It is a privilege to begin my sixth year serving the Key Peninsula on the Pierce County Council. With no changes to council membership, our assignments have mainly stayed the same with just a couple of changes. This year I was elected to council leadership and will serve as executive pro tempore.
I am also stepping down from chairing the Community Development Committee, which covers land use, environment and parks. I’ll stay on as vice-chair to assist Councilmember Morrell, who will be taking over.
The issue is that there’s an assumption by the public that committee chairs have control over the body’s agenda. That is not the case in land use where we are dependent on executive department staff. Without enough people to get all the work we want done, they prioritize their workload, which means other issues fall off the agenda.
I want to be clear: the core problem is that the council hasn’t budgeted for enough staff, which I tried to correct this year. It’s not the staff’s fault that they have more work than people to get it done. I’ll also take over as vice-chair of the Human Services Committee and continue serving on Public Safety as well.
Externally, I’ll continue to represent Pierce County in Olympia, chairing our state association’s legislative committee. Other outside boards include:
- National Association of Counties Medicaid and Indigent Care Subcommittee, Chair
- Puget Sound Regional Council
- Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department Board
- Puget Sound Partnership Ecosystem Recovery Board
In November, we wrapped up Pierce County’s first biennial budget thanks to voters supporting the charter amendment I sponsored in 2017. While the move allows us to think long term with our budgets, it also considerably raised the stakes since a majority of our council is leaving next year. That made this the last opportunity to get their priorities in the budget.
At the countywide level, we’ve added additional resources to public safety, continuing the restoration of staffing to the sheriff’s department with five new positions. While we still aren’t able to afford the level of staffing that we think is necessary, it’s good to see a corresponding decrease in crime rates.
When we first convened the Opioid Task Force, I’m not sure what I expected to come out of the process, but with staff support, we’re now turning ideas into reality. It used to take more than a week to find and begin treatment services. Now we’re rolling out programs to start intake immediately.
We’ve expanded treatment into jail and continued to build the drug courts, and funded staff to support United Way’s South Sound 211 to respond to the full spectrum of behavioral health disorders. We’re also training and equipping the entire sheriff’s department with naloxone to save lives.
On the environment, we’re adding a planner position to update and monitor our Sustainability Plan as well as a sustainability manager to oversee the implementation of the work countywide. We’re also giving staff additional direction to develop regulations and policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Reaching out to people in need with non-emergency medical services is not only the right thing to do, but it also saves first responder resources and emergency room capacity. Two years ago, we started the Mobile Community Intervention Response Team pilot, and it’s been a success. I’m excited that we’re now ready to bring it to the peninsulas.
More locally, we’re proud to continue our partnership with community organizations like the Key Peninsula Family Resource Center (Children’s Home Society of Washington), and the Key Peninsula Partnership for a Healthy Community. We’ll also continue directing capital funding support to our peninsula metropolitan park districts.
I’m also very excited about a partnership we’re developing with the Recreational Boating Association of Washington to purchase Lakebay Marina. We budgeted $250,000 to support the purchase of the facility and associated lands, which will allow RBAW to restore the marina, dock and concession, then turn it over to the state for conservation. We’re working with Sen. Randall and Reps. Caldier and Young on a capital budget request from the state to support the rest.
For KP’s transportation needs, we’re preparing improvements to the Lackey Road-Jackson Lake Road-KP Highway intersection and the KP Hwy-134th Avenue NW intersection. We’ll also continue the shoulder widening project on the KP Highway, working away from Key Center.
Derek Young, D-Gig Harbor, represents the 7th District, including the Key Peninsula, on the Pierce County Council.