the details for yourself. ~ Karen

Mayor Transue was unable to attend the meeting tonight, so Council Member Stebner stepped in as mayor pro-tem.

Police Report: 1) The department has had 4 gang contacts in the last week and are monitoring closely. 2) Chief Reese is researching a Pierce County small city task force for major crimes. The task force members respond to major crimes in members jurisdictions so that these small cities won't have to contract out for services. After the $20,000 bill for the last SWAT team assistance from Tacoma, she felt the council should consider this no cost option. Ruston would have to provide some personnel support. 3) The department assisted in the capture of the artic fox from the zoo last month - quick work by one of our officers saved the day.

Fire Report: 1) The department responded to 4 medical aid calls last month. 2) The newest EMT class has finished. Ruston had 4 fire fighters take the test, plus 2 re-certifications. Results from the test are due soon.

Some neighbors of The Commencement were invited to the meeting by the council to complain about the work being done to underground the utilities to the building. The town's electrical oversight person is to be at the next council meeting to answer questions about what happened. No one else was allowed to comment.

The grant for updating the Master Plan (for the Point Ruston site) is on hold. The council had decided at a study session to proceed with a developers agreement rather than updating Town code. The grant may be allowed to fund public involvement after the agreement is complete. The agreement with Bob Burke will be put on hold as well. The discussion on the Huitt Zollars invoice was also tabled until the mayor could be present, although a representative from the firm was at the meeting.

Ordinance 1251 (budget ordinance for unanticipated expenses) included money to move the utility clerk to full time since the work load has increased significantly. Council Member Hunt wanted to hold her hours at 35 to 37 hours a week to avoid the potential of any overtime. The new town legal consultant on labor and payroll issues is to be at the next meeting to discuss overtime/comp time issues. The budget ordinance passed 5-0, as did Ordinance 1252 (amending the budget to reflect 2007 year end actual account balances).

The new council rules were finally adopted after amendment to move public comment before mayor and council time. The town attorney clarified that she does not have to attend every meeting as directed in the new rules.

The contract for the legal consultant to represent Ruston in the Point Ruston LID development was approved 5-0 after Council Member Albertson requested a change that allowed the council to direct the consultant to attend meetings.

The council approved a motion directing the police chief to take the necessary steps to prepare to purchase a new vehicle. The oldest car will be surplused and the income used to offset the cost of the new car. The department has 5 cars currently.

The proclamation supporting April as National Kite Month was passed.

The Request For Proposals for the Town attorney was passed after the percentages under Selection Criteria was removed (used to judge applicants) and a due date of May 12th for applications was inserted.

The council decided to proceed with hiring Sally Everding to codify the Town codes. (Sally is the administrator for the Ruston Connection web site and wife of former council member Bob Everding who resigned earlier this year). She will be paid $500, which will be donated to the Town pre-Easter event. The council seemed ready to give Ms. Everding authority to correct minor errors if needed. An ordinance will be on the agenda for the next meeting.

Council Member Huson provided something to the clerk to be included in the next newsletter encouraging the public to attend the study session on April 28th. The council is going to allow public comment on the issue of their proposal to change the form of government in Ruston.

Council Member Stebner wants to increase gambling taxes to 20% (currently about 4%). An ordinance will be prepared for the next meeting. He also got council approval to proceed with discussions with Tacoma to have them take over the sewer system.

Agenda: April 1008

Here is the agenda for tonight's council meeting. The full packet of information will be available on Ruston Reports next week.


Here is an interesting discussion on the Tacoma Sun blog about urban vs. suburbia, philosophical choices about our living spaces, urban planning.... Ruston gets a brief mention, but the whole article is worth reading. ~ Karen

Don't Name Names?

I had an interesting conversation Friday night at Point Ruston’s open house. My hubby and I were enjoying our delicious kosher hot dogs when Al Olson (Council Member Jane Krock Hunt’s partner) approached us. I started to introduce Al to my husband when he started this speech (as best I can remember):

“Karen, we’ve only spoken maybe 3 times. One of those times was when I helped with your school project. Yet you have written about me personally. If you write about me again without talking to me first, we’re going to have a problem.”

I stood up, feeling pretty intimidated and said ”It’s a political blog. I have a right to free speech. I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned you on the blog, but I will certainly take what you’ve said into consideration if I ever mention your name.” Then I sat back down and he left.

I did some research when I got home, and the only time I can see Mr. Olson was mentioned was in an anonymous comment on December 18, 2007 where he was correctly identified as having lost his bid to purchase the Ruston School and develop the building and adjacent land into market rate apartments.

I don’t think this confrontation deserves much attention. But I do think it warrants documentation. I continue to encourage open dialogue, and that means things like this need to be brought out into the open. We shouldn't be afraid to say what we think, or express our opinion even if it involves individual people. Civil does not mean silence. I hope Mr. Olson will join in the conversation if he ever feels there is inaccurate information presented about him here.


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Tacoma City Marathon

A chance to help out the business district during the Tacoma City Marathon:

Calling on all Business District members and friends to join in the fun of providing water and encouragement for the marathon runners as they pass through our neighborhood! This is a great way to promote our Business District by hanging a Banner and inviting the runners back.

A couple of hours Saturday morning will get you excited and ready for your day! We would like to have 8 to 10 volunteers signed up and we all get really cool jackets for helping out! Please read the following e-mail from our coordinator, Rob Hester, for date, time and location. (May 10th, Saturday; 7:00am; in front of the Ruston School on Shirley Street).

Let me know if you can help so I can order our jackets. Thank you so much in advance!

Beth Torbet
Hi Beth,

A team will be setting out water station supplies at all the specified locations starting at 5 a.m. on race morning, Saturday, May 10th. You will have 2 tables, a couple of chairs, water, cups, garbage bags, gloves, and a rake to help clean up all the paper cups. We will have a detailed information packet to help you set-up and tear down your station, available when you pick up the jackets for your team. A team of volunteers will come by and pick everything up after the last runners have passed your station.

Your station will be located around mile 9.9 on N. Shirley St.... Your team will need to be there by 7:20 a.m. to begin getting things set-up and to help fill water cups before the runners arrive, beginning around 8 a.m. until approximately 9:10 a.m. I have attached a timeline to help you figure out when runners will be arriving after each start.

Please let me know if you have any questions.
Rob Hester
Volunteer Coordinator
Tacoma City Marathon

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Plant Sale Today

I wanted to pass along this email from a friend ~ shop for a good cause!

When my fuchsia club picked a date for the sale this year, we figured mid-April would be about right for weather and putting out plants -Boy, were we ever wrong!But - The sale must go on, and we are stuck with one of the coldest, most miserable Saturdays of the month (at least I hope it will get better from here).

This Saturday, April 19, (TODAY) our hearty band of fuchsia lovers will be standing on the corner of North 12th and Stevens, in the parking lot of the Amvets Hall, across from Jefferson Elementary, trying to keep our little plants (and ourselves) from freezing, and hoping that generous souls will come by and buy our plants to make our misery worthwhile.

We will have LOTS of hearty fuchsias, for your garden and for baskets, along with a multitute of other plants - generally perennials - to decorate your lives and your homes once the weather warms up enough for them to grow. Please come and take advantage of a nice sale of plants, despite the miserable rotten weather. Maybe next year we will pick a day like last Saturday was!

North 12th and Stevens
9 AM to 1 PMSaturday, April 19.

Thanks -Virginia F.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Point Ruston Open House

Point Ruston put on a great spread tonight for our town. They have turned an historic ferry into a magnificent floating sales center. The woodwork is beautiful, a wonderful contrast to the spectacular water views out every window. The huge site model gives great perspective for this long-anticipated urban village on Ruston's shores. If you missed the shindig tonight, stop by soon and check it out!

Ruston Council Rivals

Check out the report of a recent council meeting in Bonney Lake recanted for us by The Nose in the Tribune today. Scroll down to the last item about the birds flying out of butts... reminds me of the good old days in Ruston when folks could speak their mind. ~ Karen

Point Ruston Update

Here is the April 14th Ruston Council update. The first permit has been issued in Tacoma and there is a very tight timeline for approvals for the Silver Cloud Hotel ~ Grand Opening in 3 years (early 2011)!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Fire Department Update

Spring sprucing is underway at the firefighters bunk house next to Town Hall. The lawn is getting some much needed TLC. There is still time to help plant flowers and make this house into a home for our fire fighters. Just call Bruce Allen at (253) 370-2857.

The new residency program is underway. Among other things, new resident firefighters have begun gathering information on the commercial structures in town that will aid the department if there is ever an emergency in those buildings.

Ruling on The Commencement Condo Project

The written ruling on the lawsuit between Ruston and The Commencement condo project has been issued. This was an attempt by the Ruston Council to force The Commencement out of their sales center in the former school building. Not only will Ruston have to pay their own attorney (unknown cost), they will have to pay attorney fees and expenses for The Commencement totaling $16,020.20.

To Fest or Not to Fest

Our local Ruston-Point Defiance Business District has sponsored a great music fest the last three years on Labor Day weekend in Ruston. Several key volunteers are no longer able to help with event, so the group is considering some major changes at a special meeting tonight.

Community members are encouraged to participate (including North Tacoma folks). After all, it's our celebration! If you've enjoyed the festival in the past, join us tonight at Town Hall (5117 N. Winnifred) at 6 pm. If you can't make it but want to help, email District President Jame Bennett at

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Pt. Defiance Cafe Vs. Chinese Christian Church and Ruston Connection

The lawsuit brought against the Chinese Christian Church and the editors of the Ruston Connection (Virginia Carpio and Sue Hines) by the Point Defiance Cafe and Casino was settled on February 29, 2008. According to a News Tribune article, casino owner "Fabre is asking for compensation for lost business and harm to his reputation, and an injunction ordering the Louies to stop calling him a thief."

There is a confidentiality agreement, so we can't get the details. Since Pt. Defiance Casino brought the suit, I would guess the casino won some concessions from the defendants. But I'm just an amateur guessing here. Any thoughts from the rest of you?


Reinhold Claims Damages of $1.65 million

Here is the official claim for $1.65 million filed by former police cheif Jim Reinhold. Bear in mind this claim is Reinhold's side of the story - there are always other things to consider in something as complex as this. The exchange of letters between the mayor and Reinhold at his termination is available on the News Tribune's web page here, here, and here. The full 176 claim is availble by clicking here. ~ Karen