'Like a freight train out of control': Tacoma-Pierce County Board of Health reacts to county proposal

The Tacoma-Pierce County Board of Health openly discussed the county proposal to terminate the agreement between the City of Tacoma and Pierce County for a joint health department.

“I’m kind of angry at this but I need more information,” said Mayor Patricia Johnson of Buckley, who is on the Board of Health. “I need to take back information to other mayors that this is coming down the pike like a freight train out of control.”

The Board of Health’s members are appointed by the Tacoma City Council, Pierce County Council, the Pierce County Cities and Towns Association and the Pierce County Medical Society. The Pierce County Executive also sits on the Board.

The bill that is under scrutiny was introduced in the Pierce County Council meeting on Tuesday. It’s sponsored by Councilmember Pam Roach, who told Q13’s Steve Kiggins the current structure is undemocratic because health officials are answering to an appointed board, rather than an elected body.

Pierce County resident and mom of four Andrea Isackson supports the proposal.

“I feel that the community is the most important and that’s why we elect those officials,” said Isackson. “I feel it’s most important that the council reflects the decision to the Health Department, and that the community’s needs and desires and wants are the ones reflected rather than a group of people that are not necessarily elected by the community.”

Pierce County Councilmember Derek Young is not in favor of the bill, saying it feels “rushed” for a specific political agenda.

“We’re likely to face a couple of the darkest months our generation has seen in a long time, really ever. This is not the time to be considering major organizational changes. I can see potential merit in each [model] but we haven’t done that analysis so this looks like a naked power grab by the executive as allies on the council right before they’re about to lose control of the council.”

Councilmember Young said the bill is being discussed in the Rules and Operations Committee, which is served by a Republican majority, when it’d actually be more natural to be in the Human Services Committee.

“Frustration that, this isn’t a discussion we’ve had. A lot of people would assume, normally something this major would be something that we’ve developed collaboratively, talked with our partners about before introducing,” said Councilmember Young.

A hearing on the bill is coming up next Monday on December 7, and a vote is scheduled for December 15.