Highlights from Kent Mayor Cooke’s 2016 ‘State of the City’ Address


Today more than 100 civic and business leaders gathered to hear Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke’s eleventh annual State of the City Address, hosted by the Kent Chamber of Commerce at ShoWare Center. Following the singing of the national anthem by Kent Meridian High School sophomore Ciana Luna, Mayor Cooke offered updates on the cities accomplishments, challenges and plans for the future.

Here are highlights from today’s address:

Achievements

  • In 2015, ShoWare Center held more than 220 events, sold nearly 296,000 tickets and hosted more than 414,000 guests.
  • ShoWare Center, home to the Seattle Thunderbirds, Tacoma Stars and Seattle Mist, was ranked 95th in the United States and 181st in the world for concert arenas, according to Pollstar.
  • ShoWare Center turned a profit of $120,519 while its patrons and events added about $23 million to our local economy.
  • In January, more than 1,200 kids from around the state participated in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Lego League and FIRST Tech Challenge State Championships.
  • More than 4,200 people attended the Kent School District’s 10th annual Tech Expo.
  • Amazon donated $5,000 to support a new after-school robotics and engineering program at Kent’s Neely-O’Brien Elementary School.
  • Businesses in the Kent Valley generate $49 billion annually, or 1/8 of our state’s entire Gross Domestic Product.
  • Since 2006, Kent’s overall crime rate has dropped by 66%.
  • Last year 1,893 volunteers contributed 5,118 hours to maintain and improve Kent’s parks.
  • Since 2006, 29 neighborhood councils have formed through the city.

Challenges

  • Our city’s service-delivery model goes back to the 1960s during a booming economy. While the economy and key economic factors have changed, Kent’s delivery model has not adapted and it costs more to maintain what we have. We are behind. A few key examples include:
    • Our aging parks system has a $60 million maintenance backlog.
    • Our city sewer and water systems need maintenance totaling about $11 million per year, but utility bills only cover $4 million of that.
    • Kent maintains about 320 miles of roads, which need approximately $12 million in maintenance per year, but $5 million of that is unfunded.
    • There is a $250 million backlog of work to replace, upgrade and maintain our roads. Get more info. At http://KentWA.gov/StreetMaintenance
  • Kent relies on state-shared revenue, but the state legislature is considering taking millions of dollars from cities like ours to balance the state budget. Specifically, streamlined sales tax payments, liquor revenues and criminal justice assistance funds are being considered, totaling nearly $10 million.
  • Mayor Cook formed a Financial Sustainability Task Force to review our service-delivery model and make recommendations for change.

In the works

  • This summer the city’s Parks and Recreation Department will take its show on the road with its HERO (Health, Exercise, and Recreation Outreach) van which will deliver recreational equipment, ideas, snacks and fun to kids throughout the community. Mayor Cooke called it “an investment in helping kids learn and experience positive choices.”
  • Blue Origin, which builds rockets in Kent, is planning to hire 300 more rocket scientists and technicians to its existing staff of 450.
  • Amazon is bringing 1,200 jobs to Kent with its new fulfillment center. The center features more than 12 miles of conveyer belts in 2.2 million square feet of space.
  • A group of concerned community leaders including Kent Police Chief Ken Thomas, Mike Heinisch of Kent Youth and Family Services and Mayor Cooke are forming the Kent Youth Initiative to help coordinate, leverage and expand existing services to help gang-related youth or youth in danger of engaging in gang activities succeed.
  • Other youth programs are being expanded including Alive & Free, Youth LINC (Leadership Intervention and Change), GEM and Best Start for Kids.
  • During the last legislative session, Kent received $2 million toward the building of an East Hill YMCA. Private fundraising is in the works to supplement that $2 million.
  • Kent has received $15 million state funding for the S. 228th/Union Pacific grade separation project which will improve traffic flow.
  • 224th St. will be extended, offering another route over 167 between the Kent Valley and East Hill. Eventually, the projects will link to travel from Benson Highway to I-5 and State Road 509.
  • The city is working on a quieter railway through downtown Kent, which sees more than 60 trains daily.
  • Dwell at Kent Station is ready for leasing 150 new units.
  • Downtown Kent is working on a Meet Me on Meeker project to turn the downtown street into a “vibrant urban corridor.”
  • Five developers are in interested in purchasing the Riverbend Gateway property, the par 3 golf course on Meeker. An advisory team will narrow the options to a short-list of two or three, with a purchase expected by June.
  • Scotch and Vine will open a second location at Riverbend Golf Complex, replacing Mick Kelly’s which left last summer. Scotch and Vine owners Jill and David Pritchard have signed a five-year renewable lease for the restaurant.
  • Macrina Bakery is moving from Seattle to Kent this summer, bringing 150 employees along with it.
  • On Kent’s West Hill, construction is underway on the Grandview Apartments, a 261-unit apartment complex. Designed by GGLO, the complex is expected to open mid-2017.
  • A new Grocery Outlet will open on Pacific Highway in Woodmont Plaza where Albertson’s used to be.
  • The mayor has formed a new Cultural Communities Board to help increase engagement, integration and access to city services for all cultural communities in Kent. Interested volunteers can apply to join the board here: http://KentWA.gov/CCB

“This is your city – Kent, Washington – truly bringing the world home,” said the mayor.