Tacoma City Council held a special joint study session on Nov. 27 to focus on the subarea plan being developed for the manufacturing industrial center on the Tideflats at Port of Tacoma. This was the first such meeting on the subject to include a variety of stakeholders including the Port of Tacoma Commission, Pierce County Council and the Puyallup Tribe of Indians.
The purpose of the subarea plan is to offer a streamlined, comprehensive approach to future development at the Tideflats, one that embraces the concerns of all interested entities and the public at large. The first task is to hammer out an interlocal agreement among all the parties. With new Tacoma City Council members and a new Tacoma mayor coming on board after the New Year, the interlocal agreement looks to be completed in early 2018.
On Nov. 28 the Pierce County Council voted in favor of having a representative on the subarea planning committee, so their place at the table is now set.
Having the Puyallup Tribe present for this meeting marks a change for the better where port planning is concerned, as the Tribe has historically not been invited to take part in port decisions, with the liquefied natural gas (LNG) storage facility coming to the Tideflats being the most recent example.
In an eloquent and moving address to the assembled meeting attendees, Puyallup Chairman Bill Sterud spoke on this fact at the opening of the study session. He spoke of the Land Claims Settlement between the Tribe and City of Tacoma signed in 1990 that mandated through federal law that the Tribe be consulted on land use issues that impact their reservation.
“The Settlement agreement said something about consultation – that when you’re going to do something, you’re going to contact (the Tribe) and we’ll contact you and move forward. What’s happened is that’s been forgotten. The City of Tacoma has ignored it, the Port of Tacoma has ignored it,” he said.
Looking back to 1990, he told of tensions between the city and Tribe, as tribal leaders worked to establish solid footing for the future of its membership. “There was some strong animosity back then, at riot level because we wanted what we deserved. I don’t believe we got what we deserved, but we got something. We got the ability to compete economically, not forgetting that we are a fishery and we protect our treaty at all costs and we will continue to do that.
“I guess what I’m saying is we’ll do what we have to do to protect our treaty, to protect our reservation, to protect our people and to protect the future.”
Puyallup Tribal Councilwoman Annette Bryan also attended the meeting. “The Puyallup Tribe has fought to clean up the Port of Tacoma, and we have a vested interest in what is allowed to be developed there,” she said in a statement following the meeting. “More importantly, this is an opportunity to unpack what’s in the Land Claims Settlement and make sure all parties are following through with their commitments. It is our responsibility to protect the Tribe’s treaty rights and resources.”
Mayor Marilyn Strickland, who chaired the meeting, also said that there are certain obligations that city government has toward the Tribe’s Land Claims Settlement, and thus it is critical for the Tribe to be at the table.
“It’s time for us to all come together in the spirit of cooperation to figure out exactly what we want to do, to understand that there may be competing interests but really agreeing on a set of guiding principles about what we want to accomplish,” she said.
Port of Tacoma Chairman Dick Marzano assured Chairman Sterud that his words were heard and appreciated. “Thank you, Chairman, for those remarks and they don’t fall on deaf ears I can guarantee you that.
“We all want the same thing I believe. Within the next 20-30 years we will have close to a million people moving here. As we move forward we’re sure to have some disagreements but in the long run we’re trying to strive for the same thing. We’ll hopefully walk away better partners, understanding that we all need to strive together to make this a better place for those we leave it to.”
Marzano said that he and the port commission will make their part in developing the subarea plan a top priority so that it doesn’t take two to three years to complete it, as has been estimated thus far.
“I’m pleased that we’re all finally sitting down at the same table,” Strickland said. “We have to have the courage to have hard conversations with each other in public and have the safety and protection of saying what we need to say. Otherwise, we will walk away and trust is not built. I’m going to ask us all to speak honestly, to listen and hear each other.”
Strickland said that given the couple of weeks she has left as mayor, she could have coasted through but she chose to be involved in this meeting to set the stage for cooperation and inclusion.
“I want to make sure that whatever it is you decide to do…that the process must start from a place of mutual trust, respect and the safety to say what’s in our hearts and minds without being demonized for it… This is a city document and we could proceed on our own. We could partner with the Tribe and the two of us could do a subarea plan. More than anything else, we have to be open minded and thinking about what’s possible.
To hear a complete audio recording of the study session, including Puyallup Chairman Bill Sterud’s address, visit www.cityoftacoma.org/cms/one.aspx?objectId=6614.