March 23, 2009

Good evening Council President Hernandez, City Council members, community members and staff. I am pleased to deliver my first State of the City address tonight. With a full year of experience in the position of Mayor, I feel confident in presenting to you a picture of where we’ve been, where we are at this moment in 2009, and what I think lies ahead for Tukwila in the years to come.

I am fortunate to have an outstanding City Council to work with – one that shares the goal of making Tukwila a great place to live, work and play. I would like to thank Councilmember Joe Duffie for his dedication to the role of Council President in 2008, and this year’s President Joan Hernandez and I are already off to great start working as a team.

To borrow a term from the current President of the United States, 2008 was definitely a year of change, and especially for the City of Tukwila and for this region. From a budget standpoint, we went into 2008 with projected General Fund revenues of over $43 million dollars; actual revenues came in at just over $41 million for a difference of nearly $2 million. This decrease represents a decline of almost 5% over what was budgeted. Compared to prior year ACTUAL revenue, revenue for 2008 declined by just 1.02%.

One component of revenues is property taxes. For the year 2008 we budgeted property taxes at $11.28 million, and actual receipts fell about $30,000 shy of that, coming in at $11.25 million.

Another major revenue component for us, one that I’m sure you’re all aware of, is sales tax. The 2008 budget was built on a sales tax projection of $19,045,000. Actual sales taxes received were $17,752,678 – a difference of $1,292,322 or 6.78%. Compared to the city’s largest sales tax collection year of 2007, sales taxes were down by 8.57%. Sectors experiencing the largest decline were Furniture and Home Furnishings (41.53%), Wholesale Goods (23.60%) and Electronics and Appliances (19.49%). Some of this decline can be attributed to the economy as a whole, but some of it can also be traced to the change in sales tax calculation that went into effect mid-year 2008. Your Finance Department is keeping close watch on the mitigation payments received from the State Department of Revenue to ensure that Tukwila receives the maximum mitigation due. We are a small city population wise, yet from an employment and business standpoint we are a regional force. It is only fair that we receive the revenue due us in exchange for the sacrifices and expenditures we must make to support the business and employment centers that serve the region, creating a daytime population of 154,000.

Now let us turn to expenditures: The 2008 budget called for General Fund expenditures of $45,009,673; our actual expenditures were $43,987,368 for a difference of $1,022,275 or 2.27% less than what was budgeted. Compared to 2007, however, expenditures increased in 2008 by 10.14%.

Permitting Activity: The number of permits issued in 2008 was 2,730, which represents a 60.6% increase over 2007; the dollar value, however, of those permits was about $135 million, a 24.8% decrease from 2007.

To summarize revenues and expenditures for 2008, though we spent less than was budgeted, our General Fund expenditures outstripped revenues by $2.8 million.

Now that we have the bad news out of the way, there were some bright spots in 2008. We started the year with the kickoff of the City’s Centennial Year and introduction of the Tukwila Life campaign. Much positive publicity was directed our way with each Centennial celebration event: The launch in January at Westfield Southcenter Shopping Center; the opening of the Macadam Winter Garden and the generous donation of the interpretive sign by Home Street Bank; the Family Fourth at the Fort, with the biggest and best fireworks show topped off by a cake-shaped fireworks display showing “Happy 100”. The summer also brought the grand opening of the Westfield Southcenter expansion on July 25, making Southcenter the largest mall in the Pacific Northwest and bringing new and exciting stores to Tukwila and the Puget Sound area.

Thus far in 2009 – Where are we now?

Though we currently find ourselves in the same boat as most entities in the area, the financial hardships hit Tukwila a few months later than the rest of the region. We are in the mode of “tightening our belts” and hoping to avoid some of the drastic measures taken by King County and our neighboring cities. Departments have been asked to defer/delay expenditures, and to hold non-critical positions open for a longer period of time when they become vacant.

Our businesses remain active: Tukwila boasts over 2,000 businesses with over 42,000 jobs – more jobs than most counties in the State of Washington. Our major businesses, ranked by number of employees, include Boeing, Group Health Cooperative, King County Metro, Carlyle, Red Dot, Macy’s, Boeing Employee Credit Union, JC Penney Corporation, and Nordstrom. The list of top businesses ranked by percent of assessed valuation includes Boeing, BECU, La Pianta LLC, and Sterling Realty Organization to name a few.

Though times are tough now, we cannot afford to sit and wait for things to get better; we must develop plans to ensure that we are ready to move forward when the economy improves. To that end, the City continues to plan for large infrastructure projects: The Klickitat project; Southcenter Parkway extension; Tukwila International Boulevard Phases 2 and 3, for which we received bids that were nearly two million dollars under our engineer’s estimate. The SCORE jail project is one that is imperative to move ahead. We are a city at a crossroads, and the same things that make us an attractive place to do business make us an opportune place for people to come from outside to do their dirty business. The South Correctional Entity (SCORE) jail project will provide a place for us to house our misdemeanant prisoners when we no longer are able to place them in King County jail facilities in 2012. More information is available at the SCORE website (

Recently discovered weaknesses in the Howard Hanson Dam provide an opportunity for the City to encourage the community to ramp up its emergency preparedness efforts. The first of a series of community meetings regarding the Dam will be held on March 28 at Foster High School. Information about the Dam has been posted on the City’s website. We have mailed information to approximately 3900 businesses and residences and hand delivered to about 500 residences that could be affected by the possible release of more water from the dam during a heavy rain event. Community meetings will continue throughout the year, and we will keep track of who has been notified and who has attended the meetings, to ensure that we are doing the best job possible of informing our public.

Other large infrastructure projects that affect our city, but not totally controlled by us, are Sound Transit’s Light Rail and Commuter Rail stations. The Light Rail station is due to open the week of July 3; Sound Transit plans to award the design contract for the Commuter Rail Station during the end of second quarter or early third quarter of this year. The Sound Transit Board, and its Executive Director Joni Earl, have heard and will continue to hear our cry that Tukwila riders deserve a well-designed permanent commuter rail station.

Other projects on the drawing board include the Tukwila Pond design and wetland rehabilitation project; the Shoreline Master Plan update; the Walk and Roll/non-motorized transportation plan; and further analysis to implement the recommendations of the 2008 Fire Study.

Who is Tukwila?

Since becoming Mayor I have gained a new appreciation for WHO Tukwila is; yes, I know we are 18,000 people, and we are also the home of 65+ languages spoken by people who have come to this great country of ours to escape persecution, to find a better life, and to achieve the American dream. Just last week the New York Times named the Tukwila School District as the most diverse district in the entire country. We are fortunate to have a great partnership with the Tukwila School District and to have been a founding partner in the Tukwila Community Schools Collaboration. Community Schools are the way of the future, and we can honestly say that we were on the cutting edge when our TCSC program was developed over 8 years ago.

We are a neighborly city, with a mix of incomes and housing stock affordable to a range of families. We are a city where organizations like the Highway 99 Action Committee, now known as the Tukwila International Boulevard Action Committee, pitch in to clean up litter because they know that trash attracts more trash, and that people will think twice about littering in a clean environment. They also know the power of peer pressure, and that when one business owner sees another business owner out cleaning up an area, that business owner can’t help but want to be a part of the solution. This is just one of the many ways that the Action Committee serves the City. At this point I must pause to honor one of the most active members of the Highway 99 Action Committee, fondly referred to as the “Queen of Trash,” Donna West. Donna passed away a couple of weeks ago, just shy of one of her favorite holidays – St. Patrick’s Day, and we will miss her deeply.

One indicator of the needs in Tukwila is the increased activity at the Tukwila Pantry. Over 4,000 Tukwila clients received food from the Pantry in 2008 – remember, our population is only 18,080. In 2008 there was in excess of 2.2 million pounds of food distributed to all clients - an increase from 1.5 million pounds in 2007. Of the total Tukwila Pantry clients, 52% are from Tukwila. Burien, SeaTac, and parts of unincorporated King County also receive food at this facility. It is interesting to note that 53% of those served at the Tukwila Pantry are senior citizens, 33% are youth between 3-18 years, and 9% are adults between 18 and 54 years of age. The economic downturn has affected many people and places increased pressure on all the services we provide. Thanks to Joe, Connie, and the volunteers at the Pantry who are dedicated to providing these needed services.

We are a city of partnerships: We have learned that as a small city we can gain so much more by pooling our resources with others who share similar challenges. In addition to those already named, Tukwila is a partner in the Valley Communications 911 dispatch center; we are a founding member of the Highline Forum; and we participate in a number of regional efforts such as Suburban Cities Association, Cascade Water Alliance, the Association of Washington Cities, the King County Committee to End Homelessness; WRIA 9 Watershed Group working on salmon habitat issues; SCKATBD, whose efforts are aimed at improving transportation options in the region; the National League of Cities, and many others. I appreciate our City Council members and staff who put forward a lot of effort to represent Tukwila’s interests in these organizations. We also have a number of City Boards and Commissions with positions filled by volunteers appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the City Council. The hours invested by Board and Commission members are priceless and I thank them for that.

We are a healthy and fit city. As part of our Centennial we were named an American Heart Association Fit/Start City; our Tukwila Healthy Employee program was just named an Association of Washington Cities (AWC) WellCity award winner for the 6th year in a row. We have developed and Council has approved the Walk and Roll Plan, a plan that we hope will get people out of their cars and make it easier for children, adults and families to walk and bike throughout the City. We are the practice and administrative home of the Seattle Sounders FC, the newest franchise in Major League Soccer and one that has already exceeded expectations for ticket sales. The Sounders have committed to become an integral part of the Tukwila community, and we look forward to working with them to honor that commitment.

Please be aware that on June 27th of this year we will be hosting, along with the City of Seattle, the first ever ‘Tukwila to Seattle Rock and Roll Marathon’ and half marathon. It will begin on Interurban Avenue in Tukwila and end at Qwest Field in Seattle. At last count there were in excess of 15,000 registered participants, and registrations were coming at the rate of 200-300 per day. This should be a fun event for everyone to enjoy this summer.


The current economy presents some near term challenges, but I believe our future is bright. We must not just weather the financial storm, we must prepare for the sunny days which are inevitably ahead.

The Tukwila Urban Center Plan, which we will adopt in 2009, will lead to new development and create a new neighborhood of regional importance. The plan will create a more urban character, with improvements slated for Tukwila Pond and a signature Pedestrian Bridge across the Green River. We continue to work on the Tukwila South project, to bring hundreds of acres of new development and thousands of new jobs to the region. Redevelopment of the former Associated Grocers site, now owned by the Sabey Corporation (who, by the way, have been outstanding corporate citizens and very heavily involved in our City) holds exciting prospects and could become a stunning new gateway to our city. We will continue to plan for Tukwila Village and work with Tarragon, the City’s chosen developer, to create the best development possible along a vital stretch of Tukwila International Boulevard. Efforts will continue on the Duwamish Riverbend Hill project with Cascade Land Conservancy’s continued assistance.

Internally, the City’s newly formed Green Team will ferret out ways to increase our energy efficiency and decrease our carbon footprint. We will continue efforts I began in 2008, to streamline and modernize City processes and to bring more efficiency to City government.

I would like to mention two of my goals for the City that we have not yet addressed. They are a Teen Center and the subject of Senior Housing availability in Tukwila. I feel a Teen Center is extremely important in order to provide positive, creative, and productive activities for our teenagers as they grow into adulthood. Senior Housing is necessary to retain our valuable seniors in the City.

Also, I would like to make note of an obvious observation this past year. The negative activity requiring police personnel had a dramatic impact on our budget for 2008. There is absolutely no way we can forecast that type of behavior or the financial impact on the City. All we can do is be prepared with the best, most efficient police organization anywhere -- and we have that!!

In my closing comments, I would like to leave you with this thought. It is sometimes surprising where we will get our next bit of inspiration. At the recent DARE graduation program, many of us were on the stage to congratulate each of the elementary school participants in the program. As I shook one young girl’s hand in congratulations, she said, “Hello Neighbor.” She was, in fact, my neighbor, but that greeting was so refreshing. That is my vision for the neighborhoods throughout our city – that one day we are all working so closely together and have that comfort level when we meet each other, we say “Hello Neighbor.”

Though change is the popular word of the day, change is not always easy. I would close by asking for everyone’s continued cooperation and teamwork by travelling down a path that will be good for the City now and in the future. Thank you so much for hearing my message tonight and may God bless everyone.

Jim Haggerton
Mayor, City of Tukwila