TPU Poised to Approve Raising Residential Water Rates this Wednesday at 6:30 PM

Sarah Morken speaks to the TPU commissioners voicing concern about the sweetheart deal provision in the Tacoma Municipal Code. TMC 12.100.400 (H) allows for side deals with large water users and should be deleted many speakers said.

The Public Hearing on raising water rates, that wasn’t. TPU Commission Bryan Flint agreed with people who made public comment about the short notice and the failure to advertise the meeting on the TPU website, not in the water bill that goes out to ratepayers, not in the newsletter, no story in the Tacoma Weekly or the Tacoma News Tribune. The notice was misleading, sent out at 5:27 PM on the Friday before the Super Bowl Game (the best game ever). The meeting occurred just five days on the following Wednesday. The meeting began at 6:30 PM and any one attending fought the wind and the pouring rain. Is there any wonder why there were so many empty seats?

The so-called “Public Hearing” is worth watching, as it will give ratepayers a glimpse of what is to come. Basically, staff reported that conservation by residential users has caused a revenue decline. The solution, shift the cost to the fee ratepayers pay for their service. So, it appears the reward for conserving water is to make the residents pay more in their monthly fixed cost for the delivery of the water.

Anybody ever remember new water pipes being installed on their street?

Just six people testified at the “Public Hearing”. Most of those who spoke were concerned about how poorly the Public Hearing was advertised and complained about only having five days notice.

The TPU commissioners go through this exercise of reviewing water and power rates every three years by law, so this should not be a surprise. Even TPU Commissioner remarked that the public should have been give more notice given the fact that all of the commissioners knew about the Feb. 8 Public Hearing Meeting long ago.

TPU Commission Bryan Flint during the “Public Hearing” who agreed with the speakers that the public was left out the the loop of information regarding the planned 4% + 4% residential water rates coming, after increases the previous two years.

Other speakers voiced concern about Section H in the Tacoma Municipal Code that allows for exceptions for large water users regarding the rate they pay – less than large commercial water users. An example of this is Niagara Bottling LLC that enjoys a rate 8% less than other large water users. Side deals like this should not occur with a publicly owned utility.

TPU Board meetings are held the second and fourth Wednesday

of the month at 6:30 p.m. in the

Tacoma Public Utilities Auditorium, 3628 S. 35th St., Tacoma.

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Water Rate Increase Needs Proper Public Hearing

4% + 4% Water Rate Increase for residents coming

Staff thought having six people from the public was a good turn out for a Public Hearing.

The Tacoma Public Utilities so-called “Public Hearing” last week regarding raising water rates lacked proper notification.

At this point, TPU is poised to raise water rates 4% beginning on April Fools Day this year and 4% for all of 2018 for residents.

This upcoming Wednesday (Feb. 22nd), at 6:30 the TPU Board will be having their bi-monthly meeting. The public can make comment on this. Read Resolution U-10910 – it details out the water rate increases for the next two years. STW had to make a public records request for this document that should have been provided at the so-called “Public Hearing” last week so people could make a properly informed comment.

The Water Rate Policy reads in part:

“Water Rates Should Be the Product of Customer Involvement”

Contrary to the statement made by staff that having a public hearing is the first step in this process, the first step in the rate setting process was completely ignored, i.e. CUSTOMER INVOLVEMENT, as stated in TPU’s own policy. Customer involvement simply never happened in any meaningful way, and there were numerous missed or ignored opportunities to engage the public and inform the public about the proposed rate increases.

There was no notice about the Water Rate Increase Public Hearing in:
• December 2016 and January 2017 TPU Utility Bills;
• The quarterly TPU Newsletter issued in January;
• The TPU News Webpage;
• Nothing on TPU’s Facebook page about the proposed rate increases or the public hearing;
• Nothing on TPU’s Twitter account about the proposed rate increases or the public hearing;
• Nothing in the Tacoma Daily Index about the proposed rate increases or the public hearing;
• Nothing in the Tacoma News Tribune’s legal notices about the meeting;
• Nothing on the City of Tacoma Webpage listing Public Hearings (CURIOUSLY the City webpage does list an upcoming public hearing [properly set by the Council I might add] on Feb 14 about a Tacoma Water Property Sale, BUT NOTHING about the far more significant PUBLIC HEARING on THE RATE INCREASE which affects far more people and businesses);
• No mention of it at the Board Study Session on December 14, 2016 (NOTE the agenda says “Tacoma Power and Water Rates”, not “Rate Increases” … how is someone supposed to know that rate increases are what you’re considering and discussing?);
• No mention of pending rate increases or a public hearing at the Board’s regular meeting on December 14;
• No mention of it at the Board Study Session on January 11, 2017 (again, the agenda says “Tacoma Power Rates”);
• No mention of pending rate increases or a public hearing at the Board’s regular meeting on January 11, 2017;

And finally, not even a mention of pending rate increases or a public hearing at the Board’s regular meeting on January 25, 2017 nor at the City Council meeting immediately preceding the public hearing event.

Yes, an email notice did go out Friday evening at 5:27 PM, which just happened to be the beginning of Super Bowl week-end. The notice went out with the minimum notice possible, just five days before the event, sent to an opt-in list of subscribers to some kind of email notification list (which most people are not on).

Question: How many subscribers there are on that list, and thus what percentage of TPU customers received that public hearing notification email?

TPU staff attended a meeting this past Monday night before the North End Neighborhood Council.

TPU was there to make a presentation about water rates, but staff did not make it clear that that there was going to be a Public Hearing about them on Wednesday night – two days later!

TPU described at the meeting how staff was reaching out to the Neighborhood Councils. Is this what has happened at the other Neighborhood Council meetings?

Clearly there were numerous missed or ignored opportunities to inform the public about the proposed water rate increases, which was pointed out by one speaker at Wednesday’s TPU Board meeting.

Finally, the Public Hearing may not have been a proper one to begin with, much less a properly noticed one.

The TACOMA CITY CHARTER SECTION 4.11 says,
“All matters relating to … the fixing of rates and charges for utility services under the jurisdiction of the Board shall be initiated by the Board, subject to approval by the Council, and executed by the Board”.
“All matters” means just that, including a Public Hearing. Setting that hearing date was initiated by the staff, not by the Board. Since the Public Hearing on Wednesday was not called for through an action by the Board (nor the City Council for that matter as it has done for the Tacoma Water property sale hearing on Feb 14)

Clearly, the TPU Board is not following the expressed intent and language of the Tacoma City Charter.

The TPU’s Water Rate Policy references the need for a rate expert to represent residents is significant.

The role of the FCS Group hired by TPU does not represent residents … their job was to represent TPU’s interest and to substantiate the highest rate that TPU can get away with, NOT what is in the best interests of the residential class.

The Board needs to work with the City to retain an independent rate expert to do the job of representing the interests of residents, not TPU’s.

The Board needs to give proper consideration to these concerns and requests and insist the staff conduct a robust and meaningful customer involvement process in the rate setting process as called for in the Water Rate Policy.

TPU and the City should start all over to properly engage ratepayers in substantive and proactive public notice processes on issues like this which are of such paramount importance to the many thousands of households in our city, and our struggling families and businesses.

The citizens of Tacoma own the water, they should be treated like owners, not mushrooms being kept in the dark.

Tacoma Public Utilities Proposed Water Rate Increase

4% + 4% residential water rate increase proposed for 2017 and 2018.

Stop Secret Sweetheart Water Deals Initiative Filed on Valentine’s Day

Citizen initiative filed on Valentine’s Day to stop sweetheart water deals by deleting these words from the Tacoma Municipal Code:

H. Special Contracts. The Superintendent, with the approval of the Board, shall have the right to enter into contracts for periods up to 20 years where service conditions are extraordinary; provided, that such contracts shall contain applicable rates as adopted by the Board and the City Council.

STW files initiative to protect our water

Sherry Bockwinkel, Lynnette Shureb and Donna Walters on citizen petition filing day.

Save Tacoma Water filed a citizen initiative to protect our water on Valentine’s Day.

Volunteers have been working hard, for months, doing research and perfecting an initiative for filing that seeks to end special secret sweetheart water deals with for-profit corporations.

Valentine’s Day was chosen to help highlight the sweetheart contract deals large water users enter into due to a provision in the Tacoma Municipal Code. Special contract agreements go through a public process, however, the public is not  generally aware of these special contracts. These agreements are performed one-on-one between Tacoma Public Utility Superintendent and for-profit corporations that want to use more than one million gallons of fresh water a day.

An example of a special contract is one that Niagara Bottling LLC, a for-profit company that sells bottled water, currently enjoys.

 

Just one person, Kit Burns, testified during the public comment process in June of 2013 that provided Niagara Bottling a 5-year agreement that gives them a rate of 8% less than other large water users.

This proposed citizen initiative is timed to go along with the water rate setting process that occurs every two years as required by the Tacoma Municipal Code. Right now, TPU is proposing rate increases for residents, but few details have been made available to the public up to this point. April Fool’s Day is the day chosen by TPU for the new rates to be approved.

Last week, Save Tacoma Water requested publicly, at the poorly handled Public Hearing held by the TPU Board, to delete 46 words in the Tacoma Municipal Code 12.400.100 (H), which would get rid of these secret sweetheart water deals like some large water users benefit from.

TMC 12.400.100 (H) reads:

“H. Special Contracts. The Superintendent, with the approval of the Board, shall have the right to enter into contracts for periods up to 20 years where service conditions are extraordinary; provided, that such contracts shall contain applicable rates as adopted by the Board and the City Council.”

“This practice of leaving the ratepayers out of the rate setting process needs to end,” Donna Walters, states.

“Section H amplifies the length to which TPU will work with corporations, cutting them special deals, while residential users are facing water rate increases this year. This needs to end now,” states Sherry Bockwinkel.

Public Records Act Under Attack by City and County Governments

Public Testimony in Opposition to House Bills 1594 and 1595
Good afternoon.
My name is Arthur West. I live in Olympia.
I have been coming to the legislature for over a decade testifying against bills almost exactly like HB 1594 and 1595. It seems every year “public servants” like the AWC, WSAC and the WPPA muster their “minions of darkness” to propose legislation like HB 1594 and 1595. Their goal is always the same, to undercut the Public Records Act by small incremental steps,  and every year we have to sit through a parade of horror stories about how terrible it is that citizens can actually hold their government accountable.  Although this year we have a study group smokescreen, every year, including this one, it is the taxpayer funded lobbying entities of the shadow government that are the dark forces behind these assaults. (see Telford, Casting Sunlight on Shadow Government, Leslie Marshal, 24 Seattle U. L. Rev. 139 (2000)
It is understandable that the unholy trinity of the AWC, WSAC, WPPA and their minions of darkness might dislike the PRA like vampires abhor sunlight, since the concept of citizen control over government that underlies the PRA is contrary to the intent of these groups to disenfranchise the ordinary citizen, and the PRA’s continued existence is an obstacle to their totalitarian political agenda.  Through the years a number of factors typically characterize shadow government legislation, and while  carefully designed to appear innocuous their faces, HB 1594 and 1595 exhibit these typical hallmarks.

1. The bill is advanced behind a smokescreen of self-serving subjective horror stories.
One recurring theme in the PR that accompanies shadow government legislation is the demonization of citizens who seek public records and the attempt to create a climate of hysteria to in order to justify allowing government to evade the reasonable requirements of the PRA. Outraged and exaggerated testimony by local agencies that they are the blameless victims of evil and abusive citizens seeking records via requests they cannot answer is one telltale red flag that the forces of darkness are behind the legislation. In reality, the act as it now exists allows agencies to act reasonably to answer requests in installments without interfering with their other duties.

2. The sponsors do not communicate with or address concerns of actual stakeholders.
A second hallmark of shadow government legislation is the total refusal of the sponsors to communicate in good faith with WASHCOG, Allied Daily Newspapers, or the requestor community. As an example, I have been testifying against every heinous bill these people propose consistently for over 5 years and have never once been contacted by any of these shadow government entities prior to the relaunch of their annual assaults on the public’s right to know.

3. A few examples of “burdensome” requests are advanced to attempt to prove that PRA must be changed. Another point of continuity is the manipulation of a few overly broad requests into a state of public emergency. While this may appear slightly different due to the packaging these are the same concerns that have been advanced for a decade by the forces of darkness. In reality, agencies have broad authority to produce records in installments, and the act only allows penalties when an agency acts unreasonably. What the sponsors attempt to obscure is the fact that the intent of these bills is to shield unreasonable withholding of records from any possibility of redress.

4. The stated intent is to improve the act but the changes are stealthily designed to undercut and render the act ineffectual by small incremental steps. Inevitably, the proponents disclaim any intent to weaken or eviscerate the act, and their stated intent is to improve it and lessen the burden on local government. However, another point of congruency on all of the shadow government legislation is that it is sneakilly designed to set us upon the path to rendering the Public Records Act ineffectual through a series of small subversive amendments, like replacing the requirement that an agency respond with a requirement that the agency declare the request unclear and seek “Arbitration” for such “unclear” request. Such a practice might sound workable in theory but would be unworkable in the real world because all requests would be seen as unclear and no agency would have to respond to even the most objectively clear request. Further, allowing agencies to impose unlimited charges based upon ill defined and subjective criteria would place the cost of seeking records beyond the ordinary citizen.

5. The real intent of the legislation is to doom the PRA to the death of a thousand cuts.
What the Cities and Counties, Ports, Fire Districts, and the well financed private publicly funded shadow government organizations that represent them before the legislature seek to accomplish in these bills is to initiate the first small steps in their decades old long term plan to render the PRA toothless and ineffective so that they can continue to unreasonably deny citizens access to essential records with impunity and retaliate against them for questioning the actions of their government free from any reasonable prospect of any substantial consequences for their actions.
The provisions this bill seeks to impose would be devastating on the ability of ordinary citizens to be informed in a timely manner of even such basic facts as what financial conflicts of interest their local officials might have, what  building projects their city was proposing in their neighborhood or whether the playground their children play in is contaminated by toxic or cancer causing chemicals.
This bill reflects the opinion of its shadow government authors that agencies are being unduly burdened by telling their citizens swhat they are doing, and that they are improperly penalized for inadvertent mistakes or omissions due to unclear requests. This is simply untrue. The only way a judge can assess a penalty under the Act is if they find that an agency acted unreasonably in withholding records. To say that allowing a court to determine the plain words of a request is unclear or that courts cannot be trusted to make the right decisions is a slap in the face to the impartiality and integrity of the hard working magistrates that make up our judicial branch. The option of mediation is always available if the parties agree, so this arbitration in this bill would add nothing to what exists and appears to be a pretext to allow the assertion of lack of clarity to justify unreasonable delay and obfuscation.

6. The enemies of the public’s right to know march in lockstep to promote their bills.     Finally, the most telltale indicator of a shadow government assault on the public’s right to know is the vast number and tone of the publicly funded officials and entities goose marching in lockstep to testify in support of restricting public access to records and justice. Ironically, while they crowd the hearing rooms to the point where ordinary citizens are excluded and make self serving claims of lack of resources, their very multitudes assembled on the public’s dime belie their transparent claims of lack of resources. Often the tone of a communication is more important than its contents and often the message implied by the tone of the shadow government’s minions of darkness is that citizens have no right to oversee the actions of the entities that serve them and that citizen access to records must be curtailed.
With all due respect to the unholy trinity of the Cities, Counties Ports, and the rest of the minions of darkness and quasi-private shadow government agencies that orchestrate these decades old annual assaults on the people’s right to know, their representations distort the basic reality that without the strong protections of our Public Records Act as it now exists the public would be subject to much higher costs in the form of rampant and unchecked government mismanagement and corruption.
Please do not support the shadow government’s latest incremental assault on the rights of the public by indulging them in their latest annual attempt to slowly, by small but determined steps, dismantle the law that, more than any other measure, protects the people’s right to know.

Public Hearing Today on Increasing Water Rates

Water Rates Public Hearing today. Still no language provided to make comments on. COT approved minutes last night with minutes from the TPU meeting in December, they read in part: “Power Policy/Residential Rate Design: The residential rate design staff proposal is to put 100 percent of the increase into the customer charge. The rationale is to reduce seasonal bill variability and enhancing financial stability. A rate design study, the objective of which was to determine which rate design will minimize the negative impacts of the proposed rate increase, was conducted.”

Further down in the minutes: “The target rate effective date is April 1, 2017.”

Really? They chose April Fool’s Day?

Every three years, water rates are reviewed. In 2014 the water rate language is in Resolution No. 38876  – “A resolution amending the Water Rate and Financial Policy to facilitate the development of term-limited, market-based wholesale water rates.” In 2014, the rules were amended to take the vote. Wow.

The TPU is sponsoring the Public Hearing this evening on increasing water rates, but the language with the  proposed water rates is not available.

STW wants the 46 words of the Tacoma Municipal Coded 12.10.400 (H) deleted. This section basically provides secret sweetheart deals to large users of fresh water.

With such late notice going out, if people cannot make it, comments are encouraged.

Below is a list of dates for other opportunities to make public comments. If making public comments is not your thing, please consider contacting the TPU commissioners and Tacoma City Council Members.

Public Hearing Wednesday Feb. 8

Friday, Feb. 3, 2017

Tacoma Public Utilities sent out an email regarding a year long process developing new water rates. Below is how the email read when it arrived to those lucky enough to be on the list.

Subject: Tacoma Public Utility Board Meeting Notifications
Date: February 3, 2017 5:27:14 PM PST

Note the time and the day – someone was working late.

The Public Meetings Act requires a minimum of five days notice for meetings. Tacoma Water ratepayers should be asking TPU why such late notice was sent out about something they have been working on for the past year?

Save Tacoma Water is urging ratepayers to show up and voice their opinion about the planned increases.

STW supports higher rates for large water users as water is a precious public resource and higher rates encourages conservation.

STW supports higher rates for super huge water users (industry giants using more than one million gallons of fresh water a day).

TPU already has one super huge water user

Additionally, STW has concerns about Tacoma Municipal Code 12.10.400 (H).

The 46 words in Section H need to be deleted.

Section H reads: “H. Special Contracts. The Superintendent, with the approval of the Board, shall have the right to enter into contracts for periods up to 20 years where service conditions are extraordinary; provided, that such contracts shall contain applicable rates as adopted by the Board and the City Council.”

It was under this provision that TPU negotiated a special contract with Niagara. Deleting this section in its entirety removes the authority of TPU/City to give special sweetheart deals to companies like Niagara, a for profit business utilizing our public resource.

TPU’s web site does not provide the actual language the TPU commissioners will be considering. All the public has just five days before the hearing regarding rates is this:

“Residential Rates Proposals

For us to support our long-term investments and capital-intensive operation and continue delivering quality water and power, we need to increase our rates as follows. This is a flat rate for all residential customers, and will apply to both 2017 and 2018.

Water:

  • $1.49 per month (inside the City of Tacoma)
  • $1.79 per month (outside the City of Tacoma)”
The above increase in unclear, but that is all that is currently available. Further down the page readers will find this:
  • Commercial: 4.3%
  • Irrigation: 4.9%
  • Large volume commercial: 6.9%
  • Private fire protection: 1.4%
  • Pulp mill: 4.0%
  • System average: 4.0%

TPU clearly does not want an informed public to make comment, nor do they want to provide the public adequate notice. Providing just 5 days notice with only minutes to spare to be within the Public Meetings Act should give all ratepayers pause for concern.

Cancer Rates In Pierce County Higher than around the state

The Port of Tacoma and the City of Tacoma promised to work together, along with citizens, regarding land use at the Port. This promise was floated out during the methanol debacle in the spring of 2016. The elected officials failed to follow up and since, the POT has yet to do anything with the property once leased by the foreign corporation that intended (and many believe still do) to build the largest methanol refinery in the world, in the heart of Tacoma, at the taxpayer cleaned up Kaiser Aluminum location.

The citizens showed up in mass, like never before in Tacoma’s history. In the shadow of Seattle, Tacoma came alive and filled meeting rooms and even the convention center until public pressure burst the balloon on the ill-fated plan for a highly toxic and polluting refinery the electeds wanted.

Since last April, nearly a year later, there has been not one single move forward for land use planning at the POT.

However, the City and POT are working covertly to bring in more dirty industries that will suck dry Tacoma’s precious fresh water supply while only worsening public health in our area. Methanol, LNG, coal trains, gravel pits – where are the sustainable energy businesses, or at the very least ones that are known to be less polluting?

Cancer rates here high enough already.

It is time for the POT, the City and the people work together about the best use for all that vacant land at the Port.

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Citizen initiative attack saga continues

AG v Port et al

The citizen initiative attack saga continues.

Just 13 days before Christmas, On December 12, 2016, Judge Culpepper granted the Port, the Chamber and the EDB their wish, a dismissal in the court case filed by the Attorney General’s Office in the lawsuit charging them with for violating election campaign laws.

On January 25, 2017 the Washington State Attorney General‘s Office filed an appeal of Judge Culpepper’s decision in Case No 16-2-10303-6 (State of WA v Port et al.). This case involves the Port’s use of public funds to block two water protection citizen initiatives in 2016 that Save Tacoma Water sponsored. Here is a link to the filings on the Pierce County Superior Court’s web site: https://is.gd/4PS1Gw

Kudos to Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson for standing up for the people’s right to petition their government without government financed campaigns.

At the start of the hearing in December, Arthur West, the person who filed the Citizen Action Letter in July, 2016, spoke with the judge about intervening in the case because he wanted to be sure the state argued the fact that the Port had conducted a full fledged campaign against STW including talking points and meetings with the News Tribune Editorial Board. A public records request found the email exchanges between the Port and the City. Judge Culpepper denied the request.

On December 19, 2016, Arthur West filed another Citizen Action Letter regarding his motion to intervene. The 45 day clock is ticking and will soon run out, so an update is due soon.

During the court hearing in December, the two sides argued over whether a public agency like the Port, can use public funds (money spent on the lawsuit against STW that tossed off the ballot our water protection initiatives) and public facilities. The State argued the Port, Chamber and EDB needed to disclose their activities with the Public Disclosure Commission.

The political power brokers’ lead attorney, representing the Chamber, argued that filing a lawsuit was part of the Port’s normal activities and was not campaigning and therefore no need to disclose with the PDC. The attorneys for the EDB and Chamber sang the same song.

The tune stuck with the judge and after just 20 minutes in his chamber, he re-entered the courtroom and presented the political power brokers their early Christmas gift, a dismissal.

The judge listened to arguments about when a political campaign starts. The PDC law is very clear. STW had to file reports within two weeks of any campaign activity, which included our petitioning activity that began in January of 2016. The PDC clearly wants the public to know what is going on with citizen initiative campaigns and who or what organizations are funding the sponsors and the opponents of issues headed to the ballot. Fair enough. Citizens do that all the time. But now, with this ruling, a single judge (who is about to retire) has now given the green light to all public agencies to use taxpayer funds to sue citizen groups and not tell anyone! Wow, just when we thought things could not get worse, they did.  At the very end of the court hearing the taxpayers came under yet another attack.

After the judge gave his gift dismissal ruling, Carolyn Lake, attorney for the POT (Port of Tacoma) popped up like a Jack-in-the Box asking the judge to pay for the legal fees and costs involved with the AG’s lawsuit against them and the other defendants.

Judge Culpepper is all primed for his next go round with his friends tomorrow morning. The POT and their rich powerful friends want the taxpayers to pay their legal fees again. Does anyone besides me, think their legal bills will be padded?

Please attend the court hearing if you can. It is important that other people witness this amazing, unprecedented attack on the initiative process. If the judge gives the POT, EDB and the Chamber their legal fees, that means our tax dollars will be used yet again to pay attorneys’ fees.

One thing is for sure, the only winners in the case are the attorneys cashing their checks for legal fees that are undermining the citizens right to vote. They should all be ashamed of themselves not racing to the bank to cash their checks.

Kate Martin wrote this report for the News Tribune http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/politics-government/article120992953.html

Make a comment on this story, or the one she will most likely be writing for the TNT regarding Friday’s hearing. The online report should show up Friday afternoon sometime and in the Saturday print edition.

Let the people vote!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Background~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
In August, the AGO filed the lawsuit in response to a Citizen Action letter filed by Olympia resident and long time activist Arthur West. The State Attorney General’s Office (“AGO”) filed a case in Pierce County Superior Court alleging campaign finance violations by Port of Tacoma officials, the Economic Development Board of Tacoma-Pierce County (“the EDB”), and the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce (“the Chamber”).

The complaint alleges that Port officials violated RCW 42.17A.555 by using public funds and facilities to litigate against two ballot propositions promoted by Save Tacoma Water. The AGO alleges that the POT, EDB and the Chamber violated RCW 42.17A.255 by failing to disclose independent expenditures they made opposing the propositions in the same lawsuit.

For those who cannot make the court hearing, we will send out an email later to report what happened.

~~~~~~~~~~~

More information about this case go to our FaceBook page to download documents:  https://is.gd/8h0zqY … A copy of the Washington State Attorney General’s complaint against the Port of Tacoma can be found here: https://is.gd/8h0zqY … The Port’s Motion to Dismiss is here: https://is.gd/uXbwpO

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AG’s Campaign Finance lawsuit against Port of Tacoma et al

Attorneys during the court hearing on Dec. 14, 2016.

Just 11 days before Christmas, On December 13, Judge Culpepper granted the Port, the Chamber and the EDB their wish, a dismissal in the court case filed by the Attorney General’s Office.

At the start of the hearing, Arthur West, the person who filed the Citizen Action Letter last July, spoke with the judge about intervening in the case because he wanted to be sure the state argued the fact that the Port had conducted a full fledged campaign against STW including talking points and meetings with the News Tribune Editorial Board. A public records request found the email exchanges between the Port and the City. Judge Culpepper denied the request.

Two days after the court date, Arthur West filed another Citizen Action Letter pointing out the campaign the Port the others participated in. A public records request revealed the documents in email exchanges. The 45 day time clock for action by the Public Disclosure Commission is ticking and is about to run out.

STW is keeping an eye on this very important development in this case.
During court arguments in December, the two sides argued over whether a public agency like the Port, can use public funds (money spent on the lawsuit against STW that tossed off the ballot our water protection initiatives) and public facilities. The State argued the Port, Chamber and EDB needed to disclose their activities with the Public Disclosure Commission.

The political power brokers’ lead attorney, representing the Chamber, argued that filing a lawsuit was part of the Port’s normal activities and was not campaigning and therefore no need to disclose with the PDC. The attorneys for the EDB and Chamber sang the same song.

The tune stuck a chord with the judge and after just 20 minutes in his chamber, he re-entered the courtroom and presented the political power brokers their early Christmas gift, a dismissal.

The judge listened to arguments about when a political campaign starts. The PDC law is very clear. STW had to file reports within two weeks of any campaign activity, which included our petitioning activity that began in January of 2016. The PDC clearly wants the public to know what is going on with citizen initiative campaigns and who or what organizations are funding the sponsors and the opponents of issues headed to the ballot. Fair enough. Citizens do that all the time. But now, with this ruling, a single judge (who retired a month after this ruling) has now given the green light to all public agencies to use taxpayer funds to sue citizen groups and not tell anyone! Wow, just when we thought things could not get worse, they did.  At the very end of the court hearing the taxpayers came under yet another attack.

After the judge gave his gift dismissal ruling, Carolyn Lake, attorney for the POT (Port of Tacoma) popped up like a Jack-in-the Box asking the judge to pay for the legal fees and costs involved with the AG’s lawsuit against them and the other defendants.

Judge Culpepper is all primed for his next go round with his friends in motions requesting more than $140,000 in legal fees. The POT and their rich powerful friends want the taxpayers to pay their legal fees again. Does anyone besides me, think their legal bills will be padded?

A small group of dedicated people witnessed this amazing, unprecedented attack on the initiative process on Friday late afternoon, when most people had taken the day off early to celebrate the Christmas Holiday week-end. If, correction, when the judge gives the POT, EDB and the Chamber their legal fees, that will mean our tax dollars will be used yet again to pay attorneys’ fees to prevent voters from voting on protecting our water.

One thing is for sure, the only winners in the case are the attorneys cashing their checks for legal fees that are undermining the citizens right to vote. They should all be ashamed of themselves not racing to the bank to cash their checks.

Kate Martin wrote this report for the News Tribune http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/politics-government/article120992953.html

Let the people vote!


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Background~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
In August, the AGO filed the lawsuit in response to a Citizen Action letter filed by Olympia resident and long time activist Arthur West. The State Attorney General’s Office (“AGO”) filed a case in Pierce County Superior Court alleging campaign finance violations by Port of Tacoma officials, the Economic Development Board of Tacoma-Pierce County (“the EDB”), and the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce (“the Chamber”).

The complaint alleges that Port officials violated RCW 42.17A.555 by using public funds and facilities to litigate against two ballot propositions promoted by Save Tacoma Water. The AGO alleges that the POT, EDB and the Chamber violated RCW 42.17A.255 by failing to disclose independent expenditures they made opposing the propositions in the same lawsuit.


Save Tacoma Water  sent a letter to Attorney General Bob Ferguson asking the AG to include the City of Tacoma in the lawsuit filed against the Port of Tacoma et al for violating RCW 42.17A. A public records request submitted by STW revealed a six page document called Confidentiality and Common Interest Agreement between the City of Tacoma and the Port of Tacoma.

It was August 15, 2016 when the Washington State Attorney General filed the lawsuit against the Port of Tacoma, Tacoma/Pierce County Chamber of Commerce and the Pierce County Economic Development Board for using public funds and facilities against the Water Protection Petition – a citizen initiative sponsored by Save Tacoma Water. The News Release sent out by his office reads in part:

The complaint alleges that Port officials violated RCW 42.17A.555 by using public funds and facilities against two ballot propositions promoted by the group “Save Tacoma Water.” The AGO alleges that the EDB and the Chamber violated RCW 42.17A.255 by failing to disclose independent expenditures they made opposing the propositions in the same lawsuit.

Attorney General's Complaint

The AGO filed the lawsuit in response to a Citizen Action letter filed by Olympia resident and long time activist Arthur West. In 20 days the defendants must respond. Well, that hasn’t yet. Apparently the AG’s office has agreed to an extension for the response.

From the AGO News Release: “Washington’s campaign disclosure laws demand transparency and accountability,” Attorney General Bob Ferguson said. “Washington elections, including the financial forces that drive them, will take place in the clear light of day.”

Arthur West files Citizen Action Letter with the PDC and the AG

Arthur West

Arthur West’s letter claimed public funds (Pierce County taxpayers), were being illegally used in the expenditures for the Port’s lawsuit against STW. On July 1, 2016, Judge Nevin tossed off the ballot the voters right to vote on whether a water permit should be issued to a water user needing more than a million gallons of fresh water a day. The AG complaint “piles on”, as it is known in the legal world (where charges are added to the original complaint) – adding the charge of use public facilities, which is a more serious offense. What is noteworthy is, the AG’s lawsuit names the Port of Tacoma Commissioners personally. Now the shoe is on the other foot as the Port’s lawsuit against STW personally named Donna Waters and Sherry Bockwinkel plus Jon and Jane Does 1-5 – in the power brokers attempt to intimidate all the leaders of the volunteer citizen group. A court date has not yet been set and no response as of this latest update.

AG-files-campaign-finance-complaint-against-Port-of-Tacoma-officials,-EDB,-Chamber-of-Commerce-_-Washington-State-WS

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Olympia income tax initiative likely to remain on November ballot

Olympia income tax initiative likely to remain on November ballot

The Olympian – SEPTEMBER 2, 2016

A group called Opportunity for Olympia collected thousands of signatures in support of a 1.5 percent tax on all household income above $200,000 within city limits to create a college tuition fund for Olympia high school graduates.

Once again Judge Jack Nevin interceded to remove a citizens’ initiative from the ballot.

However,

Court of Appeals Commissioner Aurora Bearse ruled Friday to stay — a legal term for “halt” — a portion of a decision by Pierce County Superior Court Judge Jack Nevin last month that would have kept the initiative off the ballot.