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Mayor plans upbeat message for first State of the City

Post by Debby Abe on Jan. 28, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
January 28, 2011 8:41 pm

Presidents do it, governors do it and now Tacoma’s mayor is doing it.

Just as President Barack Obama gave a State of the Union address on Tuesday, Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland plans to give a State of the City address on Monday.

Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland
Strickland will deliver the speech at the BE Green/Tacoma Shift Happens gathering, which is billing it as the first-ever such mayoral address in Tacoma.

Strickland said she and the city’s community and economic development director Ryan Petty decided shortly after she took office last January that she should give the address after her first year in office. They saw it as an opportunity to highlight grassroots efforts while reflecting on the past year and goals for the coming year.

“The purpose of this, number one, is to inspire people to get more involved, to volunteer, to show support for local small businesses and remind people of what a great community we have,” she said in an interview. “You have a lot of people who are quietly doing good, and quietly doing amazing things. We want to bring that to the forefront and celebrate in the address.”

While a few past Tacoma mayors have given speeches “vaguely similar” to state of the city-type address, Strickland’s appears to be the first one officially described as one, said Brian Kamens, supervisor of the Northwest Room at the Tacoma Public Library Northwest Room, which maintains historic records of the city and region.

“Mayor Gordon Johnston in 1972 reviewed the accomplishments of the past year and looked forward, but did not call it ‘state of the city,’” Kamens said, after a quick perusal of records.

Historian and former mayor Bill Baarsma said Tacoma mayors haven’t given State of the City addresses because those presentations usually accompany the proposal of a city’s annual budget.

In Tacoma’s “council-manager” form of goverment, the city manager is chief executive officer and presents the budget, Baarsma said. Some of Tacoma’s past city managers have prepared “year in review” and goals for the coming year to deliver with the budget.

In contrast, the mayor in Seattle is the city’s chief executive officer, prepares a budget proposal, and makes a State of the City address.

“It is unusual,” Baarsma said of Strickland’s upcoming address. “More power to her.”

Strickland’s talk will be the culminating event of BE Green/Tacoma Shift Happens workshops and discussions at the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center. The event is described on its website as a day-long celebration of sustainability, local living and local business.

(See Kathleen Cooper’s story about the Shift Happens initiative.)

Although 2010 was a tough year economically, don’t expect a talk mired in gloom and doom.

“We’re in the midst of a very slow recovery. I absolutely understand there are a families struggling. There is a lot of good happening in Tacoma, too. I don’t want to get caught up in the negativity,” Strickland said.

“Even though we take some punches, we get right up. We have a spirit and tenacity in Tacoma.”

State of the City 2011
What: Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland gives the State of the City Address
When: 7 p.m. Monday
Where: Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center, 1500 Broadway, Tacoma
Admission: Free
RSVP: Tacoma Shift Happens
Extra: Strickland’s address is part of BE Green/Tacoma Shift Happens gathering that starts at noon Monday.

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