A good deal of Mayor Marilyn Strickland’s opening remarks at the first meeting of Tacoma’s minimum wage task force focused on warning members to take care what they say and write..
Since the task force was created by a resolution of the City Council, it’s acting on the council’s behalf and therefore must conduct its work in public.
In Seattle, the minimum wage task force was created solely by Mayor Ed Murray and conducted its meetings out of the public view, Strickland said.
“They had privacy,” Strickland said. “They could speak their mind and put everything on the table without worrying that what they said was broadcast on every Twitter feed, TV broadcast and newspaper.”
She went on.
“I also don’t want to see a situation where businesses here get threatened with a boycott, because that would undermine what we're trying to do here,” Strickland told the group members, several of whom are business owners. “But please speak your mind.”
Later in the evening, Strickland said she always intended for the Tacoma task force to be “transparent,” but the requirement that the group abide by state public information laws didn’t connect with her until after the council had created the group.
She said she was concerned that many members of the task force aren’t used to being in the public eye, and she wanted to equip them.
Several business owners on the task force had expressed concern, Strickland said, over the public nature of the talks. “They’re taking a risk,” she said. “I do worry about a chilling effect.”
Strickland also warned the group about creating public documents. “Think about the context about why (public document) requests are made,” she said. The people who request documents “are typically looking for violations of the law or for snarky remarks people made and were unkind to each other.”
After a beat, city attorney Martha Lantz, who was giving the tutorial on open records, qualified Strickland’s assessment.
“I will say most of the requests we get are from people who just genuinely want to know” what’s going on in the city, she said.