Surprise vote puts end to effort to dissolve Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department | KNKX

Surprise vote puts end to effort to dissolve Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department

Dec 16, 2020

A controversial proposal to dissolve the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department will not move forward.

It would have dissolved a partnership with the City of Tacoma and replaced the department with a county-run agency. But the measure failed late Tuesday night as the Pierce County Council deadlocked in a 3-to-3 vote.

Democrat Marty Campbell was one of the "no" votes. He says the legislation would have started a long and convoluted process, “one with lots of uncertainty, lots of unusual outcomes, probably lots of expensive, protracted litigation. We need to take a step back from the chaos."

One of the surprises Tuesday was a "no" vote from Republican Pam Roach, who was one of the proposal’s sponsors. She says she was responding to public input, including nearly four hours of testimony at the meeting.

One of those speakers was Nancy Sutton, the former deputy director of the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.

"To propose an idea like this in the middle of a situation that is commanding the full attention of the public health department is -- it almost defies words," Sutton said.

However, another former health board member, Steilacoom Mayor Ron Lucas, was one of the few people who spoke in favor of the proposal: "Approval of this ordinance will simply recognize the value and equal size of each Pierce County district and allow for all the Pierce County elected representatives to shape policy ahead with the medical professionals here in Pierce County."

A conversation about the partnership could continue in 2021, but it will likely look different as four new members will join the Pierce County Council next month and the balance of power will shift toward the Democrats.

Gov. Jay Inslee issued a proclamation earlier this week, preventing the dissolution of city-county health districts during the pandemic. In a tweet, council member Derek Young, a Democrat, said the focus can now return to distributing COVID-19 vaccines in Pierce County.