Hello Gig Harbor Citizens,
I want to take a moment and address the unrest across our country over this past week.
Over the weekend, Gig Harbor Police Chief Kelly Busey made a statement on the GHPD Facebook page. In it, he denounces the murder of George Floyd as “senseless, unjust, and outrageous.” He also reaffirms the Gig Harbor Police Department’s strong stance against biased policing and our commitment to always do the right thing at the right time for the right reasons. Please take a moment to read the entire statement.
This week I reached out to Mayors, Councilmembers, and other leaders across Pierce County to encourage other leaders to join or organize a peaceful vigil walk. Our system across the U.S. is broken, and we need to take the lead in showing our community and nation that we need reform and change. Instead of just watching our citizens gather, we can get many of our elected officials, police officers, and public officials to walk in solidarity with citizens and church groups across the County. We all have a lot on our plate, but change can’t happen if we are not willing to help make it happen.
I welcome your input on your experiences in our community, and on what we can do better. I’m here to listen and learn, and to take action to ensure our city provides the same security and justice for each and every one of our citizens.
Last week, I was granted a one-on-one with Governor Inslee to address Gig Harbor’s need for clarity and fair treatment within the re-opening schedule. I worked to make our case, citing the real and urgent economic need for our businesses to be able to re-open. I shared our low number of cases, and our closer proximity to Kitsap and Mason Counties than the remainder of Pierce County.
We fought hard for Gig Harbor to be considered outside of the remainder of Pierce County, and although he denied the request based on how many other cities would apply for variances and consideration outside of their respective counties, I also sent out a strongly worded letter to the Governor and our local businesses about the need to reopen. We know the pressure we applied was considered along with other cities and jurisdictions, and a few days later the Governor softened the requirements for counties to move into Phase Two and introduced “Phase 1.5” to allow for some relaxations of restrictions on businesses in a more timely way.
We’ve also been actively in touch with Pierce County on their application to move to Phase Two of the Governor’s Safe Start plan. The application has been approved by the Pierce County Council and the Tacoma Pierce County Health Department. We are currently waiting for the application to be processed by the state.
In Phase Two, here are a couple of the things we can look forward to: gatherings with five people outside your household will be allowed. All outdoor recreation, including camping and beach time will be allowed, but travel would be limited to within the proximity of your home. Manufacturing, new construction, in-home and domestic services like nannies and housecleaning will resume. In-store retail purchases will be allowed with restrictions. Real estate and office-based businesses will resume. Hair salons, barbers and nail salons can open, and restaurants can open under 50% capacity, with tables that seat no more than five. We hope to have an announcement soon on the State’s decision to allow us to move forward.
Last Thursday, Council held a special meeting to approve a new Small Business Stabilization Grant program. Small businesses in Gig Harbor (with fewer than 10 full-time employees) will be able to apply for a grant of $1500 that will be funded by $308,000 of the City’s CARES Act distribution. We’ll be able to award this grant for up to 205 businesses. If more than 205 apply, we will have to randomly select the businesses who receive the funds. This is not the best solution, but it allows us to make sure that the grant amount is enough to make a difference to the businesses who get the money, and distributed in a fair and unbiased way. We will announce the details of the program very shortly.
This time of year is very meaningful for our community – we have a class of graduating seniors that have worked hard and have made meaningful contributions to our community. To acknowledge them, Peninsula School District will be hosting two celebration events: a Graduate Car Parade at the Tacoma Narrows Airport will take place on June 13th in keeping with social distancing standards, and a postponed, in-person Graduation Ceremony for both Gig Harbor High School and Peninsula High School will take place at PHS’ Roy Anderson Field on July 25th and be live-streamed for guests. Henderson Bay High School graduates will be celebrated on July 24th at Sehmel Homestead Park.
Although the Civic Center will be closed to the public until June 22nd, we plan to start bringing City employees back to work during Phase Two and reopening the building to the public in Phase Three. Here at the City, our HR staff is hard at work on a comprehensive plan to make sure that everyone is safe as they return to their offices. We’ll be updating the public on the re-opening date for the Civic Center on or before June 19th.
Next week, Council will hopefully approve Ordinance 1445, ratifying temporary suspension of certain special use and encroachment permit regulations. This will allow us to waive fees and shorten the time frame for approval, in order for businesses to hold sidewalk sales. We will also be posting temporary signs throughout town allowing some parking spots to be designated for pick-ups at local business. For those of you who have questions, I’m continuing to go live on www.facebook.com/cityofgigharbor each Tuesday and Friday at 10:00AM, and I invite you to join and ask questions freely. I’m also live on KGHP (89.9FM and 105.7FM) most Wednesdays at 1:00PM with DJ Walrus, and I encourage you to tune in there, too. These are difficult times for all of us, but we are working together to get through it and our City will be better and stronger in the years to come.
Many of you might recall the City used to hold a Leadership Council update in years past. I’ve brought it back to life, collecting a group of leaders from government, organizations, and businesses around town to meet and discuss ways to help each other as we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis. We are using this group to share ideas, communicate openly, and identify ways in which we can provide support and a quick path to economic recovery. I’ll continue to communicate with this group and arrange meetings to keep an open line of communication and brainstorming going on how we can strengthen our community and our economic outlook here in Gig Harbor.
Stay healthy out there and be kind to one another,