As I talk to people in the community about my goals as Mayor, there are certainly too many to list in an efficient way. As Mayor, just as on council, many of the “big goals” can only be accomplished with the votes of at least 4 councilmembers. For example, budgets, purchases and contracts over $25,000, changes to code, salary scales, parks projects, most public works projects, payroll and much more. On this page I will attempt to summarize some of the “big goals” and provide some context for why I will be pushing to make them happen.
Of course, as always I serve you – which means that I want your honest feedback and thoughts on these goals, and those things that you would like to see happen. Just as I have done for the past 8 years, my discussions with you will shape what initiatives that are brought forward to council.
City Manager Form of Government
I intend to spend the first year learning the inside operations of the City and moving policy forward, then spend the second or third year working to put a measure on the ballot for a community vote changing our form of government from “Strong Mayor” to “Council-Manager”.
One of the big challenges continuing to face the City is the many internal and external policies that help a city run efficiently, fairly and reduce legal risk to safeguard taxpayer dollars. Prior to the hiring of our current City Administrator, the department heads shared the job. This was equivalent (at the time) to a $21 million corporation running without a CEO at the helm.
As the highest paid job in the City, it is also the most at risk in an economic downturn. Frankly, our taxpayers can’t afford to risk the loss of this position. In just two-years the City has accomplished more than we did in the previous six. Having a dedicated manager at the helm was key.
The only way to guarantee that we retain a dedicated manager is to change our form of government. This would eliminate the elected position of Mayor. The Mayor and Deputy Mayor would then be selected from within the council (as Mayor Pro Tem is today) and the City Manager would be managed by council.
Most small cities already enlist this form of government, as do some notable larger cities in our region like Kirkland and Bellevue.
Installation of an Economic Development / Communications Director
I commit to identifying sustainable funding to hire a combination Economic Development and Communications Director.
As a small, bedroom community in a location that is isolated from the major freeways we face unique challenges to economic development.
At our current population of approximately 7,500, we have now reached a tipping point where we sustain 4 local coffee shops, multiple restaurants and an increasing variety of services. Yet the combined reduction of state and federal shared revenues, reduction in grant funding availability and limitations imposed by statewide initiatives have forced the city for years to rely on rooftops to balance the budget.
That must stop, and we have made great progress towards ensuring that reality but there is more to do.
Additionally, while much improvement has been made with the addition of both a police and public works public information officer and the use of social media, the City is still behind the curve on communicating effectively with the community. The City needs – and our community will benefit from – an experienced professional that can assist all departments with improving outreach and increasing the amount of information available to the public.
That’s why I believe that we must hire a professional that can help support existing businesses and recruit new businesses, and who also has the background to help the City step up our outreach and communications both inside and outside of the community. This individual can help enhance the efforts like Savor Snoqualmie Valley which bring visitors to our community and develop new opportunities for economic growth that continues to shift focus from population growth to local business growth.
Review and Make Recommendations to Change How we Process Development Agreements
I commit to reviewing and making recommendations for change to our development agreement policy to better reflect our community’s best interests.
Much of the frustration and angst surrounding current development projects in the City stem from projects that have been in the pipeline for up to 25 years. Many of these projects can linger due to legal agreements that previous councils approved with developers, and while they met the needs of the community at the time they were approved, today they don’t provide a significant benefit to our community.
Currently we have some developers that own property within city limits that appear to be “land banking” as a form of financial security. Those same developers have longstanding development agreements with the city and are much of the reason we have so many units appear in the pipeline.
While development agreements can be beneficial and provide a level of certainty for some communities, at times Duvall has been taken advantage of and it is time for the City to gain the upper hand in these negotiations.
I will direct staff to review our current policy and make recommendations for changes that will better reflect our community’s desires and clearly provide significant public benefit.
Implement a Comprehensive Sidewalk Program
I will continue to push forward the development of a comprehensive sidewalk program that connects our neighborhoods and improves walkability and safety.
During two campaigns, one of the top three concerns raised at the door is the lack of sidewalks in certain areas of town, and the lack of connection between neighborhoods and downtown. I have been working to gain council and administration support for the development of a three-prong approach to meet the community’s needs.
The first is to implement a program that would allow cost-sharing between the City and groups of residents that would like to install or repair sidewalks in their neighborhoods.
The second would tie into Transportation Benefit District (TBD) funding to provide connections and improvements to pedestrian walkways on major arterials, such as Big Rock and Batten Road. These two arterials are major connections without complete sidewalks, which puts the members of our community using them at risk. I have proposed ensuring that any TBD funding package account for making these connections as soon as possible.
The third would improve connectivity and pedestrian access to new businesses in existing locations -downtown. Currently, new businesses are required to do frontage improvements as part of the permitting process. For many small-businesses, especially start-ups, this can be the difference between opening or not. I propose developing acompetitive grant funding process that would reduce the cost of frontage improvements. This program would prioritize businesses that need to connect to existing sidewalks in our commercial core and provide a needed lift to economic development in our community.
Parks, Trails and Open Space Plan Update and Implementation
I am committed to seeing that the 2009 Parks, Trails and Open Space Plan is updated in 2018 and will actively seek ways to speed up included projects.
Our Parks, Trails and Open Space Plan is well overdue for an update. In the 9 years since it was approved, our community has changed and grown. It is time for the community to help the City update the plan and make sure that it reflects both the needs of our current residents and the families of the future.
I will make sure that updating the plan is a staff priority and will make every effort to find unique ways to start bringing new or improved amenities online.
Community Event and Humans Services Grant Funding
I will work to bring back Community Events and Human Services Grant Funding to boost economic development and help the most vulnerable.
A few years ago, the City eliminated the funding for the Community Events and Human Services grant program. At the same time, state and county funding for non-profits like senior centers has been significantly reduced. This has put a strain on the agencies that provide services for our senior citizens and most vulnerable.
At the same time, funding was cut for community event grants. This portion of the grant program was intended to provide competitive seed money for groups to put on events, many of which lead to increased business traffic in our downtown core.
I will work to bring back this small grant program to help take care of our most vulnerable community members, and continue fostering the spirit that brings us events for the community to participate in.
Increase Government Transparency
I will continue my work to ensure that the City of Duvall becomes one of the most transparent local governments in the state.
As a long-time advocate for open government, over the past 8-years I have worked hard to gain council consensus and/or administration support for actions that increase our government’s transparency.
I will keep looking for ways to increase transparency, including working towards posting public records requests online for the public to see. This will accomplish three key things: Trim the staff time necessary to respond to duplicate requests, educate the public on what information is being requested and how much of your taxpayer dollar is being used to respond while providing a better “look in the window” of city operations.
Tying closely into transparency, the addition of an Economic Development and Communications Director will enable the City to become even more transparent with government activities and information.