Tacoma will redo vote on Arizona
LEWIS KAMB; Staff writer
In an unusual procedural maneuver, the Tacoma City Council late Tuesday purposely voted down a resolution to oppose Arizona’s controversial law cracking down on illegal immigrants when a majority of members belatedly realized they were one vote shy of passing the symbolic proposal.
The 11th-hour legislative wrangling ensures that the measure will be brought back before the council next week for another vote that likely will result in approving the measure.
“I think it’ll pass next week,” said Councilman Joe Lonergan, who voted against the measure. “The mayor will be back, and she’s the deciding vote.”
With Mayor Marilyn Strickland and council member Spiro Manthou out of town, only seven council members were left to decide the resolution, co-sponsored by council members Ryan Mello and Lauren Walker, that is intended as a symbolic gesture to oppose Arizona’s law.
Four members – Mello, Walker, Victoria Woodards and Jake Fey – voted to pass it. Two – Lonergan and Marty Campbell – voted against it; Councilman David Boe abstained. That made the vote 4-2-1 in favor of the measure.
But under the Tacoma City Charter, a resolution can be adopted only by a majority vote of the full nine-member body – meaning five votes are needed for approval. When City Attorney Elizabeth Pauli informed the council of that fact nearly four hours into the meeting, the council hastily called a short recess, leaving confusion among onlookers.
The council later returned and took a voice vote. Fey then reversed his vote – to make the new tally 3-3-1 – and made a motion to have the measure returned before the council for consideration again next week.
Pauli said later that under the charter, any council member on the prevailing side of a vote that thwarts passage of resolution or ordinance can move to have the measure reconsidered. So, Fey’s flip-flop allows the matter to return before council – when Strickland is expected to cast the deciding fifth vote.
The unusual move came after the council had heard nearly four hours of often heartfelt testimony from more than 50 people, among more than 150 citizens who crowded into the council chambers to speak about the controversial resolution.
Due to concerns from fellow council members and a flood of e-mails and calls from citizens, Mello and Walker spent much of the past week rewriting their proposal, which initially had called for a boycott of city-related business and travel to Arizona.
Mello and Walker worked several revisions late into the day Tuesday and removed what had become controversial “boycott” language from the measure – a move that some observers have said greatly watered down its practical effects.
Still, Walker and Mello said the measure achieved its primary purpose – sending a message of opposition about the Arizona measure, which they said promotes racial profiling and is unconstitutional.
“We needed to remove the lightning rod of the word ‘boycott’ from the measure and refocus on what our original intent was, ” Mello said Tuesday. “And that is that we won’t tolerate racial profiling, and we want comprehensive immigration reform.”
Among other things, the final version of resolution states that the City Council “will oppose any efforts to introduce local legislation similar” to Arizona’s law, urge the state to “rescind or significantly amend” the law, and urge the federal government to “adopt comprehensive immigration reform.”
Though e-mails and calls to council members overwhelmingly opposed Tacoma’s stand against Arizona’s law, testimony at Tuesday’s meeting easily supported the resolution.
During at times moving testimony from citizens who retold their personal accounts of immigration and discrimination, some council members were brought to tears.
Walker applauded people for their courage in speaking to the issue, pro or con, adding it provided an “important dialogue.”
“It is important to send a message (to Arizona),” she added. “It would be nice if it was a boycott … but I don’t think it necessarily has to be.”
Still, many people who testified said they were disappointed that the “boycott” language was removed. A minority of those who spoke criticized the council for jumping into the issues of another jurisdiction where the Tacoma council had no business.
Campbell and Lonergan voted against the measure, saying they felt the council was dabbling into issues outside of its scope. Boe abstained from voting, saying he believed the council needed more time to craft a more “Tacoma-centric” resolution about what the city stands for, rather than focusing on Arizona’s actions.
Lewis Kamb: 253-597-8542