Politics & Government

Tacoma mayor looks abroad in 2016 State of the City speech

Outside the Murano Hotel on Wednesday morning, protesters hoisted signs urging Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland to block a proposed methanol manufacturing plant that may one day be built at the Port of Tacoma.

Inside the hotel, the controversial and stalled project barely merited a mention at Strickland’s annual State of the City Address.

Instead, she used her hourlong remarks to build on a theme called “Better Together.” It reflected her philosophy that the city can improve life for residents and businesses by bringing many voices to the table when making decisions.

“Tacoma is a better city when we realize it’s OK to disagree, but please do it in a way that’s thoughtful and uses facts,” she said.

Last year, Strickland used her speech to advocate a sales tax measure that would boost funding for road repairs. Voters passed the initiative, and the city has a plan to spend about $350 million on road improvements over the next 10 years.

Her latest State of the City speech did not have that kind of call to action.

She touted a number of accomplishments from last year, such as boosting tourism, adopting a minimum wage increase and moving forward with police reforms.

“Not only are we rising, we are delivering,” she said, playing on the “Tacoma Rising” theme she used last year.

Strickland also said she planned to direct more city resources to fighting homelessness, and she pledged to bring other mayors from communities in Pierce County into that campaign.

Much of her speech looked abroad. She reiterated her support for the proposed free trade Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, and she advocated for more programs that increase foreign exchange opportunities for Tacoma students.

They’ll need those experiences, she said, because “We live in a global economy where 90 percent of the world’s consumers do not live in U.S. borders.”

Her only mention of the methanol proposal from a Chinese-backed firm called Northwest Innovation Works came when she thanked Chinese President Xi Jinping for his offer to bring 100 Tacoma students to his country. Jinping extended the offer after his September stop at Lincoln High School.

The visit “was magic. He connected with the students. He was gracious, and he gave them the best possible gift, not the ping pong tables, the gift of travel,” she said.

“For everyone who is watching, it had nothing to do with the methanol plant,” she said.

The event was co-sponsored by the Tacoma Pierce County Chamber of Commerce. Its president, Tom Pierson, linked the speech’s theme to the protesters outside.

“You talk about methanol, you talk about any other issue, we need to come together to find a solution,” he said.

Adam Ashton: 253-597-8646, @TNTMilitary