Published on July 6th, 2014 | by Patricia Sully


Who really gives a crap? A drunk sailor guide to charter review for/against statements

The Charter Review process has been long and not exactly pretty. But bad political theater is still political theater and I couldn’t help myself from watching from the sidelines. However, now the show is over and we are still left with a charter to review.

The City Council selected a solid dozen reforms for discussionand possible inclusion on the fall ballot. Because the City cares and wants to lend a helping hand to voters, and not because they think we are dim or suspect that we don’t really know what is going on (and if they do, clearly they are wrong except when they are right), they would like to include for/against statements in the fall voters’ guide. Which is where you come in. Because someone needs to write that shit. The City is looking for volunteers to draft the statements.

The application process seems simple enough — a letter of interest including which items you are either for or against. The tricky part is, however, that you need to actually know what the hell has been proposed and have some opinion on whether it is good or bad.

No, form of government isn’t one of the options.

Yes, I know that is the only one any of us were paying attention to.

No really. It isn’t an option.

I decided to helpful (because I do love to help) and write up a little (mildly inebriated) guide to the proposed charter amendments. If the “for” and “against” statements end up in the voters’ guide to help educate our citizenry on such matters, think of this as the precursor — the drunk sailor version, to help you figure out whether you care enough to write the real thing.

Amendment 1:  Get your election on!

They say:  “Amendment 1 concerns aligning election provisions with state law.”

We say:  “Amendment 1 probably is about aligning election provisions with state law but it was pretty tedious so we didn’t really double check. It seems to involve adjusting deadlines and such.”

You are for if:  Do you find that you are a bit anal retentive? If you were a college admissions counselor and an application came in a minute past the deadline, would you throw it in the recycle bin and sigh, saying “Rules are rules..”? Compliance with state law seems right up your alley. You are FOR.

You are against if: You make your own rules damn it!

Amendment 2:   Look! It’s the 21st Century!

They say:  “Amendment 2 concerns adding gender neutral language and deleting obsolete language and provisions.”

We say:  “Ditto”

You are for it if:  You are a reasonable person and think changing “councilmen” to “council members” is probably a pretty solid choice; you don’t think the city manager necessitates a male pronoun and can instead be simply referred to as “the Manager”; his/her is a sort of ridiculous construction and “their” works just fine

You are against if: You like your women in the kitchen, where they belong!

Amendment 3: Because apparently we are being less discriminatory somewhat begrudgingly and also late?

They say:   “Amendment 3 concerns aligning anti-discrimination provisions with City and state law.”

We say:  “Amendment 3 includes color, ancestry, gender identity, sexual orientation, familial status, and honorably charged veteran or military status to the list stuff we shouldn’t discriminate about.”

You are for it if:  You are not an asshole.

You are against it:  You are an asshole.

Amendment 4:  Publish or perish

They say:  “Amendment 4 concerns the effective date of emergency ordinances.”

We say:  “Amendment 4 changes exactly two words of one sub-section of the Charter. Are you kidding us with this shit?”

You are for it if:  You think emergency ordinances (and also some other stuff) should take effect immediately upon passage by City Council.

You are against it if:  Ordinances shouldn’t be effective until they are published for the public to see. Transparency!

Amendment 5:  In which City Council asserts itself

They say:  “Amendment 5 concerns expanding City Council authority to confirm the appointment and removal of department heads.”

We say:  “Amendment 5 looks like a City Council/City Manager pissing contest.”

You are for it if: You think City Council should have to approve the City Manager’s appointment or removal of department heads.

You are against it if:  You trust that T.C. Broadnax guy. You definitely don’t think he sounds like a Dr. Seuss character and you have never referred to him as the Lorax by mistake.  Let him hire and fire who he wants!

Amendment 6: In which the City Council continues to assert itself, Utility Redux

They say:  “Amendment 6 concerns City Council powers and duties relative to the Public Utility Board and Director of Utilities.”

We say:  “Are there really 12 amendments? Who came up with this article idea?”

You are for it if:  You think the City Council should get to confirm whatever the poor sucker the Public Utility Board appoint as the Director of Utilities. Also, someone should probably oversee that person, so every two years they should be “reconfirmed” by the Board and subject (again) to confirmation by the city council.

You are against it if:You would really like City Council to go back to playing Suduko and “liking” things on Facebook. Job effectiveness isn’t high on your list of concerns. You just feel like being disagreeable for funsies. Don’t tell me what to do! You aren’t even my real mom!

Amendment 7: Old things are old

They say:  “Amendment 7 concerns adding requirements for the Landmarks Preservation Commission.”

We say:  “There is a typo in the proposed language and we will give a dollar to anyone who finds it.”

You are for it if:  You like old things and unpaid commissions. You are nervous about the tendency of the north-end to dominate such commissions and like the idea of someone from each district being represented.

You are against it if:  You don’t like old things or unpaid commissions. You like old things and unpaid commissions, but you think the commission is better served by the current construction of historians, architects, and at-large members because district-based seating would result in commissioners who don’t really give a crap about anything outside of their district.

Amendment 8: Everyone likes to keep their options open

They say: “Amendment 8 concerns Mayor and City Council term limits.”

We say: “Amendment 8 concerns the possibility of people staying in power longer. Sorry. Staying in “power” longer.”

You are for it if: You think it is reasonable that any one person could potentially serve 16 consecutive years as a combination of Mayor/Councilmember.

You are against it if:  You think the appropriate length of time for someone to be on the Council is probably less than the time it would take for a baby to be born and then grow old enough to legally operate a motor vehicle.

Amendment 9: How much do we pay these people?

They say:  “Amendment 9 concerns establishing a salary commission to determine Mayoral and Council salaries.”

We say:  TL;DR

You are for it if:  You really like commissions and think we should have a new one to sort out salaries for the mayor and council. You aren’t bothered that the language surrounding the creation and selection for the commission reads like the rules for a fictional board game.

You are against it if:  You haven’t found anything else to disagree with yet. You find confusing language enraging. You think everyone should just get paid a dollar. You walked uphill both ways when you were a kid, and in the snow!

Amendment 10: I see dead people

They say:  “Amendment 10 concerns deleting the prohibition of new cemeteries, mausoleums, or crematories.”

We say:  “Amendment 10 is a party in a box.”

You are for it if:  MORE DEAD PEOPLE.

You are against it if:  NO MORE DEAD PEOPLE.

Amendment 11:  This amendment is clearly written in ancient Greek 

They say:  “Amendment 11 concerns public employee participation in residential conservation, infrastructure and environmental programs.”

We say:  “Amendment 11 lacks an oxford comma, which is a bummer, and also is nearly incomprehensible. Exit 133 tells us that it “would allow officers or employees of the City to take advantage of the benefits of utility and other conservation programs, and to enter into unpaid, voluntary contracts without being in conflict with ethics rules, where the benefits are also available to the general public.”

You are for it if:  You like your city employees to be able to do voluntary conservation work, I guess?

You are against it if:  You think that things you are asked to vote on should be at least moderately comprehensible to the general public and are personally offended by unnecessarily complicated writing. Or you hate city employees getting to do stuff.

Amendment 12:  Fun with unenforceable provisions

They say:  “Amendment 12 concerns deleting residency and certain citizenship requirements for City employment.”

We say:  “It is upsetting that Amendment 12 is necessary.”

You are for it if:  You think it is dumb to require people to be citizens in order to be eligible for employment in city service. Also, you think things that are almost entirely unenforceable anyway probably don’t belong in the Charter.

You are against it if:  When you shout ‘MERICA! it is non-ironic.

If you have a perhaps slightly more educated and nuanced opinion (or what the hell, even if you don’t) and find yourself quite excited to explain why any one of these amendments should or should not pass, help a city out. Join the committee. To apply, submit a letter of interest indicating which amendment(s) you are advocating for or against. Letters must be received in the City Clerk’s Office at 733 Market Street, Room 11, Tacoma, WA 98402, or to, by Monday, July 7, 2014 by 5:00 p.m.


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