Wait ’til the end

Wait ’til the end

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In recent years, we have witnessed a technological revolution that is reshaping the way we work, communicate, and serve our community. At the forefront of this transformation is Artificial Intelligence (AI) and large language models like ChatGPT. These advancements are not just changing the private sector; they are also poised to revolutionize county government in ways we couldn't have imagined before. In this blog post, we will explore the potential of AI and large language models in county government and discuss how we can embrace this future for the benefit of our community. Enhancing Citizen Services One of the most significant impacts of AI and large language models is their potential to enhance citizen services. With AI-powered chatbots like ChatGPT, we can provide 24/7 support to our citizens, answering their…
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Celebra tu herencia   

Celebra tu herencia   

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My family heritage is from Germany.  While I don’t speak much German (Ein bisschen - “a little bit”), I especially appreciate Germany’s printing history (I have a model of the Gutenberg Press in my office). Each of us has a family lineage and history of which we can be proud. The United States and her residents are a beautiful collage of ethnicities, races, and ancestries. It’s wonderful to celebrate and honor what makes us who we are, including where we trace our roots to. Right now, we’re in the middle of Hispanic Heritage Month.  It starts on September 16 to align with the Mexican Independence Day celebrations (no, not Cinco de Mayo!). It is Mexico’s most important national holiday. At Pierce County we have a wonderful example of treasuring your…
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A balancing act

A balancing act

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This week I presented my (final) biennial budget to the Council. Months of data gathering, analysis, presentations, debate, and decisions ended for me and the Finance team, and the process now moves to the members of our legislative branch. For the first time, the priorities for how we allocated funds were guided by the results of a comprehensive survey filled out by our residents. We used a variety of channels to reach broadly into our community - from newsletters to Tik Tok!  2,577 people took the time to complete the survey, representing views from Tacoma to Eatonville and from Buckley to the Key Peninsula! We asked residents how they would spend the money they provide us. We also asked them to prioritize their concerns - and three stood out far…
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Being blue

Being blue

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It was in September 2021 - almost exactly two years ago - that I helped host a Blue Zones kick off along with our partners from Multicare and Virginia Mason Franciscan Health. We were in the throes of the pandemic, so our in-person event became a virtual broadcast from our television studio.  But it began the detailed planning and preparation for the Parkland Spanaway Blue Zone Project. I’ve been familiar with Blue Zones for years, first learning about it from Tarrant County Texas County Judge (equivalent to County Executive) Glen Whitley in Fort Worth.  I initially thought it was all about living longer and would focus on diet and exercise.  After diving in, while those are key elements, it is also about living better - emphasizing the importance of community…
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And justice for all

And justice for all

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There is a reason the Pledge of Allegiance ends with “and justice for all.”  It represents one of the most foundational principles of our nation.  Our courts are designed to ensure we live up to those words. Every case that comes before a judge in one of the County-City Building (CCB) courtrooms is important. Life altering decisions are made every day as juries sit in judgment and render a verdict. This fall, another important case will be heard in a CCB courtroom – the trial of the three Tacoma Police Department (TPD) officers charged in the death of Manuel Ellis in March 2020. You’ve likely heard about this trial as it has garnered quite a bit of attention over the last three years.  It’s what we refer to as a…
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Work!

Work!

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This Monday is not only a day off work for most of us, but also an opportunity to celebrate our workforce and all you do for our community.  Of course, it also remembers all the workers throughout our country! As a nation, we’ve been celebrating Labor Day for over a century. The national holiday was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Grover Cleveland in 1894.  It followed a period of significant labor strife and came after the infamous Haymarket Riot of 1886 in Chicago.  (Notably, the “riot” was the result of workers rallying in support of an 8-hour workday.) In addition to celebrating all workers, the holiday provides us the opportunity to thank all our labor partners and our Labor Relations team! At Pierce County, nearly 2/3…
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A vital lifeline

A vital lifeline

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When most people think of our law enforcement, they think of a badge and a gun, coming in response to a call to 911 for help.  The badge is a symbol of their training and responsibility and the gun is a very important tool when confronting dangerous criminals.  However, I think the most important tool is not their service weapon. The key to keeping our community and our deputies safe is their radio!  Their ability to work as a team, particularly in response to dynamic emergencies, is essential - and their ability to communicate makes all the difference. Wednesday afternoon, the critical nature of that communication and teamwork was front and center. Tacoma Police (TPD) was stopping a car driving erratically in South Tacoma, when the occupants stopped and shot at…
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Heroes among us

Heroes among us

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Over the last week, incredible people who live in our community have volunteered to leave their friends and families and take on the unenviable role of searching for lost souls in Maui. We’ve all read and heard the heartbreaking stories of residents and tourists fleeing the fast-moving flames.  Sadly, more than 100 people have perished. By Monday, some 80 first responders and K9 teams from our region were actively supporting search and rescue operations on the devastated island.  They are members of the Washington State Task Force 1 FEMA Urban Search and Rescue team (WA-TF1).   I want to thank Pierce County Department of Emergency Management, which supports the Task Force, for taking three full days – including a Saturday and Sunday – to get the team ready to leave…
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Not this time

Not this time

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I did something this week that I rarely do – I vetoed a piece of legislation that came to me from the Council. In the nearly 7 years I’ve held this office I have only used my veto on 7 occasions, including this week’s veto. So, why did I do it? Context is important, so remember that housing affordability and chronic homelessness are two significant challenges facing our community. We need more than 50,000 affordable homes for our low- and lower-income neighbors.  Additionally, hundreds of people are dying on our streets trapped in addiction and untreated mental illness.  Last fall, the Council adopted a wide range of updates for our residential development regulations and created several new types of uses and housing types including shared housing. (I recently visited a…
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Back to school

Back to school

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With our typical glorious August weather, I like many of you are looking forward to a few days away from work - to rest and relax!  But I am reminded that many in our community are ramping up to a new school year.  Educating our children and young adults is one of the most important jobs in our community, and I’m grateful for the instructors, teachers, professors, administrators, custodians, and staff who are making final preparations for classes to begin! Getting our youngest learners off to the strongest possible start is essential.  And that responsibility falls to the many preschool programs throughout the County.  (Just last night, my family was singing the praises of “Teacher Vera” - the preschool teacher for my 33-year-old son who is getting married tomorrow!)  Children…
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Get lost!

Get lost!

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Peaceful Chambers Creek Canyon While I love our community year-round, there is little doubt that our spectacular outdoors shine especially bright in the summer!  There is so much to do and enjoy! My summer weekends are packed with people and activity, and I wish I could fit even more in.   Summer weather is great for being on the water, walking our communities, hiking our hills and Mount Rainier is always beckoning.  Not to mention all the festivals and celebrations throughout the County! So, here’s my challenge for you.  Break out of your summer routine enough to try something new our community has to offer!  Slow down and take a few minutes to lose yourself in this amazing place we live.  Are you up for it? To help jumpstart the…
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Staying the course

Staying the course

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Community First! Village in Austin, Texas It’s been a while since I’ve written about the Piece County Village project and with the Council currently considering legislation regarding shared housing development regulations next week, I thought this would be a good time to provide you an update. As you may recall, the Village is based on the Austin-based Community First! Village, a proven and effective model to restore people trapped in chronic homelessness with untreated addiction and mental illness. Just like in Austin, the residents of Pierce County’s Village would get critically needed treatment, work onsite in micro-enterprises and pay rent, all while finding hope again through community.       On March 21, the County Council approved funding for the Village, passed a related land use development regulation and enabled the County to enter into a public-private…
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Two thumbs up!

Two thumbs up!

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Just before the pandemic, my family gave me a Concept2 rowing machine to encourage me to be healthier.  Little did I realize at the time that it would become a regular part of my routine.  For the last three years, I've been getting up at 5:00 a.m. to go into my basement, strap into my rowing machine, and pull for about 10,000 meters.  Earlier this month, I passed the “6 million meters rowed" milestone! Since it takes me around an hour to row my 10K, the mathematicians will soon realize my 6M milestone equates to about 600 hours on the rower!  Rowing is one of the best full body workouts, but it is very repetitive.  To stay focused while rowing, I watch movies on my tablet - and I’ve watched…
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Staying afloat

Staying afloat

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As an avid boater and former Naval officer, I can tell you that it takes a lot to keep a boat in good repair.  Having your boat work properly when you are on the water is essential - first and foremost for the safety of those on board.  The marine environment is challenging - think about driving your car with the road constantly moving. And how about driving into your garage where the height of the entrance is 18 feet higher than when you left earlier in the day? (The Steilacoom dock saw a nearly 19-foot tidal change from 12:57 p.m. to 8:31 p.m. on the Fourth of July!). And don’t get me started on corrosion - where the salt water is constantly trying to destroy your boat! Finally, think…
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Have you caught the bug?

Have you caught the bug?

Executive
It seems everywhere I go I hear people talking about pickleball!  You, too? Pickleball is decades old, but it seems to be exploding right now.  Did you hear that pickleball was made the official sport of Washington State?  This YouTube video about the 5 Stages of Pickleball seems to really hit the mark! https://youtu.be/tYX5l6js01U I’m for anything that helps people improve their health, get away from screens and interact with people in-person!  So, I gave it a try. Pickleball is a great sport that people of nearly any age can play.  It’s easy to learn and you can have fun from your very first game.  In fact, I put my novice pickleball skills to work against one of the sport’s most loyal fans – Chris Egan of KING-5 Sports!  Chris…
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Common ground

Common ground

Executive
I have been looking forward to this weekend for quite a while.  I will be hosting four of my classmates from the U.S. Naval Academy, including three from out of state.  The weather looks to be fantastic for showing off Puget Sound!  But it will be more about sharing our experiences since we left Annapolis 40 years ago.  Two were in destroyers, two were on submarines, and I was an engineer.  Two served careers in the Navy and one became the first Filipino admiral! That sense of common background and connection is part of the impetus for creating the County’s Employee Resource Group (ERG) program. I mentioned in this blog a few weeks ago that we had launched groups aligned with employees who are Veterans, Hispanic/Latine, LGBTQ+ and African American/Black.…
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Back to giving

Executive
I am very used to debates, but it is generally over policy or budget priorities.  Wednesday, my left arm was the subject.  Sunny was carefully weighing which of my big veins she was going to use to collect a pint of blood. I was very happy to be one of the nearly 50 donors at this week’s mobile blood drive at the County-City Building (CCB) - the first we have hosted since the pandemic.  And it could not have come at a better time.  Not only was it World Blood Donation Day on Wednesday, but summer activities drive up the need for blood products by 30%!  Plus, the rules for who can donate have recently changed, so even more people can help out our community by extending their arms! We…
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A window into our work

A window into our work

Executive
  I really enjoy getting out to see first-hand the work you and your County colleagues do.  The only thing that makes it better is when I can share these experiences with our residents.  That is why we started the video series "Inside Pierce County."  I wanted to offer our community a look behind the scenes at our work on their behalf. So far we have shot more than two dozen episodes, taking viewers to the Sheriff’s evidence room, an autopsy, a fire investigation, out plowing snow, and many more places.  I hope you’ve watched at least a few of them! And video is a great way to showcase your work.  We can tell your story in a way that is both visually interesting, educational and fun for the viewer. …
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Heart and Seoul

Heart and Seoul

Executive
It all started with a long-distance phone call between two brothers, comparing notes about what was going on at work. It turns out that GuHun Kwon, a Case Manager in our Medicaid Case Management program, has a brother, GuTaek, in Seoul, South Korea, who works as a Director of a Social Services Center.  Their conversations eventually led to a delegation of 8 leaders from Yangcheon-Gu, South Korea, “stopping by” Tacoma to meet with Pierce County Human Services after a tour of similar programs in Canada. Yangcheon is a district (or “Gu”) of Seoul, South Korea.  Its population is 439,000, and it covers just over 6.7 square miles (for a population density of 70,000 residents/sq. mile).  Compared to Pierce County, with its population of 921,000 and 1670 square miles (a density…
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Taking time

Taking time

Executive
During Monday’s New Employee Orientation, one of our new prosecuting attorneys shared a little about her family.  With two little ones at home, she welcomed the opportunity at Pierce County, to “just” manage a caseload and not be supervising anyone else.  At some point in the future, she might be interested in a formal leadership position, but not right now. I appreciated her comments.  We all have issues in our personal lives, and ideally, we can harmonize them with our professional responsibilities. Right now, I am dealing with a very difficult phase of my life.  My brother-in-law is in the final stage of a decade-long battle with cancer.  Thinking about my sister and her family, I knew that I needed to be there to support them.  Our team at the…
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