Last Week at the Pierce County Council — October 22nd, 2017

Last Week at the Pierce County Council — October 22nd, 2017


Rules Committee

Proposal №2017–51, County Excise Tax on Real Estate Sales and REET Adjustments — Sponsored by Richardson and Young

Unlike almost any other county, Pierce has dedicated portions of REET to pay for specific programs. Particularly to pay for flood control on the Puyallup River.

The proposal eliminates the current allocation formula for the first .25 of 1% REET. It also repeals the sunset date of the second .25 of 1% REET which we discovered ended prior even to the bond that was passed by the Council.

This bill, if passed, will greatly benefit residents from the rest of the County and begin to repair County owned facilities.

Motion to forward with a do-pass recommendation approved unanimously.

Proposal №2017–55, Interfund Loans — Sponsored by Richardson and Young

When I arrived I was shocked to find a number of intrafund loans made without appearing to have clear terms or plan for payback. At one point the Council even passed, over my objection, new positions to be funded by the Equipment Rental & Revolving Fund (capital financing). We fixed it but the experience told me we needed to establish a policy.

It would do a couple things:

  • Establish a maximum term for maturity of five years. This is in line with guidance from the State Auditor’s Office. It also means that Councilmembers, currently limited to eight years in office, are less tempted to spend today and stick the next Council with the bill.
  • Set rates at point above the investment pool rate of return. The idea here is that the lending fund will benefit from greater return for their reserves, while the borrowing fund gets cheaper financing.

No discussion from the committee. Jim Dickman from Budget said the proposal was in line with Auditor’s guidance and that the Executive supports. Motion to forward with a do-pass recommendation approved unanimously.


Council Meeting

Ordinance №2017–58 Emergency Ordinance Dredge Material

Currently the State allows the dumping of dredge material in the Nisqually Aquatic Reserve located off Anderson Island.

This activity was prohibited in the Shoreline Management Plan update passed by Council a couple years ago but Ecology is allowed prior approval before the plan is effective. After receiving word that more material was to be deposited in the reserve, Chair Richardson asked for a moratorium which passed. This is the required public hearing to determine whether the moratorium should continue.

Ecology, EPA, and the Army Corps who approved dumping site testified in opposition saying that their studies showed it wouldn’t harm local wildlife.

My favorite comment came from Tim Gates the Shorelines program manager for Ecology. “Message received, we need to get the SMP done.” Yes. Yes we do.

The Port of Olympia, the primary beneficiary of the site, along with the Ports Association also testified in opposition.


Washington State Association of Counties — Legislative Steering Committee

We continue to fine tune our legislative agenda and respond to agency rulings or legislation which are harmful to county governments.

This year our priorities will be:

  • State funding for indigent defense
  • A fix for the Supreme Courty’s Hirst decision on rural water
  • Foundational Public Health funding
  • Lifting the 1% property tax cap to inflation

We also discussed the Growth Management Act study currently being performed by the Ruckelshaus Center at the request of the Legislature. While counties are engaged, we’re sending a letter to be allowed to have direct input in the process.

Frankly I think it’s shocking that any analysis of GMA be conducted with local governments unrepresented.


Committee of the Whole — Parks and Recreation

Not a ton of news came out of this COW. Mostly it was about their metrics for performance and as my district doesn’t have much in the way of county run parks (we have Metropolitan Park Districts) I’ll leave you with what most caught my attention.

We’re going to have ICE BUMPER CARS at Sprinker!!!!

I had never heard of such a thing but all I could say was “awesome” for several minutes. Here’s what it looks like.

Committee of the Whole — District, Superior, and Juvenile Courts

Sadly, the courts had nothing as cool as ice bumper cars.

District Court

The Drug Court diversion program is going well. They’re asking for additional probation officer to handle the increased caseload.

I’ve been hoping to set up a Veterans Treatment Court for some time now and I think we’re finally read. We need to add a case coordinator and probation officer to make it work.

Why the urgency for Veterans Court? There are 94,000 vets in Pierce County, more than 10% of our population. Many have suffered traumatic brain injuries and PTSD that sometimes lead to behavior which puts them in contact with law enforcement. By District Court’s count that’s 707 with law enforcement contact this year and 100+ have spent time in jail.

While we obviously have to hold folks accountable, we owe it to our veterans to give them help if they’re struggling with the less visible wounds of wars they fought on our behalf.

We also plan a number of facility changes in the County-City Building which will move around District Court and set up a series of dominos that leads us to another budget ask I’ve made in Superior Court.

Plan is probation clerical staff to move to 6th floor CCB. 925 would house day reporting, DART, etc. Court Resource Center

If we get the Trueblood grant, will house two mental health coordinators

Worked with facilities and DEM to move Work Crew site to DEM.

In response to question about needs if we ask for a Rule 9… Judge Jasprica said we’ll need coordination with Prosecutors as discovery would shift to their office.

Superior Court

Judges and court staff spoke to an issue I’ve been spearheading… adding a 23rd Department (Judge) to the Superior Court. Pierce County has been authorized for an additional two judges by the State which shares half the cost of the judge themselves. The judicial assistant and court reporter are on the County’s dime.

To put the need in perspective, Pierce County Superior Court handles more total filings, and more felony filings than King County with half the judges and staff. Same is true for the prosecutors and public defenders for that matter. The point is that while they’re concientious, there’s less time for each case. I think that’s a due process problem and want to make an improvement if we can afford it.

The problem with facilities I had anticipated was dismissed by the Presiding Judge Martin who says they can make it work.

I really do appreciate the willingness of our justice service officials and staff being willing to work in less than ideal conditions.

Another big priority is finding replacement funding for Drug Court which lost a federal grant.

Juvenile Court

Juvenile Court is two judges on an 18 month rotation. Pierce County is a national leader on juvenile justice and is cited as a successful model by our national association.

Sadly, they’re busier than ever as the Opioid Epidemic is driving a significant increase in dependency filings.

So far this year there have been 816 cases due to neglect. Believes 60% of cases are substance use involved. Pierce County is disproportionately burdened due to relative age of population.

A major struggle is finding foster homes for placement. There are 575 foster homes in Pierce County to serve 1300 active cases. As a result, placements are made all over the state which makes supervised visits and eventual reunification difficult.


Committee of the Whole — Auditor & Assessor


The main ask in the budget is for a Communications Specialist. One highlight I’ve mentioned previously is the new “no wrong door” policy on records in coordination with Tacoma-Pierce County Health Dept. The Auditor is making no budget ask for what I think is a significant value to customers. Always great to hear.


Serves 75 different entities

Since the Great Recession, total staff has been reduced 20% thanks to technology. This is despite the fact that we also have 25% more population in that time and that means many more parcels to assess.

The Assessor is asking for an increase in the Exemptions team increase because of a statutory change that will add more applications. These are basically exemptions granted to low-income seniors for property taxes.

302/KP Hwy Safety Meeting

In the wake of the death of Kyle Stillion I committed to speeding up safety improvements along the corridor from the Purdy interchange down through the end of and throughout the Key Peninsula.

I’ll have more to report from the meeting later, but we managed to pull together community, local, and state leaders and staff on a Friday night. Youth Council was also there to express their concerns and requests which is super impressive.

Briefly some issues we discussed:

  • Widened shoulder from Key Center north to Hwy 302 interchange.
  • Better lighting in strategic locations
  • Possible return of transit services for those unable to drive
  • Interchange improvements at 302/Purdy Dr, Lackey Rd/Jackson Lk/KP Hwy, 134th Ave/KP Hwy
  • Pedestrian safety improvements
  • Strategy for 302 re-location along 144th and across the lagoon.

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