Kent Mayor Dana Ralph’s first ‘State of the City’ address on Thursday night (April 26), started off with an original comedy bit that showcased both the city and her staff.
Telling the council chamber audience to “hold on for just a minute,” the Mayor rushed out the door and into this pre-taped 6:31 comedy bit we’ll call “I can’t find my notes” (DRINKING GAME IDEA: Take a drink every time the Mayor says “I can’t find my notes”):
The bit was well produced by Edgar Riebe, showcasing both locations in Kent as well as members of her administration, as our Mayor drove all around the city frantically looking for her notes. (SPOILER ALERT:) Ultimately they were found right under her nose in the sun visor of her Jeep, and she came back into council chambers to applause.
Here’s the full speech video, followed by highlights:
On a sad note, as you probably all know – Proposition A, the proposition that we ran in this last ballot to get more police officers did not pass. Voters said no to the ballot measure which would have paid for an additional 23 officers for our city. I can’t express how disappointed I am that this didn’t pass because this was a really important thing for for all of us. I have to believe it was a vote against taxes and not a vote against our police department. Public Safety will continue to be a top priority for the city and that’s demonstrated year-over-year by the fact that it is 60% of our existing budget. We will be looking at cuts in all other departments we will not be cutting our Police Department – that is my commitment to you. I’ll be asking the council to put it back on the ballot later this year and will work hard to educate the voters for the need of more officers will ask to help fund these critical police services we owe it to our officers and we owe it to our community.
BODY CAMERAS FOR POLICE
One of the things I talked about last year was bringing body cameras to Kent – something again that our residents are asking for, and our police department is very interested in having. It will increase officer safety; that’s a number one thing with body cameras it ensures accountability to the public and it increases transparency around community policing.
I’m also excited to talk about the fact that we’ve got food trucks coming to downtown Kent. We’re working with the vendor in Seattle to bring a variety of food trucks to the area around Town Square Plaza. We’re not at all looking to replace or take business away from our wonderful existing restaurants – that’s not the goal of this – the goal is to bring more people to downtown. You can come down, grab something out of the food truck, hang out at the fountain, play with your kids, go to the farmers market…it’s a great way to bring some excitement and vibrancy to our downtown, so we’re really looking forward to that.
We are not too far away from hopefully the groundbreaking on the YMCA, which will be located up on 248th between Morrill Meadows and East Hill Par –k one of the only YMCA’s around that will be built in the middle of a park. If you haven’t seen the designs I encourage you to take a look at it. There’s some misunderstanding out there that I do want to kind of clarify for everybody – there’s a funding gap with the Y, it is not on the city’s side, we have met our commitment, what we said we would do when we started these negotiations and contract and our partnership quite some time ago. The funding gap is on the side of the Y; the city will not be committing any more money but we are committed to helping the Y lower their costs through changes and things like frontage improvements, design and helping them with their fundraising efforts so keep your fingers crossed we’re hoping to break ground here very very shortly.
SOUND TRANSIT PROJECTS
We also have a couple of Sound Transit projects coming to Kent, an awaited second parking garage downtown here by Kent Station, hopefully four to five years. We all know you can’t get into that parking garage unless you’re there by 7 o’clock, it’s full and we want our residents to be able to access transit to get to where they need to go. We also have light rail coming to West Hill about two stations coming in one across the street from Highline College and the other one down at the Star Lake Park and Ride.
ACCESSO SHOWARE CENTER
Accesso Showare is bringing all kinds of great artists in. I don’t know if you’ve been watching but they have had some record-breaking months in bringing in concerts. We’ve had Judas Priest – I did go, and council president Boyce has pointed that out several times…it’s not a secret. Snoop Dogg, Sugarland and Lauryn Hill are entertaining our residents and our visitors, and of course taking in a hockey game with the Seattle Thunderbirds is always a fun family night out. The T-birds are done for the season, they had a rebuilding year, but they still made it into the playoffs and they’ll be hitting the ice again soon so I strongly encourage you all to take in a game when they come back next fall. It’s also graduation season and this year for me it’s kind of personal – I have have a son graduating from Kentridge this year so being able to attend those graduation ceremonies at Showare, it’s a pretty good deal for our community and I am so grateful that we have that kind of support.
MEET ME ON MEEKER
We’re also working to transform our downtown in our Meeker Street corridor – the ‘Meet Me on Meeker’ project is a Complete Streets concept which means that we’re going to be creating pedestrian friendly areas. It’s walkable, it’ll be friendly to bicyclists, and it’s a concept that will help connect the West Hill with our downtown. We often hear from our West Hill residents that they feel forgotten, so this is a way that we can make sure that they feel like they’re a part of our community and that’s really important to me.
MARQUEE ON MEEKER
Also coming in at the old Par 3 golf course is the Marquee on Meeker development. They’ve broken ground, and they’re out there doing some work. This is going to be a high-quality housing development with some retail as well as restaurants and will provide an attractive gateway into our city. I will tell you it’s not a secret, it’s not supportive of selling the Par 3 but we could not have a better project coming to that location. I have spent a lot of time talking to the developers they are so excited to be in Kent and I know that this is going to be probably our highest quality development that we have in the city…so good things to come as we watch that be built there.
167/MEEKER OVERPASS LIGHTING PROJECT
On May 10th we’ll be unveiling the colorful lighting display that’s going to be under the 167 and Meeker overpass – something we’ve been talking about for a couple of years. We’ve partnered with Kent Downtown Partnership and some individual donors to make that project happen and we’re going to be celebrating that on May 10th. The tricky part is is the Sun stays up longer it’s harder to see the light so it’s going to be a late evening event – I think we’ll be starting the reception sometime around 7:00 and unveiling those lights at about 8:30 p.m. It’s a community effort and I’m so excited to see it come to fruition.
PGA GOLF CHAMPIONSHIP
Later on this month we’ve got the Pacific Northwest PGA that’s bringing 165 golfers to the Meridian Valley Country Club for a two-day Pro-Am, and a three-day 54-hole championship. I’m not going to pretend to know what that means, I just know that it’s a good thing because we’re bringing people to Kent, and it’s another opportunity to show off all of the great things that we have to offer.
CAR SHOW AT KENT STATION
Finally, on July 21st in collaboration with Kent Station we’re going to be hosting a car show and it’s going to be benefiting the veterans transition Center at Green River. This last summer while I was out talking to neighbors…you wouldn’t believe the number of people that said you know Kent really needs a car show so I happened to be talking with Cynthia from Kent Station and I said it would sure be nice if we had a car show, and she said ‘you know we can maybe make that happen,’ and sure enough the partnership for the car show is coming to downtown, and it’s supporting a really good cause so it’s a fun day to bring your families out and do some good things for our community.
In terms of housing for our community I want to recognize the council on their passage of the rental housing inspection program after a year of community outreach studies and partnership with organizations like Future Wise and Living Well Kent. The council adopted a program that will ensure all Kent residents have access to healthy housing that meets minimum standards. All of our residents deserve to live in a healthy place in a safe environment, and this ordinance will help us achieve that.
REGIONAL PARTNERSHIPS & GRANT
Thank you to the council for all of the work that was done on regional partnerships. You hear me talk about that a lot – it’s something that’s really important to me. This is where strong cities like Kent get a chance to advocate for money resources and developments to come to their city working on behalf of our residents everyday to ensure that we don’t get passed up in these valuable opportunities. This is a primary goal that I have and I’m excited to say that the council that we have is also committed to this and we have more engagement at the regional level than I think we’ve ever had before, and we’re working really hard everyday for all of our residents. Part of that regional advocacy also means meeting with our legislators so I made several trips down to Olympia this year and was able to meet with our legislators and we got some pretty big wins for the city of Kent. We were awarded $3 million dollars by the legislature to build a roundabout at 4th and Willis, and that will allow cars to come off 167 up to that roundabout and right back in onto that property so not only will it help with traffic on the freeway – we’ve all been stuck on that off-ramp trying to get into town, starts backing up at about 2 o’clock.
We’ve also been meeting with Mayors from across the region to find ways that we can work together to deliver for our residents. We’re currently collaborating on several projects including ways to combat gun violence in the South County – something we all see on the news, right? It’s something that we’re all concerned about it’s not a Kent problem, it’s not a Renton problem, it’s not an Auburn problem…it’s something that sort of divides those borders, but together we can come up with solutions. Our police chiefs are working together along with the mayors and King County Prosecutor’s Office to come up with some solutions for that increasing and troubling problem we need to figure out the answers to.
I’ve been involved in the regional transportation initiative and I’m a member of the Transportation Policy Board and South King County area Transportation Board – or skate board – that’s kind of my favorite one there’s a skateboard and a surfboard and I chose the skateboard. We’re working to create regional solutions to address congestion if you listen to our Secretary of Transportation speak he will tell you that there is no way that we are going to build away the congestion. The reality is there are so many people in this region and there’s more and more coming every single day, we are not going to avoid it what we can do now is build to mitigate that congestion and that means providing our residents with access to multiple different ways to get around, so that’s light rail, Sounder Transit, bus access, all of those kinds of things.
I’m also proud to serve on the recently convened One Table committee which is addressing the root causes of homelessness. Most of the work being done around homelessness in this area has been all about getting people out of homelessness. The thing that I really appreciate about One Table is it’s working to prevent people from entering into homelessness, so it’s looking at five areas of root causes. We’re looking at things like the criminal justice system, foster care, affordable housing, employment and mental health and substance abuse. One example of this is the foster care system, and this is honestly something that I had never thought about – as a child in that system when you turn 18 you’re done, that’s it, you can be midway through your senior year you can be just out of your senior year. I don’t know many 18 year olds that are ready to just have their birthday, wake up and be on their own… we need to change that and that’s going to take work in Olympia and it’s something that I am committed to and that One Table is committed to.
Finally, I’m also honored to serve on the Sound Cities Association Executive Board, I am the treasurer for the Association this year…and along with other local officials we are working to make sure that as cities our voice is heard in the county and in the region. We all hate to put it as competition but there’s there’s one big player in the region and that’s Seattle, and then there’s the rest of us. Sound Cities brings all of those cities together to advocate for what we need because quite honestly the needs of a Kent or an Auburn or Renton are not the same thing as Seattle, so being able to have a united voice we can go and talk to the county executive, have conversations about you know this is what we as cities need and so it’s a very powerful organization.
KENT SCHOOL DISTRICT
One of the issues that shook our community the hardest this year is seeing the struggle that the Kent School District has endured, I want to be clear again that the city of Kent doesn’t control, regulate or fund the school district…but this crisis is still one that directly impacts all of us right? Our teachers work in Kent, our kids live in Kent, we owe it to them to ensure a strong and stable school district. I am very proud of the advocacy of the Kent Education Association and the work that they have done on behalf of their members, and most importantly our students. We simply cannot afford to sacrifice our hard-working teachers or amazing students. In particular I want to recognize the leadership of KEA president Kristy Padilla who is here tonight, and Vice President Tim Martin. We need to work together to support our students and our teachers and I am committed to strengthening the partnership between the City of Kent and the School District. I had an hour and a half conversation with Dr. Watts yesterday; we are working on things, we have plans and we are going to make sure that the city is here to support our district.
We’re facing fiscal challenges – there’s no question about it. You’ve heard of our budget shortfall, we’re calling it the fiscal cliff. We’ve got two issues going on: every single year the city starts out with a structural imbalance that’s part of our financial reality because local government can only increase the revenue that they collect from property taxes by 1%. We know that growth and inflation equate to probably two or three percent a year, so while the region is growing and it’s strong these are factors that are beyond our control that we have to deal with. That gap – that structural imbalance – is a very real thing in our budget. Every single year, the fiscal cliff the city is going to be losing revenue from two key categories over the next two years – first we’ve got a streamlined sales tax mitigation so the state’s changed the way that sales tax comes into a city. It used to be we have this great warehousing area and that’s what built Kent out…we got the sales tax from everything that left our warehouses. With the change it now goes to wherever that product is shipped to so somebody ordering something from a Kent warehouse gets that sales tax for the last two years the legislature which has been mitigating Kent for that for about $5 million dollars, but this coming October budget we will no longer be receiving that mitigation so we’ll lose 1.25 million dollars the first year and in 2020 we’ll lose the entire $5 million also in 2020 we’re going to be losing the tax credit that we receive for annexing the Panther Lake area so it’s been nearly ten years…it doesn’t seem like it’s been that long since Panther Lake became an official part of Kent, and we received sales tax credit for that for about $5 million dollars…so between the loss of those two sources we’re looking at $10 million dollars going out of the city of Kent budget. We are going have to figure out a way to fill this gap, this is not going to be an easy conversation…it’s going to be a combination of finding new revenue sources and cutting costs anyway we can, just like you would do at your house when your revenue goes down, when your income goes down, you have to figure out what is it that you can do without, and that’s the conversation that we’re having here at the city. We’re going to make these hard decisions and it’s going to include cutting services, programs and staff…I this is what keeps me up at night, I don’t think there’s any other way out of this, but we are working really really hard to determine what it is that we can do with that because that’s the only responsible thing to do. To help our community understand how we got to this point I’ve held two budget roadshows so far – we had the first one up on West Hill and a second one up at Sunrise Elementary last week, and there’s a third one that will be doing May 17th at the Senior Center at 7 p.m. I encourage you all to come if you haven’t been able to attend. We also videotaped the first one so that’s up on TV 21 to watch, but it’s an opportunity for me to hear, for city staff and the council to hear what’s important to the community…what things that are sort of the the non-questionable we have to do types of programs. My promise to you is to ensure that your tax dollars are spent effectively and transparently…you work really hard for your money and your money should work hard for you, and that’s the goal of our upcoming city budget.
Comedy video credits (in order of appearance):
- Kim Komoto
- Chris Hills & Sam Scott
- Pam Clark & Uriel Varela
- Melanie Robinson
- Pat Fitzpatrick
- Kurt Hanson & Hayley Bonsteel
- Jason Bryant, Tim LaPorte & Chad Bieren
- Julie Parascondola & Brian Levenhagen
- Mark Hendrickson, Josh Gonzalez, Christine Cain, Jan Hiatt, & Michael Mage
- Cool Bird, Galen Hirschi & Annette Pape
- Margaret Yetter & McCuistion, Diane
- Aaron BeMiller, Ken Thomas, Derek Matheson & Mike Carrington
- Shawn Ralph
- Edgar Riebe
- Edgar Riebe
- Steve Vaught
- Edgar Riebe