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Tacoma: Mayor Strickland delivers ‘state of the city’ speech

Post by Lewis Kamb / The News Tribune on Jan. 28, 2013 at 7:23 pm |
January 28, 2013 7:27 pm

Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland just gave her state of the city address at this year’s Tacoma Shift Happens, a conference at the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center to promote local and independent businesses.

Here’s a copy of her speech:

Marilyn Strickland
Marilyn Strickland

 

Ladies and gentlemen, good evening.

On behalf of my City Council colleagues and the City of Tacoma, I am delighted to join you this evening to celebrate the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation in our great city at the third annual Shift Happens.

Before I begin, I would be remiss if I did not thank today’s organizers, the countless volunteers and numerous merchants for your role in making this event a success.  Thank you.

It is my honor to stand before you this evening to present to the 2013 State of the City Address.

2012 was a year filled with challenges but we never lost sight of our vision – to be a progressive, attractive, international city that is well regarded for its diverse population and natural setting.  What does that mean?

It means we strive to have neighborhoods that are safe, clean and attractive. It means that from our business districts to our downtown core and waterfront, we have a diverse and sustainable economy. It means that we in city hall never forget that we are public servants and live up to the ideal of a high performing, open and engaged government. But government alone, cannot accomplish these things. It means that we all come together understanding that sitting on the sidelines will not cut it. It means that we each take full responsibility for the role we play to make Tacoma the best city possible.  It means that we, Tacoma, must be united.

Reshaping City Government

As many of you know, we faced a challenging budget season. We made difficult decisions that, in the end, will place the city on a sustainable financial path.

City Manager Broadnax and his team have set the stage for a more transparent government by providing opportunities for the community to have a platform to provide input on the services that matter most. They visited neighborhoods and collected input from hundreds of residents.

I applaud our City Manager for his leadership and the work he is doing to reshape City Hall to align with Council priorities and more efficient service delivery.

While the past several months have been focused on the City’s budget, I want to point out that we had some great triumphs in 2012; many of which we will see come to fruition this year.

Ron Thomas, the president of the University of Puget Sound wrote an eloquent piece about Tacoma.  He said that Tacoma is a city on the move.  And he is absolutely correct.

Last fall Tacoma was one of major four cities in the nation selected to participate in the Urban Land Institute’s Rose Center Fellowship, a year-long program intended to help participating cities solve development challenges.

This March, the Rose Center staff and consultants along with representatives from Hartford, CT; Austin TX; and Louisville, KY, will visit Tacoma to engage in discussions with City staff and stakeholders on how we can leverage existing and future assets to attract investment along the Martin Luther King Jr. corridor.

Celebrating Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Here in our city, there are many great business leaders who continuously raise the standard in their respective industries. They are small business owners. They are entrepreneurs. They are creating new ventures with forward thinking and innovation.

They are innovators like web developer Miguel Friginal, the brainchild behind Mystery Coconut, a company he has grown into a multimillion dollar international corporation. Along with fellow web developer Noel Llopis, he created the mobile game app Casey’s Contraptions that was acquired by Angry Birds creator Rovioand re-released as Amazing Alex.

There are entrepreneurs like Chandler O’Leary, proprietor of Anagram Press and Jessica Spring, proprietor of Springtide Press, who teamed up to shed a light on women’s history through their nationally-renowned Dead Feminist series. This creative duo is set to release their next series next month. Last August, they had the honor of joining the summer-session faculty at the prestigious Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina.

There are forward thinkers Erik Hanberg. This local author of four books, one of which is a fundraising guide for nonprofits, sold more than 5,000 cumulative copies on Amazon last year, and has two more in the works for 2013.

If there’s a common thread among these entrepreneurial artists, it’s that they are setting the example for how the use of new technologies and online marketplaces –mobile phones, the Apple App store; Etsy; and Amazon – can helpreach customers  worldwide.

Last year 1,017 of new businesses opened in Tacoma.  Each of theseemployers joins  a host of existing companies that are improving Tacoma’s business climate.

We will see more new businesses opening in 2013 like Shake Shake Shake, the newest venture from brothers Chef Gordon and Steve Naccarato in the Stadium District. It is important that we continue work to create avenues for these businesses to compete and flourish.

One way we create these avenues is through the Tacoma Means Business Monday Mixers at the Hotel Murano. Every quarter, we convene business owners, entrepreneurs and community leaders in a casual setting to empower, educate and introduce them to key contacts, the latest business practices and guidance from industry experts.

Last year, the City held two successful events focusing on such topics as cyber security and government contracting, and we are gearing up for the 2013 series with the first event set for Feb. 4 that will focus on the workforce development partners in the community who can help your business find and train the right workers.

While it is important that we equip businesses and entrepreneurs with tools to grow their businesses, it is equally important that we celebrate business success stories like homegrown Brown and Haley. This sweet Tacoma gem has been contributing to our local economy for over 100 years as a primary, independently-owned employer! We are proud that Brown and Haley products are made in Tacoma.

In order for us to continue steering Tacoma forward, we must have strong foundation and a sustainable tax base.

Growing Tacoma through Economic Development

A city cannot grow without a focus on economic development. And we in Tacoma cannot think of ourselves in isolation. We are part of the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue region but here is a fact. According to the 2010 Census, our region grew at 13% while Tacoma grew at 2.5%. In the context of business, here’s what this tells us. If you want your local business to thrive and not just survive, you must include markets and reach out to consumers beyond Tacoma to grow your customer base.

As we look to create opportunities that make Tacoma an attractive investment for future developers, we must serve as the bridge that links businesses and residentswith innovative programs and services that strengthen long-term economic vitalityand create high quality jobs.

It’s great to see how Go Local has increased its membership to more than 500 members.  It great to see that the Tacoma Pierce County Chamber of Commerce has also been busy recruiting and added 513 new members since 2011.

Although it is important to focus development efforts in our community, we must also look for ways to forge global connections. One way we continue to do this is through the Sister City Program and 2012 was a great year for the program.

Fostering Global Connections

This past October, Tacoma welcomed a delegation from Biot, France which included the Honorable Mayor Jean Pierre Dermit and acclaimed glass artist Antoine Pierini to participate in a dialogue about our ties to glass art, and to sign an agreement making Biot our 12th sister city.

This year promises to be an active one for the sister cities program kicking off with the 11th Annual Sister Cities International Film Festival at the Blue Mouse Theateron Feb. 7.

Tacoma will also hold its first International Sister Cities Student Leadership Conference in conjunction with Tacoma Public Schools on February 26. This conference will immerse over 100 high school students into discussions about how Tacoma trades with the world.

Our Japanese garden project at Point Defiance will be featured at the Pan Pacific Conference at the International Sister Cities conference this summer.

Revitalizing Tacoma

Renewing Tacoma’s infrastructure continues to be a critical part in the city’s sustainability plan. This year, we will look work with companies who wish to invest in revitalizing the community by bringing new life to historic treasures.

This Friday, Feb. 1, the Murray Morgan Bridge will open to traffic. We want to invite everyone to come out and join us for a two-day event celebrating the 100thyear of one of Tacoma’s greatest historical treasures. On Feb. 14 at 6:00 p.m., we invite you to help us “Light the Bridge” by signing up to participate in a special 5K Run/Walk event in coordination with the Tacoma City Marathon Association, and on Feb. 15 at 10:00 a.m., the City will hold the official Rededication Ceremony for this local landmark.

In addition to restoring and preserving our historic landmarks, it is important that we increase efforts to improve the overall appearance of Tacoma topromote commerce  and tourism.

Recently, City Council approved the sale of waterfront property which will allow Pacific Seafood to move forward with $1.3 million investment to expand Johnny’s Seafood. This investment will bring in new commerce to the city, create jobs, andcontinue to improve public access the area along the Thea Foss Waterway.

We are starting to make strides in this area by giving downtown a facelift with thePacific Avenue Streetscape Project slated for completion by the end of this year. I know with any major capital improvement project, the pains of construction and street closures can be a challenge, but the result will bring new life to the heart of our city.

Point Ruston will become a destination hot spot along the Commencement Bay waterfront. Anchored by the new Copperline Apartments set to open in Spring of 2013, this billion-dollar revitalization of the former copper smelter site will have a great mix of amenities from professional office space and hotel accommodations to restaurants, entertainment and retail for residents and visitors alike to enjoy, and the completion of a six-mile waterwalk that will connect with Pt. Defiance.

In addition, two new hotel developments will be complete this year. The Marriott Residence Inn on Dock Street and the Holiday Inn Express in the Brewery District will help add to our city’s hotel accommodation footprint and help us attract more conventions.

Some other efforts to mention include:

•The Alaska Street Roadway Project which spans from 56th St to 74th St was completed making it the city’s first green streets project. Not only did it improve the view corridor for residents, cyclists and pedestrians, it has beautified the neighborhood.
•A $1 million Transportation grant will allow for the creation of a 13-mile active transportation corridor that will span across the city and serve as the core of Tacoma’s on-street bike network.
•Tacoma’s Central Neighborhood District will see improvements take shape along South Sprague as part of a gateway enhancement project that will feature new landscaping and visual buffers.

Additionally, the City will continue to lead efforts in cleaning up our neighborhoods. Last year, the City in partnership with various neighborhood groups spearheaded 18 cleanups across the city, hauling away more than 470 tons of debris, and we are planning more clean ups in 2013. In fact 16 cleanup projects are already on schedule

Keeping the Arts Alive

One thing I know for sure about Tacoma is that we have a strong passion for the arts. The arts community is a vital economic driver and we must continue to preserve programs, projects and offerings just like the successful endeavor to save the beloved Blue Mouse Theater.

Through a Kickstarter fundraising campaign initiated by the Tacoma Neighborhoods Together nonprofit arm of the Cross District Association and many generous contributions, this historic jewel in the Proctor District will be able to continue as the longest running movie house in the state, and with the help of monies raised, it will soon transition to the digital age.

Thanks to the generosity of the Haub family, the Tacoma Art Museum is set to expand so it can house a rare collection of Western Art.

In a few months, you will hear about Professor Dawoud Rey, an acclaimedphotographer from New York who will be working with the University of Washington, Tacoma on a very special project thanks to the 1% for the Arts Program through the State of Washington.

Making Education a Priority

As we look to grow our city and have it become a city of choice we continue to emphasize the importance of a good school system that spans pre-K to post grad.While the focus is often on jobs and employment, our ultimate goal is to help young people become productive members of our society who contribute positively to our community. But there is also an economic benefit to having a strong school system. Prospective home buyers make decisions about where to purchase based on the reputation and quality of schools. If we want more people to move to Tacoma, we need more good schools.

I’m pleased to say that Tacoma Public Schools has the distinction of being the first district in the state with the designation of Innovation Zone. This means that we are able to offer more flexibility and options for our students. TPS has also adopted a system of accountability where they will track and measure student progress and closely monitor instructional practices. .

This May, the Science and Math Institute will graduate its first senior class., and new preliminary graduation statistics show that students who enrolled in Lincoln Center — the school within a school at Lincoln High School — graduated at 98% in 2012.

Beginning last fall, Baker, First Creek, Giaudrone, Gray, Jason Lee, Mason, Meeker, Stewart and Truman middle schools changed to a varsity, junior varsity and C-team model like the high schools for all athletic programs. The schools also added tackle football and girls’ cross country as two additional options at the middle school level. These changes and additions to the middle school athletic programs help to improve academic performance for all of Tacoma’s middle school students.

These athletic programs provide low-cost, accessible opportunities for students to complement their academics, build character, encourage good sportsmanship, promote fitness and healthy lifestyles, and offer another effective way to foster students’ connections with school.

Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.” And that starts with equipping them with a high quality, well-rounded education that includes academic and extracurricular activities.

Community Involvement

At the foundation of all the points I have touched on this evening, is our great city, its assets and the need to come together. Whether you are a local, independently owned business, a large corporation, a member of the Chamber, the Economic Development Board, a Sister City Committee, a business district, the World Trade Center or the Port, you are part of an economic development eco-system withinterdependent parts that should complement each other.  A safe, clean and attractive city, good schools and an educated work force are part of this system. The arts, business and labor are part of this system and if we don’t work together, it falls apart for all of us.

It is up to each and every one of us to do our part to make our community and our neighborhoods places we are proud to call home.  We must be willing to get in the trenches to create a positive link between City government and the community.  We must be willing to do our part and in some cases, make sacrifices for the greater good.

Tonight I ask you, what will be your civic contribution in 2013? Will you sit on the sidelines or will you get involved? What will be your role in making Tacoma a better city?

2013 is going to be an exciting year for Tacoma, and it will be the public and private partnerships that will move us forward.

Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” I believe we can make it happen if we, Tacoma, are united.

Thank you and may God Bless Tacoma.

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