Though affected by COVID-19, the city of Puyallup is in overall decent shape, according to city council member, Ned Witting.
Witting has been a council member since his election in November 2019 and believed that, while a number of residents are facing the impacts of the pandemic, the overall economic health of Puyallup isn’t currently a concern and shouldn’t cause long-term damage.
“I think we’re in pretty good shape fiscally,” said Witting. “We can take a 20% reduction in our sales tax and still be okay.”
Although the city of Puyallup might not be in the worst shape compared to the rest of the country, according to Witting, residents should still adhere to the governor’s stay-at-home order and guidelines of social distancing. He thought public officials took the proper action to shut down businesses when they did and that doing so was a necessary step in slowing down the spread of the virus.
Witting has been a Puyallup resident since 1999 and has decades of experience in the financial sector. He began working at Print Northwest (PNW), a print manufacturing business in Washington, in 2003 as the Chief Financial Officer, a title he’s held in a number of businesses since 1979.
He explained that he purchased PNW as the world was still recovering from the 9/11 terrorist attacks and believed that the experience the choice of his purchasing the company gave him had prepared him for better handling the current pandemic.
He added that, during the 2008 recession when the unemployment rates neared 10%, printing companies were going out of business everywhere. With careful planning, he was able to help navigate PNW successfully through the hardships and even hired out other printing companies to help reboot the economy.
Witting said he and his family have been trying to help in the same way now, in terms of rebooting the economy. By supporting local businesses and pursuing purchases like a new car, he explained he’s looking for areas where he can spend money in the near future so he can help stimulate the economy because, according to Witting, every little bit helps.
However, he believed the so-far lack of business could pose a potential threat to the economy in terms of another recession, if circumstances continue as they are. For Witting, there has to be a balance between being safe and being smart. While he thinks the state has done a decent job keeping the pandemic under control, he felt as though the citizens weren’t doing as much as they could be.
“The pandemic is a horrible thing and if we don’t do social distancing then it’s going to get out of control,” said Witting. “There needs to be a balance and we’re getting to the point where the economic hardships that are coming out of this are going to be approaching the size of the health hardships.”
He cautioned against reopening too soon and all at once, due to the concern of positive cases rising back up. He believed that kind of crazy rushing to resume life would be bad behavior for citizens and could result in an even deadlier second wave. However, he included that he was hopeful for certain, low-risk businesses to begin reopening.
“I think if we take a measured approach to reopening things then there are a lot of things we could get going again,” said Witting.
Witting explained that the city of Puyallup currently has an untouched rainy day fund and operates with a three tier system. This means each tier isn’t committed to a project and can be used for one off capital projects that weren’t previously budgeted. Extra money at the end of the ear can be put into city projects but if there’s an insufficient amount available, various projects from those three tiers won’t happen.
Should things become worse, the rainy day fund will still be in place to provide backup. Due to this fund and its protection within the three tier system, Witting believed Puyallup should come out relatively economically stable.
“You’re never as prepared as you could be but I’m really pretty pleased with the position of where the city is at the moment,” said Witting.
The city council is mostly on hold for the duration of the pandemic, as it’s not allowed to conduct public meetings and city business can’t be done unless it’s in a public meeting setting. However, business relating to COVID-19 can still be discussed, as well as routine or necessary topics. While the council occasionally meets online, such meetings have been very restrictive in terms of what can be discussed.
“One of the big challenges [we’ve faced] is to continue to deliver city services without any face-to-face contact,” said Witting.
Taking care of Puyallup citizens has been another challenge for the council, as Witting pointed out the large number of retirement facilities located in the city. Due to this number of elderly residents, a surge in positive cases could be detrimental.
A recreational center was also set up for the homeless population of Puyallup who primarily camped near the Riverwalk trail in downtown Puyallup. Food is regularly delivered there in an effort to prevent individuals from roaming around the city.
Witting was encouraged by the resilience of the city and was grateful for the hard work of its citizens. He explained that, while he’s disappointed about the increasingly polarized country, he’s inspired by the efforts Puyallup citizens have put forth in helping others through this time.
“There’s always a silver lining,” said Witting. “You can’t say enough about the good people that are doing good things in so many different ways.”
The Puyallup Post is the award-winning news media of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2018. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube @thepuyalluppost