My first year in office has
been a time of incredible learning, re-establishing our City’s
relationships inside and outside of government, focusing on priorities
and taking action on community needs and interests. If there’s a theme
here, it is this: together, we’re getting things done!
I have a passion for effective, accountable government and forming
strong partnerships to deliver quality public services. We have engaged
the Bellingham City Council, community members, City employees, and
elected officials and peers at other agencies in setting and
accomplishing our priorities. And I’m very happy to report that,
together, we are doing just that. Here’s an update on some key projects.
Progress on priorities
- Moving our waterfront redevelopment
project forward. We are recommending a plan that
provides environmental clean-up, parks and public access, and jobs.
After eight years, draft waterfront documents are finally available for
public review through the upcoming legislative process. City and Port
staff teams worked diligently to meet our shared goal of finishing these
key proposals by the end of 2012. While this is just the beginning of
the next round of public discussion, completion of these documents is a
significant milestone for the project. The next important steps of the
process are about to begin, with Planning Commission public hearings and
review this spring.
- Ensuring cost-effective and unified
emergency medical services. I worked closely
with County Executive Jack Louws, interim Fire Chief Roger Christensen
and others to develop an EMS plan that was unanimously approved by both
the City and County Councils. From this effort we’ve identified other
ways to work together, such as the recent merging of the City’s Fire
Department administration and that of neighboring Whatcom County Fire
- Protecting Lake Whatcom and our delivery of
safe, affordable drinking water.
With our various local and state partners, we are developing a joint
strategic plan to address phosphorus and other pollution. We recently
hired a Natural Resources Assistant Director to lead our efforts on
behalf of the City. We’re also implementing plans to address aquatic
invasive species, the latest threat to our drinking water reservoir.
- Hiring key management positions
to lead priority City government functions. I have hired a new City
Attorney, Human Resources Director and Police Chief, and the selection
process is now underway for a new Fire Chief. These professionals will
help lead our City into the future and I am grateful to add their
experience and expertise to our outstanding department head team.
- Initiating economic development
actions to encourage existing businesses to stay and
expand in our community and to attract new businesses. These actions
include updating City development regulations, starting the update to
our Comprehensive Plan, and of course moving forward on waterfront
redevelopment. We’re also taking steps to improve our downtown and Old
Town core, as well as position other areas of the City to grow in
sensible, sustainable ways.
- Collaborating with the Bellingham City Council to
balance our budget and live
within our means while delivering essential City services Bellingham
residents count on each day, including: police, fire, emergency medical
and other public safety services; drinking water delivery and sewer
service; safe streets, sidewalks and bike lanes; parks, trails and
recreational activities; and library, museum and other cultural
Directing resources toward priorities
Much of my work the past year included refining priorities and directing
resources to accomplish them. Even though our economy appears to be
stabilizing, we continue to make hard choices about how to provide excellent
services within our resources. That’s why our budget process is so
important; it is the formal system we use to identify and direct funding to
implement our City-wide work plan.
Last spring, the Bellingham City Council agreed to adopt a two-year
budget, and directed us to balance our City General Fund with no more than a
$400,000 deficit in 2013 and a zero deficit in 2014. These targets were
ambitious, and the budget I proposed last fall achieved them. I am proud of
City staff and the department head team for the hard work they invested to
meet Council’s expectations.
Council chose to modify those goals when they adopted a final budget late
last year. We will continue to work together to direct our resources toward
priorities. I believe we can still reach a balanced budget by 2014 and will
recommend a budget later this year that accomplishes that goal. We simply
must eliminate our deficit spending to ensure our core services are
sustainable into the future. I hope community members will follow our budget
deliberations and provide feedback about which City services are most
important, so that we can continue to meet essential needs first.
Agenda for 2013
While I am very proud of all we accomplished last year, we will build on
that agenda for 2013. In the coming months, look for progress in the
- Guiding the proposed waterfront redevelopment plan through the
legislative process while implementing key first steps, such as
beginning street access projects and building a public walkway along the
breakwater of the old treatment lagoon.
- Accelerating action on environmental clean-ups, using
resources designated during the 2013 budget process to make progress on
previously-unfunded City liabilities.
- Evaluating City buildings, with an eye toward reducing
expenses and increasing efficiency by consolidating properties and
- Updating the City’s Comprehensive Plan, with a focus on
economic development, sensible, sustainable growth, and fostering
- Completing the myDowntown planning process, including revising
regulations and establishing actions to improve the vitality of downtown
- Prioritizing and updating our aging-yet-essential information
- Focusing attention on community housing needs through the
implementation of the voter-approved Home Fund and evaluating
recommendations from the Countywide Housing Affordability Task Force to
make all housing more affordable in our community.
We’ll provide information in the months ahead with more detail about our
progress on these projects and opportunities for community members to tell
us what they think. Meanwhile, you can count on us to continue to work
together to get things done and provide essential services to the residents
of Bellingham. Let us know how we are doing by contacting my office at
360-778-8100 or email@example.com