Friday, October 31, 2008

Ruston's Tree Committee

Ruston has had a tree committee for several years. An earlier committee put together a comprehensive ordinance about what types of trees the Town will allow on public rights of ways, and the group headed up the effort to plant new trees along Winnifred Street a couple of years ago.

The committee has not met in the last year or so. But they are back in business after a meeting this week. Committee chair Ginger Kryger give us the latest:
The committee met on Tuesday night at 7:00. The four members are Sue Hines, Lynette Hopkins and Rob Zeheley (oh yes and myself). We have decided that the Tree Committee will meet 4 times per year with additional meetings as needed (e.g. budget). The next regular meeting will be the fourth Tuesday in January—same time.

We talked about the cherry trees on Winnifred Street with the idea that we need to get a request in for a budget to replace 17 trees that have died. Rob Z. has spoken with the WSU Extension Service re: what killed the cherry trees, how to replant with even greater success, soil testing. We also discussed the south end of Winnifred Street where approximately 63 trees may be planted. Not sure what type of tree. There was a list of trees that had previously been recommended, but we would like to discuss them further so we delayed adopting that list.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Point Defiance Park In All Its Glory

It is a beautiful time of year around here! And we are lucky enough to live next to the most beautiful park in the world. Send your photos to me at so I can get them up for everyone to see.

Services for Myrtle Johnson

The graveside service for Myrtle Johnson will be held this coming Saturday, November 1st at 1 pm at Mountain View Memorial Park. You can view the obituary in the paper here and sign the on-line guest book here...

I hope many Ruston folks can be there on Saturday to celebrate all this fine lady gave to our community. We are a better place because of Myrtle's many years in our lives...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Disposal For A Good Cause

The YWCA is having a collection of old electronics this Saturday November 1st in their parking lot. The address is 405 Broadway. The YMCA will get 50% of the proceeds.

Here are the costs to dump your used electronics:
Monitors $10
Keyboards & CPU's $3
Printers & Faxes $5
Stereos $5
TV's $2 per diagonal inch

Time to clean out the closet and garage for a good cause!

Civil Service Commission: Oct. 16, 2008

I understand that at the commission was informed the Rinehold case has been settled out of court. It will not come before the commission. The lawyer for the civil service commission, Mr. Winterbauer, brought a rough draft of the by-laws he drafted, but they have not been passed or approved yet.

There will be a very short excecutive meeting this Thursday.

Monday, October 27, 2008

What do you think?

This announcement has come across email lines ~ and you're invited to participate.

What's on your Point Ruston Wish List?
Point Ruston - a unique neighborhood combining waterfront living, dining, shopping, entertainment and recreation along the Puget Sound shoreline - is situated on 97 acres along Commencement Bay, just minutes from downtown Tacoma. With plans for nearly 1,000 residences, a four-star Silver Cloud Hotel and thriving open-air urban village, this Built Green® community is sure to become the most exciting destination in the Pacific Northwest. We are launching a campaign inviting the community to comment on what types of retail and services they would most like to see at Point Ruston.

We want your input.
We are striving to make Point Ruston the most desirable neighborhood for residents and visitors alike, and want YOU to tell us which shops, restaurants, entertainment and services are on your wish list.

Every vote counts.
Your wish list will help us determine the types of tenants Point Ruston pursues and which conveniences are a short walk away. Overwhelming consensus will also make the case to potential tenants that the surrounding community will support them. Help make Point Ruston's lifestyle center the most desirable choice in the Northwest.

Make history.
Lifestyle centers are tremendously popular in other parts of the country, and the Puget Sound region has never seen a mixed use neighborhood of this caliber. Be a part of this historic community vote and share your wish list with us. We appreciate your support.

We appreciate your support.
In recognition of your participation in this voting process, every survey applicant will automatically be entered to win from the list of following prizes:

· Overnight stays at Silver Cloud on Ruston Way
· Gift cards to restaurants and spas along the Ruston Way waterfront
· Gift certificates to Johnny's Seafood, located next to Point Ruston's floating sales center
· Membership passes to neighboring Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium
· A personal tour of Point Ruston's property and showroom with developer Mike Cohen

Click on the button above or you may also vote by visiting our website at should take less than five minutes.We thank you in advance for your time and participation!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Stack Hill Press Release

Point Ruston issued this press release on Friday. It's nice to see progress after so many years of waiting...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Myrtle Johnson: 1909-2008

Stalwart of Ruston's main boulevard Myrtle Johnson died today at 3:05 pm. She was 99 years young. Myrtle was a mainstay on Winnifred Street through decades of change and challenge for this town. Although she's been in Oregon in recent years, many of us have kept in touch and cherished her continued connection to the community she loved so dearly.

There will be a memorial service in Oregon and a graveside ceremony here in Tacoma. You can send cards to the family at 32196 Baxter Road , Hermiston , Oregon , 97838. I will be gathering comments from our posts to send to Myrtle's daughter, so please share a special memory or thought...
UPDATE: 5:30 pm: Myrtle's daughter Vi Hill just called with more details. She said Myrtle was holding the hand of her granddaughter that is named after her when she 'passed into glory' peacefully this afternoon. Vi talked about how much Myrtle missed this community in her final years. She wanted to come home. In some ways, that's what will happen as Myrtle is laid to rest at Mountian View here in Tacoma in the coming days. The graveside service will be open to everyone. We'll have a time and date tomorrow. Vi was pleased to know we would be sending down our comments, so please share a thought or two.

Council Meeting Notes: Oct. 20, 2008

As always, I encourage everyone to attend the meetings themselves. These summaries are not intended to comprehensive or official; they simply reflect what I found interesting or important. ~ Karen

The meeting began on time with a flag salute and some changes to the agenda. The minutes from the last council meeting were approved with some edits.

The police report was given by Chief Reese. A copy is now available on Ruston Reports. Of interest; the department is working with Point Ruston and Tacoma on some serious threats made in graffiti on billboards around town. The chief called them potential domestic terrorism. She asked that residents report any suspicious behavior, especially around the fence line of the property.

There have been a couple of applications and inquires about the chief position. The Department of Corrections work crew will clear out the area east of the playfield as their first project. One of our volunteer fire fighters is updating the Ruston web page with a focus on the public safety information. The police department is collecting old cell phones for 911 emergency use. Drop off donations at the police station (downstairs in the school building).

The fire department had 6 medical aid calls in September. Their average response time so far in 2008 is under 3 minutes. Chief Torbet mentioned a new hazmat team that has formed that may provide emergency response at a lower rate than the town had paid previously.

The council then recessed into executive session to discussion potential litigation. When they reconvened, they discussed the mayor position (read here for details).

Next, the mayor read Ordinance 1271, an emergency settlement for legal claims by former police chief Jim Reinhold. There will be public comment at the next council meeting, along with a budget amendment to appropriate the settlement payment. After some discussion, the town attorney went to work putting together a resolution that could be passed tonight signaling the council’s approval of the settlement (apparently action was needed immediately to satisfy the terms of the agreement).

Since there was nothing in writing provided at the meeting, I have transcribed what the mayor read here:

“…Ordinance number 1271, an ordinance of the Town of Ruston, Pierce County, Washington authorizing an emergency expenditure for settlement for legal claims.

Whereas the Town of Ruston has incurred significant expenses defending itself against legal claims brought by its former chief of police Jim Reinhold and will incur much greater expense if the parties proceed with further litigation, regardless of the result and

Whereas the relief sought by former chief Reinhold, if granted, would have a catastrophic effect on town finances and would expose the town to the prospect of further legal claims against it and

Whereas an agreement for a monetary settlement has been reached between the Town of Ruston and former chief Reinhold that if adopted will allow the town to eliminate the risk of catastrophic financial and legal consequences with a manageable impact on town finances and

Whereas time is of the essence in the approval of the agreement between the parties and

Whereas the council finds an expenditure of $125,000 by the Town of Ruston is necessary to take advantage of the above described settlement agreement and eliminate the risk and cost of further legal action against the town at the town’s (unclear) does not contain significant funds (unclear) and

Whereas the Town Council of the Town of Ruston finds that for the reasons set forth above a public emergency exists and constitutes a threat to the town finances and that an expenditure of $125,000 is required to meet said emergency and

Whereas prior to passage of the following measure on November 3, 2008 the town council provided an opportunity for public comment on said measure and

Whereas pursuant to the Revised Code of Washington 35.33.091 and 35.33.121 the town council has authority to authorize emergency expenditures by ordinance and to decrease or recall unexpended balances from one budgetary fund and re-appropriate said unexpended balances to another budgetary fund if passed by a majority plus one of the council and

Whereas the following measure was enacted on November 3, 2008 by a majority plus one of the council

Now therefore be it ordained by the council of the Town of Ruston Washington:

Section 1. The town clerk Treasurer is directed to recall $125,000 in unexpended monies from the surplus property fund and re-appropriate said $125,000 to the claims fund. The mayor of the Town of Ruston is hereby authorized to negotiate and execute on behalf of the Town the final settlement agreement with former chief Reinhold pursuant to the CR2A settlement agreement between the parties and the town clerk treasurer is hereby authorized to make payment in the amount of $125,000 from the town’s claims fund in satisfaction of said final settlement.

This ordinance shall become effective immediately upon adoption of the council, approval by the mayor and publication as required by law.

Ordinance 1267 (wage increase for police officers) passed 5-0.

Ordinance1268 (Stack Hill amendments) was discussed. Council Member Albertson was opposed because 1) view corridors are important, 2) process was improper and 3) there was exparte contact with the developer. Council Member Hedrick felt the correct process had been used by starting over and sending the amendment through the entire process again with the planning commission and a hearing. He felt the town was not giving up a view corridor since the proposed home will be the same height as the native soil would have been under the view corridor Albertson wanted to impose. Hedrick was pleased this vote tonight would keep one less issue out of the courtroom.

Council Member Hunt said she would not excuse herself from the vote and that she had not had any improper contact with the developer. She saw no point in flexing the town’s muscle just because they could, no one benefits when the house will be lower than the original grade. She did not think it was right to harass the developer. She noted that Albertson had never spoken to her personally and his statements were based on hearsay.

Council Member Stebner said the developer should play by the rules rather than try to change them. He thought the council should represent the town, so he would be voting against the amendment. The final vote was 3-2 with Albertson and Stebner voting no.

Resolution 434 (legal settlement similar to Ordinance 1271) was read and approved 4-0 with Albertson abstaining for ethical reasons (he did not elaborate).

Ordinance 1266 (rental of town facilities) was approved 5-0. The town attorney noted the area currently used as The Commencement sales center should be available for public use by March 2009.

Ordinance 1269 (adding a general penalty) was given its first reading. This penalty would apply to any violation that does not have a penalty or has one that is unenforceable.

Ordinance 1270 (dog park) had its first reading. Hunt mentioned an idea suggested by her neighbors; have the dog area keyed so only Ruston residents could use it for a $25 annual fee – after their dog license had been confirmed. Stebner did not think it was a problem to let people and dogs use the same space on the playfield grass.

Resolution 432 (requiring the home addresses of anyone giving public comment) passed 5-0.

Resolution 433 (surplus used police car and fire truck) passed 5-0.

Hedrick gave the background on how the proposed town engineer was chosen by former mayor Everding and himself. They both scored this firm highest using separate systems. The town planner mentioned he had checked the references. Hunt wanted to confirm they had grant writing experience. Hedrick noted they are familiar with the state fund that gives low-interest loans for things like sewer utilities. The mayor will prepare a supplemental budget for the rest of 2008 and have a resolution ready at the next meeting to finalize this selection.

Claims and payroll passed 4-0 with Albertson abstaining (no reason given).

Public Comment:
Deb Kristovich supported having a separate dog park. Lyle Hardin thought the council meetings were running very efficiently. He supports having a public process for the mayor appointment and he hoped the same public comment would be used if a council appointment would be needed (if the mayor appointment caused an opening on the council).

Edie Tallman liked the idea of the dog park just for town residents. Sherrie Forch thanked the council for their vote on Stack Hill. She changed her mind in view of the facts. Council members with their minds made up regardless of the facts did not serve the community well. She was also concerned about the liability of the dog park and supported Hunt’s proposal.

Mark Shots was concerned about the cops shooting a dog in the park. Jim Wingard noted he was a Ruston taxpayer and gave his residence address. He noted his long family history in Ruston (before the town even incorporated) and his concern for the community.

Mayors Time:
Huson has been working with The Commencement on rent and utility issues and with Point Ruston on the re-location of Bennett Street, among other issues. He and the clerk should have the 2009 budget proposal at the next meeting.

Council Time:
Stebner wanted the sewer for the whole town addressed by the new engineer. Huson suggested a study session on the issue. Stebner did not like having the dog park for only Ruston residents. Since we don’t pay Metro Park taxes, he felt we owed access to the larger community.

Hedrick had met with Point Ruston on public safety issues. AWC will be helping with a risk assessment for public safety and insurance rating (two separate issues). The analysis will hopefully be done by next spring. The council is also working on what Point Ruston should pay for future costs (beyond increased the tax revenue).

Albertson noted that he felt Huson had always wanted Tacoma to provide public safety services on the Point Ruston site. He felt sewers, paving alleys and replacing the street lights were priorities. He felt there should be an analysis of when the town reserves would run out. Ruston should be talking to Tacoma about having them take over when the inevitable (in his mind) happens.

Hunt agreed that the town needs a 5-10 year plan. She clarified the proposal on the dog park came from a brainstorming session with two of her neighbors, not from her alone.

The meeting adjourned about 9:35 pm. As the meeting was breaking up, Marla Miller let everyone know she spotted a coyote behind her house on 49th this week. Everyone was encouraged to watch their pets closely.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Clarification about Council Member Albertson

We've had some discussion on a recent post about whether or not Council Member Albertson ever sued the Town of Ruston. I stated that Alberston had sued the town based on discussions and information that was provided at the time of the lawsuit (regarding the use of town property for a construction yard). The case lost the first time and again on appeal.

I've spoken to a couple of people involved in that legal action and gotten two different interpretations. But the person closest to the suit has clarified that Dan Albertson was not a party to the lawsuit. Albertson was the legal representative in the suit against Ruston. The recollection was that he did not charge anything.

I suppose one could make a case that acting as free legal counsel in a lawsuit is "suing" the town, but I think the reasonable interpretation is that Albertson did not directly sue the Town of Ruston. I hope we can put that rumor to bed ~ or at least repeat it giving all the facts.

We are a small town that thrives on rumors. I'm not perfect in what I present here (no one is, even big news media), but I try to be open, fair and factual. I encourage everyone to attend meetings in person and gather their own information from many sources. This blog is one piece of a big puzzle. No one should rely solely on what is posted here.

I hope this type of clarification helps us work together to build a better community.


Civil Service Agenda: Oct. 23, 2008

Rakitty Watch

The News Tribune has issued a "rakitty" watch for a grey kitten that has apparently joined a family of raccoons in Point Defiance Park. The kitten has been spotted a couple of times wandering 5 Mile Drive with the pack as if he/she were one of them.

Since we all get nightly visits to our garbage cans from these same raccoons, be on the look out. If you see the mystery rakitty, report it on the link above. A photo may make national news according to some...

UPDATE: KOMO 4 News solved the mystery. The kitty has a new home in the neighborhood. You can read about it here....

Shoreline Permit Hearing

I assume everyone in town got this public hearing notice for the Point Ruston Shoreline Substantial Development Permit and Shoreline Conditional Use Permit. The hearing is open to everyone even if your residence is not in Ruston.

The hearing will be conducted by Ruston's planning commission on November 12th at 7 pm in council chambers (5219 N. Shirley, Room 101). We are encouraged to submit written comments early so staff had time to respond and/or include them in the project design. Hope you can all attend!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Good Old Days?

Someone dug up this old map of the former smelter property and buildings, showing all the fire hydrant locations. I'd venture a guess there will be a few more hydrants required for the new development when it goes in....

Myrtle Johnson

Our friend and former neighbor Myrtle Johnson is knocking on heaven's door as I write this. Her daughter Vi called today to let everyone know Myrtle is home after a week in the hospital on hospice care for her final few days.

Myrtle lived most of her life in Ruston before selling her home next to town hall to the town and moving to Oregon to be closer to her daughter. She had a grand celebration for her 99th birthday last February (below), but sadly will not see 100.

Myrtle told her family this last week she is ready to go home to Ruston. We wish you could come home one more time, Myrtle. In some sense you will always be with us ~ your many years of contributions and love are a part of the foundation of our community. We miss your gentle smile and warm greeting. Winnifred Street is not the same without you! May you find peace in the arms of the loving Savior you have served so faithfully. Godspeed on your flight.

Too Small A World

As we get older, it seems like the frequency of loss increases. It doesn't make it easier, especially when the death is someone young and the circumstances tragic. Such was the case last weekend.

I drove by the scene on Sunday (News Tribune story here), as curious as the other drivers on Pearl Street to know why the road was closed. It didn't look good, but I assumed it was a big world and the horrible circumstances on that street would not touch me directly.

Turns out the world is not so big. Although I'd only met Mark a few times, many in our community knew him. He walked the streets of Ruston often. My most memorable time spent with him was at a Scottish ball with Mark at our table. He loved to wear a kilt in those days, and seemed to relish life outside the comfort zone.

I haven't seen him in years and had no idea the dark twist his life had taken. My heart goes out to his family and close friends. Not only do they have to deal with the physical loss, they have dealt with loosing Mark for a long time in other ways. May Mark rest in peace ~ and his family somehow find rest and peace now too.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Outdoor Gym

The shed on Metro Park's vacant lot (N. 54th and Pearl) has been turned into an outdoor gym. But it appears the buff-seeking guy or gal does not have permission of the property owner. Whoever you are, you have until tomorrow (Wednesday, Oct. 22nd) to remove your exercise equipment or it gets moved for you...

Mayor Applications Due Nov. 12th

The council decided to set November 12th as the deadline for mayor applications and will hold a public interview process at its meeting on November 17th. Mayor Pro-tem Huson will remain as mayor until November 18th.

Here's how the debate unfolded at the meeting last night:

Council Member Albertson made a motion to appoint Council Member Stebner as mayor. He gave his reasons, followed by a long pause waiting for someone to second his motion. Council Member Hedrick then stated he wanted an open, public process. He has been "blindsided" by three appointments that he had not been allowed to participate in. This time there should be a firm end date for applications; and questions and answers should be exchanged with the candidates. Council members decided to email potential questions to him that he will provide to applicants.

Council Member Hunt noted she had heard secondhand about someone that might be interested in the position today. Since no notice had been given that a decision would be made at the meeting tonight, she wanted to extend the application time.

Albertson wanted to know who this person was, but Hunt refused to name them since she had not talked to them personally. Alberston said they had all heard the rumors and wanted things to be open and honest for once. Council Member Stebner said we should quit playing games and needed to move forward on this issue immediately.

At this point Hunt seconded the motion to appoint Stebner so that discussion could continue. Alberston stated this was all a put up job. After more discussion (which included Albertson stating the mystery person was in the room and Huson was looking at them) the vote to appoint Stebner was defeated 2-3 (Albertson and Stebner voting yes).

Hunt then made a motion to have the town clerk run a second announcement with a November 12th deadline. Stebner asked if she meant November 2008 or 2009. Stebner asked again who this potential applicant was. Hunt replied it was none of his business.

Albertson didn't think there was anyone in town who did not know about the mayor vacancy. Huson joked that maybe people loved him so much (as mayor) no one wanted to apply. He then announced he was considering applying for the mayoral appointment himself. Stebner wanted him to take the appointment immediately. Instead, the motion to follow the application process was approved 3-2 (Albertson and Stebner voting no).

Thank You!

I enjoy reading about the goings-on in the other Ruston (Louisiana). It's a bigger city, but there are common threads to any community. Last Friday, a police officer in Louisiana had a close call with a recently released inmate. The officer was stabbed in the chest, but his badge deflected the blow. You can read more here....

The story is a good reminder of the risks our public safety personnel take every day to keep us healthy and safe, even in our smaller Ruston. Let's take time to say thank you to our police officers and fire fighters today. It's the least we can do....


Monday, October 20, 2008

Ruston to Settle Lawsuit With Former Police Chief

After an executive session tonight, the mayor read an ordinance that announced a settlement of the lawsuit with former police chief Jim Reinhold. The ordinance appropriates $125,000 to settle the issue. Reinhold had originally filed a claim for damages of $1.65 million.

After some discussion, the town attorney drafted a resolution to approve the settlement agreement, which was read into the record by the mayor. The ordinance will come back to the next meeting on November 3rd for a second reading and public comment. It wasn't clear if the resolution would also have a second reading.

There was much more that happened at the meeting tonight, including new direction on the issue of a mayor. We had a couple of stirring speeches and tense exchanges. I'll get it all transcribed and up as soon as I can.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Council Meeting Materials: Oct. 20, 2008

The information for the council meeting on Monday, Oct. 20th is now available on Ruston Reports. Three items are up for a second reading, so refer to the previous material here for more details.

Issues range from the final vote on the Stack Hill plat amendment to an ordinance to control dogs in public areas. There is a resolution about requiring speakers to give their addresses before their 2 minutes of public comment. And the council will talk about the mayor position again. It should be interesting. Please attend at 7 pm on Monday, 5219 N. Shirley, Room 101.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Ruston 21

Ok, I'm not shy about copying someone else's good idea. As I've mentioned before, Ruston Louisiana is embarking on a community planning process that I think would be helpful for us here in Washington. They are starting with community "visioning nights" where folks will be asked to give input on things like "the character of Ruston", changes that would improve the community, what should the future look like...

Ruston mayor: “Our work begins now and starts with the end in mind, which is a plan that makes sense to each of us and our families,” Hollingsworth said. “To cultivate growth and preserve those things we love about our city, change those things we need to change and embrace new ideas to improve our quality of life, we need a long-range plan.”

You can read more about the kick-off meeting in Louisiana here... I wonder if we can do a two-for-one deal ~ or maybe just copy the concept with volunteers rather than the pricey consultants. I'd rather spend our energy talking about a vision for our future than the current finger-pointing...


Town Hall Fun

Ruston fire and police departments will continue the tradition and pass out candy to trick or treaters young and old on Halloween night. Come by Town Hall (5117 N. Winnifred) between 5 and 7 pm, check out the newest fire engine, meet the town employees, say hi to the neighbors. It's a great way to spend the evening, see the really cool costumes and the cutest kids on a sugar buzz!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Calling All Mayor Candidates

I checked with town hall today. There still have not been any applications for mayor other than the announcement at the last council meeting that Council Member Stebner was interested.

The council has not set a deadline for applications, so the field is still open for anyone interested. Check in at Town Hall if your interested (5117 N. Winnifred Street). We've weathered many storms in the last few years, hopefully this one will pass soon too.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Update on Casino Legal Battle

There are at least two sides to a story.

Council Member Albertson provided this interpretation at the last council meeting of the on-going dispute with the Point Defiance Casino: “… I don’t know whether people know it or not, but the casino lawsuit against the town, originally there was a motion for an injunction to prevent us from putting that tax into effect, or collecting that tax… The court moved that hearing date to October 3rd. The casino gave up on it and did not try to pursue that. And I’ll just tell you that it’s my opinion that the reason was because our town attorney wrote a brief that eviscerated the position of the casino. I can just tell you as a lawyer it was a joy to read, and I think when the other party doesn’t even bother to go into court to maintain the position that they originally took, it tells you a lot how good a job he’s done. So I think we all owe Mr. Britton thanks for the good work that he did in the casino case…”

I had an interesting conversation with Joan Mell last week, the attorney who is representing the casino. She confirmed they did strike (canceled) the October 3rd hearing two weeks prior to the scheduled date. This is an injuction request. Injunctions are supposed to be a quick action designed to get an issue before a judge for an impartial assessment. In this case, the casino was asking the court to assess if Ruston’s gambling tax increase was legal and to stop the town from collecting that tax until the issue could be reviewed by the court.

Since the casino has shut down all its gambling operations, the injunction request is a mute point. Ms. Mell said it was a waste of everyone’s time and energy to pursue an injunction on a tax that was no longer being collected. She was concerned when she received declarations from Ruston council members a few days before the now canceled hearing. She was able to reach the town attorney on October 2nd to be sure he had checked the court's calendar, since he was still pursuing the issue.

As you recall, the original hearing had been postponed because the judge wanted a certified transcript of the council meeting when this tax had been passed. At issue was the council vote. The casino felt that the 3 to 1 vote to waive the second reading of the tax ordinance violated the council’s own rules. The town attorney refused to confirm what the vote count had been.

The audio recording provided by the town was not adequate for the judge, but Ruston does not provide transcripts of their meetings. The meeting minutes had not been approved at the time of this hearing. Ms. Mell did have a court reporter transcribe what was on the recording in preparation for the next hearing. But it’s unclear if that would have been enough for the judge since it was not a certified transcript of the meeting, which the town would have to provide.

The town has now moved for summary judgment in this issue, with prejudice. I’m not an attorney, but I think that means the judge is being asked to not only confirm Ruston’s gambling tax increase is legal, but that the casino’s injunction request was frivolous. You can read the town attorney’s brief here, and other related documents here.

One of the town’s arguments is that their council rules are not binding because they were passed as a resolution, not an ordinance. Ms. Mell points to Ruston’s code that may indicate otherwise. She also provided a discussion of a similar case in Spokane.

This all makes for interesting reading. The town attorney makes some compelling arguments in his brief, as does Ms. Mell. There are at least two sides to a story. It will be interesting to see which side of story wins on this one.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Ruston 21

Ruston, LA is launching a community planning process that is strikingly similar to what I wish we would do here. It involves having the community set our own vision for the future (not the consultants or even the elected leaders deciding for us); things like infrastructure priorities, traffic and parking concerns, how to balance development with quality of life...

Former Mayor Transue was open to the idea, but felt we had to bring in an outside consultant in order to get all sides to trust the process. Mayor Pro-tem Huson has some ideas on bringing everyone together (without a consultant).

I don't think we need the $350,000 price tag they will be paying in Louisiana. If we just start talking in a neutral, open setting we can get some of these priorities outlined. The town planner could take it from there. Perhaps the planning commission could organize a series of open-ended meetings.

Its worth a shot. At least it give us something positive to think about and talk with each other about. What do you think? How could something like this be structured? Is there a way to bring people together to talk openly without paying thousands of dollars? ~ Karen

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Views Across Stack Hill

There was some discussion at the last council meeting that the house, if allowed to be built on Lot 12, would be roughly the same height at the base of the former smoke stack. One of the neighbors in the area sent in these photos of the base as it was being demolished. You can get a better sense of the potential views around this lot. This issue is at the center of the debate for the plat amendments requested by the developer.

Previous plans had required a view corridor that prevented any construction on the lot at the end of Commercial Street. You can read more about the previous debates here... The council is set to take a final vote to approve the amendment (and remove the requirement for this view corridor) or not at the next council meeting on Oct. 20th.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A New Way To Communicate

As many of you have noted, I have suspended interaction on the Ruston Truth blog. The exchanges got crazy, nasty and hateful in the last week. I was hoping we could find some new ways to openly exchange opinions, without my being in the center of the mix. My involvement has become a distraction and focal point; and nothing new or positive was happening in our conversation on this blog.

Someone with much more technical know-how has taken this opportunity to set up a new forum called Free Ruston!!! You can get to the main page by clicking here. Everyone can exchange ideas on local politics, memories, town hall or public safety services or even continue the negative conversation if we want on the complaint page.

Here is the welcome message ~ check it out and let's keep talking!

Hello and welcome to the Free Ruston Message Forum!

This a new media outlet for the Town of Ruston where you can post your news, pictures, comments, and exchange ideas, both positive and negative, with others who live in Ruston.

Why a Message Forum?It's better than a blog. Rather than having an administrator decide what needs to be discussed, all participants can start topics, post comments and participate in active discussion with the issues that matter. I think you'll find it far more enjoyable and refreshing of an outlet than what you have experienced in the past.

How to Participate:
Anyone can read the posts and comments on this entire forum. You DO NOT need to register on this forum to post, but you can if you wish to maintain an active account. Participation is 100% free. If you do register you may receive occasional emails from this forum about updates and news that pertains solely to this forum, but again--you don't need to register to post.

Forum Rules:
Unlike blogs and other outlets in the past, this forum is considered as a "free for all" place to share and exchange ideas, both positive and negative. Share your news, town meeting notes, and opinions about the happenings in Ruston.

Special Features:
Lots of Ruston residents are very vocal and have a lot of things to talk about. They also have issues and complaints to bring up. A special "Complaint Department" has been set up for this purpose. This room has been created in the spirit of the "Ruston Truth" blog, but offers much more flexibility in terms of what you can do there. If you are offended easily, simply do not read that forum. However if you have a complaint, a rant, or are upset about something and want it to be known, that is your forum.

Other Notes:
We highly encourage the owners of the other Ruston outlets (such as Ruston Home) to post meeting minutes, notes, and the happenings from the town just like what is done on the other forums.

One final note:
The only forum that has topics started by administrators only is this one--the Free Ruston Announcements Forum. These announcements pertain only to this Message Forum and not to Ruston, therefore visitors can only reply to messages here. Everywhere else is free game, so enjoy!

Who is Don Knotts:
Call me Mister Furley if you want. I am not a member of the Ruston government system, nor would I want to be. I have lived in Ruston for many years and am very familiar with the politics and hot subjects and know a number of residents there. Who I am is not important--that we have this board, is. Please enjoy this new opportunity and if you have any questions, just let us know. You can send me a message through this forum for ideas or if you need further help.

That's it--start posting!

Retail Space At Point Ruston

Point Ruston has released a press release (to view, click here) to announce retail development is now underway for the Copperline building. The future is finally here on this long-awaited project.

Big Truck, Small Tunnel

The tunnel was closed for some time this morning because a very large truck tried to maneuver its way through the very tight turn on the Ruston end. It didn't make it and got stuck. Our volunteer fire department did it's volunteer thing and voluntarily manned the street barricade at 51st and Bennett. Our police department worked hard to clear up the mess.

This happens every couple of years. If it weren't so darn cold today, we would have probably had the usual crowd gather to watch the show in the credit union parking lot. It's great entertainment for us locals, but has to be embarrassing for the many truck drivers who try to defy nature and pull a big truck through a small tunnel.

Update on Ruston Civil Service Commissioner

A few months ago, some information surfaced about Bill Walker, one of Ruston's civil service commissioners. Local resident Shirley Jones had registered a compliant alleging sexual assault. That case has now been investigated by the Ruston police department and was thought to have been sent to the prosecutor's office for review in early September. The prosecutor will make the final determination whether if any charges will be filed against Mr. Walker.

I checked with the prosecutors office this week on the status of the case. Mary Robinette, one of the county prosecutors, said the case had not been sent to her office. It turns out it had fallen through the cracks and not gotten past the records department. Ms. Robinette thought it would take a couple of weeks to review the case and make a decision about what charges, if any, will be filed.

As background on this issue, the following letter came up. I have obtained the official record from the town, along with the supporting documentation about the employees complaints. As a public official Mr. Walker should be held to a higher standard of scrutiny. That's why this information is here. But it is very, very important to remember Mr. Walker has not been charged with any crime at this time, and may not be on this case.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

For A Good Cause

Local business owner and Ruston resident Bev Wombacher is a cancer survivor. She and her team from Ladies Workout Express raise hundreds of dollars each year in the Relay for Life. Bev is at it again. She sent the following message tonight. Sign on and send a few dollars to a good cause. In these tough economic times, its especially important to remember these worthy causes.
This weekend I will be walking with 6 other people from my gym in the ACS Making Strides Walk to raise funds for cancer research to aid in the fight against breast cancer. I am currently cancer free and plan to keep it that way. We are doing a 5K and are hoping for some good weather. These days you never know what we will end up with.

For those of you that would like to support me with a donation you can go online to the Making Strides website and follow the instructions I have listed below. For those that are unable to at this time, please think of us as we walk and that support will be very helpful and felt.Thanks in advance to those that will be supporting us financially and emotionally. I will let you know how we did next week!

From the Making Strides web page you will need to:
click on Washington on the map,
click on Pierce County Walk
click on donate
find our team (LWE) or under my name (Bev Wombacher)
make your donation

Thanks for your support

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

What to do about dogs in the park?

One issue that generated a lot of discussion at the last council meeting was Rust Park, now designated as a dog park. It appears Tacoma police are encouraging anyone they find with an unleashed dog to head down to Ruston, where its legal to let your dog run free. There are more and more dogs with their owners visiting the last few weeks. Not all the dog owners are responsible about clean up or control of their dogs.

Another problem is the town's insurance carrier has expressed concerns about the potential liability for Ruston if a child (or anyone) gets bit by one of the dogs. But the visitors seem to really enjoy this space where the dogs can run.

The town is exploring options to try to keep everyone happy. Maybe building a separate dog area to the east of the current park for only dogs. The council talked about posting signs. Responsible dog owners talked about cleaning up where they can. Everyone wants to find a solution. What ideas do you have? What are the priorities? Are there any good solutions? Or only compromises?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Council Meeting: Oct. 6, 2008

These are my observations of the meeting last night. I encourage everyone to attend. ~ Karen

The meeting began on time with Mayor Pro-tem Huson leading the flag salute. Council Member Hedrick asked for more information on the items Council Member Albertson had placed on the agenda and wondered if the issues would be better handled under council time. The town attorney answered that no discussion could happen during council time, so the issues were better addressed as business items.

Hedrick moved to have all the minutes considered at once. After walking through some minor corrections, the minutes from the last 8 meetings were approved unanimously.

1) Police Officer Raises: Chief Reese discussed the need to bring department pay up to a competitive level with the surrounding area. Currently, Ruston needs to find a replacement for chief, one full time officer and one reserve. The pay increase will help with retention as well, and is tied to performance evaluations. This was a first reading, so no vote will be taken until next meeting. Council Member Hunt voiced support, Council Member Stebner asked how the crime rate in Tacoma compared to Ruston (hard to compare, but the chief felt it was lower).

2) Amending Stack Hill Plan: First reading only, vote will be taken at the next meeting. The town planner presented the planning commissions findings and recommendation that the amendment be approved (to remove the requirement for a view corridor on Lot 12). Hunt asked what the planning commission vote count was (3-1 with 2 excused).

Albertson was opposed based both on substance and procedure. On the initial vote on this issue, one council member had excused themselves and he expected the same this time. He voted not to give away the view last time and will vote the same again. He felt the council was acting in the best interest of the developer, not of the town. He thought the vote was all prearranged as part of the settlement of Point Ruston’s lawsuit.

Hedrick discussed his role in working with Point Ruston. He had openly volunteered to work on the issue. He feels Ruston is running like a small law firm with so many lawsuits. For once, he wanted to see the town mitigate rather than litigate. The first time the issue was considered former Mayor Everding did not sign the ordinance and the plat had not been filed. That was an opportunity to address the issue again using normal channels (via the planning commission). Hedrick asked the applicant to consider this approach. The process was then handed over to the town attorney. Nothing (especially the vote) had been prearranged. The house that would be built on Lot 12 will be lower than the base of the former smokestack – lower than anything envisioned in the earlier Master Plan. Having that house on the tax rolls would be a benefit to the town.

Hunt thought it was good to follow the correct process now. Stebner felt he had a responsibility to protect the view of any resident who wanted their view. It was not his job to follow the planning commission’s recommendations, but to be independent.

Albertson did not feel approving this amendment would prevent any lawsuit, but give different people a reason to sue. He recalled the first time around, certain members of the council “ran around like their hair was on fire” saying the former Master Plan requirement for a view corridor had to apply, but that message in not heard now.

3) FEMA Flood Insurance: Passed 5-0

4) Tacoma providing all Ruston services: Albertson stated that Huson had told him he was pursing having Tacoma provide all services for all of Ruston (not just the Point Ruston site). He wanted to know the outcome of that discussion.

Huson stated that he, Hunt and former mayor Everding had met with Tacoma City Manager Eric Anderson in July. The primary content of the discussion was about the Point Ruston LID, but that Everding had led the discussion. Huson felt it was important to have all the available information given the current challenges Ruston is facing. Tacoma indicated they did not have time to give any proposal for taking over fire services since they are in the midst of an extensive accreditation process, but may be able to provide a bid by next summer. Huson felt that Ruston would have to make some tough choices in order to continue, and that the town is currently over-spending for its services.

Huson said he will not bring up the issue of hiring a town administrator since he does not have enough support on the council. His priorities are to get Point Ruston, Stack Hill and the Commencement condo’s built and on the tax rolls as quickly as possible.

5) Huson spending 8 hrs weekly on town business: Albertson asked Huson to explain his comment at the last meeting about not being able to spend more than 8 hours a week on town business after vehemently criticizing former Mayor Transue for not spending enough time on the job. He wanted to know how much time Huson was spending on the job, how much time is really needed and what is missing because not enough time is given.

Hedrick asked if this was a court room or council meeting. Huson said he was happy to explain. What he said at the last meeting was that he was only able to take one day off from his regular job to deal with Ruston business. But his work days are much longer than 8 hours. He spends much of his free time working for Ruston as well. It would be better if someone could spend more time.

Albertson then announced that Stebner is ready and willing to serve as a full time mayor. Huson said he would remain as mayor pro-tem until the end of October as planned. He would put the issue on the agenda for the next meeting.

6) Requiring public commenters to give the address of their primary residence: Albertson felt this was a problem at the last meeting and wanted to change the rules to add this requirement before anyone is allowed to address the council. If someone does not live in Ruston, their comments can be appropriately weighed against those of residents. Hedrick confirmed this was not intended to limit public comment. Albertson will prepare a resolution for the next meeting.

7) B&O Tax Increase: Albertson felt Ruston should make its B&O tax rate equal to Tacoma’s rate. Hunt agreed. Stebner also wants the town to ensure they are collecting all the tax they are supposed to from local businesses. Albertson will prepare a resolution for the next meeting.

Stebner asked the town attorney if he had updated the penalty clause for new ordinances. The attorney had circulated a draft, and will get it out to the council again.

8) Attending Conferences: The council approved sending any civil service commission members who want and the town attorney to upcoming conferences.

9) Rust Park as off-leash dog park: Huson had circulated a memo from last December from AWC about potential liability for Ruston by having an off-leash dog park where people/children and dogs co-mingle. He wanted to post the town ordinance on the issue until they could think of a better idea. Many more people are hearing about the park and Tacoma police are encouraging their residents to bring their dogs. There was discussion about clearing out the town-owned land to the east of the park as an area for dogs (Chief Reese is already working to use Department of Corrections/prisoners to help) or putting up the fence as first planned to keep dogs on the grass only (but it does not solve the people/dog mingling issue).

This led into talk of using the OCF park for people and restricting Rust Park for only dogs. Stebner had heard there was going to be a land swap. Hunt said EPA told Point Ruston in August they could deed over the OCF to a private owner if they wanted, but she felt Ruston residents had only allowed material to be placed in that containment area in exchange for a public park. Hunt wants Metro Parks to take over the park, but it’s not clear if they are willing to consider it. The town attorney will check into what Seattle does for their dog parks. The issue will be discussed at the next council meeting.

Claims and payroll passed 5-0.

Public Comment:
Deb Krisovich expressed support for the dog park. Many people want this for a dog park and are using it responsibly, but there are growing problems with some dogs and owners. The rules of the park need to be posted (i.e. bring a leash).

Bruce Hopkins discussed why 10-yard set backs are good. He also liked the dog park but expected the liability issue would mean we loose it.

I suggested the council ask their park committee to look into the dog park issue.

Edie Tallman wanted signs at the park to tell people to pick up after their dogs. She is having problems with parking in front of her house again.

Lyle Hardin felt the B&O tax was a regressive tax, but as a small business owner he and his wife are willing to pay more tax if it helps keep Ruston going. But the council should be looking at other sources of revenue at the same time. He also did not like the idea of requiring people to name their residence in order to be allowed to speak. It seemed more like an outgrowth of a personality conflict and was not an issue that needed to be legislated. He wondered what would be next; would renters be prevented from speaking?

Terry Knapp wondered if the dog park could be limited to Ruston residents only.

Sherri Forch wanted to be sure any dog area would include a way to close the gate so dogs like hers could not escape.

Jim Wingard expressed concerns about the numbers of dogs he has seen at the park.

Connie Maglione did not like changing the requirements for public comment. If people were at the meeting, they were involved and should be allowed to comment. She recalled the B&O tax rate was lowered to help attract new businesses. She felt the town had faced more lawsuits in the last few years that she recalled ever seeing before.

Mayors Time:
Huson noted that Point Ruston will be giving an update soon. He has met with The Commencement about Bennett Street issues and hopes to have a resolution soon. The 2009 budget is being reviewed by department heads and should be to the council soon. He reiterated that he won’t ask again to hire a town administrator, but felt things were not being addressed because of it. He had discussed the idea of a welcome packet with me for new town residents. He reminded the council there had only been one verbal application for mayor at this point.

Council Time:
Stebner felt sewers need to be addressed. Huson noted that hiring an engineer for the town would be on the next agenda. Huson thought the issue would be better addressed by the town engineer rather than the planner. Stebner also wanted the need for new street lights to be addressed soon.

Hedrick had nothing more at the moment.

Albertson wanted to know if the casino had paid taxes at the new rate before closing down the gambling. The town attorney said they were putting the difference between the new and old rate into a separate account until the lawsuit was resolved. Albertson praised the town attorney’s brief on the casino injunction request. Albertson felt the brief was so good that it was the reason that the casino did not even show up at the hearing on the issue recently.

He also felt Stebner should be appointed mayor now so things could get done. He felt Stebner had the appropriate demeanor for a mayor. Albertson thought that some of the comments at the last two meetings from the mayor were out of place and needed to stop.

Hunt reported on the liaison meetings she has had with Point Ruston, focusing on infrastructure issues (which is her council committee). She felt the Baltimore sewer improvements needed to be addressed in conjunction with the new road. The storm sewer line across the property needs to be replaced. Rebuilding Ruston Way could be done faster if the road is allowed to be closed rather than diverting traffic. Point Ruston is going to design the electrical system and Ruston will review the plan. The Shoreline Development permit will go before the planning commission and include a public hearing. Stebner was concerned about having Ruston pay for the new storm sewer.

Huson noted the bill for the new planner only included $2,500 that is not billed to the permit applicants. With that the mayor adjourned the meeting just before 9 pm (without a vote of the council).

What Others Think

It's always refreshing and healthy to hear what others see in our local politics. Exit 133 (a popular South Sound blog) had someone at the meeting last night. You can read Caitlin's summary of last night's meeting here....

Monday, October 6, 2008

Council Meeting: Oct. 6, 2008

Very brief highlights for tonight in no particular order - I'll get the full report up during the day tomorrow...
  • Council Member Stebner wants to serve as mayor. There has only been one other verbal application at town hall to date. Council Member Huson wants to stay on until the end of October as planned.
  • Police pay increases did not bring any objections from the council. Vote will be taken at the next meeting.
  • Lengthy discussion on Stack Hill (removal of view corridor requirement). Vote will be at the next meeting. Hedrick said he would be voting for it, Stebner against. The others did not indicate their vote specifically.
  • The sparring between Albertson and Huson continued through the discussion of how much time Huson devotes to town business and the discussions Huson, Hunt and former mayor Everding had with Tacoma about providing services to Ruston in July.
  • Council supports requiring anyone who speaks at public comment state their home address, but a couple people spoke against it during public comment.
  • Council supports raising Ruston's B&O taxes.
  • The off-leash dog park is getting very popular. Ruston has some liability when they allow people and dogs to co-mingle. The council will continue to review the issue.

I'll have all the details tomorrow! ~ Karen

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Council Meeting: Oct. 6, 2008

UPDATE: Saturday, Oct. 4 @ 6:30 pm: The full packet of material for Monday's meeting is available on Ruston Reports, which includes the background information for the Stack Hill amendments.
Town hall has issued the agenda for Monday's council meeting. It should be interesting. Council Member Albertson has scheduled discussion on several issues, like Tacoma taking over all Ruston services. Mayor Pro-tem Huson says the issue is not what it appears, but he does believe the town should have all available information as we address future needs.

Please join us at 7 pm at the Ruston School building, Room 101 - 5219 N. Shirley Street. See you there! ~ Karen

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Point Ruston Master Plan Comment Letters

It's after the fact, but my public information request yielded the following letters that had been submitted on the Point Ruston Master Plan. All the letters are available on Ruston Reports.