Public input on city project planning?

The sometimes volatile subject of city project planning was the focus of a panel discussion at yesterday’s City Club of Tacoma luncheon at the Sheraton ballroom.
Representatives of city government, the public and the press made up the panel for the program.
Panel members included:
n Alexander Wu, a San Francisco-based architect with KMD Architectural Firm;
n Blaine Johnson, a Tacoma developer;
n Charlie Solverson, Tacoma Public Works;
n Steve Albert, City Club of Tacoma president;
n Ted Johnson, program moderator;
nJ.J. McCament, Tacoma Economic Development Department;
n Peter Callaghan, representing the editorial board of the Tacoma News Tribune; and
n Malcolm Russell, representing the public sector already involved in the process.
McCament said ideas for projects come from all over, and the ones that get the most serious consideration are the ones that provide a basic public service and have a major impact on the local economy.
She described the city’s project planning process as thorough and repetitive, although she conceded “the government process can be daunting.”
Education, simplification of the process and paying attention to constituents would help the city improve the city’s decision making, she said.
Public input is more important than ever now that Tacoma is in the midst of a construction and development boom, Russell said.
“I have a citizen’s interest in what’s going on here in Tacoma,” he said.
Callaghan echoed that statement: “It’s my money being spent. We need to have a say.”
It’s the city’s responsibility to involve the public in the process, Callaghan said, and the responsibility of the press to cover such stories and get the information out to the public.
He conceded The News Tribune was late in its coverage of the Cosmos development.
As a developer, Johnson said he thought Tacoma was moving in the right direction, but there needed to be more dialogue between the city and the public.
There must be harmony between too much consensus, which would paralyze projects and not enough consensus, where the public feels left out, Russell noted. “There’s got to be a middle ground,” he said, stressing the public’s early involvement in project planning.
An optimistic Wu said Tacoma has an ambitious city government, describing that as a good thing, because the city has direction.
“I think one thing we all concur on is we have a great city,” Albert said to applause, ending the day’s discussion.