Monday, June 30, 2008

Lessons

The new planning commission is meeting tonight. They'll have plenty on their plate in the coming months. Hopefully they can find the balance between what's good form "me" versus what we need to preserve "us". I don't think we've found that balance yet and all sides are pushing hard to get their way.

The News Tribune had an interesting article today about Orting. They have almost doubled their population since 2000 and have developed into two distinct business areas; old and new. A new farmers market in the historic part of town is hoped to lure newer residents into a part of town they rarely visit.

Our local business district is working towards a similar outdoor market soon - before we have to deal with the old and new sections of Ruston. They also want to encourage our neighbors to shop close to home. Ruston's planning commission will have some influence on these issues, too (even though the Point Ruston decisions will all be done by the council this summer). Here's hoping for vision, balance and inclusion!

Karen

Ruston Monarchs


Here's the latest on "our" baseball team weekend games from GM Daryl Frank:
The Monarchs defeated the Puyallup River Cats on Thursday 13-8 but lost to The Eatonville Rainiers on Sunday 9-6. on the bright side, Gabe Gapol pitched a great complete game on thursday and Ronnie Gee hit in the clutch with a double and 4 rbi's. On Sunday, Dave Bingham hit another home-run.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Survived Another Year


Remember the theme song from the 1973 version The Poseidon Adventure? It kept running through my mind this evening watching the crowds wander through town: "There's got to be a morning after, if we can hold on through the Taste..." I noted more folks were selling parking spaces and cold drinks this year. We're becoming Puyallup!
It looked like several of us went down for those last minute nibbles and bargains. I hope the clean up went well, too. We didn't make it for cookies at town hall, but got our little piece of heaven picked up. I caught John Loomis busy on his street, too.
Mother Nature sure put on a show after the show for us tonight, too! The next big party in town is the Point Defiance Music Fest on Saturday, September 6th on 51st Street. But the Tall Ships sail by Ruston's shores next Thursday at 10 am with Freedom Fest closing the tunnel and Ruston Way on Friday the 4th. It must be summer...



Saturday, June 28, 2008

Ruston Heritage

We have lost another longtime Ruston jewel. Helen Ley was one of the icons from the Now and Then Shop on Pearl Street. She spent many years in Ruston and was an important part of the fabric of this community.

Her News Tribune obituary notes; "Helen Ley 'Gram Jam' Born 10/26/1938 in Tacoma, WA, and passed away 6/19/2008. Helen was a longtime resident of Ruston, and was employed at the Now & Then Antique Shop, which was owned by her brother Paul Wilmoth. She will be greatly missed by her friends and family."

Helen leaves behind 6 children, 13 grandchildren, 3 great-grandchildren, and her best friend George Purdy to carry on her legacy. You can share your thoughts with the family at http://www.edwardsmemorial.com/.

Ruston's Baseball Team

Did you know we have a baseball team named after us? The Ruston Monarchs are a local team from the Pierce County Baseball League. Ruston's own Dan Wombacher is on the team and the general manager Daryl Frank lives just outside our borders. The team's schedule is now linked (to the right). Stop in for some all-American fun! Daryl gives us some background:

The Monarchs were founded in 2000 by current GM/pitcher/outfielder/1st baseman Daryl Frank, who currently lives just outside the Ruston limits at 51st & Whitman. The Pierce County Baseball League currently has teams from Tacoma, Puyallup, Eatonville, University Place and Gig Harbor along with the Ruston Team.

The Monarchs worked with has contributed to both the Bellarmine Prep and Pacific Lutheran University baseball programs with construction costs and labor ( Dan Wombacher's specialty) in building batting cages, dugouts, clubhouses, concession stands, and equipment storage buildings. Former PLU coach, Larry Marshall, was integral in allowing the Monarchs to use their facilities for many years as the teams home field.

Local notables who have played for the Monarchs include former UW quarterback Billie Joe Hobert. Former White Sox AAA Prospect David Bingham currently is on the roster and has the league record for most homers in a season. Other players on the roster with Professional experience include Ron Gee and Daryl Frank.




Friday, June 27, 2008

Special Meeting Tonight

The council is holding a special meeting tonight at 7 pm at the school. The only thing on the agenda is "Town Planner Interim". Bear in mind the agenda can be changed and the council can take official action on anything they choose to tonight. There will likely be a small audience on a Friday evening, so please attend if you can pull yourself away from the festival at the park...

Books, Memories and A Good Cause


Cory Valdes is hosting a fund raising event tomorrow for Franciscan Hospice. Cory's mom was an avid reader (pictured above). When she died from cancer, Cory wanted to find a way to give back in her honor. Thus, a book sale to benefit Franciscan was born. Here are the details:
  • Saturday, June 28th at noon (tomorrow!!)
  • At the parking lot at Point Defiance Cafe and Casino, 5037 N. Pearl
  • Over 200 books to browse - bring your own donations, too!
  • Call Cory for more details at (253) 590-3218

See you all there!

Karen

Thursday, June 26, 2008

More Local Focus

KXOT radio, 94.9 FM will continue their South Sound focus today with a poem by Bill Kupinse about Point Defiance. It's an interesting poem, so listen in at 1 pm (just a few minutes away) or catch it on the web later.

Point Defiance Park Changes

The News Tribune is reporting an experiment at Point Defiance Park for the rest of the summer - pedestrians only on Sunday mornings now in addition to Saturdays. Read more here...

Taste Starts Tomorrow!

Just in case you missed all the scurry in the neighborhood, the final touches are underway for the big party. Here are some details to keep in mind.
  • Pets will not be allowed in the food court area this year. We are encourged to leave Fido at home.
  • No parking in the alleys during the event (or median on Winnifred). Call the Ruston police if you see violations at (253) 761-0272.
  • There will be the usual town-wide clean up on Sunday evening. Everyone is encouraged to gather up the trash around their streets after about 8:30 pm and head over to Town Hall (5117 N. Winnifred) to dispose of it. Our local seniors will rewards us with cookies.
  • Musical acts are availble here.
  • Overall festival information is available here.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Stack Hill Hearing

It was an interesting meeting with no decision tonight. The council agreed to have this on their agenda for the next regular meeting on July 7th, but no more public comment will be taken on the issue. They are not supposed to talk to anyone about this issue again until after they make their decision.

The meeting began with the mayor laying out the procedures: 1) Point Ruston presents, 2) council questions and rebuts, 3) public gives testimony (but cannot ask any questions). The town attorney asked the council a list of questions, which ended with asking them if any of them had had communications with anyone on this issue outside of this hearing. All the council members responded yes. After each explained their individual contacts with the developer and residents, the public was allowed to challenge the council’s assertion that they could remain impartial. No one offered a challenge and the hearing began.

Bill Lind (attorney) and Gary Petersen presented for Point Ruston. I won’t repeat the points made by Loren Cohen on the previous post below. Mr. Lind noted that legally the town is not allowed to require things from the developer that have no public benefit. They don’t feel this view corridor provides any benefit since it is very limited, but takes property away from the developer. Mr. Petersen noted that the assessor defines a view as view of the water. He also pointed out that the area has been excavated 21 feet, and the houses provide much more open space than the large buildings that were allowed under the Asarco Master Plan for this area. It was that plan that contained the view corridor requirement.

Mike Cohen acknowledged the original view corridor was reasonable (at higher elevations with very large buildings as shown above). But it is no longer fair to take his property with no public benefit. I don’t think I’m doing Point Ruston’s team justice in my interpretation here, but I’m happy to provide a copy of the meeting to anyone.

The highlight of the council questions and discussion was when Council Member Huson agreed that the view corridor was unfair to the developer, but that he felt other aspects of the development were unfair to the town. He felt requirements that applied to the rest of Ruston should be applied to this area, specifically the height limit should be 25’ on all of Stack Hill (30’ is allowed on the interior lots) and regular lot coverage and other set backs should be used. Cohen said he was willing to look at those issues. The 30’ allowance was a suggestion by Ruston’s former planner.

During public comment, 5 spoke generally against the proposals plus one letter from someone who could not attend, 7 were in favor and two were somewhat unclear (one wants view protected, but did not have a strong feeling on this view and one felt that strict land use controls benefited the overall community with improved aesthetics). I’ll list some of the reasons I found interesting for or against, beyond what was presented by Point Ruston.

Against:

  • Point Ruston promised to honor the community desires.

  • This opening allows wind from the water to flow to the homes on the hill.

  • A deal should remain a deal.

  • Even 1 inch of water view is important if it’s your view.

  • Views should always be protected.

Support:

  • Lived on Commercial Street since the smelter was operating, seen the views change dramatically over the years. When the houses were built across the street, they had no say about the huge loss of views they experienced then.

  • Don’t like the idea of a vacant lot, it would be unused and could become unsightly.

  • The views have been improved dramatically for everyone in the area with the lower elevation. This view corridor has only a limited view of the water that will soon be covered by trees. A temporary view corridor was not worth saving when there had been permanent improvements already done.

  • Views are an emotional issue, but this is a legal question.

  • The plat has been under discussion for 2 years, its time to get it done.

Stack Hill Proposed Views

These exhibits show what the views would look like if Point Ruston is allowed to build on the area currently set aside as a view corridor at the end of Commercial Street. Please attend tonight and provide your input ~ 7 pm at 5219 N. Shirley Street.

You can faintly see the outline of the background trees through the house.

The white pole in the center of the second photo shows the height of the house that would be built on the lot if the plat is amended as requested.


This shows how much dirt was removed from the hillside prior to construction.

Loren Cohen from Point Ruston provided these comments. Feel free to call him with questions, but any comments about this should be directed to the Ruston council members who are making the decision on this issue tonight. I don't think they can receive comment outside of the public hearing tonight, but you can check with them to be sure. Their contact information is listed to the right here.

I wanted to share these Stack Hill exhibits with you... The "MDP grade removal" exhibit highlights the amount of dirt that we pulled off of the hill. We averaged approximately 20' lower across the lower half of the site, creating a view over the 'nose' of the hill where the stack itself once sat.

I understand some citizens have questioned our timing in asking for these amendments -- they wonder "why did you agree to these in the first place if you are just going to try and amend them?" To us, the answer is simple: We knew from the day that the Council approved preliminary approval of the Stack Hill plat, that the view corridor would provide little benefit to the Town. Further, everyone remembers that the Town was having tremendous anxiety at this time with very divisive factions. We feel that a there is a different mood and feeling of confidence and fairness at this time. We could tell by our calculations and projections that little if any view was preserved by the Town taking this parcel from us to create a view corridor. However, we also knew that citizens and Council Members alike didn't share our ability to trust our engineer's projections, so it only made sense to wait until the plat construction and grading had been completed so that people could see what the plat would "really" look like. The exhibits that show the view directly down Commercial St. are both true to life photos, with only the houses being computer generated and superimposed; however, everything is to scale, and resembles very closely how this plat will turn out after full built-out .

If this view corridor provided a real benefit and preserved a water view valued by the Town, we would not be seeking this amendment; however, we truly believe that the Town's taking of this property does not preserve nor create a substantial view, and disproportionately affects our property rights. Compared to any benefit created for the Town it is our firmly held belief that the detriment of losing a viable building pad is grossly disproportionate to the purported view corridor that the Town seeks to create with the taking of our property. If this view corridor created a substantial benefit for the Town, we would not be seeking a Public Hearing tonight.

Thanks, and please give me a call if you have any questions.

Loren Cohen
Manager - Legal Affairs
MC Construction Consultants, Inc.
loren@mcconstruction.com
www.mcconstruction.com
www.pointruston.com
(360) 280-5058

Final Stack Hill Meeting Tonight!!!

Tonight at 7 pm is the public hearing for Point Ruston's request to use the view corridor at the end of Commercial Street for two building lots, a requirement that was added at the last minute by the council last summer (but was not required by the planning commission). They have developed some very good visual displays that show the impact of the new homes to views.

It's human nature to respond when we oppose something like this. But its equally important that those who are neutral or supportive of this concept attend tonight, hear all the information and voice their opinions as well.

Point Ruston is also asking for a reduction in the side yard set back to match the rest of Ruston. The council will be acting as the decision making body on these decisions since most of the planning commission members are new. Based on council discussion, they will make a decision at tonight's meeting so the plat can be finalized in time to be put on the assessor's rolls in time for collection of 2009 taxes.

Please join the fun at 7 pm at the Ruston School building (5219 N. Shirley, Room 101) at 7 pm tonight!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Mary Joyce To Be Honored


Longtime Ruston Councilwoman Mary Joyce will be honored by naming the former gym of the school after her. The area is expected to be turned into a community center after The Commencement has completed their lease for the area. Mary served for something over 30 years as a Ruston council member, finally resigning her post last December.
There will be a special dedication of the "Mary Krilich Joyce Community Center" at the school on Saturday, July 26 from 2 til 5 pm. Please come and honor one of Ruston's treasures.

Final Welcome Sign

Sherri sent this final draft for the Welcome to Ruston signs, with thanks to Sally Everding for helping with the final look...

Ballot Issue Update

Council Member Hunt handed this to me after the meeting Monday with no comment. It outlines the rules I have already posted (and emailed to the council and mayor) that our elected officials must use regarding use of public resources to promote their personal opinions about our upcoming ballot measure (to change the form of government.

Hunt's silent notice delivered here confirms my expectation that we will soon receive a mailing giving their point of view on the issue at tax payers expense. Hopefully they will try to keep it "educational", but since the town has never done an informational mailing, nor ever used the town newsletter to discuss these types of issues, they will be in violation of Public Disclosure Rules.

Frankly, I'm not sure I have the energy for yet another petty battle. It points again to their selective interpretation and unwillingness to look at issues based on what is best for Ruston as a whole. But what else is new?

Karen

Monday, June 23, 2008

Study Session: June 23, 2008

Here are the highlights from tonight's meeting, which lasted about an hour. There was a lot of discussion that covered many issues, but not very concisely (which is the point of a study session). I'll highlight what I heard by issue.

As always, I encourage you to attend so you can hear the full discussion yourself. These are very important issues that our elected leaders need to hear from us on. Please contact them outside of a meeting (public comment is not allowed at meetings until after voting is done). Emails and phone numbers are listed to the right. ~ Karen

General: Council Member Hunt summarized the revenue issues as a need to look at every tax, see if we are at the max (maximum rate allowed by law) and if not, to charge it. She also noted some ideas for addressing infrastructure needs that she learned at a recent conference, such as low interest loans for major projects like the sewer repairs. Rates would be increased to cover the cost for repaying the loan.

Gambling Tax: Council Member Albertson had not been able to find anyone with as low a gambling tax rate as Ruston currently charges. He felt the Tribune's editorial on the issue was "ridiculous and absurd". Council Member Stebner wanted to move on this increase right away. The ordinance will be ready for the next regular council meeting on July 7th. The owner of the casino was in attendance (I think he had his attorney with him).

Hotel-Motel Tax: This tax can only be used for tourism, but Hunt pointed out there is a broad definition that allows use for things that attract tourists (like improved street lighting or pocket parks). The Point Ruston hotel is projected to bring in $388,000 to Ruston (not sure if this is annually). Albertson thought this tax was "riddled" and does not solve the current problem of revenue shortfalls. The council will continue discussion at a future study session.

New Sales Tax Rules: Council Member Huson is confused about how the new "point of sale" tax rules will impact Ruston's revenue. After some discussion, this issue will be researched and discussed again later.

Business Licence Income: Hunt pulled all the UBI numbers (state issued to all businesses) for Ruston from the state's web site. After she noted she had not reviewed all the details of this list (such as which numbers were still current) she said only 2 in 10 have business licenses in Ruston that should. The council wants the Department of Revenue to provide a current list so town office staff can enforce this requirement on everyone. The clerk expressed concern about having enough time.

A business license currently costs $40 in Ruston. Albertson noted he pays at least $100 to Tacoma for his business. It appears the council is ready to raise the rate substantially, but will discuss it further at another study session.

B&O Taxes: Albertson noted some are promoting a very irresponsible notion of doing away with this tax. He is astounded that we are not maximising this tax instead (currently Ruston charges less than Tacoma). Not all businesses are paying the tax that should be according to Hunt's research. The clerk pointed out that businesses must make $5,000 per quarter before they pay any of this tax. After more discussion, the council appears ready to raise the rate to "comparable rates for surrounding communities", but will discuss it again at a future study session.

Leasehold Excise Tax: This tax is paid by tenants in the school building and passed directly to the state. Ruston may get a small portion back, but no one was sure how much, if any. The council wants The Commencement Group to pay more. Hedrick pointed out that the rate is based on the value of the lease (which is $0), but the town currently collects from them for the use of the sales center. Hunt also wants to require them to pay for 50% of all maintenance and improvement costs for the building as required by state law. The issue will be discussed again at a later study session.

Police Interlocal Agreement for Major Incidents: The council appears ready to approve this agreement.

Ruston Revenue Sources: Opinion

The Ruston Connection has a commentary today about what the council is looking at for revenue sources (the subject of tonight's study session). As usual, most of the ideas are shortsighted and buried way inside the box (as opposed to outside the box). Here are some other thoughts. ~ Karen
  • Reporting of the building permits has always taken place. The problem is not what the RC makes it seem. I seriously doubt "several hundred" permits were not reported to the assessor. Besides, it's not permits that matter, it's the increased value from improvements that impacts the tax revenue Ruston receives from our homes. Most permits are for repairs, not major upgrades that add taxable value.
  • Increasing gambling tax will only dry up a small revenue stream. The casino is already struggling. They have opened their books to the town to confirm their struggles. They are closed on Sundays because of poor attendance. They say they will be forced to close their doors and lay off dozens of employees, thus ending not only the limited gambling tax, but eliminating any sales tax revenue from them as well - not to mention the harm to the employees and the negative impact of yet another vacant building in our business core. The News Tribune's recent editorial put it well, "Jacking up the gambling tax from 3 percent to 20 percent is not a path to fiscal health; it’s a surefire way to get the city more seriously addicted to gaming revenues than it already is." Read the full editorial here, it contains some great encouragement about listening to each other and working together.
  • The B & O tax punishes businesses that do well. The council should look outside the box like Lakewood and others have done to eliminate this regressive tax. A simple focus on attracting businesses with a decent retail sales would more than make up for the $6,000 we current receive annually from B&O taxes. We have a vacant business on 51st Street, and many more that will be built at Point Ruston. What better incentive for new businesses to locate in Ruston instead of across the street in Tacoma? For more discussion, read this earlier post on the issue.
  • Grants are a great idea, but I think we've burned some bridges when we walked away from the $75,000 state grant a couple of months ago. That kind of reputation follow a municipality.
  • The interlocal agreement for help with major crimes was something Ruston had for years with Pierce County that the council walked away from under the current leadership. It's long past time to re-establish what should have been maintained in the first place.

Calling All Ruston School Students!

All former students of Ruston Elementary School are invited to a reunion this summer. It's been a long time coming - and especially poignant with all the changes Ruston has seen in the last decade or so. Here are the details:
  • Saturday, August 9th
  • 5 pm until midnight
  • VFW Hall at N. 48th and Baltimore
  • $15 (includes buffet dinner and no-host bar)
Contact Carol Gore for more details at (253) 752-1524 or cajagore@msn.com

Saturday, June 21, 2008

More Annexation Talk

Erik Emery, a local blogger from University Place, has picked up on our discussion of annexation. He is an advocate for annexation of University Place to Tacoma. He has some suggestions on how Ruston should annex.

Check out his discussion here....

Study Session Agenda: June 23, 2008

Here is the agenda for the meeting on Monday. The interlocal agreement for the police task forces will be discussed, along with finding more ways to raise revenue for town operations. The only paperwork on this issue is a copy of the current gambling tax code, which confirms the push to raise the rates substantially will be discussed.

Even though we can't comment during the meeting, we can talk to council members before and after the meeting. Please let them know your thoughts on this important issue of revenue sources. The council's decisions have the potential to impact a great deal more than one business in town.

The full packet of documents can be viewed on Ruston Reports. See you Monday at 7 pm!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Hearing on Stack Hill Development

Here is the formal notice for the public hearing next week. This is a request to remove the additional requirements for the Stack Hill development imposed by the Ruston council after the planning commission had approved the plat last summer.

Dan Voepel, News Tribune business columnist attended this particular council meeting and wrote an interesting column at the time. On a side note, the Tacoma Daily Index has a recent article about progress on the Point Ruston property.

There are some visual aids available at the Point Ruston office that give more detail and outline the views, etc. You can take a look at the material by calling Loren Cohen at (360) 280-5058 or email him at loren@mcconstruction.com. The hearing is next Wednesday, June 25 at 7 pm at the school building (5219 N. Shirley Street). Public comment will be allowed, so please attend and voice your opinion!


Orphan Fawn Update

Patricia Loomis, who works at the credit union at the bottom of 51st Street, has an update on the fawn that was orphaned last Friday after the momma was hit by a car:

From looking across 51st I spied a yearling and a fawn up by Stack Hill on Wednesday morning. I am hoping that this is our fawn and the yearling it was with are becoming a family. Here's hoping. We spent almost all of Friday "caring" for the little one, trying to keep the baby from coming out too close to the road.

Pat (who also works at the credit union) and I were working with Police Chief Reese and the animal control officer to help capture the fawn. We didn't see it happen as of us closing down on Friday evening. John and I went back on Saturday evening to see if we could see any sign of the little one with no luck. The animal control officer had only left the cage until dusk on Friday night.

The yearling and fawn together yesterday gave me some hope that maybe they are trying to survive together.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Annexation Anyone?

The Tacoma Weekly is reporting some interesting discussion by City of Tacoma leaders as they consider the various requests by Ruston's current council for the larger city to provide more and more municipal services. Tacoma Council Member Ladenburg called out "the elephant in the room", noting that annexation of Ruston would need to be discussed at some point.

Sounds like the warning some Ruston residents have been making for a few years now. Any thoughts on where that tipping point is? Are we close now? What direction do you think our council should head on this issue?

Welcome To Ruston

This is the proposed design for the Welcome To Ruston signs, generously drawn by Robert Gilbert of the Point Ruston team. The only thing missing is a horsetail or two!

Sherri Forch, who has been heading up this effort in many ways, has suggested the colors be reduced to shades of blue to match what other communities have done in the area (see below).

What do you all think? You can comment here or email Sherri at Sherri98407@aol.com. Comments from those outside Ruston are encouraged too ~ what do you think would best show off our town?

More Quiet Helpers

I spotted another quiet hero out a few days ago with his blower, cleaning off the sidewalk here at 51st and Winnifred. It looked a lot like Harry from Highland Street under those ear muffs. Beth Torbet has been seen bending over a weed or two out there too.

I love how we are all contributing something here to make our town center a closer reflection of the beauty we all know to be Ruston. Good job, one and all!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Rosemary Dye

The life of Rosemary Dye, the Tacoma native who spent her final moments in Ruston before being hit by a train is featured in today's News Tribune. Read the article here...

This comment just came in on the previous post about Rosemary on this blog. I thought it was worth sharing: "One of Tacoma's child of the light has passed due to losing her way. Let her spirit fly in the heavens..."

Another Causality in Ruston (of a different sort)


Most of us in the north end have a love-hate relationship with the local deer population. They are increasing in number and often seen at dusk in local yards, especially here in Ruston with the park next door. It's a thrill to see these large, graceful creatures tiptoe through the median on Winnifred or gallop down the street, but challenging if you try to grow roses where their hungry mouths can reach. This time of year, there are many a fawn tucked away in local bushes too.
Ruston recently put in a deer crossing sign at the bottom of 51st Street at the insistence of a resident in the neighborhood. The deer frequently cross between the train gully to head to the park. We had a causality last Friday morning when a doe had to be put down after an apparent impact from a car. No one reported the accident, but there was plenty of evidence left at the scene.
As hard as this was, the challenge was compounded when a young fawn came wandering out from the brush a short time later. Animal control was called, a trap is set and there is hope the youngster can taken to a new home. Another reminder of the challenge of the natural beauty that surrounds us and the difficulty of balancing nature and man co-existing in a very urban environment.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Today’s Commentary

I sent the following email to our elected officials this morning. I am concerned that the new administration will use town resources to promote passage of the upcoming ballot issue (to change our form of government by replacing the elected mayor position with a paid administrator). The Public Disclosure Commission clearly states they cannot use public resources, nor can they promote this issue using anything other than “normal” means. Since the town newsletter has never promoted a specific point of view, I would hope the mayor would not risk using this forum to promote their personal agenda.

The rules also allow the council to pass a resolution taking sides on this issue (which they have done), as long as they allow equal time for dissenting points of view to express their views. This is not even close to how the current Ruston council handled the issue. They did allow comment at one study session, but no public comment was allowed at the regular meetings when the issue was discussed on several occasions (including when a formal resolution was passed).

On a side note, has anyone noticed how alive the Ruston Connection web site is this week (run by new mayor Everding’s wife)? The web site’s format was changed to a “private” venue about the time the Ruston Connection newsletter editors were sued (along with the Chinese Christian Church) by Point Defiance Casino. The change in format meant that most features were no longer available unless you were a pre-approved member. Only those who agreed with them were allowed as members. Most local issues were no longer discussed publicly, and only members could comment on those that were posted.

Mr. Everding, then council member, also stated at the time he no longer had any email, although last night he mentioned having a personal email account that some folks have been using for town business.

There are 9 new posts on the RC web page since last Friday. A few contain the usual complaints about the former mayor and promote the current council and mayor’s agenda. As difficult as this is for me, I encourage town residents to check out their information. I hope you will also continue to check here for balance and alternative viewpoints that are not welcomed by the current town leadership. And Ruston will have an official town web page soon. Pretty good for a 5-square block town!

Here is the email sent today. The full list of PDC rules is available on Ruston Reports.

Just a friendly reminder to our public officials that the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) does not allow the use of Town resources to promote one side or the other on the upcoming ballot issue (to change the form of Ruston's government). I believe that would include any discussion in the Town newsletter or any communication from you in your capacity as elected officials. A full copy of the PDC guidelines will be posted on the Ruston Home blog by the end of the day.

If you intend to promote this issue as council members or mayor, I'd like hear any other interpretations of these rules from you. I look forward to an open dialog on this issue.

Karen Pickett

Monday, June 16, 2008

Revenue Sources

I think this is the MRSC handout Council Member Hunt mentioned at the last meeting. These issues of revenue sources for Ruston will be explored in detail at the study session next Monday, June 23rd at 7 pm, including the proposal by Council Member Stebner to increase the gambling tax by over 600% on the casino. If you are interested in the potential tax increases that may be considered (on businesses or other sources), you might read this over before the meeting.

Karen

Council Meeting Summary: June 16, 2008

These are the items I found of interest. I recorded the meeting, but am working through how to get it posted here. In the meantime, I can email it; just let me know at kpickett22@yahoo.com. I note our new mayor was in a sports coat and tie tonight for the first time in recent memory. ~ Karen

The meeting began on time, with Council Member Albertson arriving about 7:04 pm. The agenda was amended to add discussion of the plat amendments being proposed for Stack Hill. The meeting minutes were approved with some minor changes.

Staff Reports:
Police: Chief Reese said questions have been answered about the interlocal agreement for the small cities major crimes task force. The services would be provided to Ruston at no cost other than the officer’s time and provide valuable exposure, experience and training. The task force would respond in the same time it would take Tacoma to assist, and it does not effect having Tacoma officers back up Ruston on calls as needed. The mayor will have a resolution at the next meeting. There were several other items noted (see handout). May was a busy month and June is expected to be as well.

Fire: There were a total 7 calls in May (including 2 deaths, 1 brush fire, 1 kitchen fire). The “new to us” fire engine has completed its minor repairs and should have its third party inspection this week. The engine will be shipped to Ruston and in service by July 1st, if not sooner.

Maintenance: The mayor will have the maintenance department paint faded curbs as they have time this summer. Council Member Stebner wanted sidewalks also repainted. The area in front of the school building will be converted to a 30 minute loading zone and then painted. An ordinance for this will be prepared for the next meeting.

Business Items:
1. Legal Services Contract: after increasing the insurance coverage (which Ruston will pay for) the agreement for legal services was approved 5-0. There is only a monthly flat rate for all normal services no matter how much time is needed to complete the work, to be charged at $4,167 per month.
2. Tree Committee: Appointees from the 2006 ordinance were confirmed 5-0 with the exception of Bradley Huson being replaced by Ginger Kryger.
3. Planning Commission: The four new members were confirmed 5-0. The mayor will have them meet in 2 weeks on June 30th to elect their chair person and deal with any outstanding issues. It appears the council study session for that night will be canceled.
4. Welcome to Ruston sign: The council liked the new design which has been drafted by one of Point Ruston’s artists with help from Sherrie Forch. Ms. Forch was allowed to address the council to ask that the design changed to shades of blue.
5. Ordinance 1257: Approved 5-0 to increase fines and give the mayor authority to issue a street cut permit in an emergency.
6. Resolution 422: Surplus property disposal, passed 5-0.
7. Resolution 425: This addends Resolution 418 and adds the mayor as also desiring to contract with Tacoma for planning and building permit services. Ruston’s current building official noted that all building departments generate revenue from these services and Ruston should think carefully about giving them away. He will provide some other options for the council to consider. The council will also research the legalities about raising revenue from permits. The resolution to contract with Tacoma passed 4-1 with Council Member Hedrick voting no.
8. Resolution 424: Interlocal Agreement with Tacoma for Services: Hedrick noted the resolution was vague and that the developer never asked for public safety services to be included. He made a motion to remove police and fire services from the discussion, which was seconded by Council Member Hunt. The amendment failed 3-2. The original resolution (to discuss having Tacoma provide all public services) then passed 4-1 with Hedrick voting no.
9. Point Ruston Update: JJ McCammant noted the building permit for the third model home is coming soon. The developer has not heard from anyone on the LID agreement and is anxious to proceed. They will be taking their floating sales center (the former ferry) out during the Tall Ships parade. She encouraged the council to talk to Gary Pederson (their consultant who is retired from Tacoma’s planning department) about the issue of revenue generation from building permits. There were ways to use these fees to help pay for other functions of the building/planning department such as code enforcement. Stebener confirmed the developer is pleased with the new building official.
10. The Commencement Rental Letter was moved to executive session.
11. Town Administrator: Council Member Huson wants to send out RFP’s for an administrator. Stebener noted we are voting on the issue in August. Hunt noted there is nothing in the budget. No action was taken.
12. Study Sessions: Potential sources of revenue will be discussed at the June 23rd session. Hunt has an MRSC hand out on potential taxes the town can impose. The future needs of the police department will be discussed at a study session soon.
13. Plat Amendments for Stack Hill: Huson wanted to confirm the council is willing to proceed on the two amendments (to remove the view corridor at the end of Commercial Street and reduce the side yard requirements). Stebner noted he will not change his mind from the last time he voted and wanted to end all discussion on the issue tonight. Hunt was not willing to cancel the public hearing that has already been scheduled.

Claims and payroll were approved after the mayor noted there was some overtime hours that he had not authorized. He will direct his staff to ensure it does not happen again and bring a supplemental budget to cover the hours. He wants the council to review other personnel policies as well, he thinks there are other things they will want to address.

Public Comment:
Jim Wingard; among other comments, he did not like having public comment removed from business items since the council does not get sometimes valuable input before they vote. Stebner noted the public can address their concerns at the end of the meeting. He said, “If you bring us a valid point at this point, at this point we can bring that issue back up. But you haven’t brought us a valid point yet.”
Bill Walker; liked the idea of a flat rate fee schedule as suggested by the building official.
Terry Knapp; did not like the idea of giving away police and fire services on Point Ruston.
Karen Pickett; same issue, no valid reasons given to even discuss giving away such important services. Hunt responded they have a duty to consider all the options.
Sherrie Forch; announced a celebration for former council member Mary Joyce’s contributions to Ruston to be held on July 26th from 2 to 5 pm at the school.
Cherrie Anderson; wants the view corridor on Commercial Street to stay as it gives her more view of the water.
James Bennett; President of the business district asked for permission to close 51st Street again for the music festival on Saturday, Sept. 6th (one day only). He will get something in writing to the mayor.
Mark Schacht; Among other things, he wanted the codes reviewed so the areas painted reflected the current requirements.

Mayor’s Time:
The civil service will be meeting soon. He has formed a web site committee (Lyle Hardin, his wife and Chief Reese) to put together a town web site that will be formally run by the town. He hopes to have it functioning within a month. The applicants for town engineer will be on the agenda for the July 7th meeting. He is requiring all his staff to only use the new official town emails and encourages council members to do the same.

Council Time:
Nothing from Stebner, Huson or Hedrick. Albertson noted how much he liked working with the new mayor. Hunt will be attending the annual AWC conference in Yakima. She asked the mayor to have the planning commission address concerns raised by a resident in a recent letter to the council.

The meeting moved to executive session to discuss real estate issue (rent on the school space). The meeting reconvened at about 9:10 and immediately adjourned.

Council Meeting Tonight

Click here to see all the back up documentation for tonight's meeting. Based on a very quick glance, I found these items interesting:
  • The legal services contract for the new town attorney does not have a "not to exceed" limit for his regular services, an area where Ruston was paying extra under past contracts for issues that took more time than expected.
  • The tree committee will be: Lucy Davis, Ginger Kryger, Ruth Campbell and Edie Tallman.
  • The new planning commission members will be: Kevin Moser, Colett Judd, Cherrie Anderson, Charles Ranes. Current members are Dick Peterson and Matt Davis. All applications for the vacancies are listed (a very interesting read, some are motivated by view protection, others don't list much). The mayor did not choose Bryan Ficiala, Michael Schoenecker, Virginia Carpio or Mark Schacht.
  • The new sign logo is set.
  • It looks like they are adding quite a bit to the ordinance regarding street cuts (including a provision that allows emergency work).
  • The council and mayor have determined they want Tacoma for all planning and building permit work - Resolution 425 gives authority to negotiate an interlocal agreement. They have not considered (at least in public meetings) other alternatives for these services, such as other consultants, other local jurisdictions or such.
  • Resolution 424, for the Point Ruston property reads, in part: "The Town Council of the Town of Ruston has determined that it is in the best interests of the Town of Ruston and its citizens that it begin discussion about entering into an Interlocal agreement for public services for the Town of Ruston with the City of Tacoma at the soonest possible date." This includes the potential for all services, including police and fire service. It appears the council wants to keep the tax revenue from this major portion of the town, but is considering contracting out all services.

See you tonight at 7 pm - 5219 N. Shirley, Room 101!

Karen

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Letter to State Auditor

I'm sending the following letter to the state auditor. I have not heard anything officially about the March 13th letter. ~ Karen
___________________________________________________
June 13, 2008

Washington State Auditor
Pierce County Office
949 Market Street, Suite 560
Tacoma, WA 98402-3706

Dear Sirs,

I am writing to express my concern again about how the majority of current council members in Ruston are making their appointments to vacant elected offices. On March 13, 2008 I provided documentation regarding the appointment of Dan Albertson (who was appointed less than 15 minutes after the vacancy was announced) and Jane Hunt to the council (letter enclosed). In both these appointments, there was no public deliberation before the appointments.

Ruston’s mayor resigned his position on June 2, 2008 and the council held a special meeting on June 4th to appoint a new mayor, once again without holding any deliberations in public.

I recognize the council’s right to make this appointment. I realize they may not even need to take applications, allow public input or appoint from their own ranks. But I ask that you confirm those are indeed legal facts. I also acknowledge that following the rules would not have changed the outcome of these appointments. But I feel strongly that Ruston’s citizens deserve to at least observe what is being done on their behalf even if they cannot provide input.

The primary basis of my continued complaint is that the council is making their decisions on these appointments (and most town issues) outside of any public meeting. In this case, the appointee was at the special meeting, although he had not attended any meetings for at least 4 months. It appeared the town clerk had his oath of office already printed prior to the meeting. The motion to appoint him was made 3 minutes after the meeting began. There were only two short comments by council members stating why they supported the motion and the vote occurred about 4.5 minutes into the meeting.

I note in MRSC’s discussion of the Open Public Meetings Act that telephone or email polling of votes outside of a public meeting is not allowed (page 7, available at http://www.mrsc.org/Publications/opma08.pdf). Yet this appears to be common practice among the four-member majority of this council. The process this group has used for the last three appointments serves as a stark illustration of what occurs routinely at most meetings.

It is my understanding that my concerns may not warrant a special audit, but that a routine audit is scheduled for Ruston sometime this fall. I hope this continued pattern will expedite your oversight. It may be that your input will remedy the situation and the community can move forward, a process I would like to see begin soon rather than waiting another 6 months. If my concerns are not warranted, please let me know as soon as possible. I am willing to let this issue drop if you determine there has been no violation of either the spirit or letter of the law.

Thank you for listening and for any help you can provide. I have requested a recording of the June 4th meeting and copies of any emails from or between town officials on the issue. The town clerk has said it may the first of July before she can get a response from each of the council members on this request, although I don’t expect to get any email copies from these council members. One of them has informed me on a separate matter that she deletes all emails on her personal email accounts (even if they deal with town business) because she needs to save room on her hard drive. One of the other council members used the same reason last year for not being able to provide emails that were later provided by other agencies.

I will forward any information I can gather to you as soon as I receive them. Please feel free to contact me with any questions at (253) 228-8529 or kpickett22@yahoo.com.

Karen Pickett

Friday, June 13, 2008

Council Meeting Agenda: June 16, 2008

It looks like the new mayor and his council majority have wasted no time in moving their agenda forward. We won't have access to the actual documents to confirm details on these business items until Monday, but it appears they will finally appoint a planning commission. It is unclear how that will impact the Point Ruston hearing on June 25th.

It appears there is an agreement already for building and planning services with Tacoma, and an interlocal agreement "for services", presumably for all public services (including police and fire) on the Point Ruston property as discussed at the last study session.
They will revisit the requirements for digging and grading permits (perhaps to remove the requirement of council approval before street cuts can be made), there is something about a rental letter for The Commencement condo project and they will finally hire "legal services". I expect a "town attorney" is a thing of the past for now.

I'll update this post on Monday with a link to all the information.

Karen

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Today's Diary Entry

I’ve gotta be honest – I get tired of the fight. I expect you get tired of hearing about it, too. This latest squabble with Ms. Hunt is yet another drain of energy that would be better spent on something positive, for both of us. I’ve only listed it here publicly because I think it’s important that we know the temperament of those in leadership.

I'm also tired of being threatened and bullied. On this issue, I plan to wait the required 10 days to hear officially that Jane will not supply these emails. She’s already informed me that she has deleted them (to save room on her hard drive). Then I plan on posting all of them again for the record, unless something comes to light to change my mind from my inquires to some of the oversight agencies.

In the meantime, I want to talk about more important things in Ruston. As Hannah Montana sings, “we’ve got the best of both worlds” (sorry, I have a 6 year old girl at home, we sing this a lot). Ruston has the big city convenience of a mall 10 minutes away, with the safety of our own police department that patrols our 5-square block town. We may squabble like a family feud gone bad, but it's worth it to have the stronger connections and deeper sense of identity.

We share an important history. Ruston has served as a microcosm of America’s shift away from a frontier-style town dependent on natural resources. We’re transitioning from a rough, blue-collar town to an upscale enclave of some of the area’s wealthiest homes. It’s not surprising we struggle at times.

We have a great group of businesses here that care deeply about much more than their own bottom line. They open their shop doors day after day, welcoming strangers to our streets, enticing tourists to exit their cars and enjoy the natural beauty that surrounds us. They’ve stuck with us year after lean year to help build this community.

All in all, there is a much more that is good and right about Ruston than is wrong. Despite the challenges that get highlighted on this blog, I hope we always remember the precious treasure we have in this town – each other, our shared history and our bright future. ~ Karen

In The News

The Tacoma Weekly has an article on Everding's appointment. He has a few details about how events unfolded at the meeting, so take a look.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Voters Pamphlet Statements Update

Originally posted on June 5, 2008.

As you know, the Ruston council has had a measure placed on the ballot for August that would change our form of government from a strong mayor to a council-manager format. Last week, at the direction of Council Member Hunt, I was contacted to write the opposing statement for this proposal for the Voters Pamphlet, which was due by the end that day. I was later informed that no statements would be needed. What I was supposed to understand was that Ruston would not be officially setting up committees to write these statements. Such is life in our politically charged little town.

I did some research yesterday and sent an email to our council members based on the information I had received from the elections office. Since it appears there will be no formal committee appointed by the Town, I will head up an effort to write an opposing statement by next Monday, June. 9th. Please contact me with any input you may have at kpickett22@yahoo.com.

I thought you might like to see the email exchange with Council Member Hunt. I have listed the exchange in chronological order here. ~ Karen
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
UPDATE, June 10, 2008: Council Member Hunt contacted me tonight to demand that I remove these emails because I used her personal email address to make my inquiry. Although she was clearly acting in her capacity as a public official (signing the email as "Council Member Jane Hunt"), I have decided to honor her demand until I can more fully explore my legal options. Thanks for your patience as we sort this all out.

Karen

What Others Think


This comment came in response to my exhortation to read the News Tribune's editorial on June 6th. It represents a different point of view from what we usually hear on this blog, so I wanted to get it out front. I've added some responses at the end. I appreciate hearing from those who disagree with me ~ its a healthy discussion when all points of view can be freely aired. Thanks to whomever posted this, it got me thinking!

Karen
________________________________________________________
The editor's don't live in Ruston to have endured a history of stagnant government and continued mismanagement.

This really goes hand in hand with why Obama is in the position he is in - it's about "Change".

Many residents have approached past council's and mayors only to be met with resistance because many times change equals work for either group.

No one is giving this council credit for their individual make-up. This is a very diverse group of elected officials that are willing and able to have their own opinions and express them. They all stand for "Change" and the status quo is unacceptable. I surmise that the editors are right - it might be an "us versus them" situation but it is not the condo issue - its change versus stagnation. Right or wrong, change or stagnation, new verses old, anti-condo or pro-condo - how ever you want to spin it the town needed change. Ruston needed to evolve and move ahead and it simply wasn't happening. Once the Commencement is built and you are looking at it in all its glory - maybe you will finally admit "Yes" its wonderful - but maybe it could have been a couple of stories shorter?

What has this council done that has you so riled up? Not letting the public rant on every topic actually saves the town money. We were paying our consultants hourly, not to mention town employees overtime, while everyone in the audience got up and felt they needed to tell everyone their opinion. I don't know why you would be angry over them attempting to save the town money? What ordinances have they passed or decisions have they made that you find so outlandish? (Other than moving public comment to the end of the meetings)

I have seen the current council approve the purchase of a new fire truck, approve the purchase of a new police car, and talk about upgrading all departments as well as our town's tired infrastructure. What is so bad that has you fighting and speaking out at every turn? Your credibility continues to erode and - until there are documented missteps - I would think you would be supportive of our elected officials.

Let's remember - the media feeds on controversy so always take them with more than a grain of salt.
_________________________________________________________
I don't agree that the foundational issue is change vs. stagnation. Most of the controversy started when former Mayor Wheeler started making decisions on issues that had been studied to death under previous administrations. Unfortunately, I think much of the current challenge is directly related to the condo controversy and the remaining bitterness. The anger, fighting and attacks have been embarrassing and caused many to fear expressing their views. I am reluctant to have any more conversations with Jane Hunt, for example. The trend that began with the condo debate has gone from bad to ugly in the ensuing years. I've attended most council meetings for the last 20 years or so. I've watched it evolve.

It's not the removal of public comment that is my primary concern. That is a symptom of a much deeper problem ~ one of close-mindedness where only certain people are welcome to provide input. I don't think the council (no matter who they are) can make the best decisions for this community when they exclude minority voices.

I've agreed with this council on issues at least as much as I did with former Mayor Transue. I've said publicly (although not on this blog) that I wish the condo controversy could have been handled differently. Maybe less money for a shorter building might have been worth it. I hope the council explored that option at the time. But I didn't sit in those negotiations and it was vital that Ruston do something to survive. The Town could not wait another year operating at a deficit.

I appreciate that this council is looking out for our public safety needs. Again, they are doing many things right in my opinion. But I think it was a "mis-step" to waste money trying to evict The Commencement from their sales center. It was a "mis-step" to fight Stack Hill development. It is a "mis-step" to raise gambling tax under the guise of needing revenue. These are attacks against this group's declared "enemies". I hope they will focus on positive steps to move the important issues forward, not on how to harm those projects and people they don't like.

Thanks again for your comments - let's keep the conversation going!

Karen

Night Out In Ruston

Chief Reese wants to remind everyone that the national Night Out Against Crime is coming up soon on Tuesday, August 5th. To register this year, just go to http://www.nationalnightout.org/. Once you sign up your block, you'll get a packet in the mail and our local police department is notified. It sounds like street closures will be coordinated via this registration, too. The sooner you can get registered, the better!

This is the 25th annual Night Out in America. A great time to celebrate this effective tool for crime fighting in our neighborhood.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Study Session: June 9, 2008

The meeting began at 7 pm with Council Member Stebner arriving as roll call was taken. The agenda was approved after switching items 2 and 3.

1. Mo Fesharaki, Ruston Electrical Consultant: After hearing from Tacoma on the proposal to add a second feeder to Ruston's electrical system, Mr. Fesharaki now recommends that we no longer pursue this option (see packet for details). Tacoma now wants a contract with Ruston if they are going to continue to provide power. Tacoma must find ways to get 15% of their power from new renewable sources, such as solar and wind by 2020 and undertake cost-effective energy conservation which can be very costly. This new contract gives Tacoma some protection against these costs and the stranded conservation cost needs to be recovered should Ruston decides to switch to BPA after say a few years. Mr. Fesharaki thought that Ruston was probably the only Tacoma Power customer that resells the power it purchases. Ruston does not have a special rate, but buys power as part of class of customers. There are other customers that buy power in this class besides Ruston.

Ruston has the option of buying power from Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) or from Tacoma. The cost is approximately1 cent less per kilowatt hour with BPA, but Ruston would have to pay to install a telemetering equipment. The cost for a meter could be as much as $100,000, but Ruston could petition to have that cost waived. The decision to waive the cost would be made after Ruston requests to purchase power from BPA. Council Member Hunt wants to meet with Tacoma and Mr. Fesharaki to get a better understanding of the issues. Stebner confirmed that Tacoma would not charge to use their lines to have BPA deliver power to Ruston (this is according to BPA representative). Ruston could save about $55,000 with BPA, but may have to pay for the meter.

2. Stack Hill Update: Gary Pederson gave a slide presentation regarding Stack Hill final plat. In order to get the final plat for this development approved in time to get on the assessors tax rolls this year, quick action is needed. Point Ruston is asking for 2 changes to the development plan that were added by the council after planning commission approval last summer: 1) make the side yard set backs 7.5' rather than 10' (7.5' is the normal residential requirement in the rest of town) and 2) reinstate a building lot at the end of the view corridor that was eliminated when the preliminary plat was approved. Point Ruston had a display board showing the elevations/views and reasoning for their proposal that is available for viewing by calling their office (I'll list a phone number here tomorrow). John Anderson, who lives on Commercial Street , protested the reinstatement of the building lot and the reduction in length of the view corridor, but Hunt reminded him there would be a public hearing where his concerns could be heard.

After further discussion, the mayor confirmed his intention to have the council serve as the planning commission on this issue. Point Ruston will send notice of a public hearing tomorrow, to be held on June 25th for an ordinance to approve the final plat and make these two changes to the development plan. The town will need to designate Sound Inspections as the Town Engineer for this project at its meeting next week. It sounds like the council may suspend their rule for a second reading on this ordinance and make a decision on it the same night as the public hearing in order to get the final plat recorded and on the property tax rolls by July 1, 2008 for 2009 tax collections.

Any work that has not been completed yet will be bonded to insure it will be done. Stebner asked what would happen if the LID was not approved (the developer would bear the cost of the LID). Council Member Alberston confirmed that Stack Hill is part of one large tax parcel that includes the lower waterfront portion, all of which is he thought was assessed at about $5 per year right now. This plat approval breaks off Stack Hill from the larger parcel and puts about $8 million in raw land value on the rolls for 2009 (about $15,000 property tax income for Ruston). As homes are built, the improvements are added to the tax rolls. Huson thought the next council meeting would have to be continued to June 25th rather than holding a special meeting.

3. Point Ruston Services: Point Ruston has asked Ruston to consider giving the utilities to Tacoma on all the lower property. This will give Point Ruston cost savings and efficiencies as they build the infrastructure. The City of Tacoma has asked for a resolution from Ruston stating that the mayor and council agree to begin negotiations to have Tacoma take over Ruston's services (such as building and planning). Huson wants to talk to Tacoma about having Tacoma provide all public services to the entire Point Ruston property to include:
  • power
  • water
  • sewer
  • storm water
  • streets
  • garbage and solid waste
  • police
  • fire
  • Click! (broadband Internet service)

Stebner asked why Point Ruston even wanted to be in Ruston if they wanted all their services provided by Tacoma. Mike Cohen and JJ Mc Cament offered assurances that they want to remain part of Ruston. Their primary request was to have the utilities served by Tacoma. This proposal does not include Stack Hill. Stebner wanted more information on what the costs would be. Hunt felt there would not be any answers until negotiations began. She noted that Ruston may want to give all the electrical services to Tacoma so residents could qualify for Click!.

Alberston confirmed with Cohen that only half the retail development will be done when the hotel opens in 2014, the rest will be built based on market demand. Cohen noted the Ruston is prohibited from making a profit from its utilities, but Mr. Fesharaki mentioned that the Point Ruston development and the existing services would provide a gross revenue of about $530,000 annually for the electric reserve, which could be used for system upgrades and repairs throughout the entire system (in other parts of town). It appeared the council would entertain a resolution to negotiate with Tacoma for providing all public services to Point Ruston.

The meeting adorned about 8:25 pm.

Study Session Agenda: June 9, 2008

The council will discuss several issues related to Point Ruston tonight, including the potential of turning all public services over to Tacoma (including police and fire) for the entire project. This is an important decision. The council does not usually take public comment before voting on issues, so this may be the only time to let them know what you think after you hear what they say tonight. You'll need to contact the council members directly at the emails listed to the right, or in person.

See you tonight at 7 pm at 5219 N. Shirley Street.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Suicide At Ruston's Park

Exactly two weeks ago today, Ruston fire and police department were swarming into the Rust Play Field. Someone walking their dog at the park early Saturday morning of Memorial Day weekend saw what looked like a man standing near the basketball hoop. As he approached, he saw that the man had hung himself.

His name has not been released yet. Sometime during the darkness of that previous night this 41 year old man, despondent over a fight with his girlfriend, wrote a suicide note, rode his bike to Ruston and took his own life. We know he did not live in Ruston, but for some reason he chose to die here.

Police Chief Reese said there is still some follow up being conducted, but by all appearances this is a suicide. Our Ruston emergency crews responded quickly with professionalism and care. Thankfully, this scene was not discovered by a child coming to play.

It is a difficult and challenging situation. Our hearts go out to this man's family. Our thanks go out to Ruston's fire and police department. We pray this is the last untimely death we will see in Ruston for a long, long time.

Friday, June 6, 2008

News Tribune Editorial

A must read in today's News Tribune. The editorial board has great insight into what makes a community function as it should ~ and a warning to others about how to shut it down.

Regarding Ruston they say, "With former Mayor Michael Transue’s departure, there is unity again, but at great cost. The council majority has wasted no time in installing its own guy as mayor. Gone are any real voices of dissent, and with them, any claim the council has to being truly representative." Click here to read the full commentary, its well worth reading.

Karen

Thursday, June 5, 2008

In The News

We made the news again today. Yesterday I noted an interview of former Mayor Transue on KUOW, 94.9 radio and a News Tribune article. KUOW aired an interview with Council Member Dan Albertson today (click here to hear it) and the News Tribune ran an article about Everding's appointment as mayor last night (click here to read it). Scott Fontaine (News Tribune) also noted some items that didn't make it into his story on his Word on the Street blog (click here to read it).

Huson Rebuttal Letter

The Ruston Connection web page has Council Member Bradley Huson's rebuttal letter posted. Bradley had promised to send it to me once he got it typed out, but Sally Everding was able to get it up before he had time to get it to me. Please feel free to leave your comments or respond directly to Mr. Huson at bhuson@wamail.net.

On factual correction is needed. Contrary to Huson's letter Transue caused the many recent resignations, Bob Pudlo did not resign is his seat two years early because of Mayor Transue. He resigned because the Ruston Connection group maintained control of the council after the November 2007 election. He felt his input would continue to be ignored and similar to former Mayor Transue, the personal attacks and resulting stress were having a negative impact on his health. ~ Karen

On Monday, June 2, Michael Transue resigned as mayor of Ruston. True to form the resignation came as a complete surprise to most of the council but this is behavior that we have come to expect. Many of us worked hard to elect Michael Transue to his term of mayor and we sat quietly for the first five months of 2006 and watched him put off decision after decision until he could ‘get his arms around it’, a term that to this day gives me a nauseated feeling every time I hear it.

Mr. Transue was unable to move forward without the help of thousands of dollars of consultants’ advice, which was a constant sticking point with past and current Councils.

Mr. Transue’s admission of lack of time and suggestion of a part-time administrator to assist him at $100,000 a year was met with derision. Why wouldn’t it be? He continually overspent the budget for planning services, coming to the Council with a supplemental budget after the money had already been spent. And what did that several hundred thousand dollars get us?

  • Development of the Point Ruston site which is completely bogged down and behind schedule because of the mayor’ unwillingness to direct his staff at Huitt Zollars to spend more time moving the project forward and less time trying to figure out how to squeeze more money out of the town and Mike Cohen;
  • two threatened and now pending litigations with regard to the work at Huitt Zollars, which was the mayor’s staff and directed solely by him,
  • pending litigation from our former police chief regarding his termination, another staff member who was directed solely by him, with advice from legal counsel directed solely by him

There have been four resignations from this Council in the last seven months, two of them because of the conflict between the mayor and the Council. In fact there is only one person on the Council who has served more than two years. The common denominator of these resignations was Michael Transue.

It has become more clear that as the current Council became more knowledgeable and proactive, the former mayor became more obstinate. It also became clear that the mayor was working behind our back to hinder us from moving forward with items and ideas that would be very beneficial to us and the town in the long run. The former mayor’s inability and unwillingness to listen to anyone else’s ideas on any subject and his constant and meaningless rebuttals to thwart us from moving forward did not solve problems; it created them.

I, for one, am thrilled that Mr. Transue has resigned so that the united Council can move forward without fear of being ignored, undermined or attacked. I hope that the citizens will be patient over the next several weeks while we clean up the mess that Mr. Transue has left us, though unlike the former mayor I think that you will find it won’t take us a lot of time to ‘get our arms around’ the situation.

Thank you.
Bradley Huson

Goodbye Party

There was a great turn out for Jennie's party today at noon. The police chief and officers, the maintenance men, our town electrical planner, office staff, the new mayor and several residents came by to send our utility clerk off in style. We even had a reporter show up, although I doubt the party was the focus of his story.

We managed to keep from crying (those will come later no doubt). Marla Miller made a beautiful flower bouquet, the cake was lovely and delicious. Jennie will be working through tomorrow, so stop in and join us in thanking her for 7 and a half years of a job well done.

Karen



Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Best Wishes Jennie

Ruston's utility clerk is moving on to a new job next week. You can stop by at noon today (Thursday) to say goodbye. She has given much of herself in service to this town, so please be sure to give her a hug and wish her success in her new endeavors.

Thank you Jennie, for your outstanding care and professionalism. We will miss you!

Karen

Ruston Names New Mayor

With no deliberation and only two brief comments, former Council Member Bob Everding was appointed mayor to fulfill Transue's unexpired term until the end of 2009. Everding resigned his council seat in January citing complaints about the former mayor.

Here is a more complete rundown of the meeting:

The clerk called the meeting to order at 7 pm. Council Member Hedrick was appointed mayor pro-tem to run the meeting until the new mayor was appointed, looking a bit surprised. The agenda was approved after removing the legal services contract and adding a rebuttal letter from Council Member Huson and having the scheduled executive session include potential litigation, personnel matters and real estate issues.

Huson read his rebuttal to former Mayor Transue's resignation letter. Huson promised to email a copy of the letter, which I will post. Portions of the sharply critical letter are quoted in the News Tribune article tonight.

Stebner made the motion to appoint Everding as mayor, who was attending the meeting tonight for the first time since resigning last January. Albertson and Hunt gave brief comments about why they supported the motion. Hedrick asked to allow public comment, but was told no by all council members. The motion to appoint Everding passed 5-0.

Huson then discussed his desire to hire a town administrator "now that we have a competent mayor." He would like the council to put out a request for proposals, to be formally acted upon at the next regular council meeting. Hedrick said he was perplexed way there had been an epiphany on the council now the previous mayor had proposed the same thing last fall.

The meeting recessed into executive session at about 7:15 pm and reconvened at about 8 pm. Huson made a motion immediately to adjourn the meeting. Hedrick interrupted him to ask again, since so many people had remained through the executive session, if the council would allow public comment (as they do at the end of regular meetings). He was again told no and the meeting was adjourned.

Special Meeting Tonight

Just in case you haven't heard, the Ruston council is holding a special meeting tonight at 7 pm at 5219 N. Shirley Street, Room 100 to appoint an interim mayor and hire "legal counsel" for the town. According to the state Open Meetings Act, council members should hold all their deliberations and make their decision about the new mayor in the public meeting tonight - rather than via phone calls or emails with each other in private. This has not been their practice in the last 4 appointments over the last 6 months.

Please attend tonight and view your elected officials first hand tonight. It's an important meeting.

In The News

KUOW, 94.9 has aired an interview with now former Ruston Mayor Michael Transue. I haven't been able to listen yet (technical problems), but you can listen to by clicking here....

The News Tribune ran a full article about Transue's resignation in today's paper, too. Click here to read it.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Council Meeting: June 2, 2008

It’s taken me awhile to recover from the shock of last night’s announcement by Mayor Transue. But there was other business accomplished at the meeting. Here is a rundown of what I found interesting. As always, I encourage you to attend and take in the full meeting yourselves. ~ Karen

The meeting began on time with Council Member Stebner arriving about 5 minutes late. After the flag salute, the agenda was amended to move the discussion about repealing the B&O tax to a study session and adding discussion of the utility clerk position and setting agendas for future study sessions. The meeting minutes were approved with minor changes.

1. LID Counsel: Blair Burroughs provided information on the LID process in general and answered questions about how such a process would work in Ruston. Because this will be an LID with only one property owner, some of the normal process would not apply. In general, there are three steps: 1) Formation: determine what the properties looks like, what improvements are planned, hold a hearing so all property owners can hear the pros and cons – then the council decides to proceed. 2) Confirmation Hearing: the amount of assessment for property owner is announced and owners can comment. There is a protest period allowed. The assessment is not allowed to exceed the value of the improvements. 3) Assessment: the assessment information is given to the county assessor. Owners can prepay or be assessed over time for their portion. Then the bonds are purchased and the improvements completed.

Tacoma has well trained staff in this area. The council can determine how much of the process they will hand over to Tacoma. Council Member Hunt asked what guarantees Ruston has if the developer goes bankrupt. Burroughs explained several options (I had to step out for a few minutes and didn’t get the details). There was discussion of an Environmental Impact Statement traffic mitigation requirement to have the developer pay for improvements on both sides of Baltimore Street all the way up to N. 46th Street. After further discussion, the council directed Mr. Burroughs to craft an agreement where Tacoma does as much of the process as possible but the agreement should have as much protection against default as possible.

2. Utility Locate Contract: Steve Taylor (town maintenance man) and the town electrical planner will give a recommendation on the issue to the council. There are two companies available for the town to use for this service.

3. Sound Inspections: After some discussion, it was clarified that the letter in the packet (from the current building inspector) is what the town is operating under to add planning services on an interim basis after the council fired the town planner. It was unclear if the letter would be added as an addendum to the current contract with the building inspector or if a new contract with the new rates would be needed. The new town attorney (or “legal services to the council” according to Council Member Albertson) would make that determination when they are hired.

4. Police Department: Chief Reese gave an update on several issues. The interlocal agreement for the small cities major incident response team was discussed. It will be explored in greater detail at a study session, after the former town attorney’s questions and the chief’s answers are given to the council. The chief is working on some hazard mitigation plans that will help qualify the town for different grants. She is working with the fire department on those issues. She is planning on a community newsletter and an open house sometime in August. The department has implemented a new program that has the officers walking for some of each shift. The chief wants feedback on how this new program is working for residents. The department will be purchasing a decibel meter and she will be working with Council Member Hedrick to improve the town’s noise ordinance as they start to implement it. The handout from the meeting is now added to the council information on Ruston Reports for this meeting.

5. Council Rules: The formal resolution required to change the council rules of procedure and remove public comment on issues prior to a vote passed 4 to 1 with Hedrick voting no.

6. Shoreline Master Plan: Ruston’s plan is not due until 2010, so it was tabled until it could be discussed at a study session.

7. Request for Proposals for paving behind Commercial Street: I had to step out and did not hear this discussion. If anyone can fill us in, please leave a comment.

8. Request for Proposals for undergrounding utilities in alley behind Court Street: passed 5-0, but I missed the discussion.

9. Credit Union Pump Station: After some discussion the council voted 5-0 to have the town take over the pump at the credit union until a permanent solution could be found, hopefully to connect a new sewer line for these homes into the Point Ruston development. Point Ruston noted that their lines will only run to the bottom of Baltimore Street, but they are willing to discuss alternatives.

10. Utility Clerk Position: The mayor informed the council that he has hired a replacement for the current clerk, who is leaving this Friday. They are interviewing for the part-time office assistant tomorrow. Hunt wants future applications to ask for details on applicants computer skills. Stebner does not want to ask for social security numbers on applications.

11. Study Session Agendas: This item should be on every agenda from now on. After some discussion, the agenda for next week (June 9th) will include a presentation from the town’s electrical planner, a presentation by Point Ruston on the status of Stack Hill (with the hope that the final plat can be approved in time to be added to the tax rolls in 2009) and a discussion of turning over all services to Tacoma on the Point Ruston property (to include police, fire and all utilities). The June 23rd study session will be focus on possible revenue sources such as Stebner’s proposed gambling tax increase and the potential impact of an incentive such as repealing the B&O tax. The June 30th study session will explore the police department’s interlocal agreement for major crimes assistance.

Public Comment: Mr. Knapp confirmed when the casino tax increase will be discussed. Ms. Maglione asked about the utility clerk leaving. Ms. Miller felt the council should have a process for issuing street obstruction permits in case of an emergency after Puget Sound Energy had to wait until the last council meeting for a permit to repair a potentially dangerous problem. I asked the council to allow public input at the next study session on important decisions like giving all services to Tacoma on the Point Ruston development. Ms. Forch asked how the public would be involved with the police department’s hazard planning. Mr. Rosier (hope I got the name correct) asked about the street improvements required by Point Ruston along Baltimore. Ms. McCamment (with Point Ruston) offered more explanation about the plans for Baltimore Street. Ms. Brown thanked the town for thinking about paving the alley behind her house. Ms. Davis thought that homeowners who benefited from these improvements (like paving the alley) should pay for them.

Claims and payroll were approved.

Mayor’s Time: Mayor Transue reminded everyone that fireworks permits are due by this Wednesday. He has appointed John Anderson to the civil service commission along with Connie Maglione and myself. He noted that the planning commission is not functioning and no appointments will be made since this would help speed up approvals for the Point Ruston development. Mayor Transue then read his resignation letter. Click here to read Resolution 418 that is referenced in this letter.

Council Time: Stebner, nothing. Huson, nothing. Hedrick thanked the mayor for his service. Albertson, nothing. Hunt was surprised at the mayor's resignation, she thought they were getting along well at the meeting tonight.

The meeting adjourned around 9 pm.