It was a good day for risk-takers at the Tacoma city council's study session Tuesday. Tacomans have to be heartened to see how quickly the Council blew the smoke off the Majority Report of the City Services Tax Task Force.
The chair of the task force wasn't halfway through a tedious Power Point presentation when Mayor Bill Baarsma pegged the principle recommendation as a "non-starter."
Some other apt questions followed from other Council members, which caused more discomfort. (e.g., the majority's suggestion was that the Council "explore" the alternative. The apt question? What about it needs exploring?)
My personal discomfort came in the few hours before the meeting. I spent it in solitude, with a focused visualization of something between an inquisition and a public dunking. As it turns out, I was called upon to introduce the Minority Report, and acquitted myself tolerably.
At least I didn't swallow my tie, and the Council's attention seemed to be in the "on" position.
If you've been following this adventure, you'll know why I couldn't go along with the majority and instead, with a single co-conspirator, submitted a Minority Report, containing actual revenue options and a clear critique of the main concept and its preferred (by the majority) variation.
At a minimum I think we salvaged something of the process with which to go forward, although "going forward" means being referred to the Finance Committee, not the early advisory referendum envisioned earlier. (The Council may have been more aware of our activities than I suspected.)
So, Rational Revenue Enhancement - 1, Self-Interested Process Manipulation - 0.
The "city services tax" concept is dead, insofar as it is a predominantly property based tax. There will be no shift from business to residents.
And the revenue options we developed in the Minority Report are still on the table, though it be a side table.
Tacoma's financing problems are not unique. If we can make something work here, it could work in other strapped Washington cities. The revenue gap is not going away without some treatment. I'll keep you posted.