By Justin Leighton
Tacoma Weekly suggests the proposed ordinance by Councilmember Ryan Mello needs compromise (“Store should not be punished over carts,” staff editorial, TW 10/14).
Central Neighborhood Council is thankful for the leadership of Mello, who is responding to concerns of his constituents and neighborhood groups. Even though citizens are driving this effort, there is some reluctance to be bold and innovative to solve this growing problem of blight. The issue at hand is two fold: the proposed ordinance is believed to be too heavy handed and there is a lack of options for people who need help transporting their groceries.
The first issue, when compared to other communities, is actually quite light-handed. The proposed fine of $25 per cart is far below Renton and Lakewood with their $50 fine, and Auburn with a $30 fine or $70 disposal fee. Other cities on the West Coast have $50 to $100 fines, such as Beaverton and Forest Grove, Ore., and Long Beach and Fresno, Calif. Small stores, non-profits and stores with a wheel locking system would all be exempt under Mello’s proposed ordinance. Central Neighborhood Council considers this a compromise we all can live with.
As much as we would love for the private sector to be left to solve this issue, the job is clearly not getting done. For example the Safeway stores in Hilltop, South End and East Side have had a private cart-returning program in place for several years; yet the problem has done nothing but worsen over the years. This method does not provide the community with a central contact to report abandoned carts in their yards, sidewalks, back alleys, or even in our beautiful parks. This is why it is essential for the City of Tacoma to work with one private contractor, which is proposed in the ordinance. The contractor will guarantee pick up within 24 hours after being called, a standard that cannot be done today. The fear with the Weekly’s suggestion of stores retaining their own cart retrieval contractor is some stores may not do it at all, leaving the City of Tacoma at square one the problem.
This leads to the second issue at hand: providing an option for those who need help transporting their goods. There has been concern about passing this ordinance because it could unduly hurt the poor. Central Neighborhood Council along with other community leaders are dedicated to seek a way to provide free or reduced fold-up carts to those needing them. Portions of the fine could be used to purchase and administer this program. However, the fines will not generate enough revenue to kick-start and sustain this program. For this reason Central Neighborhood Council is also committed, upon passage of an ordinance, to champion the means necessary to fund this program including seeking eligibility for an innovative grant to purchase carts. Moreover we are dedicated to partner with other neighborhood groups to do the same.
Central Neighborhood Council has compromised through this process since it was first raised more than two years ago and recently emphasized in a letter to Tacoma City Council on April 7, 2011. The CNC wants real solutions that will resolve the issue across the city. We want to create a better community that makes Tacoma safe, clean and attractive. Justin Leighton is the secretary of Central Neighborhood Council and is a Hilltop resident.
Justin Leighton is the secretary of Central Neighborhood Council and is a Hilltop resident.