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Tag: Roger Bush


Pierce County’s communications breakdown

Recently I recounted the ongoing tug of war among Pierce County’s elected officials, especially the county executive and council.

One recurring theme I heard as I spoke with people about the relationship between County Executive Pat McCarthy and council members was a lack of communication.

Council members complain McCarthy has vetoed ordinances without raising objections in advance. They also say she’s announced significant decisions – like a new planning department amnesty program for people who built decks and other structures without a permit – without consulting them.

“Sometimes I was reading the information in the press releases,” said

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Pierce County exec to elected officials: Happy holidays, let’s talk

Pat McCarthy
Pat McCarthy

As I reported earlier this week, it’s been a year of conflict in Pierce County government. But County Executive Pat McCarthy is reaching out to other elected officials.

In an e-mail Thursday, McCarthy thanked elected officials for their hard work this year under difficult circumstances. And she proposed a new effort to improve communication among branches of government that sometimes have been at odds.

Perhaps most significantly, she proposed expanding her weekly one-on-one meetings with County Council Chairman Roger Bush, R-Graham, to include two other council members and two members of her own staff.

“One of the keys to successfully addressing these ongoing challenges will be improved communications among all branches of Pierce County government,” McCarthy wrote. “It is imperative that we all take responsibility for communicating with each other.”

The executive and council members have accused each other of poor communication in public meetings and recent interviews.

McCarthy also proposes monthly meetings with the prosecuting attorney, sheriff, Superior Court presiding judge, auditor and assessor-treasurer.

You can read the e-mail below.

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Pierce County: A year of political skirmishes

Think Pierce County’s elected officials have been fighting lately? You’re wrong. They’ve been at it all year.

As 2009 draws to a close, I’ve been reviewing a year’s worth of political skirmishes in Pierce County government. The bottom line: at times it’s seemed that everyone is fighting with everyone else.

A rookie executive has feuded with a veteran County Council.

The council and executive have criticized Superior Court judges.

The judges have threatened to sue the executive and council.

The prosecutor has accused the council of overstepping its authority.

The assessor-treasurer has decried the council and executive.

So what’s going on? That’s the question I’m trying to answer in an upcoming article.

There are several answers. First, there are inherent tensions among the various branches of government. The county charter, for example, pits the executive against the council, giving the exec control of departments and contracts and the council authority over the budget and policy decisions.

But there’s more going on here than the push and pull of good government. Tough circumstances – i.e., a year of budget cutting – also have played a role.

So have politics and personalities. How much? Judge for yourself. Below is a recap of this year’s political tug of war.

I think it’s fair to say it’s incomplete. These are just the punches that were thrown in public. At other times, the tensions simmered in private.

Read on and pass along your thoughts.

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Pierce council asks Gregoire not to fill Superior Court seat

Updated below with more comment from the governor’s office

The Pierce County Council has asked Gov. Chris Gregoire not to fill the Superior Court seat recently vacated by Judge Michael Hecht.

In a letter dated Monday, the council lays out its legal argument that its decision to eliminate the court seat is legal, despite arguments to the contrary by the local prosecuting attorney’s office, County Executive Pat McCarthy and the local bar association.

In the letter (you can download a PDF copy here), council Chairman Roger Bush, R-Graham, quotes a state law authorizing Pierce County to have no more than 24 Superior Court judges. Bush argues that the law gives the council discretion to determine the exact number of positions.

“The decision to authorize a judicial position must take into account the county’s need as well as its ability to fund that position,” Bush wrote (the salaries of Superior Court judges are split between the county and the state).

“The question is whether the state legislature, in recognizing and granting the authority to local legislative bodies to authorize new judicial positions, intended that such decision would be irreversible, that it would remain in place in perpetuity,” he wrote. “We believe that was not the intent…”

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Pierce County Council chair: unions must weigh insurance cost, layoffs

As I reported last month, Pierce County may ask its employees to pay for a portion of their own health insurance for the first time.

Exactly how much is subject to ongoing negotiations with unions representing county employees. But for the purposes of her proposed 2010 budget, County Executive Pat McCarthy has assumed the county’s cost of health insurance will not rise at all next year, despite an 11 percent increase in the cost of providing health insurance.

That would mean employees would have to pick up all of the increased cost, about $4 million.

But everything’s negotiable, and

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