Pierce County Council Member Tim Farrell Answers Questions on Tacoma and Pierce County.
Editors Note: November elections are almost upon us. Today, the Tacoma Sun posts questions submitted to Tim Farrell as well as his answers.
Questions to Tim Farrell,
Candidate for Pierce County Council District No 4.
1) Jail releases
Question: The media has reported that the Pierce County Jail currently releases nearly all of the people who have been arrested in Pierce County into downtown Tacoma even if they are arrested in Orting or a remote area of the county. Would you support a plan which would transport some or all of the jail releases to the places where they were arrested or where they live when their sentence ends?
Answer: Yes. One other thing to mention, as many know, Pierce County uses a “special identification program” (SIP) which allows police departments and county sheriffs to arrest low level offenders, book them into the jail, and release them immediately with a court date. In the past, we have “sipped” people in the rural parts of the county, brought them to the jail, and released them without a means to return to the places they were arrested at. A proposal that is coming out of the Criminal Justice Task Force that I co-chair with Councilmember Dick Muri would set up a satellite booking station in Eastern Pierce County which would allow the SIP to occur closer to the offender’s residence, keep our cops on the streets instead of having to travel with the offender to the courthouse and back, and keep the soon to be released criminals out of downtown Tacoma.
2) Growth management
Question: Over the last 30 years, Pierce County has been known for suburban sprawl which has caused the loss of farmland, pollution, traffic congestion and disinvestment in Tacoma.
If you are re-elected, how will you address the effects of sprawl and growth management in Pierce County? How would that plan be different, if at all, from what is in place now?
Answer: The price of gasoline will be the market driver for the future of unincorporated Pierce County. The future of our county planning will involve making better use of one of our greatest, overlooked, assets – Pierce Transit. By the use of incentives for smart growth and bringing in Pierce Transit into the planning process, we can start moving towards better growth patterns in the future, and work to redevelop the errors of the past.
A clear example of this is the proposed new Bus Rapid Transit Line to replace the southern leg of the Pierce Transit #1 line. By integrating these plans into the Parkland Midland Spanaway Community Plan we can turn blighted 20th Century bad planning into 21st Century Pedestrian / Transit Orientated Development nodes. It will require us to think out of the box and work collaboratively with the county, neighborhoods, developers, and local banks to make these discussions and dreams into a reality.
3) Pierce County Felon “Dumping Ground” Issues
Question: As you know, Tacoma and Pierce County have a disproportionate number of released felons placed by the Department of Corrections as described in the Tacoma City Club report: 30 Years of DOC in Pierce County, Was It worth It?
If re-elected, what do you plan to do, if anything to reduce the number of felons placed in Tacoma and Pierce County? Do you agree that Tacoma and Pierce County should have no more than their pro-rata share based on population? How can the concentration of felons be reduced to its pro-rata share?
Answer: Keep the pressure on Olympia to make sure that this trend does not continue. The overlooked aspect of the dumping involves the role of Western State Hospital. When released from WSH, you can relocate wherever you may please. In many cases, this means right to the outskirts of the hospital where the patient has made their home for the past few months or even years. A full study of these impacts should be made by an independent researcher and the results forwarded to the legislature. The goal for Pierce County being, of course, that we receive additional financial support from the Mental Health Division to care for these people, many of whom will need ongoing support throughout their lives. At this time, our mental health system is underfunded, leaving counties to bear the burdens in our jails and emergency rooms.
As for the pro-rata share, I believe that Pierce County should take care of its own. If your first conviction is in Pierce County, then we have the responsibility of caring for your needs – if not, then I don’t think the burden is ours to bear. I also believe that group homes in our county should only be allowed to take Pierce County residents. Work release and group homes, properly licensed and managed, can help lower the recidivism rate. Left unchecked, they can become training grounds for a more experienced criminal.
4) Elks Temple
Question: A great many Tacomans would like to see the Elks Temple restored. There have been plans discussed to possibly turn part of the building into a transit station.
What is your position on this issue? What plan would you support?
Answer: I helped put the original idea together and I plan on still advocating for it. A public-private partnership with Pierce Transit can help restore the building and make a “Grand Central Station” concept for Pierce Transit a reality. However, financing ANY reconstruction of the Elks Temple will require Federal and State assistance. If re-elected, I plan on working with state and federal elected leaders to continue to pursue this idea.
5) Rebuilding Tacoma
Question: Despite the progress made, Tacoma still has a large number of vacant lots, and empty and blighted buildings relative to other west coast cities. What role can you and Pierce County take, if you are re-elected, to support the rebuilding of downtown Tacoma and Tacoma’s mixed use centers.
Answer: If the loss of the streetcar line was the worst mistake Tacoma has made in the last century, the urban renewal preference for parking lots over historic buildings remains a close second. It is far more expensive to build new rather than redevelop the old. But, well, it is what it is and we need to not let ourselves be frustrated by past mistakes, but rather to work together for a common vision for the future. I would like to focus our efforts on the following:
1) Continue to partner with local agencies such as the United Way to provide birth to three early learning interventions. I have also co-authored legislation with Councilmembers Goings and Gelman to expand our youth workforce training programs. Any realtor will tell you, the two drawing points for any corporation to move into a community is the education of its workforce and the ability to get goods and services in and out of the region.
2) Bring the talent and resources of Pierce Transit into our land use decision making. It is time we rely on transit as a key part of our solution rather than just giving it lip service.
3) Offer to partner with Tacoma on sharing data and resources to focus our efforts to attract key business sectors as highlighted in the Prosperity Partnership.
4) As a Pierce Transit Board Member and a Member of the American Public Transit Association, I plan on working with Tacoma to help make high capacity transit a reality in our downtown and our high population neighborhoods.
Tacoma and Pierce County can make a beautiful partnership in recruiting and retaining family wage jobs. We have been successful in the past and I look forward to a brighter future.
6) Arts and Community
You often visit Frost Park on Fridays at noon in downtown Tacoma in the weekly “Chalk Offs” at 9th and Pacific Avenue Have you ever had any inclination to submit a chalk entry? What type or art or antiques do you find yourself drawn to?
Answer: Considering the quality of art that is made at the Chalk-off and the lack of quality of anything I can contribute, I think I will just stick to legislating and watching the professionals. =)
As far as the stuff laying about the house – I own a vintage 1891 home first occupied by State Senator Charles Claypool. He was elected to represent Tacoma in the legislature from 1892-1896. The home had been a rental for years and underwent a disastrous remodel in 1951 which removed most of its character. I’ve spent the past four years trying to restore it. The home is decorated with vintage local items and northwest art as is my office. I am partial to Tacoma artist Joseph John Englehart and own several of his paintings.
7) Restoring Tacoma’s Streetcars
Question: Many Tacomans support restoring Tacoma’s streetcar system. Gas prices are now at record levels. Pierce County plays a large role in transportation systems in Tacoma. Do you support restoring the streetcar network in Tacoma? What steps would be needed to be taken to make this happen?
Answer: I live on K Street and outside my home; you can still see where the original street car line used to traverse the North Slope Neighborhood. The streetcars were removed in 1938 and replaced with a bus system that was later taken over by Pierce Transit. I believe that we can eventually rebuild a streetcar line; however, it will take some time, and a lot of good planning to make sure we run the lines where they will be most effective to foster redevelopment of Tacoma and serve the most people.
The challenge for the line will be two fold – where can we place it given the engineering constraints of a city being built into a hillside and, second, the large costs associated with building a system that can really serve a large segment of the Tacoma population. In addition, the time it will take to implement the program could be up to 40 years. In order to speed up the process and perhaps give Tacomans a taste of what these lines will look like much sooner, perhaps we need to take a step by step approach.
Any system route will have to be tested first – perhaps with a special high tech bus service with Bus Rapid Transit Features such as a dedicated lane and signalization preferences. It would essentially be a Streetcar without the streetcar. Once the transit routes are established and we redevelop around these lines, the final phase, actual streetcar placement, can replace the BRT lines with a permanent, fixed streetcar system.
VIII) Pollution Issues in Tacoma
Question: The City of Tacoma is currently failing the pollution criteria set by the State of Washington. What role can Pierce County play to reduce pollution in the city limits of Tacoma?
Answer: Good question – I believe that the answer is in how we work effectively as a region. First, the Prosperity Partnership *a consortium of business and government in the tri-county area* has identified green jobs as a potential source of economic growth. By working with Tacoma, we can devise incentives for “green energy” businesses to start up and locate in Pierce County.
As a member of the Pierce Transit Board of Commissioners, I believe having a comprehensive transit system that gets commuters out of our cars and into high capacity transit will go a long way toward reducing pollution in our city.
9) Crime Reduction Proposal by City Manager Eric Anderson
Question: City Manager Eric Anderson has set a goal to reduce crime in Tacoma by 50 percent in 14 months. Given the predominant role Pierce County plays on the criminal justice system, what steps will you support the County government in taking so that the City of Tacoma can succeed?
Answer: As the co-chairman of the Criminal Justice Task Force, I can assist in several ways:
1) In Pierce County, recent studies show that 20% of the people account for 40% of the arrests. There is a large “frequent flier” contingent of homeless residents who would benefit from a housing first program much like we have in the City of Tacoma. By reducing the number of these people on the arrest records, we can free up jail, courtroom space, and law enforcement time to crack down harder on the other problems Tacoma is facing.
2) By making some efficiency changes on how our courts manage their caseloads, we can move people through the system faster. This is fair for both offenders *remember, justice delayed is justice denied* and for keeping the jail open to take more of the offenders that we are “sipping” and releasing early and holding them. It’s a much better disincentive to criminals to know that there is no longer a “jail lottery” and that if they get picked up for an offense, they are going to spend time in jail.
3) Continuing to work with the City and keep the doors open for suggestions and assistance where they feel they need it.