What industry harm is Tacoma council trying to prevent?

An aerial photo of the Tacoma Tideflats, ground zero of an intense debate about the future of industry and family-wage jobs in the South Sound.
An aerial photo of the Tacoma Tideflats, ground zero of an intense debate about the future of industry and family-wage jobs in the South Sound. Courtesy state Dept of Ecology

As leaders in Pierce County labor and business, we understand the interconnectedness of our local economy, how all levels of the community must thrive for all to succeed.

This is why we’re so disappointed that the Tacoma City Council is considering interim regulations that would put severe limitations on industrial businesses across the city.

The regulations as drafted attempt to pick winners and losers in our local economy. Instead of sound policy resulting from community consensus, our City Council has created a political football out of families’ livelihoods.

The economy in Pierce County is tenuous enough; we can’t afford our political leaders tossing it aside to score political points with extremists whose goal is to eliminate entire swaths of our economy.

As community leaders, we have learned that sound decision-making comes only after considering all perspectives and impacts. The City Council so far has not heeded this lesson. Placing limits on industrial businesses impacts all of us, not just one sector of the economy.

Interim regulations are intended to prevent harm until permanent regulations are approved. The City Council has offered no credible evidence that there is any harm to prevent.

The regulations as drafted also place the city at risk of a costly legal challenge. A similar ban in Portland, on the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure, was recently ruled unconstitutional by an Oregon state appeals board.

We as taxpayers are already paying for the City Council’s overreach, with the recent announcement the city will pay $2.75 million after a federal judge ruled the council’s moratorium on permit applications for a Walmart was illegal.

The city’s process to bring the interim regulations to the City Council should also be called into question.

With the Tideflats Subarea Plan, the city is planning to spend at least two years and involve stakeholders from the beginning. But city leaders have taken the opposite tack on the interim regulations.

They’re trying to ram them through approval in just a matter of weeks without considering all opinions from the community. The Tacoma Planning Commission, which moved the interim regulations to the City Council earlier this month, is one member short of its full nine members and did not give thoughtful consideration to the issue.

The draft regulations changed drastically several times over a matter of weeks this fall, including major changes between the commission’s public hearing in mid-September and when it approved the interim regulations this month.

Even community leaders heavily involved in the issue had no idea what regulations the commission was going to approve and what industries would be impacted.

We respectfully ask the City Council to take a pause, slow the process down and fully consider the consequences of the interim regulations as drafted.

Let’s work together like we have so many times before. We will make progress as a city when we come together as citizens, elected officials, community leaders and business leaders to further our shared interests in our economic, social and environmental wellbeing.

This is how we bring about meaningful change in Tacoma.

Mark P. Martinez is executive secretary of the Pierce County Building & Construction Trades Council, and Deanna Keller is the owner of KelTech, a plastic fabrication company in Tacoma.