State and county representatives meet with KP constituents

Sara Thompson From left, Pierce County Councilman Derek Young, State Representative Jesse Young, Legislative Assistant Debbie Austin for Jan Angel, State Representative Michelle Caldier. State and County elected officials held an open discussion presentation at the Key Peninsula Community Council(KPC) annual meeting, Nov. 11. Photo courtesy of Danna Webster  

Elected officials representing the Key Peninsula came to the November Key Peninsula Community Council (KPC) meeting to talk about what they have been doing and to hear from residents.

Pierce County Councilman Derek Young and state Reps. Michelle Caldier and Jesse Young attended. Sen. Jan Angel was at a conference but sent a staff member who commented that she was present to listen to residents, but she did not have a report.

The three said they have met together to help coordinate funding priorities and strategies between the state and the county. They each spoke of the projects they have supported that benefit the region.

Rep. Young, who serves on the Transportation Committee, discussed the importance of the 302 corridor in the economic development of the region and said it should be a top priority. Chuck West, speaking for the KPC, endorsed that view and said that for the Key Peninsula, just completing the 302 long-term study was critical.

Rep. Young also spoke about energy policy. He said that Washington is lucky to have access to clean and cheap energy. The Bonneville Power Administration supplies most of the energy for Peninsula Light, but he noted that others, like California, would like to purchase that energy. He wants to assure that the state has a diverse energy portfolio.

West, again speaking for the KPC, said that mental health services were a local concern. Caldier, who serves on the Healthcare and Wellness Committee, spoke at length about her own family’s experience in dealing with mental-health issues and the interface with the criminal justice system.

Councilman Young discussed mental-health funding. First, he noted that Congress may soon pass a mental-health bill. He noted that Washington state has the lowest bed-per-capital rate for mental health in the nation. Pierce County is the only urban county in the state that has not passed a sales tax to help pay for mental health services. He worked to get a countywide mental-health analysis preformed and the results will be available in March.

It is likely that the study will recommend increased resources. To get tax funding approved by the county council will require a 5-2 vote. Young thinks it will be possible to get that approval but that the council will need to hear from the voters. For that reason, he will call for an advisory vote for a sales tax to pay for mental health services. With voter approval, he thinks the council will move forward.

Councilman Young also discussed funding of projects affecting the Key Peninsula. A total of $100,000 was allocated to parks —distributed to the Gig Harbor and Key Peninsula areas. That funding included $30,000 for Key Peninsula Civic Center repairs. The Red Barn has received $2,000 from the Family Resources Center. Young said he understands that as the Red Barn serves more teens, the organization must depend less on volunteers and begin to hire staff. He hopes to help with grant applications.

He addressed concerns about property crime, which he said is at the highest rate in the state. Noting that “20 percent of the perpetrators commit 80 percent of the crime,”he supported formation of the Property Crime Unit that will focus on data-driven law enforcement.

At a countywide level, the health department desperately needs a new building, according to Young, who would support a bond to pay for it.

He also recognizes a growing disparity between rural and urban access to technology. Education and business depend on fast and dependable internet access. To that end, he is working on recommendations for countywide broadband policies.

The audience then asked questions.

One member was concerned about the number of pot shops on the Key Peninsula. County Councilman Young said that he and others are working to bring regulation to the legal market and to get rid of the black market. The council just created a fund to enforce the laws.

The state representatives were asked about school funding. Rep. Young said that there is no plan for an additional special session. Caldier, who serves on the Education Committee, talked at length about her own personal interaction and frustrations with school repairs at her daughter’s school. She also said that a bipartisan group of eight (four from the Senate, four from the House and equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans) will be working on the response to the Supreme Court’s call for adequate school funding.