Brad Collins and Sissi Bruch both spoke in favor of having City Council positions being limited to just two consecutive terms. Brad Collins at one point stated that there are always term limits in place, because "people can vote incumbents out." Of course, incumbent Collins ran unopposed this last time, which does somewhat undercut his point.
If you'll allow me to undercut my own argument for a moment...
On a similar note, Mayor Dan DiGuilio said that "voters can tell us when our term is up." But again, when races are unopposed, Dan, what then? (Mention was made during the discussion of the three unopposed Council races in the last election.)
In the end, essentially the entire Council - including Collins and Bruch - punted, and directed staff to "do outreach" to the community to find out what "the people" want. Cherie Kidd wants a survey sent out with utility bills, and Collins seemed to support that idea with his comments. In any case, staff will now spend time trying to think of ways to "do outreach." Said ideas will then have to come back to Council for approval. If they are then approved, then staff will actually initiate said "outreach" and eventually report the results back to Council. All of this will occur at a later date - probably a much later date.
As for the Nippon payout...City Attorney Bill Bloor started the discussion off with a recap of how the City got to this point. Back in October of 2011, the Bonneville Power Administration introduced a new two-tier billing methodology. In response to this, the City enacted a change in their own ordinances - a change that wasn't intended to change the Industrial Rate Class that Nippon is billed (and taxed) under. The amended ordinance included a complex methodology for calculating the Industrial Rate - and Nippon has challenged the City's new methodology from the start.
In October of 2013, Nippon made a formal claim against the City for a revised utility tax refund - to the tune of $394,000. City staff proposed that the City pay $200,000 to settle that claim. That money will come from the Unassigned Fund Balance (which is 28% of the General Fund), and not from utility reserves. Mind you, the City's utility departments have millions of dollars in reserves, but again, those won't be touched. This payout will, however, affect the General Fund, which is an ever-shrinking resource. City Manager Dan McKeen tried to make some lemonade out of this big, yellow lemon, by assuring the Council that this payout will "have no impact on electric utility rates." Left unsaid and undiscussed was what impacts there will be from blowing a $200,000 hole in the General Fund, though Bloor did state that "the 2014 budget will need to be amended."
As part of this settlement, the City also agrees to help Nippon try to extract even more of a refund from the State of Washington. Pretty sweet deal, yes? Pay the extortionist, then help them with their next extortion attempt.
Anyway, after giving his recap, and explaining how the City's own screwed up ordinance caused all this, Bloor defended the ordinance as being a "good one." Then, doubling back yet again, having just defended the ordinance, and explained that the City has just reviewed it, he told the Council that staff would review it again. Remember, staff time is money. How much money is all this reviewing going to cost? And who wants to bet that the next answer will come back the same: Looks good!
Speaking of good, Dan McKeen finally piped in to say that "Bill did a really good job." He also described the settlement (where Nippon gets over 50% of what they asked for from the City- plus help with the State) as the City and Nippon "agreeing to disagree." He said that twice, actually. Again, from Nippon's perspective, that's a pretty nice "disagreement."
Council members didn't have a lot to say after all that. Cherie Kidd, perhaps suffering a mild form of Stockholm Syndrome, described Nippon as having "made an honest attempt to work with us." Lee Whetham praised staff for their work. Only Sissi Bruch expressed being "a little less happy about the settlement," and was concerned that the matter festered because "ambiguity existed for such a long time."
But in the end, Brad Collins moved approval of the payout, Pat Downie seconded it, and the City Council voted unanimously to approve it. Nippon - part of a multi-billion dollar multinational corporation - can expect their check in the mail within ten business days.
Your money is about to take a trip abroad!
I wonder how many days it will take for staff to "amend" the 2014 budget to account for that new $200,000 hole in it?