About a dozen citizens had the ear of 31st District State Sen. Pam Roach Saturday morning during a town hall meeting she hosted at the East Pierce Fire and Rescue station.
The local residents brought their concerns and questions about a range of issues including gun rights, land issues, child protection services and even national politics.
Transportation was concern brought forth by Bonney Lake City Councilmen James Rackley and Tom Watson, who also attended the meeting.
Since Bonney Lake was removed from the Pierce Transit service area in late 2011 and with word coming that vanpool services will also be scaled back, the city leaders emphasized that there are few options now for residents who can't drive.
Roach responded that in her observations, the buses were not well-used during morning commute in Bonney Lake. However, there should be consideration of alternative modes of public transportation to serve local residents, including possibly using smaller buses.
Watson shared his frustration that the citizens who should be heard at meetings about solving area transit problems cannot get to them.
One resident suggested that there were private transportation companies that could assist residents with reasonable costs. (Editor's Note: Patch located a list of resources from Pierce County. Click here to view.)
The city leaders also asked about the widening of State Route 167 and pointed out that HOT (high occupancy toll) lanes all end right at the King-Pierce County line, which doesn't alleviate traffic congestion south of that into Sumner and Bonney Lake.
According to the WSDOT, the agency is looking to extend the southbound HOT lane from its existing end point at 37th Street N.W. to Third Avenue S.W. Work is expected to begin in the summer of 2017.
Meanwhile, said Roach, lawmakers are focusing on the completion of SR 167 to Tacoma which would connect vital ports in the state and keep Washington competitive in the global economy.
The WSDOT reports last year's legislative session secured $1.8 million for right-of-way acquisition through mid-year. There is no concrete timeline for the new construction project, however, "we will continue right-of-way acquisition and engineering as funding allows." Read more on the WSDOT website.
Saturday's town hall meeting was a part of a series of face-to-face events Roach has had over the last three weekends to meet constituents in the 31st District. She spoke in Enumclaw two weeks ago and in Bonney Lake also touched on similar topics looking forward to the 2013 Legislative session, including putting education as a top priority, her continued support for Rainier School and what the new recent shift in state Senate alliances might mean.
Roach outlined several goals she had for the 105-day session that began this last week:
- Whereas the current state school board is made up of appointees, she would work to change it to an elected body instead. In its current state, the board is too far removed from the citizens it should be serving, she said.
- Create a system of alternative diplomas for students at risk of dropping out so they would at least have a salable skill to take to the real world. This was an idea suggested to her following a visit to White River's Collins Alternative High School.
- Implement programs to promote foreign language skills, particularly in Spanish and Chinese given today's business climate. Roach cited a survey her office conducted in 2007 in which 284 of 296 school districts reported the dominant languages taught at the elementary school level were tribal languates.
Click here to read the recap from Roach's Enumclaw meeting.
Roach also took some time to address news in the last few weeks that mistreated a staff member when she was allowed back into the GOP caucus last year. She held a news conference Thursday in Olympia on this issue.
The incident happened last March when she reportedly verbally attacked a Senate Republican staffer who was supposed to uphold sanctions against her and was detailed in a report that was leaked to the Associated Press, according to The Seattle Times.
Those sanctions stemmed from a 2010 investigation also looking into allegations she'd mistreated staff; they prevented her from having direct contact with staff.
This past Tuesday, the Senate Facilities and Operations Committee removed those sanctions, under the leadership of new Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, who along with fellow Democrat Tim Sheldon have aligned with a largely Republican caucus.
In this current arrangement, Roach now chairs the Senate Governmental Operations Committee. While those watching this session have expressed everything from wariness (Seattle Times: "Roach has been given a sixth chance to show she can follow a clearly defined policy banning workplace harassment. Her history does not bolster confidence.") to disdain (Kirkland Patch Blogger Trent Latta: "This latest act makes it abundantly clear whose interests Rodney Tom is looking out for: it’s not yours, it’s not mine, it’s his own.") at the alliance between Tom and Roach, Roach herself is optimistic about the new leadership.
She told The Courier-Herald that most of her problems have come from the Senate and her own party.
"Under Rodney Tom and his leadership, I hope we can get to the bottom of this," she said.