The terms "preserving our community" and "saving the city" carry distinctly independent definitions. I thought it was a point worth mentioning. In my latest blog entry titled "Redefining Myself", I don't believe I drove this point home. 
    "Preserving our community" means we retain the ingredients that make up our foundation while continuing to build. Examples of this are: community gathering establishments (Senior Center, Youth Activity Center, Pacific Park, and Library), Community Services (Fire Department, Police Department, Post Office, Churches, Senior Center, Youth Activity Center, and Library), Utility Services (water, sewer, garbage, electric, gas, phone, cable or satelite). 
    "Saving the city" means we retain the name Pacific. We keep our Mayor, City Council, Police Department, and City Employees. 
    If we "lose the city", we may have a different name, a different Police Department, the Mayor and Council would no longer be required, the City Employees (what's left of them) would no longer be required, and we may become a part of Auburn or Unincorporated King County. The Fire Department, Library, Churches, Post Office, Utility Services (still available may change provider), and Park (belongs to King Co.) stay. The Senior Center and Youth Activity Center may carry different names, however they represent the heart of this community and no way would we let them go. Some of the grants may need to come from other sources, but as far as I'm concerned, they stay. 
    The intent with this blog entry is simple. Our community is torn right now. It's a stressful, overwhelming, uncertain time and I can see this is wearing on people. I've found peace with acceptance. We may lose the city and yes, the "unknown" is scary. What eases fear? A strong support system (community), education (stay informed), perspective (try to be objective and realistic), and preparation (proactive planning). I would also recommend recognizing and accepting your own limits, This is not a political site, and in no way do I want or expect you to change your personal views. I respect all views on this issue. I just found some peace around this for myself and wanted to offer it to you.
     In life, there are no guarantees, but for what it's worth, I firmly believe with a strong community, we will be just fine no matter the outcome.
    Have a great evening and thanks for reading = )
Joshua Putnam
7/26/2012 12:52:21 am

I wish I could share your optimism about how little would change if Pacific fails as a City.

City Park is owned by King County as flood control property, not as a park -- does King County Parks have the money and desire to adopt a new park, considering their recent record of getting rid of local parks? Or would King County Flood Control reassert its desire to clear the park of anything that gets in the way of flood storage?

The Valley Regional Fire Authority is a creation of the cities of Auburn, Algona, and Pacific. If Pacific fails, what legal authority will the VRFA have to continue service in Pacific? Who would replace Pacific's members on the VRFA board? Would the VRFA be ready to buy the Pacific fire station when Pacific liquidates? Would Pacific residents really remain with the VRFA, or would they find themselves served by County fire districts like other unincorporated areas in King and Pierce counties?

Not to mention maintaining streets -- people may complain about the the condition of city streets, but are you familiar with King County's plans to allow lower-volume unincorporated streets to return to gravel?

You can see how well King County has maintained the existing Interurban Trail -- what do you expect them to do if they receive the land for the trail extension south into Pierce County? Will they suddenly find money for the ignored southern fringes of the County? Will they coordinate with Pierce County to continue the trail south?

Pierce County was lead agency on Stewart Road for much of the troubled history of the current project. What do you expect them to do if Pacific collapses? After Pacific liquidates assets to repay more than $800,000 in grants already spent, and loses any remaining grant funding to the City, do you think Pierce County will suddenly step up to the plate after years of neglecting this project?

The Senior Center building is property of the City of Pacific -- do you know any organization that is ready to buy it, insure it, and maintain it to continue services if the City liquidates? The City Gym is in the same situation -- it's a city asset. Who is ready to buy it for the community?

That's just a sampling -- we'd also be losing local control of public works, zoning, planning, business licensing, animal control, code enforcement, police staffing levels, traffic safety projects, sidewalk improvements, etc.

Most of what City government deals with in normal times is the tedious details of providing countless services to City residents. It would be comforting to believe someone is ready to step in and take over all of those functions, but I don't see them waiting in the wings.

That's why I believe Pacific residents should continue to take the possible loss of the City extremely seriously -- its collapse would mean real changes in quality of life for our community.

David Messinger
7/26/2012 10:28:23 pm

Well said Josh...working for a city myself the stakes on the table our extremely high...most certainly...there will will be collateral damage to city residents no matter what changes at this date...many residents are in for a very unpleasant wake up call...

7/27/2012 12:39:12 pm

Thank you for commenting. I think it would be fantastic if you could get the answers to these questions. Someone needs to plan ahead and look out for the community so if you are willing, I'd love to post the information.

Joshua Putnam
7/28/2012 03:19:02 pm

I have been looking into these issues, but I I'm afraid that for many of them the answer isn't clear, or depends on decisions by county councils or government agencies. Cities don't fail all that often, especially cities straddling county lines that are part of a regional fire authority.

7/27/2012 03:00:50 pm

Councilman Putnam,

I can appreciate your concern and those are good questions. As I see it Pacific has failed over and over for many years. I grew up in the Auburn area and graduated from Auburn HS. I first lived in Pacific back in the 80’s, moved away for a time, and have since moved back to Pacific. Pacific has always had a contentious political climate so I am not surprised with the current situation. Albeit there seems to be more of a disconnect now than I have ever remembered in the past.
Sure the park is owned by King County. Pacific has had the opportunity to do something good with that park for many years but has failed to act. Very little improvements have taken place, currently we have the “green monster” wall and white bags of sand to view at the park. How about the park at the City Hall complex? Not much new there either. I would bet that parks have taken a rear seat in the bus of public spending.
As far as VRFA I was not a fan of it to begin with. But since I am now paying for it I would assume if Pacific were incorporated into Auburn they would receive Pacific’s share and could take over service without interruption. The Pacific VRFA board member would be moot at that point. The fire station will still be VRFA.
As far as streets go there is no stellar job there either. If we became part of Auburn they would receive our tax dollars and from what I see Auburns streets are far better than Pacific’s ever have been. As far as the King County streets “pavement to gravel plan”, I would take that risk.
You mentioned Stewart Road. There is tri-fecta going on there with Sumner, Pierce County and Pacific. The most affected is Pacific and the biggest problem the anemic White River Bridge that nobody wants to lay claim to for the cost of replacement. I believe the grants and funds will work out, again I am willing to take that risk.
The Senior Center and for that fact the whole City Hall Complex belong to Pacific. However if we were to incorporate into Auburn the tax dollars that we spend to maintain the city of Pacific would go to Auburn who could then maintain the complex and quite possibly do a much better job. Have you visited any of Auburns parks recently? They are first rate in my opinion.
I don’t see it as Pacific liquidating, just becoming part of something better. I have more faith in the leadership of Auburn than that of Pacific. I believe our community would receive greater benefit with the services that Auburn can provide. We could still retain our community identity, just as Auburn has theirs with the downtown, West Hill, Lea Hill, and Lakeland neighborhoods. Auburn has a more robust business district that we may tap into as well. Auburn has everything Pacific has and more police, fire, code enforcement, planners’ public works & grounds, etc.
As I said I can appreciate your concerns as to the future of Pacific. But I see no future in Pacific and would like to move on without the constant incestuous infighting of our political and city services departments.

7/27/2012 03:47:59 pm

Your insightful response is exactly what our community could use right now. Thank you = )

7/28/2012 02:40:46 pm

Well put, SD. Somebody's thinking outside the box. You ideas are welcome on SpeedTrapCity. They represent an interesting alternative to what's gone on before, and people should be at least considering your ideas. It would be nice to see your name. Robert

Joshua Putnam
7/28/2012 02:59:07 pm

Annexation into Auburn would certainly provide a cleaner transition than dissolution into unincorporated status, and their higher taxes do pay for more services than Pacific can afford.

But that's also a much more complex and time-consuming process. I am not aware of any organization ready to shepherd such a proposal through the Boundary Review Board and organize campaigns to win voter approval, especially on the timeline available to the City of Pacific before the cancellation of our insurance on December 31.

Nor am I convinced voters in Pacific would approve annexation into Auburn -- our voters have rejected much smaller tax increases in the recent past, and many of the people expressing support for housecleaning at City Hall have painted Auburn as no less "corrupt" than Pacific.

That leaves us with the prospect of Pacific failing long before any annexation to Auburn would occur.

I think we need to understand what that would really mean, and need to continue trying to get our house in order before December, even if in the long run the voters decide not to keep Pacific an independent city.

7/30/2012 09:44:19 am

I am a newcomer to this blog, but this post and the preceding 'Redefining Myself' have impressed me.

I have found myself increasingly disillusioned by the chaos at City Hall. Like you, I have lived here for about 5 years. In that time, it seemed to me that Pacific was a nice, peaceful place to live. Not perfect, but free from many of the problems that larger cities tend to have. In this last year, I have had to reevaluate that opinion.

I already knew that City buildings weren't very modern, the park was barren, and the streets aren't in the best of shape. I didn't really mind, I thought that since it's a smaller town and a bad economy, it couldn't be helped. After hearing about some of the ways the city was using money, I changed my mind.

I was rather shocked to hear that the police department wanted five new cars. My immediate thoughts were "What's wrong with the cars they have now, are they all broken?" and "Do we have or even need that many police officers?". Then, hearing that the city had been paying over a quarter of a million dollars a year for just four of the city's employees, I really started to worry about how our taxes are being spent.

It was around this time that I started hearing about a rift between the Mayor and the City Council. This got my attention, and I tried to look into what was going on. The Mayor's newsletter gave his side, painting a picture of someone fighting entrenched interests to help the city, hampered by a hostile City Council. I then tried to learn the Council's side of the story, but information on the Council was rather more limited. I could find some older meeting agendas on the city website, for example, but no record at all of what actually went on in council meetings. This didn't sit well with me, but I had my own things to deal with, so I hoped it would work itself out and went back to my life. Perhaps that was a mistake.

This month, I learned that not only had things not improved, but the problems had grown to the point where the Mayor was arrested inside City Hall, right in front of conveniently present cameras. As disturbing as it was to see an 82 year old war veteran and elected mayor with his face pressed into a wall, being hadcuffed like a dangerous criminal by his own city's police, the fact that it had even reached that point was even more shocking.

I looked through news articles to get a better idea of what the problems are, and found out that the police department was already under an ethics investigation, and that the City Council asked for the Mayor to be investigated also, on suspicion of destroying city records. I also learned that there was some kind of feud between the Mayor and the City Clerk, with each one trying to lock the other out of the records room. It was apparently a culmination of this last dispute that led to the arrest, with the Mayor claiming that he needs the records to keep the city running, and bringing several people to remove them from the locked room, which had been placed under police guard! I started to wonder if everyone in City Hall had lost their minds.

Just this week, I found a yellow paper stuck to my door. It reminded me of the notices that the Mayor had distributed before his election, which is a bizarre irony. According to the letter, the city is doomed and it's all the Mayor's fault. If we can just get rid of him, Pacific will magically be saved, so can anyone spare some money to pay the lawyers? To say that I found it offensive would be a gross understatement.

The very idea that people in our community had banded together for the sole purpose of removing the Mayor, with all of the problems our city has, seemed absurd. Sorting through the mountain of political rhetoric painting the mayor as a mad tyrant somewhere between Nero and Caligula Caesar, I found the central issue of the insurance. The city is in danger of losing its insurance coverage, which it apparently requires in order to exist as a city. The reason for this was yet another unpleasant surprise: the positions in city government that had opened when the Mayor fired the over-paid previous occupants remained empty.

Now, the last that I had heard was that the Mayor had picked replacements, but the City Council rejected them all back in May. What has City Hall been doing in the last 3 months that they couldn't find some way to fill four positions, especially since the city is in danger of failing without them? Did the Mayor not send any more candidates to the Council? Did the Council think his picks were so bad that losing the insurance is preferable to hiring them? Do both sides hate each other to such an irrational degree that they are willing to see the city die rather than find a way to compromise like we expect from our elected officials? And now this recall business, just one more absurdity taking attention away from solving the city's problems.

We have something on the order of 1% of the population of Pacific standing up to say that the election t

7/31/2012 03:45:24 am

Thank you for commenting. I am finding more and more, that folks are arriving at this conclusion. At this point, I am ready to work on developing a "Plan B". It would be nice to offer our community a positive and well researched alternative.
P.S. Your comment was cut off at the end so unfortunately I didn't get to read it, but I'd like to if you could resubmit the last portion.

7/31/2012 07:29:19 am

(continuing from the cut off)

We have something on the order of 1% of the population of Pacific standing up to say that the election that gave us the City Council was fine, but the election that gave us the Mayor was bad and should be changed. They sure are putting in a lot of effort to tell the news media how 'everybody' knows that the Mayor is at fault, and 'everybody' is suffering under the Mayor's tyranny, and 'everybody' demands he leave. It literally made me nauseous.

When I look at City Hall, I don't see a tyrant and the valiant citizens opposing him. I see an angry old man trying to change the city, and the people who are comfortable with the status quo trying to destroy him. Who is right? Nobody. Even if it's frustrating, the Mayor should be making more of an effort to work with the rest of the city government, even if he doesn't like them personally. Moreover, the City Council should be trying to find a way to compromise with the Mayor to accomplish the fundamental things needed to keep the city running.

It's fine to talk about community, and how we should all come together to help each other through this difficult time. There's nothing wrong with that. But there's another side to a community. A community doesn't exist solely for comfort. Sometimes a community has to say to some of its members, "You're wrong. Stop."

If we want to save both our city AND our community, that's what we need to do. We need to stand up as a community and tell the people that WE elected to stop fighting amongst themselves and do what's right for everyone, whether they like it or not.

7/31/2012 02:08:44 pm

I understand the concern that Pacific city residents have toward the dissolution or failure of the city. People feel that their city identity would be lost, that we would lose control of our local services, taxes would increase, and so on and so on. I disagree; we have already lost control, and control is just an illusion anyway.

Mayors and Council Members come and go but things in Pacific have always seemed to remain the same no matter who is in office. These same leaders install the cities department heads in well paid positions to the disillusionment of Pacific citizens. I understand the need to keep qualified city employees, and “fair market value” salaries need to be paid to retain these employee’s. There has to be a realistic limit to that, does a city of roughly 5000 people pay a department head the same as a department head of a city with much higher populations? With such a small budget and tax base as compared to larger neighboring cities of Auburn, Sumner, and Federal Way how can Pacific compete with those cities to retain these employees that might run to higher paying jobs. I’m no budget expert but it sure seems that this would be a losing proposition.

This is the same Pacific leadership that allowed a Police Chief to retain employment in the wake of suspected crimes committed while off duty. The Mayor and Council kept this Chief employed even though an independent investigation showed otherwise. The council even allowed the chief to become civil service protected which is not the norm in this state. Now the Chief can’t be fired without a civil service hearing and currently no less than three attorneys are involved to hear this matter. What a great decision that was! I struggled with the idea of leaving policing to others from outside Pacific. But seeing the choices the Pacific leadership chooses for our Top Cops I am not impressed. I am now under the impression that Pacific could do no worse by looking elsewhere.

All it takes is a look around our neighboring communities. Take West valley Ave for example. The Pacific section looks and drives like something left over from an apocalypse. Just to the south West Valley opens with smooth well serviced roadway to include a paved shoulder. Just to Pacific’s north near the transfer station the road again widens and is better maintained. Auburn has recently improved West Valley at Main St. The East Valley section roadway was no better than the west side. It seems since the development of Lakeland Hills East Valley has been improved. I have no facts to back it, but if I were a betting man I would say Auburn bore the brunt of the improvements to that portion. Otherwise it to would be nothing more than an old wagon train trail. Pacific has been making improvements to Stewart Ave but the problem is the White River Bridge that no entity wants to lay claim to for the cost of replacement, including Pacific.

I ride the Interurban Trail and Pacific’s section is by far the worst of all. Even Algona’s section is in better repair. I use nearby parks in Auburn and Federal Way because they are far superior to those here. I understand it is a matter of budget and in Pacific’s defense they may not be able to improve parks due to a small parks budget.

Councilman Putnam mentioned code enforcement. If there has been code enforcement it must not have been on the residential side. I see many properties in Pacific that need to be addressed as public nuisances/hazards. What about the vacant lots on Skinner @ 1St Ave with derelict earth moving equipment with broken out windows and graffiti, code enforce that? As a laymen citizen I have seen no real improvements in Pacific’s streets or grounds.

It just seems like status quo.

Councilman Putnam said in his post there needs to be some solvent plan to keep the city insured. Ok then; maybe the contracting of services will keep the city insurers at bay until an annexation could occur. I would be interested to know what issues the insurers have that would cancel the city’s insurance.

Think about it, Pacific will always have a small budget to operate on. We have very little real estate to move into other than a section on the west hill, of which are on septic and not really profitable to develop at this stage. Our manufacturing and industrial areas are anemic and disjointed. Even if it could be improved Sumner would be the real beneficiary as they have the property and better infrastructure to develop. Pacific can’t maintain what we already have let alone develop Manufacturing Industrial Centers.

As I said I can appreciate the concerns as to the future of Pacific. But I see no future in Pacific and would like to move on without the constant incestuous infighting of our political and city services departments. Pacific’s own politicos and city departments have done nothing but stall this communi

7/31/2012 04:48:10 pm

Thank you for yet another comment with excellent, well thought out points. Unfortunately, the blog must have a word limit so the end of your message was cut off. Would you be willing to resend the ending?

Joshua Putnam
8/11/2012 03:48:59 am

One technical clarification, since I commute year-round on the Interurban and this is an issue that I've been trying to address since my days on the Park Board -- the existing Interurban Trail in Pacific is a King County facility built largely on right-of-way the County leased from Puget Sound Energy.

King County's trail maintenance has been focused far north of us for many years, with a long and contentious project on the Burke-Gilman trail. They've probably spent enough on legal fees fighting Lake Forest Park to repair our section of the Interurban. (Meanwhile, the south end of the Interurban has received so little attention that at one point the County reportedly even let its lease expire so that it lost the authority to repave the trail if it wanted to!)

Pacific has been working to extend the Interurban south, and has made a few emergency repairs to sections of the existing Interurban, but the City doesn't have the authority or the money to remedy the County's decades of neglect of the County's trail.

Joshua Putnam
8/11/2012 04:08:35 am

On the question of what made the CIAW cancel our insurance -- according to the cancellation notice, they have two primary concerns:

1. Vacant management positions.

2. Actions that have created "entirely avoidable" legal risk for the City.

On management vacancies, the Mayor has repeatedly stated his intention not to fill many of the currently-vacant positions, and has not brought any candidates for these positions to Council. In mid-July he presented a rough draft of an alternative, a new organization chart that relies on outsourcing many key management roles as well as some current union work through interlocal agreements with some other local city.

He has so far been unable to find any local city willing to provide all those services. Meanwhile, Pacific's management positions sit vacant, and urgent work is not being done.

When urged by Council and the City Attorney to fill these positions at least temporarily while he works out his reorganization plans, the Mayor has said that would put the City "right back where he started in January." (That is, fully staffed, with a balanced budget.)

The insurance company said on July 2 that if we wanted the cancellation to be reconsidered, Pacific needed to act promptly to fill vacant management positions. Council has approved the only management candidate presented to us, the interim director of Community Services. But Council cannot fill positions on our own, we need the Mayor to do his part.

As I said when the Mayor presented his proposed reorganization, I'm not a fan of outsourcing management, but if the Mayor brings us an interlocal agreement that solves our insurance crisis, I'll vote for it. But if he can't make outsourcing work, and won't even begin the hiring process for key vacancies, I don't believe the insurance company will see the "prompt action" they're looking for.

8/1/2012 01:04:52 pm

As stated above Pacific’s own politicos and city departments have done nothing but stall this community. Pacific is surrounded by cities and communities that seem to thrive. We flounder and gain notoriety like the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s. I would rather pay my tax dollars to Auburn or anybody but Pacific who has shown it can operate a city and in a manner other than that of a bunch of grade school playground bullies. I have heard it said that Auburn is corrupt but have not seen evidence to support it; I would take that risk.

I wouldn’t see it as Pacific failing; just becoming part of something better I believe our community would receive greater benefit with the services that someone else can provide. We could still retain our community identity, just as Auburn has theirs with the downtown, West Hill, Lea Hill, and Lakeland neighborhoods. Our community is our people that live and work here not the government that claims to rule over it. I truly believe that if our politicos were to give up their positions in city government and put that same amount of time becoming community citizens in their neighborhoods this would be a better place to live.

Don’t get me wrong I realize that an annexation to Auburn would not make this community the Land of Oz paved with yellow brick roads. I just have more faith in the leadership of Auburn than that of Pacific and I would vote for an annexation to Auburn in a minute.


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