Earling calls for partnerships, cooperation and ‘building bridges’ in State of the City speech

Mayor Dave Earling delivered his 2014 State of the City address to more than 200 citizens, business owners, and community leaders on Thursday.
Mayor Dave Earling delivered his 2014 State of the City address to more than 200 citizens, business owners, and community leaders on Thursday.

Note: You can view a video recording of the mayor’s entire speech here.

Addressing a crowd of more than 200 gathered in the historic Edmonds Theater, Mayor Dave Earling on Thursday delivered his State of the City address in which he enumerated the accomplishments of the past year and presented his vision for the future.

Stressing the need for partnerships and cooperative efforts, Earling hammered home the theme of “building bridges” within the community, the region and beyond.

“Many of you know I have been a strong believer in regionalism for years,” he said. “I firmly believe that by forming long-term relationships with other elected and staff leaders at the county, the Puget Sound Regional Council, the state and the national levels, more can be accomplished for the greater good. We can’t survive if we remain too insular.”

Citing the planned Woodway Health and Wellness Campus as an example, he lauded the cooperative efforts of Verdant Health, the Edmonds School District, the State Legislature and the City of Edmonds for making this $14 million project a reality. “The sports fields, play areas, walking trails and space for health and wellness-related programs improve the environment while enhancing health and quality of life for all of us,” he said. He also stressed how this project and other cooperative efforts create ripples in the community that bring additional benefits such as helping foster the Westgate neighborhood’s transition into a “vibrant, walkable community.”

As an example of local bridge-building, Earling cited last year’s Arts Summit, which brought together the Edmonds Arts Festival, Cascade Symphony, Sno-King Chorale, Driftwood Players, Phoenix Theatre, Olympic Ballet, Barclay-Shelton Dance Studio, various art galleries, the Edmonds Center for the Arts, the Edmonds Arts Commission, and many individual visual and performing artists. Praising this event for laying the groundwork to position Edmonds as an arts nexus, Earling called for enhanced local cooperation and partnerships in this effort, saying that the time is right to build on our momentum and “unify our arts community behind building a solid reputation for Edmonds as an arts center.”

Moving on to address Edmonds’ long- and short-term challenges, Earling first focused on the city’s financial situation.

“We’ve come out of last year’s budget hole, which forced some tough choices and very painful cuts to programs and personnel,” he said. With this year’s improving budget situation Earling called for “cautious optimism” and keeping a “watchful eye on our revenues and expenses” as we move forward. Stressing his goal to improve the city’s financial situation without raising taxes, he called for careful control of expenditures combined with enhancing revenue by taking steps to improve the business climate. He cited Highway 99 and the Edmonds International District’s current renaissance as prime examples. With booming auto dealerships, the Swedish/Edmond medical campus, the International District, and a host of new and vibrant restaurants and businesses, “our potential for positive growth is nearly unlimited on Highway 99,” he said.

The improved financial situation also means that a number of necessary but deferred projects are back on track. “Besides $1.2 million for street repaving, Public Works and Engineering will head up major improvements on Highway 99 at 228th Street, providing an important east-west connector for the community while improving safety,” he said. “The Five Corners roundabout will get underway, and we will continue our extensive ongoing waterline replacement program. These improvements will cause neighborhood disruptions, but in the end this work will better the city.”

Other benefits of the brighter financial picture include restoring some staff cuts and enhancing public safety with the addition of two new police officers.

Looking at the long term, Earling stressed the importance of ensuring reliable access to the waterfront by meeting the train traffic issue head-on. “Today we have 30-35 trains passing through Edmonds every day, which means that our waterfront businesses, parks and other amenities are closed off for one-and-a-half hours daily,” he said. According to a 2005 study, by 2030 this number will increase to 104 trains blocking the Edmonds waterfront for four hours every day, a situation the Mayor calls “unacceptable.” The City of Edmonds currently has a $1 million proposal in front of the State Legislature for a study to analyze alternatives. “We can’t afford to wait till 2029 to begin to solve this problem,” Earling said. “We have to begin now.”

Calling for an end to the current gridlock on the Edmonds City Council, the Mayor praised the current council’s plan to bring in a consultant to help councilmembers work more cooperatively among themselves, address the need for team building, find ways to acknowledge differences, build trust, make decisions and move forward. “I commend the council for addressing the situation head-on,” he said. “I enthusiastically volunteer to participate.”

Earling closed his address on a personal note, sharing that even on “the days I go home cranky from events of the day, I am truly honored to be Mayor of Edmonds. We have a wonderful city, wonderful people and a fabulous future.”

— Story and photo by Larry Vogel

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