City and tribal leaders discuss issues of common concern

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In an effort to improve communication and work on issues of common concern, Tacoma City Council and Puyallup Tribal Council met on Nov. 20 at Tacoma Municipal Building. The topics were homelessness and land use on the Tideflats.

Tribal Council Chairman Bill Sterud noted the large amount of homeless people in the vicinity of the tribe’s Emerald Queen Casino. He mentioned the stability site for the homeless, on city-owned land on Puyallup Avenue a few blocks north of the casino.

“All of us are impacted by it,” Tribal Councilmember Tim Reynon said of homelessness. “Those on the street are suffering and our society is too prosperous to allow their situation to continue.” He noted efforts the tribe has done to address the problem, including housing programs, mental health treatment, donations to non-profit organizations and an annual event where the homeless receive various services.

Mayor Victoria Woodards noted that Tribal Councilmember Annette Bryan was appointed to a task force studying housing affordability. The group held a meeting in October with mayors from around the county.

City Councilmember Conor McCarthy said about 90 percent of those who utilize the stability site need supportive housing, something the area has a severe lack of. “This is front and center for the city right now.”

The liquefied natural gas plant that Puget Sound Energy wants to build on the Tideflats was also discussed. Bryan made a case for the need for a supplemental environmental impact statement for the project. A number of changes to the project have been made since the original environmental impact statement, according to Bryan. These include an increased ground flare height, the number of heavy-haul trucks that will roll through the Tideflats, and the number of ships that would use fuel from the plant. “We need a fair and proper analysis of what the project is.”

Woodards said the city hired outside legal counsel to study the matter and make a recommendation on the need for a supplemental environmental impact statement. Their decision is expected soon.

The mayor mentioned the city installing the tribal flag in council chambers this past summer. That same day, Sterud sent her a letter requesting this meeting. She would like to see the two bodies meet on a regular basis, noting her council does so with Tacoma School Board and Metro Parks Board.

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