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Nov 02

Mayor’s Update - October 30, 2020

Posted on November 2, 2020 at 3:51 PM by Joshua Stecker

Hello Gig Harbor,


There is no doubt about it – summer is a distant memory and fall is here now. The holidays are right around the corner. I hope you will all be able to connect with your families and enjoy this time of year.

With the new season, we face many of the same challenges that the pandemic gave us in spring and summer. The COVID-19 case rate in Pierce County jumped this past week to 114.4 per 100,000 over a 14-day span - almost double where we were one month ago. In order to move to Phase 3 we have to have fewer than 25 cases per 100,000 people per 14 days. We must keep wearing our masks and remembering to keep social distancing to reach our goal.

Statewide, we recently passed 100,000 total cases of COVID-19 with 2,384 reported deaths so far. The Department of Health says we are in the middle of a “third surge of cases” that started after Labor Day. They predict this surge will keep rising into January and February with the cold weather. It is more important than ever that we keep our guard up.

The Pierce County COVID-19 Testing Trailer will be back on November 20 and December 18 at Gig Harbor High School. Testing is free to all and no symptoms need to be present to have a test administered. 

Halloween is this weekend and the Tacoma-Pierce County Board of Health has issued recommendations to help keep everyone safe. If you are going to be out with others to celebrate the holiday, you’re strongly encouraged to socially distance, wear your face mask, wash your hands frequently and be safe.

Election Day is Tuesday next week. I feel it is very important for everyone that can vote to do so. Your vote does count, and it has been proven in the past when the election numbers are very close. It is your right to vote and we live in a great country where we have rights as citizens.

The Downtown Waterfront Alliance is producing a new video series called “Treasures on the Waterfront.”  It features their Promotions Chair Karrie Polinsky as she discovers many of the treasures of downtown, the businesses, the people and the places.  They have released three of these videos and plan to do many more to draw attention to our downtown.  I’d like to encourage you to watch them, and if you are Facebook savvy, please share them.  The more that see them the better.  These are wonderful stories, fun, informative and in some cases heartwarming - Karrie just naturally brings this all to the surface as she visits downtown businesses.  A link to the Treasures videos will be posted in the comments.

November is all about the budget here at the Civic Center. My 2021 preliminary budget is now available online. We’ve worked hard to make sure that we continue to provide the services the city requires and to make sure all our projects keep moving forward. I will be continuing to support our non-profits and our lodging tax (LTAC) grants. In our General Fund I will continue to support the Senior Center, Gig Harbor Downtown Waterfront Alliance, and the Harbor History Museum.

We’re being very cautious about predicting how much revenue we’ll bring in next year. We still don’t know what the long-term economic impacts of COVID-19 will be. Council will be reviewing the budget over five meetings in November and December, including two public hearings, so there are plenty of opportunities for you to weigh in on how you think we should spend our money.

At our November 9 meeting we will be rolling out a new webinar platform that will allow residents to join the meeting live and give public comments in person. I encourage all of you to log on and let us know your thoughts on the budget and other matters.

The police department is in the latter stages of the hiring process of two of the three vacant police officer positions.  We hope to be able to issue offers of employment to two exceptional candidates very soon.  We have reopened our recruitment to attract other applicants and intend to hold interviews in mid-November to fill the third open position.

When Council first approved of the Ancich Waterfront Park project the main goal was to provide dock access and moorage facilities for both small, human powered crafts and commercial fishermen. While design and permitting for the human powered craft dock is well underway, configuration of a commercial fishing Homeport has yet to be established. A Commercial Fishing Homeport Feasibility Study has been completed to provide economic analysis and community opinions for the layout of the proposed Homeport facility.  We are hoping to have an online meeting with the homeport stakeholders and the City Council in December to start working on a path forward to complete the homeport.

Another major project that the City will soon be starting is the sidewalk and/or bike path along Burnham Drive between Harbor Hill Drive and Harborview Drive. This corridor connects Gig Harbor North to our downtown waterfront, and we’ve been hearing from many of you how important it is to have a safe way to walk and bike between the two neighborhoods. Council is reviewing different alternatives including a sidewalk and bike lane or a shared multi-use pathway for all non-motorized traffic.

Council will be looking at these alternatives at their November 9 City Council meeting and if you’re interested in weighing in on the bike path and sidewalk designs, we want to hear from you at this meeting. We’ll be posting the design alternatives for this project on our website very soon.

The Public Works Operations Division has completed the Scotch broom removal from the storm pond at the intersection of Harbor Hill Drive and Burnham Drive. New landscaping will be going in there that consists of smaller trees and other native vegetation, which have a better chance of success and provide more plants for the same amount of money.  This work will require Operations Staff to provide water bags or other irrigation methods beginning spring 2021.

The City has adopted its 2021 Legislative Agenda to tell our representatives in Olympia what the City needs. We are focusing in on congestion issues on Highway 16, funding for the Sports Complex, and assistance in adding more attainable housing in the City.

The lack of attainable housing and growing homelessness are issues that are facing us here in Gig Harbor and all over Pierce County. I’ve been working with a group of Pierce County mayors over the past two years to try to brainstorm ideas for ways the city can help with these issues. This group is now called the South Sound Housing Affordability Partners (SSHAP) and together we’ve put together a letter to send to our legislators asking for action on several issues:

  • Provide the option to offer the Multi-family Tax Exemption in all cities and towns and appropriate county urban growth areas.
  • Provide robust resources for rent, foreclosure-prevention, and utility assistance.
  • Preserve and Fund the Housing Trust Fund.
  • Authorize a local option for graduated Real Estate Excise Tax.

These are only options/tools that our city could use and are not to be adopted in our City Code. They are statewide options that could be looked at case-by-case. An overwhelming majority of the City Council has given their support. Hopefully soon we will begin to see some change coming out of Olympia to help with this problem.

The City has authorized Gig Harbor Rotary North to go out and look for suitable partners to set up a Sister City program for Gig Harbor. They’ve already been in contact with towns in Croatia and Norway and they’ll be working with all three Rotary clubs to develop a program that will promote our community and open up opportunities for Gig Harbor residents to see how people live in other parts of the world. We look forward to hearing back from them when they find the right match for us.

As always, please stay safe out there and remember to be kind to each other.