Cutting red tape!

One of the priorities I set out in the State of the County address is fueling economic development and creating family-wage jobs for those who live in Pierce County.  The Council also identified this as one of its four focus areas this year.

Driving more economic investment in Pierce County depends on many things, including a predictable permitting process.  Like you, I’ve seen promising projects stall or even get cancelled due to permitting delays and confusing processes.

Some time ago Dennis Hanberg and his team in the former PALS set out an ambitious goal: to be the Best Permitting Agency in the state.  They have made tremendous strides and I applaud their commitment to continuous improvement without lowering standards.

The Red Tape Reduction Taskforce was convened in January to assist Planning and Public Works (PPW) take another big step along that path.  The group is a combination of building industry leaders and County employees.  Together they assembled a number of findings and recommendations, and recently issued their final report.

While I appreciate the contributions of all of the 19 Taskforce members, I want to recognize the two co-chairs, Bill Riley, a realtor, and Kurt Wilson, a developer and builder, for their leadership and hours of service.

There are a number of smart recommendations in the report including a few we’ve already implemented. The consolidation of Public Works and PALS, and the co-location of sewer reviewers and inspectors are the result of the Taskforce’s work.

The comprehensive report details a number of proposed changes relating to regulations, road design, organizational and processes – all focusing on streamlining, simplifying, or improving coordination.

I’m especially interested in the proposed zoning changes that would reduce the number of the commercial zones in the County from the current 105 zones (yes, we do actually have 105!) down to 5.  That kind of simplification makes it easier for people submitting permits as well our reviewers – without compromising quality. Another proposal suggests sharing the PALS Plus permitting system with other local jurisdictions. The report specifically recommends increased collaboration with the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department water and septic staff as a logical next step to streamline and simplify permitting.

I look forward to seeing the results coming from the work of the Red Tape Reduction Taskforce and I invite you to contact me directly with ideas you have for how we can better serve our residents and steward the funds they have provided to us.

I want to take a moment to thank our heroes in Finance – Gary Robinson, Jim Dickman and Julie Demuth – for their tremendous work on the supplemental budget.  I was honored to join them this week as we officially signed the ordinance into law.

Switching gears, I hope you and your family and friends have a fun and safe holiday weekend – especially if you’ll be on South Hill on Friday night.  I will be doing a ride-along with Deputy Fred Wiggins that night and I’d hate to see any County employees in the back of our car! 

Thanks for reading,