Council endorses two ballot measures

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Tacoma City Council officially announced its support for ballot measures regarding arts funding and climate change on Oct. 9. Both measures are on the ballot in the general election on Nov. 6.

The first is on the ballot for Tacoma voters. The Council passed a resolution in support of passage of Proposition 1.  It would create a funding method for Tacoma Creates. This would provide financial support for arts, culture, science and heritage programs around the city. Money raised would come from a sales tax increase of one-tenth of one percent. If approved by voters, it goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2019 and would last for seven years.

Councilmember Ryan Mello said prior investments in the arts have gone into buildings, while this would “be an investment in people.”

Councilmember Catherine Ushka noted the measure would address inequity in funding arts in urban areas. “Stand with me on this moment in history,” she declared.

The other measure will appear on the statewide ballot, Initiative 1631. The council passed a resolution in support of what was listed as the “Clean Air, Clean Energy” initiative. It would charge pollution fees on sources of greenhouse gas pollutants and use the revenue to reduce pollution, promote clean energy address climate impacts. It would impose a fee that would start at $15 per ton on carbon emissions starting in 2020. The initiative calls for investing 70 percent on funds raised on clean energy. Another 25 percent would go to improving streams and forests, with the rest going to communities impacted by climate change or a shift in using fossil fuels. It is estimated to raise about $2.2 billion in its first five years.

One aspect of the measure that has drawn criticism is that it exempts some large industrial operations. One is the state’s only coal-fired energy plant. The Trans-Alta facility near Centralia is exempt, although a prior agreement with the state has it scheduled to close by 2025.

Councilmember Lillian Hunter said the Trans-Alta exemption is one problem she has with the initiative. The cost of gasoline is expected to rise 13 to 14 cents per gallon. She expressed concern for the impact this would have on consumers and local truck drivers who move freight. Hunter said she supports Initiative 1631, with reservations.

Mello noted the broad range of support for the measure. “This is the most diverse coalition supporting an initiative in state history.”

Councilmember Justin Camarata said society has been kicking this problem down the road for too long. With more severe impacts of climate change expected to arrive within 20 years, we no longer have the option of ignoring it, he observed. “We have to create a better future now. We have to tax carbon now.”

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