Last Week at the Pierce County Council — October 15th, 2017

Last Week at the Pierce County Council — October 15th, 2017

This blank post stared back at me for a long time.

It’s been a busy week but I’d be lying if I said my head was in it. With two tragedies involving Peninsula High School students, my thoughts frequently drifted to their loss, the families they left behind, and the impact on our community.

It started last Thursday when Kyle Stillion was struck while walking along Key Peninsula Highway in Key Center. Three days later, we lost James Oatridge to another car accident just north of the County line.

While the pain of their loss was difficult to watch, we also saw students from other schools around their district wrap their arms around PHS. It was one of those moments that reminds us how special our community is.

It felt to me that this week, it was the young people teaching lessons to adults. Their love and support for each other is inspiring and I’m reminded how lucky I am to serve them.

It also called attention to something we’ve long known. The Hwy 302/Key Peninsula Hwy corridor can be dangerous and we should continue to take action to improve it. While it’s a State highway, the County has been adding pedestrian improvements with a shoulder widening program and sidewalks in Key Center. My goal is to accelerate that progress.

I’m also convening a group of Community, County, and State leaders to develop a safety plan we can start implementing immediately. Some solutions, particularly at the intersections will take more time. Most are already in the Pierce County Transportation Improvement Program awaiting funding, but we need to see about moving up that schedule. And finally, I’d like a clear articulation of what we need to replace the Purdy Bridge/Wauna curves so that this corridor won’t miss another State transportation package.

Monday, October 9th, 2017

Monday Study Session
Presentation from Pierce Transit on High Capacity Transit along Hwy 7 (Pacific Avenue). While federal rules require consideration of multiple alternatives, the preferred alternative will almost certainly be Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).

BRT is similar to light rail/streetcars in that there’s usually dedicated right-of-way, off board ticketing, platform level boarding. All of this is designed to create more frequent headways, usually 10 minutes, but also speed up the trip.

There is already plenty of activity along Pacific to justify BRT level service, but the County plans for this corridor to have additional development densities. Pierce Transit expects to select the preferred alternative in June 2018. Late 2022 for the beginning of revenue service.

Public Safety, Human Services, & Budget Committee
We had a presentation from our Medical Examiner. Literally a morbid subject. The ME is responsible for Medicolegal investigations in Pierce County. In other words, they examine bodies suspected of death by unnatural causes.

It was clear from their presentation that they need additional budget investment to meet increasing demands.

We also had an update on the Pre-Trial Services Program. The idea is to ensure appearance to court dates without imprisonment. When I first arrived on Council, around 100 people were sitting in the County jail because they couldn’t afford to make $1000 bail. These are typically low level crimes, for which they’ll spend more time waiting in jail for trial, than the likely sentence for the crime. The theory behind the program is that we can assure appearance and protect the public without much less cost. So far, it’s working.

Tuesday, October 10th, 2017

Flood Control Zone District Board of Supervisors
The Board passed a resolution establishing a fund balance policy including the strategic reserve policy that I had proposed. While I wasn’t a fan of the creation of this taxing district, I will credit my colleagues for being fiscally responsible with the revenue.

Rather than going on a spending spree, they patiently built up a healthy fund balance. That allowed us to establish a strategic reserve that can make unplanned expenditures when crisis or opportunity emerges, provided that the fund be replenished within 5 years.

We also passed resolutions establishing the levy rate and budget. This year I was successful in imposing the 1% property tax cap that applies to other governments.

Council Meeting
This was another in-district meeting so not much business conducting.

Proposal No. R2017–106, Agriculture Advisory Committee A Resolution of the Pierce County Council Creating the Pierce County Agriculture Advisory Committee to Advise the Pierce County Council on Agricultural Issues; Designating Committee Membership; and Providing a Sunset Date.

Sponsored by: Councilmember Pam Roach

While there is broad agreement that we should create an Ag Advisory Committee, it’s composition was the subject of significant debate. The bill grants control over 5 seats to the Farm Bureau. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the organization but it is highly political. It’s unusual to hand that sort of authority over to an organization like that. We also wanted to make sure small farms were represented. More than 90% of farming activity is conducted by farms earning less than $25,000 per year.

Councilmember Ladenburg and I offered an amendment proposing more diversity in the organization by ensuring that two members would come from that smaller market and be appointed by the Council Chair. We were not successful.

Wednesday, October 11th, 2017

Tacoma-Pierce County Board of Health
We approved a contract with Tacoma Public Schools for participatory planning and budgeting process with three East Tacoma schools, Lincoln, Giaudrone, and Roosevelt. East Tacoma is a Community of Focus. We started this program to focus attention on high-need communities as part of Health Equity agenda.

Participatory planning and budgeting trusts the community to know how best to meet their needs. The kids get to participate, appropriate to their age so grade school kids will work with adults providing direction while high school kids will have more independence.

Thursday, October 12th, 2017

Budget Retreat
This was the final day of budget retreat. From here on out budget deliberations will be done in Committee of the Whole hearings, and then in regular Council meetings.

You can follow our progress here.

We also began deliberation on our legislative agenda. While most of it will be similar to past years, I’m recommending a “Go Big” request for UW Tacoma’s Institute of Technology. It seems fairly clear to me that the Tacoma/Pierce County proposal to Amazon is the only viable option for Washington. We should convince the Legislature to make major investments to the school regardless of the outcome of this competition for HQ2. But I think we should make an even larger request contingent upon Amazon selecting our bid.

This makes sense for a couple reason:

  • UWT is immediately adjacent to the proposed location for HQ253
  • The campuses could be integrated into each other for mutual benefit
  • UWT helps attract talent to Amazon
  • Research monetization agreements could be negotiated

Details are fuzzy, but there seems to be interest in the proposal.

Friday, October 13th, 2017

Sentencing Guideline Commission

I’ll start representing the Washington State Association of Counties on this commission after approval from the Governor. This first meeting was focused on reducing juvenile incarceration and improving rehabilitation rates.

Saturday, October 14th, 2017

Gig Harbor & Key Peninsulas Shoreline Workshop

Proving my theory that waterfront property owners are deeply connected to the shoreline environment, dozens of people showed up early on a Saturday morning to learn about how they can help restore the shoreline and protect their property in a responsible way.

Hard armoring is a major cause of lost habitat, devastating forage fish populations and on up the food chain to orcas.

This is part of a new program by Pierce Conservation District focused on restoring shorelines on the peninsulas.

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