This past Wednesday, the Pierce County Executive gave his State of the County Address. He has often said he wants to have a closer relationship with the council and that was evident in his comments the other day.
I was happy to hear that his priorities align with those of the council, which we prioritized at our council retreat earlier this year. Council priorities were influenced by public input, and what we, as members have heard from our constituency. It is evident the executive is also hearing the same things. All of equal importance and many a priority of mine for some time.
Let’s start with behavioral health. Many of us on the council have been working at finding solutions to address behavioral health. Back in December, a one tenth of one percent sales tax increase was presented to the council which failed to pass. The tax would have addressed many of the needs and gaps identified in an analysis done on behalf of the council. Although the tax did not pass, that does not mean we should not continue to find solutions. I have been selected as Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on Human Services and will work toward building the foundation for the county’s role in addressing this need. Our efforts will lead to a more focused collaboration and partnerships that will bring us to solutions. The Executive has proposed a significant amount of money for some specific programs. Some of his proposals can be accomplished through one time money but others will require an ongoing source of revenue. The council will exam his budget request thoroughly with our responsible fiscal pen and make recommendations
Public Safety. The council has always placed a high priority on public safety and the overall justice system. Nearly 80 percent of our annual budget is spent on public safety. I look forward to reviewing some of the executive’s asks on this topic.
As part of the council’s public safety conversation I know we are going to tackle the opioid epidemic in Pierce County. I have been working with Councilmember Young on a strategy to start to combat this. It will require the involvement of the council, federal, state, local leaders, law enforcement, treatment providers, business leaders and the community. More on this topic in future blogs!
Abatement and Public Nuisances is also included in the public safety efforts. We have heard many concerns from our residents about vacant properties which run the gamut from derelict houses to squatters to drug houses. We will be exploring the legislative authority we have to act legally and create enforcement protocols.
Economic Development. All of us believe that we need a strong economy and it is concerning to me when 40% of our workforce leave Pierce County every day to work someplace else. Much of what we have done is in the industrial and manufacturing sector. We must have stronger support for the labor industry, workforce development and training. We must also explore other employment sectors to expand our employment base, such as cyber security – a growing industry and one where we already have a foot in the door.
In a similar technology frame of mind we must also further develop and build our Broadband capability. We are working with Tacoma Public Utilities to strategize the feasibility and costs of build out.
Farming is another focus area for the council. We are all in agreement that continues to be important to Pierce County and we must work to implement legislation that will protect farm areas. We will continue to work on other areas such as the Port of Tacoma, JBLM and tourism. So stay tuned!
There is so much happening at the Pierce County Council and I look forward to keeping you up to date through my blog. As I said at the beginning of my blog, we are gearing up to review the executive’s supplemental budget. It will be a process, as budgets typically are, but I encourage you to stay informed and follow us as the conversation continues. You can always find out what is on our agendas and watch our meetings live by clicking here. Have a great weekend!