Edmonds citizens should have an opportunity to vote on a levy proposal that would both protect existing city services and restore programs that have been deferred or cut in recent years, Edmonds Mayor Mike Cooper said in his State of the City address Friday. Cooper announced that in the next two weeks, he will deliver a recommendation to the City Council for a levy proposal that — if approved by the council — would appear on the August ballot.
Despite the city’s history of proactive spending cuts and responsible budget forecasting, Edmonds will be facing a budget shortfall “of hundreds of thousands of dollars” in 2012, Cooper said. “To protect the assets our community values, it is crucial that we give the voters an opportunity to consider new revenue this year,” he said.
The mayor, who was appointed by the council last July to fill the vacancy left when Mayor Gary Haakenson resigned, said his recommendation will include “the funds needed to restore our public safety crime prevention program; preserve Yost pool, ensure safe parks, trails and playgrounds, and… begin the process of restoring our street maintenance program.”
The mayor said he is in the process of building a levy proposal that includes input from staff, financial forecasts, information gathered from the 2009 Citizens Levy committee and forecasting models developed by Darrol Haug of the 2010 Citizen Levy Committee.
During a media question-and-answer session following the address, Cooper said he isn’t sure if any additional information or recommendations will come out of the 2010 Levy Committee appointed by the council last year, but “I’m not going to wait. The clock is ticking. I think we need to get something on the ballot in August rather than wait until November, and that means they (the council) need to make a decision some time in May.”
When asked if he believed citizens would support a levy, Cooper was cautiously optimistic. “I think if we’re reasonable, we’re honest and we show the public what our real needs are, they’ll support it,” he said. “And I think we have to show what we would lose if we didn’t.”
First, though, Cooper needs to gain the council’s support, and he said he has already begun talking with individual councilmembers about the idea, including how much money the city should ask for. It’s key that a strong council majority come out in favor of the idea, he said, noting that the Transportation Benefit District proposal placed on last November’s ballot failed in part because it was passed with only a 4-3 vote and had lukewarm council support.
The mayor said he believes that August would be a better time to run the levy than in November, when the state Legislature may place a measure on the ballot asking citizens to assist with the state’s multi-billion dollar budget shortfall.
Cooper also said in his address that he is committed to involving the community in future city budget decisions, and plans to appoint a working group of up to 30 citizens “representing a diverse cross section of our community ” to share priorities and provide feedback during development of the 2012 budget. Those interested in participating should watch for Cooper’s announcement in the next few weeks.
Citing the importance of continued economic development in the city, the mayor noted that Edmonds will be developing a citywide strategic plan aimed at fostering that effort. He also complimented the work of city staff and the Economic Development Commission in attracting several new businesses and an international film festival to town and even gave special mention to “Northwest icon” Dick’s Drive-In, which will be opening in Edmonds later this year. And he touted the Boeing Company’s news that it will be building a U.S. Air Force refueling tanker in Snohomish County, noting that “the 11,000 jobs created will be some of the highest paid jobs in the region and some of those workers will live and spend money here in Edmonds.”
In addition, Cooper announced two other initiatives during his address:
– He plans to continue exploring the possibility of partnering with neighboring municipalities to form a regional fire service.
– He is committed to meeting President Obama’s challenge for America to become 20 percent more energy efficient by the year 2020 through continued efforts to reduce the City of Edmonds’ energy use, and said the city will also be encouraging commercial building owners and residents to be more energy efficient. “Government is the highest energy user in Edmonds, followed by the six grocery stores, followed by the medical community around the hospital,” Cooper said. He said that he supports the community solar project proposed for the roof of the Frances Anderson Center, and added that the city is considering an additional solar project on top of its wastewater treatment plant.
More energy-efficiency ideas will be released on Earth Day as part of the New Energy Cities report being developed in conjunction with city staff and stakeholders, Cooper said.
You can read the entire Mayor’s State of the City address here.