Earlier this week I presented our annual State of the County address to a small group of colleagues, community partners and the community (virtually).
If you didn’t have a chance to watch the address live, I invite you to view the replay here:
From my arrival as County Executive, I have talked about the importance and power of partnerships. In fact, many of you may recall it is one of our five values. I knew our ability to address the critical challenges facing our community would require partnerships at many levels.
Little did I realize that our early work in partnering with our community would be so essential to combating the effects of the pandemic on the people of Pierce County. The work that our County team did – in partnership with our healthcare organizations, our schools, other governments, our nonprofit community, businesses, and of course our residents – was powerful, effective and recognized nationally.
We had hoped that now that we have transitioned out of the “emergency phase” of the COVID pandemic that life would return to something reflecting the pre-pandemic normal. Today, however, we see our community needs us to take our partnerships and collaboration to another level to move Pierce County forward.
During the presentation, I focused on two challenges and one opportunity facing our community – and I was intentionally blunt in my descriptions.
I can’t imagine the two challenges are a surprise to any of you: an epidemic of lawlessness and chronic homelessness. In partnership with the Prosecutor, the Sheriff’s Department, the Council and key community leaders, we have plans to address both challenges.
We know that much of the crime committed in our community is perpetrated by a relatively small number of repeat offenders – both violent crime and property crimes. Our deputies, their law enforcement colleagues across the county, and our prosecutors know who these virtual “one-person crime waves” are. They have stepped up their work to find, arrest and jail them.
As you also know well, I strongly believe in the power and importance of transparency throughout government. Our residents deserve to see what we are doing on their behalf (have you visited Open Pierce County lately?)
That principle is why I’m thankful that all our patrol personnel are now using body and dash cameras. Specifically, I believe the transparency that comes along with the cameras both protects our deputies and builds trust among our residents.
I’m hopeful the Council will take up the proposal made two months ago by the Prosecutor, the Sheriff and myself for the development of a Civilian Review Board. Again, transparency can build confidence and trust in our community.
During my remarks I mentioned my enthusiasm for a model community to address chronic homelessness. With others in our community, I toured an innovative and heart-filled program called CommunityFirst! Village in Austin, Texas. A wide variety of housing types in the village provide safe, secure living spaces while wraparound services provide behavioral and medical healthcare, job training and many other supports. It both restores dignity for those who were chronically homeless and intentionally engages the broader community. We have money in our budget to get started and we’re actively looking for available land in Pierce County. More to come!
As for opportunities, we have many as our economy was better positioned than most to weather the pandemic and emerge stronger. We have seen record investment in Pierce County and our people – building new businesses, much needed homes, and new schools – both K-12 and in our local colleges and universities. We want to both grow and broaden economic opportunity. We must have a community where everyone can thrive and succeed. To that end, it was my honor to have Brenda Miller kick off the State of the County.
Brenda is the Executive Chef and owner of Velvet’s Big Easy catering company and food truck. She is also a graduate of our small business accelerator program. Thanks to our partners at the Black Collective, Mi Centro, Korean Women’s Association, Asia Pacific Cultural Center, and the Chamber, we have facilitated five cohorts of new and growing small business owners who learned about banking and finance, marketing, grants and other business basics. Graduates of the program – like Brenda – are eligible for matching funds and other supports. Small businesses are key to our economic prosperity!
I was delighted to feature Brenda and her delicious New Orleans cuisine at the event. Those who attended the State of the County were even treated to her famous apple and peach pies!
My thanks to everyone who made the State of the County possible. It takes a strong team to organize and manage it.
And what did I do immediately after the State of County? That afternoon I celebrated the ribbon cutting for the new Bates Technical College Allied Health Building – one block down from my office. This amazing new $44 million facility will provide state of the art training for those in our community who want careers in dental care, medical laboratories and nursing! The people of Pierce County can be trained in Pierce County to care for us in Pierce County!
Finally, another part of our County team received a national award. Congratulations to the Auditor’s Office for winning a 2021 Clearinghouse (or “Clearie”) award from the Elections Assistance Commission for innovation in elections with our 47 (and counting) voter drop boxes! The boxes help track ballot pick-up and chain of custody, improving access and security for Pierce County voters and their ballots.
It is always my privilege to talk about the work you are doing for the people of Pierce County. I’m grateful every day for what you are doing to make our community a place we are proud to call home.
Thanks for reading,