Hello Gig Harbor,
I hope you’re all happy and healthy and enjoying the beginning of summer here in our beautiful city.
These past few months have been a time of incredible change in the world. On June 10th, I joined in with hundreds of you for a peaceful walk in unity in support of equal treatment for all, and to express solidarity with black Americans. Many councilmembers and other local leaders joined in as well. To honor the day, the City Council and I issued a proclamation declaring June 10th as “Stand Against Racism Day” in Gig Harbor to encourage all of us to fight against racism whenever and wherever it may occur. We will continue to work at ways to show equal opportunities for all.
We are now well into Phase Two of the Governor’s “Safe Start” plan to address the spread of COVID-19. Many businesses and restaurants have been able to reopen on a limited basis and churches are starting to hold limited services again. City employees are starting to come back to work in the office as we prepare to reopen the Civic Center to the public in Phase Three.
The earliest Pierce County could move to Phase Three would have been June 29th, but across the state and the county we have seen COVID-19 cases exponentially increase, with the transmission rates surpassing the amounts needed to transition from Phase One to Phase Two. The Tacoma--Pierce County Health Department has indicated we are in no way ready for Phase Three, and the County will not apply. A modified Phase 2.5 is possible. Our County Health Department is encouraging all residents to follow the guidelines and help slow the spread so we can move forward responsibly.
To try to slow the spread down, the State Department of Health has issued a public health order requiring face coverings be worn in indoor public spaces such as stores, offices and restaurants. The order also requires face coverings outdoors when you can't stay six feet apart from others. There are exemptions, including people with certain disabilities or health conditions, people who are deaf or hard of hearing, and children under the age of 5 (though it’s encouraged to have children ages 3-5 wear a covering if possible). Businesses are also offering alternate formats for those not able to wear a mask, including curbside pickup or online ordering and delivery of items. Our Police Department is asking for voluntary compliance with the order. We’ll respond to cases of willful and reckless disregard for public safety, but our approach will be to educate before we enforce penalties. It is not so much as what the state asks us to do but what the health department through proven science says to do. This virus kills and face masks are the simplest way to stop the spread with the least amount of work.
I know some say it is my public right to do whatever I want. Well I say to those it is also your public right and responsibility to help protect others from actions you may cause. To value others and care as a whole for the health of our community and fellow neighbors. So please, wear your face mask when around others and out with the public.
On the Federal level, the Governor addressed the US House to encourage them to pass the HEROES Act, which would provide state and local aid. Washington would receive $10.7 billion in state funds for recovery, with an additional $1 billion floating down to local governments, like cities. Without those funds, we can anticipate major cuts to services on the state level. 70% of Washington’s current budget is protected by state law, meaning officials can only cut from the other 30%. Unprotected spending items include higher education, corrections, many human services, and natural resources.
Here at the city, staff has processed the applications for our Small Business Stabilization Grants. We had 111 qualified applicants, meaning each business will get approximately $2775, over $1,200. more than the expected minimum of at least $1500. The money to fund these grants is coming from the federal government CARES Act. I’m thankful for the work of our staff and council to get these funds in the hands of our local businesses quickly and with a fair and balanced approach.
On June 5th, I issued a proclamation temporarily suspending certain Special Use regulations and Encroachment Permit fees. This means businesses have fewer costs and barriers in holding sidewalk sales and other outdoor sales on private property and within the public Right-of-Way. We took this on to give local businesses more bandwidth to re-open, be creative and be able to sell products in more ways during the “Safe Start” phases. The businesses still need to apply as they still need to show proof of insurance.
On June 19th, I rang the bell to re-open the Gig Harbor Waterfront Farmer’s Market. I was able to buy coffee, cherries, beans and sausages – I was impressed at the social distancing and mask-wearing I saw, and proud of our businesses, our citizens and the Downtown Waterfront Association for making this happen – there are some experiences that really make it feel like summer in Gig Harbor, and the Farmer’s Market is one of them.
We are moving forward with plans for bringing back the Gig Harbor Trolley, in partnership with Pierce Transit. We’ll see heightened cleaning and sanitation measures on the Trolley in order to make this happen. This will re-launch in Phase Four, as will Summer Sounds at Skansie and Movies in the Park. We want to retain some sense of normalcy this summer, and we’ve hesitated to cancel these much-loved events and features, but we’re tied to the public health directive in order to keep Gig Harbor safe.
Last week, we also dedicated a new plaque on the Bogue Viewing Platform in the Finholm Marketplace area. It honors two local mountaineers, Marty Hoey and Luther Jerstad, who climbed Mt. Everest and many other peaks. Take a moment to read their story when you walk by. On a clear day, you’ll be able to look out to Mt. Rainier when you visit! This plaque and another are now ADA accessible.
At our Council meeting on June 8th, I proclaimed the month of June as Orca Action Month for the City. Southern Resident Orcas were declared an endangered species in 2005. Efforts are underway to restore our local orca population and I encourage everyone to learn more about their troubles and how we can help out.
City Council came to terms Monday night on a Memorandum of Understanding with the Jerkovich Family to modify their existing pier at Ancich Park so the public can use it to launch their kayaks, canoes and paddleboards. If all goes well, construction will start in June 2021, and be completed by August 2021. This will save the view corridor and a considerable amount of money.
On June 22, Council adopted a new six-year Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). The TIP lists 28 transportation projects that the City has identified as priorities in the near future. This document is approved each year by the Council and forwarded to the state to be able to move forward with these projects.
The State Department of Ecology has let us know they intend to start imposing nutrient loading limits on wastewater treatment plants. The City’s treatment plant has received many recent upgrades and improvements recently, but more capital improvements may be required or the City may have to stop issuing capacity reservation certificates and/or consider resolutions or ordinances that limit reservation certificates in our Urban Growth Area. City staff is continuing to work with our lobbyists to oppose these limits.
As you can see, even though we’re still adapting to the changing nature of COVID and the Safe Start restrictions, we’re still active in serving the city, planning for the future, and working to make sure our economic recovery remains in forward motion.
One of Washington States rules for Mayors is as follows: To protect health, safety and welfare of the community and its residents, businesses and visitors. I will continue to work to do this, as you need your health first to be able to succeed.
Stay healthy out there and be kind to each other.