Bulletin Board: News from Tacoma and Beyond

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Primary results certified

Results of the 2019 Primary have been certified by the secretary of state’s office. Turnout of 29.56 percent makes it the highest odd-year Primary since 2009, which came in at 31.04 percent.

The new statewide election management system, VoteWA, performed as expected. With the new Same Day Registration law in effect, thousands of individuals were able to register and vote a ballot up to and including Election Day. State election officials are confident that VoteWA is ready for the General Election in November.

Sound Transit Board approves funding for county bus rapid transit

The Sound Transit Board of Directors today unanimously approved a capital contribution of $60 million to Pierce Transit for its bus rapid transit (BRT) project along the Pacific Avenue/State Route 7 corridor. The funding is part of the Sound Transit 3 (ST3) measure approved by voters in 2016. The new 14.4-mile BRT line will improve service on Pierce Transit’s highest ridership route along Pacific Avenue and State Route 7 from Tacoma to Spanaway. 

“Tacoma is growing and becoming a hub for regional travel; it is vital that we proactively address transportation needs with appropriate investments in transit infrastructure,“ said Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards. Mayor Woodards is a member of the Sound Transit Board and is Chair of the Pierce Transit Board of Commissioners. “Tacoma is already served by Sounder trains and regional buses. With the connectivity the new BRT line will provide and future regional light rail, Tacomans and travelers throughout the region will have several options to avoid traffic congestion.” 

“Teaming up with Pierce Transit to upgrade their busiest route will greatly improve transit service for Pierce County residents,” said Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff. “This investment will provide a critical high capacity transit service to Tacoma Dome Station, one of the largest transit hubs in the region. When we bring regional light rail to Tacoma, Pierce County residents will have one more opportunity to leave their car at home and enjoy congestion-free mass transit.”

“We are excited about how this project will provide people with faster and more dependable transit between South Pierce County and downtown Tacoma, but it is really about much more than that,” said Pierce Transit CEO Sue Dreier. “This Bus Rapid Transit line will provide other opportunities, such as enhanced economic development along the corridor, congestion mitigation as people choose not to drive alone, reliable access to universities and convenient transportation for the high percentage of transit-dependent customers who live along this corridor.”

The estimated cost of the BRT project is $150 million. Pierce Transit has already secured $90 million, which includes the $60 million contribution from Sound Transit. Pierce Transit has applied to the Federal Transit Administration’s Small Starts Grant program for the remaining $60 million. 

The Pierce Transit Board adopted the Locally Preferred Alternative BRT termini (Spanaway to Downtown Tacoma) and alignment in July 2018. In September 2018 Pierce Transit applied for the FTA Small Starts Grant. In April 2019, the Pierce Transit Board selected the BRT lane configuration and Tacoma Dome Station access routing. Earlier this month, the Pierce Transit Board of Commissioners approved the agency entering into an agreement with Sound Transit to accept the $60 million capital contribution. 

The project is currently in environmental review. Preliminary engineering begins later this year with final design complete in early 2021. The anticipated completion of construction of the new BRT route is 2023.

TCC and Evergreen Sign LaEAP Program MOU

Tacoma Community College (TCC) and The Evergreen State College have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to reinstate the Liberal Arts Early Access Program (LaEAP). The program gives TCC students the opportunity to take classes at Evergreen’s Tacoma campus at no additional charge while attending TCC. 

LaEAP is a partnership for TCC students completing an Associate of Arts Direct Transfer (DTA) degree and interested in pursuing a bachelor’s degrees in Liberal arts.  Eligible students attend classes at Evergreen State College Tacoma while completing an Associate of Arts DTA degree from Tacoma Community College.  Students will attend the Evergreen “Lyceum” with third- and fourth-year Evergreen students.  Lyceum consists of a combination of interdisciplinary lectures and small group learning activities.   

“The Evergreen Liberal Arts Early Access Program creates access and opportunity for students to attend Evergreen State College – Tacoma for one to two quarters,” said TCC Human Services Instructor Dr. Bridgette Agpaoa Ryder. “TCC students can attend classes at a nationally recognized Liberal Arts College and earn Tacoma Community College credit towards a transfer degree.”  

LaEAP program offerings for 2019-2020 include:  English 103, Writing about Literature (fall quarter), CMST 110, Multicultural Communication (winter quarter), and Sociology 299, Individual Research (spring quarter).

Free legal help for military service members, veterans

The Attorney General’s Office will offer a free legal clinic tomorrow for Tacoma-area military service members and veterans in need of legal help with basic will preparation, driver’s license restoration, small claims assistance and select family law issues.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s Office of Military & Veteran Legal Assistance (OMVLA) is collaborating with volunteer attorneys and community partners to offer the clinic from 4-7 p.m. Tuesday at VFW Post 969, 3510 McKinley Ave, Tacoma, WA 98404. This is the first OMVLA clinic held in Western Washington.
Legal clinic services will be offered by appointment only and capacity is limited. Potential clinic clients and attorneys interested in volunteering can get registration information for the event by calling (206) 464-6431 or by emailing Assistant Attorney General Travis Alley at travisa@atg.wa.gov.
“Veterans and military service members deserve our respect, appreciation and support,” Ferguson said. “This clinic will be the first of several my office is organizing in the Puget Sound region catering specifically to the military and veteran population. As someone with a long family history of military service, I am committed to supporting those who have served our country.”
To qualify for services at the free legal clinic, military service members and veterans must live or be stationed in Washington, and meet certain financial eligibility requirements. More information about the clinic and other legal resources is available at www.atg.wa.gov/veteranmilitaryresources.aspx.
OMVLA was created by Attorney General request legislation in the 2017 session to promote and facilitate access to civil legal services for Washington’s current and former military service members.
Representative Christine Kilduff (D-University Place) sponsored the legislation. OMVLA is authorized to recruit and train volunteer attorneys, maintain a registry of available services and volunteers, assess requests for legal assistance and refer such requests to registered volunteer attorneys and legal aid providers.
The legal clinic is part of Attorney General Ferguson’s Military & Veterans Initiative, an ongoing effort to stand up for Washington’s military service members and veterans. It involves engaging and educating military service members and veterans about their rights and available resources, vigorously enforcing legal protections within the Attorney General’s authority, and promoting and facilitating access to civil legal services.

Schedule for Fox Island Bridge repair work updated 

Pierce County has updated the schedule for pavement repair work on the Fox Island Bridge to accommodate parents and students on the first day of school for the Peninsula School District. 

A detailed bridge inspection and the first day of pavement repair work will still take place on Aug. 27. The road will be reduced to one lane with alternating traffic from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

A second day of repair work was originally scheduled for Aug. 28, which is the first day of school for most students in the district. This work will now be done from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 9 and 10. The work will continue from 9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Sept. 12 if needed. The road will be reduced to one lane with alternating traffic. The work hours were shifted to accommodate school start and end times.

Motorists should add extra travel time and expect traffic delays.

On Aug. 27, Pierce County Planning and Public Works bridge engineering staff will inspect the condition of the bridge’s structural components and assess the structure for future maintenance needs. Some of the structural components will be inspected with the aid of an under-bridge inspection truck.

The inspection is performed every other year as part of Pierce County’s bridge inspection program that ensures the safety of the traveling public and the longevity of the county’s transportation infrastructure.

The Fox Island Bridge is constructed of cast-in-place concrete and steel beams. At 1,950 feet, it is the longest vehicle bridge maintained by Pierce County.

The bridge was built in 1954 and carries approximately 6,875 vehicles a day.

Sustainability Summit for Women in Business happens Oct .5

This unique one-day conference brings together a diverse group of women (self-identifying) and non-binary folx from all over the South Sound to talk about what sustainability means for their businesses, jobs, community, and personal lives. The keynote speaker, Emily Pinckney of the Sustainable Tacoma Commission, will speak about Economic Systems of Subjugation (the systems we work in affect our decision making when it comes to the environment and our businesses). Breakout sessions include discussions on Branding for Sustainability, Community for Sustainability, Reducing Waste, Conscious Consumerism, Sustainability Steps for Businesses, and more. The conference has an underlying focus on how to focusing our energy into our local community can improve business outcomes. The 2018 Summit had 65 attendees and we expect a larger group this year – a diverse mix of entrepreneurs, recent graduates, business owners, and employees.

The Summit will be held at RAIN Incubator on Jefferson Street in downtown Tacoma. Tickets are on a sliding scale from $25-75 to ensure all are able to join. A short application is available for volunteer opportunities and scholarships. Tickets include coffee and a vegan, gluten free lunch. Tickets can be purchased via www.allisonbishins.com/events/sustainabilitysummit. For more information, contact allisonbishins@gmail.com. 

Spending time with pets benefits older adults

Social isolation is becoming an increasingly common issue, with one in five Americans reporting they feel lonely. Seniors are especially vulnerable to these feelings. In fact, 43 percent say they experience loneliness regularly. A new survey of adults age 65 and older by Home Instead, Inc. found regular interaction with animals can help to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness. 

“While we recognize that pet ownership isn’t for everyone, we find that interaction with pets, even on a small scale, can have a big impact on older adults,” said Bruce Anderson, senior care expert and owner of Home Instead Senior Care serving Mount Lake Terrace. “A simple act like petting a dog, holding a cat or watching a bird can bring so much joy to a senior who may be feeling lonely.” 

Additional survey results found that nearly half of older pet owners cited stress relief, sense of purpose and exercise as leading advantages to owning a pet. In addition to providing positive health benefits, pets can also provide constant companionship for older adults who would prefer to age in place. In fact, 82 percent of senior animal owners surveyed said they would not consider moving to a senior living community without their pet. 

These findings are not a surprise to Steve Feldman, executive director of the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), a nonprofit research and education organization. “There is a strong connection between heart health and pet ownership or interaction,” Feldman said. “Pet owners are more likely to get recommended levels of exercise, have lower blood pressure and experience reduced levels of stress. Pets have even been shown to aid in recovery after a heart attack.”

While there are many benefits to owning a pet later in life, Home Instead also found that even occasional interactions with pets prove to be beneficial for older adults. Survey results indicate that older adults achieve the same positive feelings when spending time with animals in other capacities, such as visiting with pets owned by family, friends or neighbors. 

“This interaction is especially important, as it also provides the opportunity to socialize with other people, further reducing feelings of loneliness,” Anderson said. “Our goal is to keep seniors safe and happy in their own homes for as long as possible and many times that includes helping them with their own pet, taking them to dog parks or visiting pet-friendly businesses to gain that animal interaction they desire.”

Elisabeth Van Every, communications and outreach coordinator for Pet Partners, a nonprofit North American therapy animal organization agrees.

“Research also shows animal interaction can help perceptions of pain and discomfort and improve motivation for treatment protocols for diseases such as cancer by helping individuals feel more focused and positive moving forward,” said Van Every. “Even interactions for half an hour a week can make a difference.”

To help older adults determine what type of pet interaction is right for them, Home Instead Senior Care is offering free resources and tips to help seniors incorporate animals into their lives. To learn more, visit PetsandSeniors.com or contact your local Home Instead Senior Care office.

New open source tool delivers results for Washington

Employers in Washington continue to import talent to fill Washington jobs. Of the 82,544 Washington students who entered ninth grade in 2014, only 34,171 are projected to earn a postsecondary credential. Economists forecast there will be 94,455 family-sustaining jobs available in Washington for those that have earned the needed credentials, according to state-wide non-profit, Washington STEM. 

Washington STEM has released a new tool, the Credential Opportunities by Region and Industry (CORI) Matrix, to meet the growing need for data-informed decision making around the credentials required to take advantage of regional economic opportunity in Washington. Currently, there are not enough career and credential pathways for Washington students to take advantage of economic opportunity in the state. CORI helps solve this problem.

In 2016, The Boston Consulting Group and Washington Roundtable released a report projecting an anticipated 740,000 job openings in Washington by 2021. However, there was no clear regionalized economic data that allowed government or postsecondary institutions in Washington to strengthen, or create, the necessary credential pathways to access those jobs. Washington employers want to hire Washington students, but students, especially those from low-income backgrounds, rural areas, and communities of color, often lack the systemic supports, like regional credential availability, needed to attain high-demand, family wage careers. 

CORI gives postsecondary institutions, state agencies, educators, career counselors, and students, the opportunity to create a regional analysis of available family-wage jobs, credentials needed for family-wage jobs, the availability of those credentials, and where students can enroll to pursue certificates, apprenticeships, two-year degrees, and four-year degrees that will lead to family-wage jobs.

“CORI has been a game changer for Renton Technical College. With this tool in our back pocket, we’ve been able to make smarter decisions around credential offerings, expand and add programs, and ensure that our college is preparing students to meet the demands of Washington’s regional economies,” said Kevin McCarthy, president, Renton Technical College.

This tool is already being used to implement Career Connect Washington, an education and workforce development initiative that was made possible by HB 2158, to identify the economic and educational needs of every region in Washington. Career and Technical Education teachers and leaders are using CORI to refresh their course offerings in high schools across the state to meet local job demand.

“CORI is a truly unique tool and it’s freely available to anyone who is looking for a smart approach to credential and career pathways. There are similar data sets and analyses that exist, but all of them require expensive licenses or contract fees to access. This tool provides the necessary data that Washington students need to chart their own path, in career and life,” said Jenée Myers Twitchell, PhD, Impact Director at Washington STEM.

Grocery Outlet ‘Independence from Hunger’ raises $2 million 

Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, extreme-value grocery retailer, has announced its ninthannual Independence from Hunger Food Drive campaign raised over $2 million – the equivalent of approximately one million meals – for families in need. From June 26 through July 31, 300-plus Grocery Outlet stores raised funds and collected monetary donations from customers, employees and Independent Operators to donate back to local food agencies to help address critical food insecurity needs in their communities. 

According to the USDA’s latest analysis of Food Insecurity in America, 15 million U.S. households have limited access to food sources and suffer from food insecurity. Agencies that combat food insecurity face the highest demand during the summer, when many families lose access to school-supported food programs. Recognizing this need, Grocery Outlet made a commitment nearly a decade ago with its Independence from Hunger campaign to find solutions that ensure all families have access to high-quality meals. 

“We are thrilled to have raised over $2 million to combat food insecurity through Independence from Hunger,” said Eric Lindberg, CEO at Grocery Outlet Inc. “By leveraging local partnerships built by our Independent Operators, the program continues to reach new heights and offer support to the communities we serve.” 

Since its launch in 2011, the Independence from Hunger campaign efforts have collected more than $7 million in totaldonations nationwide. Throughout the campaign, Grocery Outlet customers and employees were encouraged to contribute to the campaign through: 

  • purchasing of a pre-made food bags filled with an assortment of nonperishable items; 
  • “Give $5, Get $5” at the register (donate $5 or more in a single transaction and receive a $5 coupon); and
  • contribution of a monetary donation through in-store and online platforms.

“Our Independence from Hunger food drive supports new communities each year as Grocery Outlet’s footprint expands,” said MacGregor Read, vice chairman at Grocery Outlet Inc. “Through the support andcommitment of our local partners we’re one step closer tohelping eliminate food insecurity for families across the nation.” 

Each of Grocery Outlet’s 300-plus stores identified local food agencies in their respective locations to partner with throughout the campaign.In addition, Grocery Outlet’s San Francisco bay area partner, Alameda County Community Food Bank, will receive all donations completed online at GroceryOutlet.com/Donateas well as generous donations from long-time supplier partners Nature’s Bakery, Clif Bar & Company, Campbell’s, Coca-Cola, Pacific Foods, OK Produce, PepsiCo and PopCorners. No administration or collateral fees are deducted from the funds, ensuring all benefitting organizations receive 100 percent of the proceeds.

For more information on the Independence from Hunger campaign and Grocery Outlet, visit GroceryOutlet.com.

Superior Court Judge Susan K. Serko announces retirement

Pierce County Superior Court announces the retirement of Judge Susan K. Serko from the bench after more than 13 years. Judge Serko’s last day will be Aug.31. 

Judge Susan K. Serko grew up living in Brooklyn, New York, Spokane, Washington, and Kodiak, Alaska. After resettling in upstate New York, she earned her bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York, College at Cortland in 1976. Judge Serko’s exposure to the Pacific Northwest as a child prompted the move to Tacoma, where she attended the University of Puget Sound School of Law, graduating in 1982.

Judge Serko began her legal career with the local firm of Rush, Hannula & Harkins, where she practiced in the areas of insurance defense, plaintiff’s personal injury, family law and discrimination. In 2001, she accepted a position with the Office of Administrative Hearings in Seattle as an administrative law judge, working primarily with social services, conducting hearings on child support and public assistance. In January 2006, then-Governor Christine Gregoire appointed Judge Susan K. Serko as Pierce County Superior Court Judge for Department 14, following the retirement of Judge Bruce Cohoe. 

As a judge, Judge Serko spent time in the court’s various rotations, including criminal, civil, family and juvenile courts. Because of her past civil advocacy experience, Judge Serko assisted in the development of the five-judge panel coined the “civil rotation” in 2012. While this began as an experiment, the rotation proved wildly successful and has resulted in lawyers’ reliance on trial date certainty and reduction of the civil backlog.

Judge Serko received many awards and held several leadership positions during her tenure on the bench, to include criminal presiding judge, Juvenile Court presiding judge, chair of numerous committees for Superior Court, president of the Robert Bryan Inn of Court, trustee of the Superior Court Judges Association, Liberty Bell award recipient, and the 2018 Girl Scouts of Western Washington Woman of Distinction.

Judge Serko remarked that this job has been the highlight of her legal career, and it is an honor and a privilege to serve the citizens of Pierce County, particularly when she has the advice and support of a capable group of judicial officers and administrators with whom she works.

Judge Susan K. Serko’s intellect, compassion, integrity and commitment to the rule of law have made her a highly valued member of Pierce County Superior Court. Please join us in congratulating Judge Serko on her retirement.  

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