Top 5 Tacoma priorities include business, infrastructure, immigration

Staff writerMarch 5, 2014 

Employees arrive for work at State Farm in downtown Tacoma, September 30, 2013. Tacoma Councilman David Boe said the city should cultivate its relationships with existing employers as a way to recruit new businesses to the city.

PETER HALEY — Staff photographer Buy Photo

Last month the Tacoma City Council held its annual retreat. From that retreat emerged five objectives for the coming year.

The objectives include improving the business climate in Tacoma, cultivating a welcoming environment for foreign-born immigrants and using permeable pavement on some residential roads to improve stormwater quality and repairing city roads at the same time.

The Council talked briefly about the objectives during Tuesday’s committee of the whole meeting:

1. Implement a Community and Organization Equity and Empowerment Initiative

Councilwoman Lauren Walker said this is a continuation of the groundwork the council has already done, including a trip last year to the Pacific Science Center to see an exhibit entitled “Race, are we so different?”

Walker said there are two parts to this initiative: community engagement and city policies. Walker said she plans to attend a conference in Portland on racial equality this month and will report back.

2. Focus on development of the South Tacoma and Lincoln District Mixed Use centers

Mayor Marilyn Strickland said these two neighborhoods “have good bones,” including a commuter rail station in South Tacoma and “really great international shops and restaurants” in the Lincoln District.

During the retreat, Strickland said, “We talked about the effort we put into the Pacific Avenue Streetscape, and we talked about each business district having a version of that. … It doesn’t have to be 10 blocks long.”

3. Cultivate strong relationships with primary employers in Tacoma and leverage their presence to attract potential investors

“It’s stating the obvious,” Councilman David Boe said.

He added that State Farm, a new employer in the city, has yet to iron out its long-term plans.

Boe expanded on that point Wednesday morning: “It seems the powers that be are more interested in getting the new person to come to town than work the relationships with existing businesses. They are our best references.”

4. Develop a comprehensive Greenroads program to improve water quality and neighborhood infrastructure

“Just because voters chose not to approve Prop. 1 doesn’t mean Tacomans think their roads are in good standing,” said Councilman Ryan Mello. “We have to take care of our infrastructure.”

Prop. 1, the city’s plan to tax utility earnings and putting the money toward road repairs, failed in the November election. Now Mello is ready to regroup and attack the problem, which also includes improvements to stormwater quality.

Mello mentioned improvements to Clay Huntington Way, which allows rainwater to seep through tiny holes in the pavement. Roads around Wapato Lake could also be candidates for this type of work, he said, and the city might be able to get money from the Department of Ecology for some of the work.

“We can get two things done at once and have new resources,” Mello said at the meeting.

5. Make Tacoma a ''Welcoming City" and cultivate an immigrant-friendly environment

Councilman Marty Campbell was quick to say the initiative does not delve into federal immigration policy.

“It’s about how we choose to work with the people who come into Tacoma and choose to call it home,” Campbell said. The city could support English as a second language classes online or at a city library.

Campbell mentioned other cities that have a successful "Welcoming City" program, such as Austin, Texas or Dayton, Ohio.

Campbell said foreign-born immigrants are more likely to start a business, and Tacoma’s population of foreign-born immigrants is higher than the state average.

“This puts us on a good path of being a receiving city” for immigrants looking to relocate, he said.

Kate Martin: 253-597-8542

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