Champions, dogs and unicorns on Tuesday’s ballot

Fourth-graders stream out of portable classrooms at Zeiger Elementary in South Hill Oct. 15. The school has 11 classes and programs in portables.
Fourth-graders stream out of portable classrooms at Zeiger Elementary in South Hill Oct. 15. The school has 11 classes and programs in portables. Staff file

Some of the items on Tuesday’s ballot are awful ideas, others could do a lot of good. The election is just around the corner, so here's a review of the champs and the losers:

Puyallup School District Prop. 1. Puyallup has historically been known for strongly supporting its schools. But “been known” is past tense. Despite rapid enrollment growth that has forced many students into portable classrooms, the district’s voters have rejected every school construction bond measure since 2004.

Proposition 1 has a $292.5 million price tag, but Puyallup is the eighth largest school district in the state, and the cost gets spread across a wide base. With other debts being retired, the bonds would translate into an additional $5 a year for the owner of a $250,000 house. Pass this one, for heaven’s sake. Puyallup’s reputation as a good-schools community may depend on it.

Tacoma Citizens' Initiative 1. This is the single craziest item on any South Sound ballot this year. Once certified, it would immediately push the minimum wage in Tacoma from $9.47 an hour to $15. In a world of unicorns, this would all but eliminate poverty and leave the city awash in new discretionary spending. In the reality we actually live in, it would shut down struggling businesses and shrink employment opportunities for unskilled workers. Initiative 1 deserves an emphatic “no” vote.

Tacoma Initiative 1B. This is the reality-based alternative the Tacoma City Council put on the ballot. It would phase in a $12 minimum wage, which the city’s modest economy is much more likely to absorb successfully. “Yes” on this one.

Tacoma Charter Amendment Initiative 2. We’d call this a Pandora’s Box, but Pandora at least opened the lid deliberately. The worst effects of Initiative 2 – a proposed city charter amendment – are accidental.

The idea was to fire Tacoma’s city manager and replace him with an elected chief executive, a “strong mayor.” Because of a drafting error, Initiative 2 would also eliminate the citizens’ right to put referendums and initiatives (except for charter amendments) on the ballot. It would also remove the existing charter’s specification of four-year terms for City Council members – those terms would become undefined if the initiative passed.

Even supporters of a strong mayor ought to reject this stumblebum of an initiative.

Tacoma Prop. 3 and Prop. A. These two are a 10-year package designed to raise $325 million to fix Tacoma’s cracked and cratered streets. Between them, they would impose a 1.5 percent earnings tax on utilities, a 20-cent property tax on every $1,000 of assessed value, plus a tenth-of-a-percent sales tax – a penny on a $10 purchase. The new city money would capture an estimated $120 million in state and federal grants.

Yes, past city councils should have kept the streets in repair over the last 50 years. But they didn’t, and the ruination is now so extensive that the current council will never get on top of it without new revenues. Vote for Propositions 3 and A, if only for your vehicle’s sake.

Initiative 1366. This is another dog from Tim Eyman, who makes his living ginning up new ways to sell free lunches to the electorate. The free lunch here is a one-penny cut in the state sales tax, which would blow a $1.5 billion-a-year hole in the state general fund.

That’s the fund that pays for such frivolities as public schools, prison, mental health treatment and child protection. The sales tax cut is supposed to force lawmakers to put an anti-tax constitutional amendment on the state ballot. Whatever. This is the mirror image of teachers union initiatives that mandate higher pay and smaller classes – without including a dime to pay for them.