Progress on Opioids, a Step Backward for Regionalism

Progress on Opioids, a Step Backward for Regionalism

Opioid Summit

Last Friday we hosted the Pierce Countywide Opioid Summit. More than 150 leaders from cities, health care, social services, fire, public health, law enforcement, criminal justice joined us to learn more about the crisis and the action agenda we are proposing.

Packed house at UW Tacoma’s Philip Hall

I’m particularly grateful for the members of our congressional delegation who were able to join us. Senator Maria Cantwell’s remarks included highlights of a bipartisan bill she will will be introducing soon that should give us some tools to combat the epidemic. Representatives Kilmer and Heck followed with their own approaches to the issue.

It’s also clear we’ll need their help. Without additional resources, most of the strategies we’ve recommended will not come to fruition.

Executive Dammeier, Sheriff Pastor, and Prosecutor Mark Lindquist also lent their support to a public health response to the crisis. As the Prosecutor often says, it will take both empathy, and accountability.

After Dr. Green layed out the science of opioid addiction and what’s fueled the epidemic, we got to work introducing the action agenda our Task Force has spent months developing. Here are the recommendations.

Each table, which was carefully put together to represent diverse interests and geography, spent time reacting to the proposed strategies and recommending their own.

I had a couple main takeaways from the exercise:

  1. There was little negative reaction to the proposals.
  2. I expected the room to coalesce around a couple priority strategies. It didn’t. Each table seemed to have a slightly different perspective.
  3. We continue to get feedback with ideas that the Task Force hadn’t thought of. Exactly what we were hoping for.

We’ll now take the written feedback and develop a final report. The Task Force will also begin working on implementation.

As I said on Friday, I didn’t know what to expect when we convened the Task Force or organized the Summit but the response exceeded my imagination. It’s clear the crisis is real and that people want action, not more words.

Pierce County, my heart is full.

Regionalism at PSRC

As positive as Friday was, Thursday was a disappointment.

Since I was a Gig Harbor Councilmember representing Pierce County cities at the Puget Sound Regional Council, I’ve appreciated the way the region works together to solve our common problems. In order to tackle regional growth and transportation issues, PSRC has been the venue for the four central Sound counties, cities, and tribes to come together and develop common solutions.

To accomplish that there’s long been an attitude that we have to set aside our more parochial interests to work together and that’s historically what’s happened.

Over the last year we’ve worked on an update to the region’s “Centers Framework.” Centers are where we direct more growth, and transportation investment along with it. There are Growth Centers that are for residential and commercial growth. Manufacturing Industrial Centers for… spoiler… manufacturing and industrial growth.

This update work was being done by the Growth Management Policy Board (the land use recommending body for PSRC). I represent Pierce County.

Pierce, Kitsap, and Snohomish have pushed for major military installations to be treated equally to centers. While we don’t control land use on post, the impact is greater than almost any other center in the region. Unfortunately our proposal failed after we had reached what seemed to be consensus last Fall.

We also opposed the unnecessary intrusion of regional standards for our countywide centers. There appears to be no justification for this new approach other than King County feeling it knows what’s best for our communities.

The specifics of the policies aside, I’m concerned by what this means for the future of PSRC. We’ve only recently seen the King County jurisdictions push proposals on us over the objections of the other three counties. This isn’t a consensus recommendation to the Executive Board and should be rejected as a result.

For years there’s been conspiracies about Seattle and King County dictating policy to PSRC when it wasn’t a fair accusation. Leaders from those bodies understood that our solutions to common problems had to work for everyone. That’s the only way for a regional organization to remain sustainable.

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