County Council rejects emergency jobs ordinance

At its July 21 meeting, the Pierce County Council declined to pass an emergency ordinance creating a jobs initiative to help relieve unemployment for youth and young adults due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Proposal No. 2020-71 would have established an initiative administered by the Pierce County Economic Development Department focusing on providing jobs paying people ages 16 to 22 — later amended to 25 — $15 an hour for a maximum of 20 hours per week. Primary funding was to have come from federal CARES funding, with a sunset date of Dec. 31, 2020.

“It’s designed with the old Civilian Conservation Corps in mind,” said Councilmember Derek Young, one of the ordinance’s sponsors, noting the emergency nature of the proposed legislation was meant to start the program as soon as possible to help alleviate the high unemployment rate within the county.

The unemployment rate in Pierce County in May was 16.9 percent.

“This is one of the key social determinants of health, and I think in a crisis like this, long-term unemployment and a lack of income is a critical issue, so I urge adoption,” Young said.

Councilmember Dave Morell and Chairman Douglas Richardson expressed some skepticism over what they regarded as the rushed nature of the ordinance.

“I have more questions than I have answers,” Morell said. “I’m not against it if someone can show me how it’s going to run in a legitimate way.”

Richards said he thought more time was needed to examine and debate the ordinance. The legislation failed to garner the supermajority vote required of an emergency ordinance — five of the seven council votes.

In the end, councilmembers Young, Pam Roach, Marty Campbell and Connie Ladenburg voted yes, with Richardson, Morell and Jim McCune voting no.

Given the failure to pass Proposal No. 2020-71, the council then voted to postpone indefinitely Proposal No. 2020-68, an emergency 2020-21 biennial budget supplemental ordinance related to the coronavirus pandemic. The council briefly took up a resolution continued from the previous week’s meeting.

Regarding a proposed interlocal agreement creating the Tahoma Narcotics Enforcement Team — which was carried over to the July 21 meeting because of concerns over how the new multi-jurisdictional task force would be funded — the council voted to refer Proposal No. R2020-22 to the Public Safety Committee for further consideration.

In the citizens’ forum portion of the council meeting, several people called in or spoke via video in opposition to the creation of TNET, which would involve Pierce County, Auburn, Bonney Lake, Lakewood, Puyallup, Tacoma, the Pierce County Sheriff's Office, the Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney's Office and Washington State Department of Corrections, as well as the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.


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