Wednesday, February 3, 2010, Kent, Washington–Today Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke gave her annual State of the City Address at the February Kent Chamber membership luncheon. With a packed room at the ShoWare Center, Mayor Cooke revisited 2009.
“This past year was challenging, not just for this city, but for all governments, large and small,” Mayor Cooke said. “Kent, like all cities, worked under a tightening budget.”
She is, however, optimistic about three things: 1) that 2009 is over; 2) the economy appears to be recovering; and 3) flood season is ending. She recounted a number of the city‘s 2009 highs and lows, including:
1) The popularity of ShoWare Center which brought 350,000 guests through its doors in 2009, including 60,000 guests who saw Disney on Ice at the new sports arena
2) The implementation of the new CodeRED system which allows the city to make 60,000 emergency contacts per hour via phone, email and text message
3) The four labor unions taking voluntary pay cuts to avoid staff reductions and to help the city save more than $1 million in 2009 spending
4) 2.8%, or $2.2 million, drop in revenue
5) 8.1%, or $1.5 million, drop in sales tax revenue
6) Elimination of 56 positions within the city, about half of which resulted in layoffs. Other vacant positions were not filled.
7) Expansion of Kent Station with the GRCC expansion
8) 1,677 Kent Parks volunteers
9) 4,000 volunteer hours spent removing graffiti
10) Annexing Panther Lake to occur July 1, 2010, making Kent the sixth largest city in the state
In addition to these items, Mayor Cooke reviewed the 2010 budget, stating that public safety remains the city’s #1 priority. The 2010 budget is 5.6% less than the 2009 budget and it includes $1 million to be set aside for emergencies like potential flooding.
“Things are looking a lot better economically,” she added.
A topic of major concern was, of course, the flood risk of the Howard Hanson Dam. Once predicted at a 1 in 4 chance of flooding, the flood risk has dropped to 1 in 33. While this is a positive step, Mayor Cooke said, a permanent fix is not available for three to five years.
“Any kind of delay is simply unacceptable,” she added. “Until that dam is fixed, it is going to haunt us.”
To help control potential flooding, the city raised levies by three feet, successfully completing the task before the beginning of flood season last fall. In addition, Mayor Cooke thanked the community, business leaders and service groups for helping to spread the word about potential flood risks as well as helping one another fill sand bags and helping seniors and the disabled prepare for a flood.
Mayor Cooke singled out a number of city staff and community and business leaders for their support of the Kent community. She thanked them for their tireless service and for making Kent the great place that it is. One person instrumental in the city’s survival of a difficult year was Chief Administrative Officer John Hodgsen.
“John Hodgsen is an outstanding leader and worker in the city,” Mayor Cooke said.
The overall mood of the meeting was positive and Mayor Cooke left the audience with some new things to watch for: a redesigned website, taking the inbox newsletter to an email format, and the second annual International Festival, set for June 26, and the Kent Refugee and Immigrant Forum.
“It’s 2010 and I’m smiling,” Mayor Cooke said.
The event was presented by the Kent Chamber of Commerce, sponsored by Allied Waste and co-sponsored by Kent Downtown Partnership. The program was taped to be shown on Kent TV21 at a later date.