Saturday, May 31, 2008
Friday, May 30, 2008
We have two opportunities to help in the battle against cancer in the coming days. The first begins tonight with the Relay For Life. Ruston will be represented by a team from Ladies Work Out Express. You can make donations on-line by clicking here. Let's help Bev and her team achieve their goal of $5,000 to help find a cure.
The second chance to help is a fund raiser for Franciscan Hospice organized by Cory Valdes. Her mom died from cancer in 2005. She and her family were deeply touched by the care given by the Franciscan Hospice team and want to honor their mother by raising funds for the organization.
Cory's mom loved to read and instilled a love of books in her kids. What better way to combine the love for their mom and the desire to help this worthy cause than with a book sale? Cory will be holding a book sale in the parking lot of the Point Defiance Cafe on Pearl Street on Saturday, June 28th at noon. She has over 200 books of her own, along with selling some of her mom's beloved books.
We can help now by donating books for the event. Just call Cory at (253) 590-3218. And be sure to stop in to browse on June 28th - make a donation and enjoy a book in honor of a great lady...
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Exit 133's own Whitney won the evening bocce contest and Marty Campbell won the grand prize of a weekend in Ocean Shores. Marty is president of the Cross District, the group that represents all the business districts. In all, there were 18 entries to the drawing and 13 prizes awarded.
A huge thank you to all the businesses who stayed open late and donated to this effort - and thank you to all our visitors! Come back again soon. The bocce contest continues next Thursday at the Narrows Business District. But we had so much fun in Ruston, you can expect to see more bocce games in the median soon ~ Baby Alice, the neighborhood cat would like the company.
You can pick up a passport at Don's Ruston Market (along with a free sample of old fashioned fountain drinks) on the corner of 51st and Winnifred to get signed at the participating 11 businesses. Completed passports can be turned in at the Antique Sandwich Company for a drawing of great prizes that include a weekend trip to Ocean Shores, $50 gift certificate to Jungle Fever plants, a backdoor pass to the zoo, a zumba party, several gift baskets and more.
Please join us for the festivities. It's going to be great fun for all!
Just a reminder, Ruston is one of the few places in the south sound that allow personal fireworks. The permit available to residents only and you must get it 30 days in advance. If you want to enjoy your own fireworks, you'll have to visit town hall (5117 N. Winnifred) by next Wednesday, June 4th to get your permit.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Mr. David Britain was interviewed shortly after I arrived. There was no information available to the public, so I hope I heard his name and am spelling it correctly. Mr. Britain lives in Ruston and is apparently offering to work for a monthly flat fee of $3,167 (I think, based on comments from council members).
Council Member Huson began the questions by noting the problems in the past with different interpretations by MRSC (see links) and the town attorney. Mr. Britain noted that different opinions are good guidance, but it is not binding like case law.
Huson also complained about what he felt was a lack of communication in the past. Britain said he could copy the council on any communication he had with the mayor. He also noted it was best to be honest and not try to make up an answer if he didn't have one. He would endeavor to research agenda items before each meeting, but there would be times when he would need to do further research before giving an opinion.
Albertson explained the difference (as he saw it) between a "town attorney", which the mayor is authorized to appoint, and a "contract for legal services", which the council has sole authority over (in his opinion). He warned Britain that the mayor may cause trouble because the council is contracting with him without the mayor's input or approval. Because the mayor was not attendance at the meeting, Alberston said he was "boycotting". If the mayor chose a different town attorney, the council would control the contract with that person and would set their pay (which would be considerably less than what they would pay the person they chose).
Council Member Hunt felt that Britain living in Ruston was a plus. Britain noted that he has a vested interest in the town's future and he cares about the community. Even though he may have opinions as a resident, his job would be to advise on policy only.
Council Member Stebner asked if the mayor or council had higher authority. Britain said that each branch of government (legislative and executive) had different functions, but no one branch was "higher" than the other.
After Britain was dismissed, the council decided to make their decision in open session rather than convene an executive session (so they could remove the public from the room). After some discussion, the council voted unanimously (of those present) to enter into a contract with Mr. Britain subject to terms that would be acceptable to both parties.
Huson wanted the contract put on the agenda for discussion next Monday. He felt it was important to spell out the time commitment, cost and termination process. Hunt had several sample contracts from other municipalities, along with one from Ruston, that she will scan and email out. Stebner wanted to review them before Friday so they could ask the current town attorney for advice before her services end at the close of business Friday.
The meeting ended about 7 pm.
The mayor feels he is authorized under state statue to hire town employees (as has been done in the past). Alberston believes the council gets to make this decision. Alberston drew some fire earlier this year for negotiating a contract for the town's prosecuting attorney without involving the mayor.
Ruston's contract with the town attorney expires this Friday. The full council wants to be involved in the decision, so they have called a special meeting to interview the two candidates. It should be an interesting meeting, another first for Ruston. Please attend if you can at 5219 N. Shirley, Room 100.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Monday, May 26, 2008
"...gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime....let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us as sacred charges upon the Nation's gratitude,--the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan." --General John Logan, General Order No. 11, 5 May 1868
Today is Memorial Day. New flags are flying on Pearl Street thanks to Sherri Forch's efforts. It's a day to honor our fallen servicemen who have given the ultimate sacrifice for America's freedom. There are no records of anyone from Ruston killed in the current war, but 95 young men and women from Washington state have died.
This holiday began after the Civil War in Waterloo, New York - although graves of fallen soldiers where decorated in the south beginning about the same time. The first Decoration Day was declared by General John Logan on May 30, 1868 as flowers were placed on the graves of both Confederate and Union soldiers in Arlington cemetery. The holiday evolved to the celebration we have today.
David Merchant suggests these ways to observe Memorial Day:
- by visiting cemeteries and placing flags or flowers on the graves of our fallen heroes
- by visiting memorials
- by flying the U.S. Flag at half-staff until noon
- by flying the 'POW/MIA Flag' as well (Section 1082 of the 1998 Defense Authorization Act)
- by participating in a "National Moment of Remembrance": at 3 p.m. to pause and think upon the true meaning of the day, and for Taps to be played
- by renewing a pledge to aid the widows, widowers, and orphans of our falled dead, and to aid the disabled veterans
Today is much more than a welcome 3-day weekend and the official beginning of summer. We pause to remember those who have died to make us free and thank their families for giving so much to our county. We are a better nation for your sacrifice and gratefully hold you in our prayers this Memorial Day.
Friday, May 23, 2008
You'll pick up a "passport" to get signed off at participating businesses, the bocce game will continue on Winnifred (some type of lawn bowling???), samples of old fashioned fountain drinks and a chance to encourage our neighborhood entrepreneurs. Completed passports will be entered into a drawing for spectacular prizes that include a weekend at the ocean, $50 certificate for Jungle Fever, backdoor passes to the zoo, Zumba dance party, gift baskets and more...
See you next week!
Thursday, May 22, 2008
I'd like to invite you "out-of-towners" to share some of your story with us (that includes all you folks in the rest of the south sound). What do you find interesting here? What would you like to see more of? Is there anything that should change? Do you have a connection to Ruston in some way or are you just intrigued with small towns?
I won't post your response unless you'd like, but I'd love some feedback. Let us know who you are. You can comment here or email me at email@example.com.
And thanks for checking in!
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
That's a huge burden if your business is barely squeaking by. It's unfair even if you're doing well. According to some of the speakers, Tacoma has found it increasingly difficult to site new business with this burden, especially when there are other communities in the same area who don't have this tax.
Here's an interesting thought. Ruston has a B&O tax as well. I don't think we charge the tax on gross revenues, thankfully. Talk about a way to drive business away! I believe the B&O income for Ruston is fairly small, too. What if we abolished this tax completely in Ruston? We don't lose very much income - and could gain several new robust, growing businesses who want all the amenities of doing business surrounded by a big city, but don't want to deal with one of the worst taxes in the state.
The council is rightly concerned with building a sustainable tax base for our future, an issue that needs immediate attention over the next 4 or 5 years until the town is fully developed. This is a small step that could bring a fairly quick return. Even if we don't see a huge influx of new businesses, it's a good move for our current businesses. Very small tax loss that actually encourages success (which means more tax income in other forms). It's a lesson that has been learned by many other communities in the state - and something that Ruston should explore. It would take less effort than has already been spent on the current attempt to increase our gambling tax 666% and reap much stronger benefits.
Just my thoughts for today. What are yours?
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
The meeting began at 7 pm. The meeting agenda was approved after moving the change to the council rules to the first item and adding discussion of council liaisons for Point Ruston and the town attorney to the end of the agenda.
The minutes were approved as presented. The police report was in the packet. The mayor confirmed that the new contract with LESA (for increased record services) had been approved, so he will sign the contract. He will limit the number of town employees emails to the 19 that are covered for free with the current services. The fire department responded to 4 medical aid call last month.
1) Council Rules: The town attorney noted that any change to the council rules should be presented as a resolution. So Council Member Albertson moved to suspend the rules and impose the new rules immediately (where public comment is limited to the end of the meeting for 2 minutes each) until a resolution could be approved. Albertson felt that the one meeting where comment was allowed on each business item the time was used by the same people to give general comments and repeat them on each item.
2) Point Ruston LID: The town attorney noted that Mr. Barrow is working on the interlocal agreement with Tacoma for the Point Ruston LID. He thought Tacoma might be interested in taking over the whole LID, with Ruston retaining its full regulatory authority. He had not approached Tacoma with the idea. The council may want to have the interlocal agreement address other Point Ruston issues such as having Tacoma provide all police, fire, sewer, water, electrical, roads, building and planning services to the property. Mr. Barrow will be at the meeting next Tuesday to answer questions.
3) Point Ruston Update: Construction on the second model home will begin in 2 weeks. A reminder that the ferry/sales center is open Thursday to Monday 11 am to 6 pm, all are welcome to visit. The project has an open call to local artists for public art in the project. Their team is working through all the easements and related issues for the new roads and utilities. They have begun design of the second building on the Tacoma side.
They have been holding off on the application of the third model home until the town has decided what to do about its lack of a planner. They suggested using the town building official temporarily for plan review services on single family homes on Stack Hill since he is a certified in plan review. It was unclear if the current contract allows for this additional service. Council Member Hunt expressed her concern again that the final plat be approved by June so the new parcels could get on the tax rolls by 2009, a process that will need engineering services in addition to plan review.
Council Member Stebner wanted to hold off taking any action until Tacoma could get going on providing these services. The mayor has asked the town attorney to review his duties and obligations as the town administrator to provide these services on an emergency basis so town can still conduct its day to day business. Hunt made a motion to issue a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for temporary engineering services to be issued quickly. It was approved 4 to 1 with Stebner voting no.
Council Member Huson wanted to review the contract with the building official to see if the current contract is broad enough to allow adding plan reviews without amending the contract. The council must review contract changes and quick action would require a special meeting or continuing this meeting to a time certain. Albertson made a motion that the current building official provide plan reviews on all town applications for the short term and a RFQ be issued to address the long term. The mayor asked for clarification on what the council wanted in the RFQ. Albertson felt this request was another roadblock from the mayor. The motion passed 4 to 1 with Stebner voting no.
There was further discussion and it was decided to take a 10 minute recess so the mayor could schedule a meeting with the building official and the council. The mayor left a message with him during a short break. Alberston then made a motion that all planning services be provided by the current building official provided he has insurance for this new capacity. The motion passed 4 to 1 with Stebner voting no.
4) Bennett Street Right of Way Remediation: no changes requested by the council.
5) Right Of Way Access Permit: The first street obstruction permit under the new rule requiring council approval was presented at 8:10 pm. A representative from Puget Sound Energy explained the repair/upgrade they wanted to make to their line on Baltimore Street. The approval passed 5-0.
6) Resolution 419, Council Liaisons: passed 5-0
7) Resolution 420, citizen advisory committee on town real estate: The town attorney advised that committee members be informed of their legal and ethical obligations before they start (such as not using confidential information for financial gain, keeping appraisal private, etc). It was unclear if the committee meetings would be public. Hunt said four residents with real estate license had agreed to serve on the committee: Al Olson, Ken Brown, Tom Kryger and Jeff Gaydosh. Not all Ruston real estate agents have been invited. The resolution passed 4 to 1 with Stebner voting no.
8) Credit Union Pump Station: A representative from the credit union explained the background on why this pump had been installed and the current problems. She felt the best solution was for the town to take over the system since there multiple users and the former party was no longer able to maintain it as originally envisioned. There was further discussion but no action was taken.
9) Point Ruston Liaison: Hunt was appointed to replace Albertson as liaison since she has more time available.
10) Town Attorney: This is the last meeting with the current attorney, Jennifer Forbes, whose contact expires on May 31st. The town has received two resumes for replacement services. There was a lengthy discussion by Albertson and the mayor about the differences between "town attorney" and "a person with whom the town contracts for legal services". Alberston felt that the advisory people of MRSC (see links) had told him that the council had absolute control over these services under his definition. The mayor felt the state statute gave the council authority to set the contract and budget, but he alone had appointment authority. The town attorney noted that when she spoke to MRSC, they were not as absolute in their interpretation as Alberston. Council Member Hedrick confirmed that MRSC had never given a written opinion.
The full council wants to interview the two candidates, which must happen at a public meeting. Forbes will contact the two and set up a time on May 28th, 29th or 30th. The council will give the required 24-hour notice and hold a special meeting once arrangements can be made.
Claims and payroll was approved with no discussion, with Albertson abstaining.
Mr. Wingard asked the council to focus on true town business and not their "cabal harassment" of the mayor or disfavored projects.
Bill Walker confirmed the town is hiring engineering services for all town business, but Hunt noted it was temporary until they "could get with Tacoma". The mayor clarified that using Tacoma for these services was not decided yet.
Sherri Forch is working with Point Ruston on "Welcome to Ruston" signs. She asked if the homeowner had been sent the bill for the Tacoma SWAT services in January yet. The town attorney is waiting until Ruston's overtime is calculated so all the charges could be included. Forch had noted that homeowner insurance may cover the bill. The mayor asked the council to adopt a set policy if they are going to expect individual town residents to pay for extraordinary public safety costs.
Terry Knapp confirmed that the gambling tax issue will be discussed at the study session next Monday as previous advertised.
He thanked Ms. Forbes for a job well done. There will need to be budget amendment to pay The Commencement as ordered when the town lost the lawsuit over the sale center space. The utility clerk has given her notice and will be leaving in 2 weeks.
Stan Finkelstein, a seasoned Association of Washington Cities (AWC, see links) professional, is willing to talk with our elected officials. He could serve as a facilitator to help with long-range planning or to work through other issues.
The mayor has sent backup material to Tacoma's city manager (recent council resolutions and bills that outline the services provided by the previous town planner over the last year). This will help Tacoma to better understand what Ruston's needs are when they discuss planning and building services with the council.
A presentation on the shoreline planning/issues will be held on Tuesday, May 27th at 6:30 pm.
Stebner: "Take care of Jenny - we'll see ya" (I think that's what he said)
Huson: He was pleased to see the mayor had issued a proclamation to change the form of government as requested by the council. The issue will be on the primary ballot in August. After much discussion to clarify what information would be presented at the study session on May 27th, it was determined that Mr. Barrows will speak first on the LID issue at 6:30 pm, then the shoreline would be discussed until 8:30 pm. All other items (including the gambling tax increase) will be pushed back to a later study session. Hunt noted that she wanted a global discussion on increasing tax revenue, not a single focus on the gambling tax. The mayor noted the Marcott study had a list of suggested revenue sources and that the proceeds from the sale to The Commencement could be enough to hold the town until Point Ruston is completed.
Alberston: nothing, after very long pause
Hunt: She wants to attend a AWC conference in eastern Washington. The council approved sending her and paying about $500 to cover her costs. The mayor suggested the council confirm what their training and education budget was for the year as this would likely exceed it.
The meeting adjourned about 9:15 pm.
Monday, May 19, 2008
Sharon Reese has been at Ruston’s helm about 6 weeks. Things look and feel different ~ the door is open (literally, the office door is wide open most days), thank you notes go out to community members who help the department, a community police newsletter is in the works and starting this month, officers will be walking around town for part of each shift.
The new foot patrols mean we get to meet and greet our guys at eye level. Our kids can hug their legs; we can shake their hands and thank them for a job well done face to face. The officers will get more familiar with the layout in town and know the vulnerable areas better as a result.
Chief Reese describes police work in Ruston as refreshing. She enjoys talking to people. It’s important for the police department to be transparent and to get to know the people they work for in the community. Having strong relationships pays off when residents are comfortable contacting them with seemingly small pieces if information. Those small pieces pay off, such as the tip from the credit union that helped to identify Rosemary Dye after she was killed on the train tracks.
A quote from one of her community thank you letters captures it well: “It requires a partnership between police and citizens to deter crime and protect property. Community members like you make our jobs easier and result in strong communications between the police and neighborhoods as we follow up on suspicious activities.”
When asked her priority for the department, the first thing for her was connecting with the community before we talk about the “stuff”. She has a strong history of building partnerships and wants to use these skills in Ruston. She notes that leaders can’t make good decisions without information. She’s has met with each of our council members and works to keep them informed. She is hired by the mayor and works well with him as well.
She is very pleased with the support of our elected leaders. The council recently approved the use of the dispatch services (LESA) for increased record keeping, which enables our officers to spend more time out on the streets.
It’s hard for the police to do a professional job without the resources. She feels the police budget has been left behind with all the land development concerns. That’s understandable, but its time to rethink that priority. Like many small departments, Ruston spends the time, money and resources to train officers only to quickly loose them to bigger agencies. We need to find ways to make a career in Ruston attractive. Wages are far below other neighboring departments, many of whom offer large signing bonuses for experienced officers.
Being a police officer is a challenging job ~ they have to go from the friendly hi on the street corner to responding to an armed robbery at a moments notice. It takes a unique personality and ability to multi-task with very different skills.
She wants people in Ruston to realize we have an approachable department in town. Many of us have poor experiences with police authority that can keep us away, but she hopes to change that perception for people here.
All in all, Chief Reese brings a new approach to our police department. Like past chiefs, she is proud of her officers and cares about this community, but she offers new skills that are needed in this town. Be sure to stop in and say hi yourself.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
The background information for the meeting is available on Ruston Reports.
Friday, May 16, 2008
Rosemary was a local woman. She graduated from Stadium high school in 1975. She flew C-141’s in the Air Force Reserve. She was one of the early female pilots for UPS, working the cockpit third seat. She lived on Anderson Island. She enjoyed table games; Scrabble and the like. Her mom and brother are our neighbors here in the south sound who tried to help her overcome her recent challenges.
On Rosemary’s last day in Ruston, she stopped by the credit union to ask for directions to Ruston Way. She wasn’t supposed to walk through the car tunnel, so it appears she headed over the Winnifred Street Bridge. But she decided to take a short cut along the train tracks. It’s a busy track and she was caught in the tunnel under Stack Hill when a train came through.
The news said a nameless woman was killed on the Ruston tracks. The next day the credit union called police with a piece of the puzzle; a stranger had come in asking for directions. The surveillance tapes showed her face. Rosemary’s brother called to talk about his sister and her struggles, somehow sensing her departure. The puzzle came together to give us her name, her history, part of her story.
The news said a nameless woman was killed on the Ruston tracks. But in a small town there are no empty faces, no nameless people. Rosemary died in Ruston. We care. We know her name. May you rest in peace, Rosemary.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Why do I Relay? I got involved in Relay For Life 8 years ago, having been diagnosed with cancer. Being part of Relay has provided a lot of support, knowledge, additional friendships and the opportunity to help others. I am now a cancer survivor and have helped numerous people that have been diagnosed, treated and are now survivors. There have been those that were not as fortunate, it is for those that I walk every year.
The proceeds from the Relay go to help in the fight against this disease. New treatments are found every year that help the survivors enjoy life longer. Without research we would not be where we are today. If you have not participated in the Relay For Life, now would be a good time to start. We would love your support for our team, whether it is in the form of a donation (can be made at Ladies Workout Express or online) or by thinking of us as our team walks for 24 hours.
The event is held at Mt. Tahoma School on May 30,31. It will begin Friday evening at 6:00 p.m. and will end on Saturday at 6:00 p.m. We are inviting all survivors to come out and walk the first lap around the track. You can find more information by going to tacomarelay.org . If you have any other questions you can call us at Ladies Workout Express (253-752-8599) or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for reading and lets get ready to Relay !!!
UPDATE @ 7:50 pm: The News Tribune has more now. Two pedestrians walking on the road above Owens Beach were hit at a high rate of speed by a 19 year old man as his vehicle left the road and rolled over. All three were taken to the hospital, with the pedestrians sustaining the worst injuries. All are expected to survive.
Summer and all its craziness has arrived...
Hardhat tours are available the last Saturday of each month with a light lunch from Don’s Market. The next tour will be May 31st from 11 am to 2 pm. I’ll be there, camera in hand. We’ll get a 2 minute safety briefing, hardhat and tour after signing a release form. This is an active construction site, so no one under 16 years old, closed toe shoes and long pants only. Call Becky to confirm your attendance at (253) 219-9747.
Here’s the latest on the project:
They have started building the 4th floor now (the building will be 6 stories in all). Occupancy is scheduled for March 2009. They are just finishing a sales center remodel; freshening and updating the look. The center now reflects new options and increased upgrades available to buyers.
The building has 60 units, 20 of which are sold already (a year away from completion). Becky confirmed that development owners have purchased 3 of those, reflecting their confidence in this project. List prices currently start at $955,000. There is no age limit and pets are allowed. Becky felt the unique location and building amenities would help shield them from some of the current market challenges.
Marketing efforts have focused on reaching out to the greater Tacoma area by sponsoring events and participating in local happenings. The Chamber of Commerce’s “Together Thursday” will be at the sales center tonight. The Commencement has sponsored things with Northwest Sinfonietta, Tacoma Art Museum and the Broadway Center, among others. They were one of the sponsors for our local Point Defiance Music Fest and Ruston Art Walk last year, too.
The sales center will be hosting an event for the Broadway Center during the Business District celebration on May 29th. They’ll have a balloon artist on hand, and will open their doors as one of the stops on the District tour.
The sales center has an occasional Sunday brunch for buyers and prospective buyers. It’s a chance to get to know each other and view construction progress. It’s a way to build relationships and start this community within a community. Becky notes that although these are high-end homes, the owners are warm people who care about their world. Many of them are committed to various charities and want to be involved in their new community.
I’m struck by the huge transformation this project represents for Ruston ~ from a working class, blue collar town to one of the area’s biggest high-end projects. We’ve come a long way, with many battle scars. But its time to set aside the fight and welcome our new neighbors to Ruston, and hope we have a town to share with them well into the future.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
One of the first will be our neighborhood ~ coming up in just a few days on May 29th. Participants will receive a passport that gets stamped at several businesses. There will be prize drawings and gift basket giveaways for things like a weekend at the ocean, old fashioned fountain drinks, plants and much more. Music at the Antique Sandwich Company, a bocce tournament in the lawn on Winnifred Street, lots of visitors and fun for all!
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
The current focus for the council’s hatred is the mayor. They don’t like that “he’s not doing what he’s told” (quote from Bill Walker). In retaliation, the council has:
- Fired the town planner without arranging for a replacement, halting any new building permits that need plan review.
- Require any street cut to have formal council approval, including emergency sewer repairs that now must wait until the next council meeting.
- Reduced public comment to 4 minutes per month.
- Accepted and then terminated a $75,000 state grant.
- Will loose the town attorney in a few weeks and contrary to state law, the council will hire the replacement if they can act in time.
- Negotiated a contract with a different prosecuting attorney behind the mayor’s back.
- Are set to increase taxes 666% on the business they have threatened to shut down.
- Want to remove the mayor from office by permanently changing the form of government to council-manager so they can have absolute control of all government functions.
- Wasted thousands of dollars trying to evict The Commencement sales center in clear violation of the lease, resulting in a payment to the condo’s of almost $16,000 (not to mention cost for Ruston’s legal team).
Council Member Albertson exemplifies the current council hatred. He has used his trial lawyer skills to the fullest, dripping distain and ugly jabs at every opportunity. From calling town planners “Freddy Kruger” to berating the mayor for providing limited input on the sensitive issue of whether or not the school building should be “ripped down” (quote from Jane Hunt), he has epitomized the face of this council.
Albertson is an insulter extraordinaire. He spent two years in the audience before his appointment to the council, using the then frequent public comment to blast the mayor at every meeting. He is a whiz at taking a small part of an event and twisting the picture to suit his point. He enjoys pushing people’s buttons, getting them flustered or shut down. He is a master at making faces, negative interruptions and body language to convey how disgusted he is with those he hates. No doubt about it, he’s good at what he does.
I’ve disagreed with this mayor as often as I’ve disagreed with any of the individual council members. The difference is that he doesn’t hate me because of it. I’ve seen Mayor Transue offer compromise after compromise to this council – only to be met with complete alienation. Like it or not, he was elected to the office of mayor and has the right to speak and lead the executive branch of Ruston’s government.
It is not only unethical to cut out all his input, but it hurts more than just the mayor. The entire community is damaged (including these council members) when we kill any voices we don’t like. People watch the attacks and are afraid to speak out. We get tired of the fighting, embarrassed by the petty jabs and tune out important decisions. Even more than halting building permits and sewer repairs, the resulting silence the greatest damage from the council’s blind hatred.
That's my opinion. What's yours?
Monday, May 12, 2008
All elected officials were present tonight. The council added an update on Stack Hill to the agenda. The engineers for the development said they have been tracking how the 102 conditions of the preliminary plat are being met. 80% of those conditions have now been completed, 10% are met in the form of comments received and responded to and the final 10% were items that would be bonded so the final plat could be approved. Final plat approval would trigger the creation of individual properties that would be put on the tax rolls. Council Member Hunt noted this needed to be done prior to July to hit the tax rolls in 2009.
Hunt confirmed that the council's action at the last meeting of firing of the town planner without a replacement would not impact this process. The town could hire any engineering firm to confirm that technical conditions had been met, while the council could confirm the planning conditions had been met since we do not have functioning planning commission. Mayor Transue requested that the attorney for the project meet with the town attorney to determine the best way to proceed (public hearing or something else).
Mike Cohen asked that two conditions imposed by the council be removed 1) 10' setbacks where the rest of Ruston is 7.5' and 2) the 60' view corridor requirement. These requirements were not part of what the planning commission had required and were put on by the council later. The two attorneys will discuss how to proceed with this change as well.
Council liaisons were assigned to the following areas:
- Stebner: Public Works and Parks
- Huson: Land Use
- Hedrick: Public Safety and Courts
- Albertson: Budget
- Hunt: Infrastructure
The clerk has not been able to order enough copies of Roberts Rules of Order, 10th edition as required by the council rules. The mayor will look into getting a town credit card with a small limit for use for Internet purchases and the like. In the meantime, Council Member Huson will order 10 copies of the rule book.
The council did not like how public comment went at the last meeting. Council Member Albertson wants to return to banning all public comment unless the council votes to make an exception at the beginning of each meeting on specific items. Albertson felt that the same people used public comment to complain and re-haggle old issues from the last election, which they lost. Hunt did not like people signing up to comment on every issue and that those who commented were not providing pertinent information. The council wants well thought out comments in her opinion. The public will still be allowed 2 minutes to comment at the end of each meeting (after all business has been completed). The formal change for the rules will be presented at the next meeting.
After much discussion on the school building, it was decided to form a citizen's committee of real estate experts to advise the council on the options for town-owned properties. Al Olson (fiance of Council Member Hunt) is a developer and has agreed to work on such a committee. Two other real estate agents would be invited to join.
The mayor asked if the committee would be asked to look at all the options, including whether the town should even keep the school building. Huson mentioned one of the options might be to ask The Commencement to purchase the building since they had a long term lease for much of the space. He noted the council could adopt rules and procedures at the next council meeting (as suggested by the town attorney) that would require "them to throw their shit out on the street." Both Hunt and Huson suggested the best option for the building might be to "rip it down".
The mayor encouraged thoughtful, careful consideration of the issues and to engage the community especially considering the history. Albertson responded by saying the council should only talk among themselves and not engage the mayor in these study sessions. He felt the mayor raised too many obstacles, among other complaints. The mayor left the meeting a few minutes into Albertson's comments.
The council decided to set up this citizen committee and engage the public after the committee had decided on the options. Council Member Stebner wanted to be sure the committee would not plan on spending any of the surplus property fund to achieve their recommendations. The committee will explore the best use of the school, the current town hall and the resident fire fighter house next door.
The meeting adjoined about 8:15 pm.
The chief confirmed that the woman had been hit by the train and was 51 years old. No one had been reported missing. More details will be available soon.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
All the struggle, haggling and battles have not been able to stop progress. From the early Asarco Weeks planning sessions to Ruston's council antics last summer, we have finally arrived at this milestone. There is still a long way to go, but it is good to see something new rising from the ashes.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Our Ruston fire department was on hand to help if needed. Thankfully, the only injury was to our youngest volunteer, a scraped knee that was fixed up as good as new. A good time was had by all ~ thank you to the Ruston volunteers who made our town look so good!
UPDATE: A commenter tells us our water station won best in the marathon. All those "Welcome to Ruston" greetings paid off! We counted somewhere between 250 and 300 cups dispensed.
Friday, May 9, 2008
UPDATE, SATURDAY: The Tribune is reporting that the woman has not been identified yet.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Not so! Because business has been slow on Sundays, the casino will be closed. Church members from the Chinese Christian Church next door are welcome to use the casino parking lot during Sunday services.
The casino will likely reopen Sundays around the Taste of Tacoma, but for now they are being downright neighborly.
We had our own Phil Parker in Ruston. He served us well as a longtime council member and mayor. I still miss seeing his bushy beard parked on the soda fountain window seat at Don's Market. He had a wonderful quiet sense of humor and calm sensible leadership that I miss. He was an important influence both on my life personally and on Ruston until life overwhelmed him.
There is also a train engine bearing the name Ruston. The Phil Parker on my news alert has a blog entry that discussed building a "bonnet" to shelter such a engine.
A gentle reminder that life is fragile, that community matters and that we should tell each other often that we care. That's the "bonnet", the legacy of our Phil Parker.
The Tribune had a brief follow up to the gambling tax increase on Tuesday as well.
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
American raku is not like the original Japanese raku or regular glaze-fired ceramics. In American raku, the bisque-fired pieces are decorated with particular types of glazes and quickly fired to 2000 degrees or so. Once the glaze is properly melted, the pieces are removed from the kiln immediately—while they are still hot! The pots are placed in cans with straw, leaves or newspaper. Once this flammable material ignites, lids are clamped down. There is flame and smoke and then the hardest part—waiting. The end result is vibrant and smokey metallic-flashed blues, greens, copper or crackled glazes. These pieces are not for food use or to hold flowers. Each one is a work of art.
The F.I.N.E. Mudhens have contracted with Clay Art Center to do a raku firing for the Music Festival. There will be two men with two kilns and all the supplies necessary to decorate and fire pots. We will have small (ish) bisque-fired ceramic pieces available for the public to purchase and decorate for about $10. The raku artists from Clay Art will do the actual firing of decorated pieces. The public can stay and watch the process or return in 45 minutes or so to retrieve their decorated pieces. I believe the raku firers will be available for about 6 hours. It is really hot and tiring work.
Sounds wonderful! Hope you'll join us!
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
The meeting began at about 7 pm. I was in the hallway waiting to sign up to speak on agenda items until 7:10 pm (per new council rules). It appeared that the ordinance increasing the gambling tax was postponed until the May 27th study session.
The electrical consultant hired by Ruston to oversee both The Commencement and Point Ruston developments was on hand to explain why he decided to have the underground lines installed as they were at the school alley on 53rd Street.
There was discussion (as outlined in the notes from Huitt-Zollars) about the discrepancy in Ruston’s codes for when council approval is required on permits. In the past, street obstruction permits were handled administratively, but the council interpreted the code to require their approval. Council Member Albertson proposed a cease and desist order for the Commencement under this interpretation, but the town attorney notified him that permits could not be changed after they had been issued. The mayor confirmed that any emergency sewer repair that required a street cut would then need council approval. The motion passed 5-0.
The council was informed that they must take action to implement the schedule and work outlined in the state grant at tonight’s meeting or the grant would be rescinded. The mayor felt there was too much work involved in tracking which work was reimbursable and recommended giving the money back. The council moved to terminate the contract with the state, which passed 4-1. Hedrick voted against, noting he did not believe we should leave money on the table.
The outstanding bills from Huitt-Zollars were approved without any more explanation beyond the notes provided. Council Member Huson then moved to terminate Huitt-Zollars services as soon as possible. Alberston berated what he called the mayor’s interference with the council’s attempts to negotiate with Tacoma’s planning department for services.
Hedrick stated he thought this was a vendetta by the council against Huitt-Zollars (as evidenced with Albertson calling them the ‘Freddy Kruger of Ruston’ at the last meeting). He felt the town should have other planning services secured before terminating this contract. The mayor pointed out that any building permit needing planning services would be put on hold (i.e. current projects underway) or not issued (for new permit applications). Albertson said current developers he had spoken with would prefer to wait for a new planner. The mayor cautioned that based on his conversations with the Tacoma city manager, it would be at least 45 days until Tacoma’s services could be secured. The motion passed 4-1.
Point Ruston noted that they have received the foundation permit for the development on the Tacoma side. The dirt movement at the south end of the site was to prepare the basement for this building. They are working on the shoreline permit process (I think Ruston has a different consultant for this permit than Huitt-Zollars).
The town attorney asked if the resolution supporting a change to a council-manger form of government was having its first reading tonight (per the new council rules). The timing of the election for this measure was discussed and the council wanted it passed at this meeting so it could be placed on the August 12th primary ballot. It was pointed out that more residents would likely be voting in the November primary election, but the motion passed 5-0.
Resolutions 416 and 417 passed with little discussion (supporting Point Ruston and the agreement outlining the process for negotiating the developers agreement).
Instead of the ordinance on gambling taxes, Albertson unexpectedly passed out a new resolution authorizing the council to negotiate with Tacoma for planning services. The mayor expressed disappointment that this resolution did not reflect the good faith agreement he thought he had reached with the council on how to proceed. Council Member Hunt said this was only an attempt to follow the instructions of Tacoma Council Member Manthou. She tried to change the wording so that the mayor would also be authorized to negotiate on this issue. Her request was denied.
Hedrick noted he was only supporting this because the town now had no planning services. The mayor felt that services with Tacoma should be set up on a direct hourly rate rather than a fee schedule. Tacoma’s fee schedule uses an average cost (some actual costs are below, some are above the average), which might not be a fair way to pay for Ruston’s services. Council members, in their talks with Tacoma’s planning department, had not explored this approach yet. The resolution passed 5-0.
Sally Everding (wife of former council member Bob Everding and editor of the Ruston Connection web page) was authorized to correct scrivener’s errors as she codifies Ruston’s codes.
Appointments of the council liaison (as required in the new council rules) were postponed until the May 12th study session. The tree committee issue was also postponed.
There were a few public comments. The mayor briefly discussed the problem with the sewer pump station at the credit union. He will have the town attorney look into the issue.
The meeting adjourned a little after 10 pm with no council time.
Here is the surprise resolution:
"But overcoming Ruston’s challenges will require town officials to develop a comprehensive financial strategy."
This type of planning has been advocated for years by many in town. Even beyond the financial plan, we need a full strategic plan that outlines who we want to become and steps to achieve those goals.
Creating yet another plan seems tedious. But in order to create this one, we would have to actually come together and talk. We would have to think beyond our petty differences. We'd have to let go of the bitterness and try to listen. At least that would be the ideal way to create such a plan, with everyone participating. The plan could be developed by a hand-selected group that only listens to itself ~ as is the norm around here for the last few years. But there is no hope of success with such a closed-minded vision.
My MBA culminating project in 2005 focused on just this issue (here and here). The three main recommendations for dealing with the upheaval and change underway in Ruston were 1) develop a vision, 2) communicate that vision and 3) ensure organizational fit (set up systems to deal with conflict, address issues around the shift in our internal culture for example). It breaks my heart to see the destruction we faced years ago multiplied now.
"Ruston has a fighting chance, if only it would stop fighting with itself."
The in-fighting is killing us. But everyone has to stop fighting for this to be effective. The problem is that every compromise that is offered to this council is plummeted into the ground, every "unapproved" voice is publicly berated, every enemy is ridiculed or killed. That's no way to 'advocate' for our community.
Our best hope is that Council Members Stebner, Huson, Albertson and Hunt will heed these wise words from the Tribune's editorial board. Maybe a framed copy for each of them isn't a bad idea.
- The council passed a resolution that requires all obstruction permits (those that require a curb or street cut) to now be approved by the council. Town code had been interpreted in the past that this would be an administrative function of the mayor, but this council disagrees with that interpretation. Any sewer problem or other issue that requires a cut into a Ruston street must now wait for council approval at the next regular council meeting.
- All services with the town planner are terminated, effective May 15th (10 day written notice is required). All building permits that require review by a planner are now on hold until further notice.
- Ordinance 418 was passed out to the mayor and council just as discussion opened on the issue. After complaints from the audience, a few copies were passed out to us. It authorizes the council to negotiate with Tacoma for planning services. The mayor said Tacoma’s city manger estimates it will take at least 45 days to have an inter-local agreement in place.
- The Town is walking away from the $75,000 state grant from Community and Economic Development (CTED). Ruston will have to pay for any services that have been provided.
- The council wants to change the form of government. Their resolution passed on its first reading. It was decided not to have a second reading so it could be put out for a vote in the primary election in August rather than wait until the general election in November (when Ruston will have other issues to vote on).
- The gambling tax increase was moved to the study session on May 27th for council discussion (where no public comment is allowed).
- The new council rules took effect at this meeting. The audience was required to sign up to testify before the meeting on each of the 13 business items on the agenda, with a separate page for each item. They had to declare if they were pro, con or other on each item when they signed up before the meeting. One audience members assessment, "It sucks." Another suggested having the sign in sheets available a few days in advance to help with the line at the sign in book before the meeting.
Sunday, May 4, 2008
Read it over and then come to the meeting Monday to give your input. Here is a snippet from Jason Hagey's article:
"Fabre spoke to Stebner about the proposal, and the conversation inflamed suspicion about Stebner’s motives. “He told me either the tax will close me, or I’ll have to close when Tacoma takes over,” Fabre said. The City of Tacoma enacted a ban on mini-casinos. Stebner admits telling Fabre that, but Stebner said he was trying to emphasize the need for Ruston to generate more revenue. “If we don’t start doing something, we’re going to run out of money,” he said. “We’ll be in Tacoma.”"
Saturday, May 3, 2008
There are people who see a need and create a solution, they are called business people. There are people who create a need, afix blame, and tax the former group, they are called politicians. There are people who live in the gap, they are called many things, by both sides...
What has happened and continues to develop in this quarter of a square mile is a microcosm of the state of our nation. Development of natural resources, government intervention, foreign ownership of business, bankruptcy, attempt to revive, citizen displeasure, carpetbaggers being elected with promises of solutions, result: further government control and intrusion. Human nature remains the same regardless of the role one assumes. There are those who speak lies with polite eloquence and those who speak truth with crass simplicity, and there are the rest of us.
Friday, May 2, 2008
What are your thoughts?
We had 10,000 folks attend last year. This year will be even better ~ bring family and friends for a great celebration!
Thursday, May 1, 2008
- Stack Hill streets are expected to be paved within the next 10-14 days.
- Point Ruston is planning to request final plat approval for Stack Hill next month. This will allow parcel numbers to be assigned by the Pierce County Assessor's Office, and the property to be returned to the tax rolls.
From earlier discussions, we know Point Ruston has applied for the necessary changes so the Silver Cloud hotel development can proceed. A Memorandum of Understanding is scheduled for the next council meeting on this issue. It sounds like this will remove the formal application so individual council members can discuss the development with Point Ruston, while outlining a commitment to support the concept. All this is tied up with the state grant to update Ruston's codes for this area (see the April 28th council meeting notes)
The project has permits for at least two homes on Stack Hill. The first house will be a model home. The first permit on the lower section has been issued by Tacoma. The floating sales center is open on Thea Foss Waterway. Stop in and check out the beautiful plans. All in all, little bits of progress.