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Changes to Tacoma's government could be on the way. Here's why

A city front with bridges and a large gray and white domed building flying an American flag on top, water and residential neighborhoods are in the background.
Patrick Rodriguez
CC BY 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
View of Tacoma, Washington from the McKinley neighborhood, November 6, 2012.

Tacoma voters may see a suite of amendments to the city's charter on their election ballot this November.

"The charter is essentially the city's constitution," said Steve Wamback, the chair of the charter review committee. "It's the foundational document that sets up the city of Tacoma and it is the highest level of law in the city subject only to what's in state law and federal law."

As mandated by the charter, a committee reviews the charter at least once every decade and makes recommended changes. Amendments could be as simple as changing the text to gender-neutral language or adding a definition.

They also consider issues like term limits for officials, changes to the type of city government, and other issues like community safety. The committee has been meeting since January and has settled on some amendments it plans to recommend.

"We will be proposing an office of policing accountability with a director that is appointed by and supervised by the council rather than by the city manager," Wamback said. "I'm expecting that we will be recommending a different form of government for the City Council to consider."

The committee sends their recommendations to the city council, then the city council decides which ones get put in front of the voters who will have a final say.

But Wamback said, Tacoma residents can provide input now. There are public comment sections during their meetings and comments can also be sent in via the website.

"It's really important that no matter where folks are on a political spectrum, or what their views are about the form of government, it's important for them to come out and let their opinions be heard."

The final recommendations are due to the city council on May 7.

Produced with assistance from the Public Media Journalists Association Editor Corps funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.

Mayowa Aina covers cost-of-living and affordability issues in Western Washington. She focuses on how people do (or don't) make ends meet, impacts on residents' earning potential and proposed solutions for supporting people living at the margins of our community. Get in touch with her by emailing