PIERCE COUNTY, Wash. — A move to break up the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department failed on a 3-3 vote Tuesday night at the Pierce County Council, following hours of public comment against the plan.
The deciding no vote was cast by Pam Roach, who was listed on the council agenda as the bill’s sponsor, prompting an audible surprise from her colleagues.
The bill would have started the process of breaking up the health department that’s jointly run by the county and the city of Tacoma.
Supporters say non-Tacoma residents would have had better representation.
“I think this proposal adds accountability with a new future health department,” said Councilmember Dave Morell.
Tacoma’s mayor opposed the change, as did people who last week rallied against it, saying Republicans were pushing the plan just before a Democratic majority takes over.
That outrage continued during hours of public comment at the council meeting that was overwhelmingly against a breakup.
“Cease and desist with this circus act, this buffoonery in times of anguish and suffering,” one man told the council.
On Monday, Gov. Jay Inslee intervened with a proclamation prohibiting a health governance change in the middle of an emergency.
“This pause will allow public health officials to focus their energies on the most challenging chapter yet of our pandemic response,” Inslee said.
The county council bill would have started the process for a breakup after the pandemic.
As for Pam Roach, she tells KIRO 7 she supports better representation and wishes the county would have taken on the governor directly.
Roach said she signed on as a co-sponsor to a bill making the county council the health board.
Then, she says, people started making assumptions, and the public didn’t get enough time to weigh in.
“All the amendments that were worked behind the scenes, I wasn’t even given a courtesy call. What do you folks think I might think about that, you’re talking Pam Roach here, OK,” Roach told the council Tuesday night.
Roach told KIRO 7 she made the decision days ago to vote against the bill, and before the meeting she issued a statement nearly saying as much.
© 2021 Cox Media Group