Four year ago I was beginning the process of transitioning into office and called one of my predecessors, now PenMet Parks Director Terry Lee, to ask for advice. As we were wrapping up he told me something along the lines of “you’re going to love working with this staff.”
Terry was underselling it. I get to work with some of the smartest, most dedicated public servants around. While I see the Council research staff and clerks most often, that also goes for the folks in the executive departments. It’s to their credit that I sound like I know what I’m talking about.
It’s become unfortunately commonplace for politicians to drag staff in public for their own perceived benefit. I think that’s not just unfair, but it also discourages talented young people from choosing a career in public service.
The last couple weeks have been, to me, a demonstration of how lucky we are in Pierce County.
Passing the County budget is an all hands on deck sort of exercise. While the department staff helps the Executive create a proposal, their job isn’t done when it’s delivered to Council. They work closely with us to justify line items, make adjustments, and walk through different assumptions. This year Budget and Finance staff have been particularly pressed as we worked through a new ad hoc committee doing a deep dive into the budget, passing a large supplemental, and immediately turning around to produce the FY2018 proposal.
This year, due to expected absences the week prior, the second reading for the budget was scheduled for the Tuesday of last week. Thanksgiving. While a lot of work had been done at the previous meeting and in committee, we still spend several hours offering and debating amendments. While I heard no complaints, I know this meant long scheduled plans with family were put on hold and an already compressed week, was even more intense.
At times these discussions got testy and personal, something I always regret. But as we can always expect, staff remained professional and supportive throughout the process.
Opioid Task Force
A TNT editorial from last this week rightly demanded more action and less words on the opioid epidemic.
We look forward to more robust recommendations from the county’s opioid work group in early February. Beyond education and prevention, Councilman Derek Young expects the group to embrace “a therapeutic model” in which cops and courts divert more drug users into geographically dispersed treatment programs.
A couple months ago Councilmember McCarthy from Tacoma, Councilmember Ladenburg, and I convened a countywide Opioid Task Force charged with developing strategies that could be implemented across jurisdictional lines. We’re making great progress and expect to have a plan in early February.
Once again, while the electeds may be convening and driving a discussion, it’s the expertise of our staff that we lean hard on. The Task Force has staff from other jurisdictions and branches of County government that jumped into action when I called. Nobody needed convincing. From fire/ems and law enforcement, to the criminal justice system, and treatment providers, all have been there to roll up their sleeves and get to solutions.
District 7 Santa
On a lighter note, I have to call out our communications staff for the props they deserve. Earlier this year I said that I wanted to do another year end video update, but maybe something more noticeable. Something that could drive more people to my blog for updates on Council business.
I don’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t this.
When they pitched their idea for a Saturday Night Live style video introducing 7 things to do in District 7 for Christmas, I was hesitant. While I liked the idea, I wasn’t sure we could pull it off. It’d have to be over the top to show we were in on the joke, funny enough to be shared, and overcome my own lack of acting skills.
I think by the reaction we’ve received, they pulled it off. If you haven’t seen it yet, I’d encourage you to watch below. Hopefully we’ll see you at one of the events!
While I think it’s safe to say from the analytics we’re able to collect on Facebook and Youtube that this was a success, there’s one other metric I’ll measure it by.
On Friday I had the last of our Tacoma Narrows Bridge Refinance Committee (there’s a recommendation forthcoming that I think you’ll like). I was running late and grabbed my nameplate and noticed this second one underneath.