Tacoma City Council OKs charter review committee appointments

Tacoma City Council Tuesday appointed 15 people to serve on a committee that will review the city’s charter and make recommendations for changes this spring.

The 61-year-old charter serves as Tacoma’s governing document and is reviewed every 10 years by a citizens committee. Any proposed changes are then reviewed by councilmembers before they are approved or rejected by Tacoma voters. Ten years ago, the committee recommended nearly two-dozen charter changes. Councilmembers pared that list down to 11 proposed changes, and voters approved all the changes.

More than 50 people submitted applications last year to serve on the committee. Last month, Tacoma City Council’s Government Performance and Finance Committee interviewed 14 candidates and made the following recommendations for appointments: Bill Baarsma (Chair), Theresa Baker, Gary BrackettMabel Edmonds,Tim FarrellEric HahnCharles HorneJustin LeightonMark MartinezJames MerrittJohn MessinaKenneth Miller, Patricia Talton, Catherine Ushka, and Justin Van Dyk.

Councilmembers formally approved the recommendations on Tuesday.

“There’s going to be a lot of work involved in this,” said Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland during the council meeting this week. “The reason we embark on this is that every few years we take a look at our constitution, our city charter, and make sure that we have a structure of government that’s going to ensure Tacoma is the best city it can possibly be.”

“We’ll certainly welcome citizens to weigh in and participate in this process,” said former Tacoma Mayor Baarsma, who served on charter review committees in 1973 and 1983, and will chair the new committee. “There are two things that are important to me. First, no hidden agendas. We want to be open and transparent. Secondly, we want to give everybody the opportunity who wishes to comment to give them that chance.” Baarsma noted Horne served on the charter review committee in 2004, and Messina served on the charter review committee in 1973. “So we have some members with seasoned backgrounds,” said Baarsma, who added that all committee members have a “keen interest in the city and in the charter.”

The charter review committee’s first meeting will be held on Mon., Jan. 13, at 6 p.m. at Tacoma City Hall. Charter change recommendations will be submitted to councilmembers by Tues., May 6.

“We are very excited about the caliber of people,” said Mayor Strickland.

To read the Tacoma Daily Index‘s complete and comprehensive coverage of Tacoma’s charter review, click on the following links:

Todd Matthews is editor of the Tacoma Daily Index and recipient of an award for Outstanding Achievement in Media from the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation for his work covering historic preservation in Tacoma and Pierce County. He has earned four awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, including third-place honors for his feature article about the University of Washington’s Innocence Project; first-place honors for his feature article about Seattle’s bike messengers; third-place honors for his feature interview with Prison Legal News founder Paul Wright; and second-place honors for his feature article about whistle-blowers in Washington State. His work has also appeared in All About Jazz, City Arts Tacoma, Earshot Jazz, Homeland Security Today, Jazz Steps, Journal of the San Juans, Lynnwood-Mountlake Terrace Enterprise, Prison Legal News, Rain Taxi, Real Change, Seattle Business Monthly, Seattle magazine, Tablet, Washington CEO, Washington Law & Politics, and Washington Free Press. He is a graduate of the University of Washington and holds a bachelor’s degree in communications. His journalism is collected online at wahmee.com.