By Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville
When I took office two years ago I committed to run the City with respect, relationships and results. As we reflect on our many accomplishments in the past year, those ideals stand out as key to our successes. And continuing these principles will be essential to our work in 2014.
We’ve had many wonderful successes in 2013, with a particular emphasis on economic development, caring for our natural resources, strengthening our downtown, protecting public safety, and directing resources toward priorities. Here are just a few:
Moving toward financial sustainability: I am pleased to report that the 2014 budget adopted by the City Council in December moves us further toward financial sustainability. The budget Council adopted aligns revenues and expenses with City operations so that the General Fund remains whole. The budget reflects community priorities, includes investments in capital facilities, technology, our safety net, and increases public safety personnel.
Waterfront District plan approval: In 2013, our partnership with the Port of Bellingham culminated in the adoption of the Waterfront District plan, a set of agreements designed to help us clean up and restore waterfront habitat and the shoreline, provide public access to the water, and attract good-paying jobs. This project – which was underway for many years – was a significant step for the City and the Port, and will lay the groundwork for decades of waterfront cleanup and other improvements, business development, and new parks and trails in our City’s center.
North end transportation improvements: Improvements at the I-5/ Bakerview Road interchange are designed to nearly double traffic capacity at this intersection. This project, completed in mid-November, represents an impressive partnership among local and state agencies that will result in cost effective, long-term safety and mobility benefits and economic development opportunities, and lays the groundwork for regional transportation solutions.
Completed construction projects promote public safety, improve traffic flow: From the new Wharf Street Roundabout to Woburn Street and beyond, we completed street expansions, pedestrian and bicycle safety projects, repairs, resurfacing and other construction all over the City in 2013.
Grant secured for new firefighting and security vessel: In partnership with the Port, the City recently was awarded $750,000 in federal funding to purchase a boat designed to increase firefighting and marine security capabilities on Bellingham’s waterfront.
Joint emergency management facility: The City, the Port and Whatcom County are jointly leasing and occupying the Olympic Coordination Center near the airport to consolidate emergency management, preparedness and response operations and staff. Public agencies are working in partnership with some of our major industrial neighbors, including BP and Phillips 66, to use the emergency operations center for a unique public/private partnership.
Emergency medical services: Our collaboration with county officials resulted in a new agreement on a joint emergency medical services system. The new system, which will be administered by Whatcom County government, maintains existing service levels for City residents and keeps the system operating within budget until the end of 2016.
These are just a few highlights from recent months that demonstrate our commitment to moving forward on community priorities relying on my principles of respect, relationships and results.
Here are just a few of the many important projects on our 2014 work plan:
Fostering our vibrant City Center: Three districts make up our City Center: Downtown, Old Town and the Waterfront District. Several efforts underway culminate in actions for these areas early in 2014 including action on our multi-year downtown planning effort. The Downtown Plan is a community planning project designed identify and incentivize downtown redevelopment and establish actions the community and its partners can take over the next 10 years to continue to strengthen our downtown. The legislative process for the Downtown Plan is underway, with City Council expected to consider the plan early in the year.
Community and economic development initiatives: Action steps recommended by two work groups will continue to move forward in 2014. My Community Solutions Workgroup effort to address public health and safety issues downtown and citywide will make recommendations this month, with many of those actions incorporated into the Downtown Plan legislative process and others to be initiated by the City and its partners in the months ahead. Likewise, follow up this year on recommendations made in 2013 by the Community Solutions on Affordable Housing Workgroup will help increase affordable housing for all our residents. Another work group will be initiated this spring, focusing additional attention on business climate and economic development in Bellingham.
Parks improvements: Our many parks projects planned in 2014 include master planning and hosting a public process to name our newest waterfront park. Currently referred to as Cornwall Beach Park, the park is part of the waterfront redevelopment area south of the Cornwall Avenue and Pine Street intersection near Wharf Street. Other priority parks improvements include implementing the Squalicum Beach master plan, and reprogramming Maritime Heritage Park to make it more attractive and usable to a wider range of people. As we complete access to our park on Horton Road, we also are taking steps to create an additional neighborhood park in the Cordata area.
Protecting Lake Whatcom: Throughout 2014, we will continue our joint actions with Whatcom County and the Lake Whatcom Water and Sewer District, addressing invasive species, retrofitting City infrastructure, and investing in incentives to reduce stormwater runoff on private property.
Library services improvements: The 2014 budget includes reinstating Sunday hours at the Bellingham Public Library during the school year. These additional hours of service will begin in February, and is just one of several ways we hope to support the library’s strategic goals this year as we consider other service and facility improvements.
These are just a few accomplishments from 2013 and highlights of 2014. These priorities and many more will be discussed in upcoming community meetings, City Council sessions and other settings in the year ahead.
Two years in to my term as Mayor I have many things to be thankful for. I work with more than 800 City employees who are top quality professionals dedicated to delivering excellent public services. I collaborate with elected officials and other leaders throughout our community, our region, our state and our nation. I am honored to be Mayor of a city with a strong sense of place, where people care about each other, care about their community, and care about the legacy we leave for future generations.
Published: January 8, 2014