As my campaign takes on steam, I want to share more and discuss concerns I have gathered which I’m adding to the content of my platform. That platform includes issues that affect all citizens of district 3, especially the rural unincorporated communities and rural small-towns. It has become clear to me that they’ve not been given real representation or support from their current Pierce County Council representative or staff. These constituents have definitely not been invited to have a seat, nor a respected voice, at the table concerning water rights, concurrency, development direction, zoning, taxation, and considerations in support of infrastructure.
I came back from Yakima several months ago, and had a delightful time meeting and listening to some wonderful hard-working small business owners in Ashford and Elbe. One of these folks I visited was a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) organic farmer and property owner just outside of Ashford.
They shared with me concerns about the growing flow of tourist traffic speeding through Ashford and the lack of response to their request for lower speed limits. We discussed the increased B&O taxes on small business (73% of all small businesses are sole proprietors and their salary is what feeds their family) and the burden these increased taxes place on their livelihood alongside increased county property taxes. Surprisingly they were understanding that county taxes pay for roads, utilities, and infrastructure, but question what appears to be an imbalance in the process and percentages charged for other county taxes. I want to bring public forum town-hall meetings inviting county auditors or representatives out to the rural communities to increase communication on the reasons for, and the cost of services provided by the county. In-person communication aids in community participation and can help bring clarity, understanding and positive changes to this important concern.
Jim, the farmer from Ashford expressed
concerns that, although not against development per se, there needs to be more
attention paid to the impact of these projects on local residents. For example,
there is(was) a new large development being planned for at Park Junction. The
plan includes 400 condo units (how much water will they require) and an eighteen-hole
golf course, (water and chemicals) because they never allow weeds, wildlife,
and must stay green. These chemicals and pesticides do not go well with any
organic farming. His farm has over 40 acres but guarantee of water for only 5
acres. He was also concerned that, with a large rather upscale development
going in, property appraisals will go up resulting in soaring property taxes.
Another issue was that of -the commercialization of the area with too much
growth for the existing infrastructure (roads, schools, fire, etc.) He believes
there are about 800,000 vehicles that travel through Ashford on their way to Mt
Rainier and there is concern that more growth will heavily impact roads and
increase traffic and strongly
the quality of life.
Listening to these rural community resident’s concerns makes it clear that when developers are putting forth their project plans to the county, the local community residents need to be included in discussions regarding any nearby proposed ‘development’ before any final decision process. They need to have a loud voice and a representative that will advocate for them, and make sure they are invited to sit down at the table to work on a plan that is a truly collaborative effort and one that takes a long view of all the impacts to their community and environment.
Repeatedly, the rural folks I’ve spoken with expressed a disconnect with the Pierce County Council, a sense of being marginalized; their voice unrecognized. This disconnect has gone on long enough, I want to initiate open, and more frequent, regular in-person communication, responsive follow-up meetings, and real representation for our rural communities in Pierce County.