Pierce County Residents’ Bill of Rights

Pierce County residents deserve a council they can trust.

Often, politics, lack of public outreach, and outdated rules stand in the way to make our government transparent, effective, and accountable. I will push for these changes on the first day I take office by amending our council rules and offering additional proposals to incorporate these changes into law.

Require the council to meet after normal business hours so people can participate

Pierce County has historically met during the early hours for council sessions. When I served, I was denied the request to move these meetings to the evenings due to costs of added security.  I believed then, and I believe now, that government should not discourage participation from the public.  The first act I plan on making when elected is to push for night meetings to increase access to our elected officials and allow for real participation in our government.

If the council and executive are required to furlough employees, elected officials should also face a pay reduction

There is some debate whether this may require a change in state law, but in order to keep up morale and do the right thing, our elected leaders should step up like everyone else.

Respect tribal governments by offering consultation whenever we make rules, ordinances, or propose projects that may impact them

Our county is lucky enough to exist with four tribal governments within our boundaries – we need take real steps toward respecting tribal sovereignty. Too often, the county or the City of Tacoma embark on a major investment or zoning change in or near reservation land without consulting with the affected tribal government. I support requiring the county to notify these governments and offer to enter into consultation. Our native tribes have resided in the Puget Sound since time immemorial.  As the original caregivers of our environment and our partner government in Pierce County, to not seek their counsel in advance of any planning or decision making both disrespectful and wrong.

Respect local governments by pro-actively collaborating with them to resolve regional challenges and support their efforts to improve their communities

Pierce County often makes business decisions that affect local governments. Metro Parks, Schools, Fire Districts, Water Districts, Drainage Districts, Conservation Districts, Cities and Towns are all part of the local government fabric of our community.  They deserve to be respected.  The county can demonstrate this respect by alerting these entities to any proposed ordinance, resolution, or project that may hve an impact on these entities.  This contact must be made in advance of any expenditure for planning.  The county council can track this by passing an ordinance that develops a notification check list that will accompany any of these items.  Projects will not be granted a hearing unless the stakeholders and partners are informed first.

Require all amendments, ordinances, or resolutions to be available to the public at least 36 hours before the final vote

We’ve seen this one – a government entity passes a huge bill that no one has read and no one is sure what is in it. This stops here. The county shall increase transparency by requiring any and all amendments to ordinances be prepared for public viewing no later than 24 hours before the public hearing on the ordinance. An exemption can be made provided unanimous consent is granted and a roll call vote is taken.

Protect taxpayers by requiring a public process, contracts, and deliverables for county tax dollars released to entities not under the county’s control

Too often, I have seen local government advance or donate funds to an outside entity with the intention of obtaining a service. Our recent investment in Wellfound Behavioral Health is a good example.  The county needs to ensure we have “strings attached” and proper accounting for how the money is spent and what investment we are getting for our tax dollars. To ensure this occurs, the county must require that expenditures of public funds over $50,000 in one year to an outside entity require a contract with performance requirements and an accounting for how the money will be spent.  Any expenditure of this size will require a public process including a public hearing and roll called vote of the county council and signature of the executive.

Ban elected officials, county employees, or their immediate relations being awarded a county contract for any purpose

Our county compensates its employees well; we shouldn’t be giving people with insider knowledge the ability to pad their income with county contracts. Pierce County needs to spend more time providing legislative oversight on the contracting actions of our government.  As we have many needs and short resources, this action may assist us in prioritizing work that benefits our citizens and not county insiders.

Ban cell phones from the council dais during hearings

The council receives testimony from the public on a regular basis at council hearings. The council should focus on the testimony of those taking time out of their day to share their concerns and remove distractions. The council should ban the use of cel phones by councilmembers on the dais

Expand in district meetings to be closer to constituents.

Our county charter requires that the council meet in each district at least once a year. This allows for greater connection with the public across the county.  I would suggest since the cost to do this is minimal that the council consider doing this at least twice a year for each district.  That would mean that 25% of the scheduled council meetings will be in district.

Increase council transparency by itemizing council per diem and publicizing political donations, calendars, and expense accounts

The current per diem reimbursement for the council is a flat rate. As some districts are more compact than others, the council should return to an itemized per diem rate. I will not collect per diem while serving on the council. Citizens need to know not only how we vote but what influences councilmembers. Each council member has an individual page on their council website.  This site should provide to the public links to calendar, PDC filing, and monthly per diem / travel account expenditures.  This should also be required of all county executive officers and the county executive.

Promote transparency by the executive by requiring them to submit themselves quarterly to questions from the council and the public

The charter requires the executive to offer a quarterly report on the budget. The executive should be required to take input from the public at this time much as the council does for citizen forum.

Encourage access to public records by reserving a space in the county offices for constituents to conduct research using public records during business hours

Public records, by definition, are public! For those documents which are not accessible online, the county needs to provide a safe space for residents and members of the press to do research. The council should open up a space for public viewing of old ordinances, resolutions, voting records, and other items of the public interest and have it be open during regular business hours.

Please get back to me with your thoughts and ideas! I am always interested in your opinions and input. What else do you think we can do to improve transparency and establish trust between the County Council and residents of Pierce County like you?

Please send us a response to [email protected].