Mayor highlights 2012 achievements, goals for 2013

M​y 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 … Read more

Feb 07, 2013 - by Mayor Kelli Linville

M​y 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
    District 8.
  • 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
    services.

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
following areas:

  • 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
    worksites.
  • Updating the City’s Comprehensive Plan, with a focus on
    economic development, sensible, sustainable growth, and fostering
    regional partnerships.
  • Completing the myDowntown planning process, including revising
    regulations and establishing actions to improve the vitality of downtown
    Bellingham.
  • Prioritizing and updating our aging-yet-essential information
    technology systems.
  • 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 mayorsoffice@cob.org

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