Politics & Government

Tacoma to review 'constitution' for first time in a decade

Tacoma’s review of its 60-year-old governing document will kick off next month when a 15-member Charter Review Committee convenes for the first time in a decade.

Mayor Marilyn Strickland calls the charter the city’s constitution. She said she looks forward to the committee’s recommendations, which will be due to the council by May 6.

Fifty-two people applied to be on the committee. From that group, City Council members selected 15. The committee members could be confirmed during a Jan. 7 council meeting and start their work shortly thereafter.

Strickland nominated Bill Baarsma, a former city mayor and member of two prior charter review committees, to be the committee’s chairman. He said everything in the charter is up for review.

“I expect robust discussion,” Baarsma said.

During the 2004 charter review process, committee members held 18 meetings of the full group, 37 various subcommittee meetings and even more meetings with community groups and neighborhood councils — all within the span of about six months, said City Clerk Doris Sorum.

That charter review committee forwarded 23 proposed charter amendments to the City Council. The council put 11 of them on the ballot, and voters passed them all.

Past charter review processes have led to amendments increasing the mayor’s term from two years to four, adding the ability to recall all city elected officials rather than just city council members, and requiring an annual review of the city manager.

The City Council will have a chance to ask the committee to study specific items. Two items that often come up during charter review are the city’s form of government and the city’s relationship with Tacoma Public Utilities, Strickland said. Baarsma said the group’s recommendations are “purely advisory.”

“The council can accept, reject or add any (charter) amendments to the ballot,” Baarsma said.

That action could happen sometime in July, Sorum said. The items would then appear as propositions on November’s ballot, she said.

Charter review is necessary, Strickland said, because communities change and people have different priorities over time.

“It allows us to move the city forward and allows Tacoma to be the best city it can be,” Strickland said.

The proposed members, in addition to Baarsma, are:

 • Theresa Baker, vice president of the Madigan Foundation and past president of the League of Women Voters Tacoma-Pierce County.

 • Gary Brackett, manager of government affairs for the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce.

 • Mabel Edmonds, associate vice president for instruction at Clover Park Technical College.

 • Tim Farrell, a former Pierce County councilman.

 • Eric Hahn, chairman of Tacoma-Pierce County Workforce Development Council and a vice president for General Plastics Manufacturing.

 • Charles Horne, a retired labor management consultant.

 • Justin Leighton, government relations officer for Pierce Transit.

 • Mark Martinez, executive director for Pierce County Building Trades Council.

 • James Merritt, an architect who led the renovation of Union Station.

 • John Messina, a Tacoma attorney who was a member of the 1973 charter review committee.

 • Ken Miller, a former Tacoma Housing Authority board member and founding member of the Tacoma Actors Guild.

 • Patricia Talton, president of Northwest Leadership Foundation.

 • Catherine Ushka, a current member of the Tacoma School Board.

 • Justin Van Dyk, a young college graduate and South End Neighborhood Council member.