April 19, 2010

Welcome, City Council President, Council members, City Administrator, City staff and all our special guests.

It is my pleasure to present my second State of the City address.

As I deliver this message tonight, I do so with a sense of cautious optimism. While the challenges ahead of us are significant, I have always been an optimist and, even in the current economic climate, I continue to approach all our City activities with a positive view toward the future. Tukwila is a community blessed by great resources and potential – from its citizen leaders to its outstanding business community – and we enjoy a regional location that has, in the past, and will continue to provide great opportunity.

It would be an understatement to say that much has happened since my 2009 State of the City address.

The downturn in the economy that became evident during the last quarter of 2008 continued its downward trend throughout 2009 and through the early months of 2010. This has had such a negative impact on our sales tax receipts (one of the major sources of revenue for the City) that we have been and are currently taking corrective action in the manner in which the City provides services. Some of the services we provide have fees attached, and many of them are provided as a normal course of serving our citizens. During 2009 we began evaluating how the City conducts its business. The harsh reality is that the year 2009 ended with our sales tax receipts down by $3.5 million, which represents a shortfall of nearly 20% from our budget estimates and a reduction of 10% from our actual receipts in 2008. In response to this unprecedented situation, we have put in place internal controls to operate more efficiently and reduce non-essential expenditures. In 2009, we asked City departments to reduce spending by 3%; they exceeded this request by ending the year with savings of 7% below budget. Now, we have to take even more significant measures to address the financial shortfall.

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The City Council has taken an active role in this matter, and I compliment you in devoting your entire City Council retreat and countless hours in committee meetings this year to the policy issues that are the main driver in the way the City administers our services. I commend you for the balanced approach you are taking with regard to revenue growth and spending reductions. I also want to commend the Council for approving the creation of a “rainy day fund” that over time will build reserves to help us weather the next major downturn. This has been a significant priority for me, and I remain committed to putting the City’s finances on a path that will be sustainable over the long term.

Despite the difficulties of the current economic situation, Tukwila will continue to move forward. I am a firm believer in “the way to work out of an economic downturn is to continue to pursue economic development”, while holding our expenses to the absolute minimum levels needed to provide City services.

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Tukwila is in a unique position in that we provide a positive environment in which to conduct business, and we have business owners looking to locate and expand into our city. We must continue to hold a positive economic advantage over other jurisdictions in order to survive in this ever-increasing competitive environment.

In 2009 we made significant progress in preparing for long-term business growth. After five years of planning and negotiation, the Tukwila South development is within our reach. This project will be, in my opinion, instrumental in directing the economic vitality of Tukwila in the future, and is just one more tool that will allow Tukwila to become an even stronger regional force in the state of Washington.

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In 2009, we:

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The City’s perseverance in achieving this successful outcome has paid off, and we will need to show the same level of continuing commitment to see another important economic development project – Tukwila Village – through to completion. We are continuing to work toward a development agreement with our selected development partner, Tarragon. However, this project is subject to the same development climate as other properties throughout the region and nation. With some positive signals starting to show in the regional and national economies, we are hopeful that progress can be made this year, with start of construction possible in late 2011 or 2012.

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One of the biggest challenges to face the City of Tukwila in years is the situation with the Howard Hanson Dam. Damage to the dam in early 2009 resulted in a change in the way the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers controls the water pool behind the dam, which increased the potential for excessive flows downstream. In preparation for potential flooding, Tukwila and the other valley cities were faced with considerable unbudgeted expense to temporarily raise the level of the river banks and levees. This has had a dramatic impact on our budget. We are grateful to the King County Flood Control District. They stepped forward to reimburse some, but not nearly all, of our expenses. We are still pursuing recovery of other City expenses with the County, State and Federal government. Our emergency management staff, Public Works Department, Police, Fire and City administration provided public outreach to keep everyone as safe and prepared as possible.

We are also working closely with King County and the other valley cities to push for more extensive temporary repairs and the quickest possible completion of permanent repairs to Howard Hanson Dam.

Intergovernmental teamwork on resolving the Howard Hanson Dam issue is but one example of how well we partner with our neighboring cities to accomplish major things that are important to all of us.

Some additional examples are:

Cascade Water Alliance – By working with this organization of cities and water utility providers, we accomplished in 2009 our objective of purchasing Lake Tapps from Puget Sound Energy to guarantee adequate future water supplies for all our members. We have signed agreements with four Lake Tapps neighboring cities that satisfy their future needs, and are working with the State of Washington to finalize the water rights we need for Lake Tapps. We currently have an operations manager on site, working with the homeowner groups and others to ensure a professional approach to our ownership of the lake.

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SCORE Jail Facility - Working with our partnering cities, we have responded to the announcement from King County that our misdemeanants could no longer be housed at the County’s jail facilities after the year 2012. Our group has worked diligently to identify and procure property, and in 2009 we completed the design and started construction on an 800-bed jail. I’m happy to report this project is progressing on time and on budget. We plan to open the facility in late 2011 and will then be able to share the cost savings in lower booking rates and significantly lower daily jail costs to Tukwila and all our member cities.

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I am proud to represent the City of Tukwila on the administrative Boards of Directors for these two organizations as well as the Valley Communications 911 Center, Enterprise Seattle, Suburban Cities Association, and the Association of Washington Cities, all of which are very important to promoting and protecting the interests of Tukwila’s citizens and businesses.

Other important accomplishments over the last year include:

We are in the final stages of completing the construction of Tukwila International Boulevard, from South 116th Street to South 139th Street. We began this work in April 2009, and the $12 million project is currently on schedule and on budget. This project is scheduled for full completion by September 2010.

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Other good news from our Public Works Department is that the City has completed the installation of a new pump station in the Allentown neighborhood, consisting of two 10” pumps to replace an 8” pump system, to more adequately handle the Allentown storm drainage system.

There are positives to report in activities at our Tukwila ‘Museum of Flight’. It appears our museum is a finalist in being awarded a NASA space shuttle, and plans are being developed for the appropriate display area. We are also working on the final details for construction of the new ‘Aviation High School’ just north and on the west side of East Marginal Way.

Other positive activities on the horizon are highlighted by the second ‘Tukwila to Seattle Rock And Roll Marathon and Half Marathon’, scheduled for Saturday, June 26. As of the first week of April, registrations had reached 28,000, exceeding the 25,000 that participated in the inaugural 2009 event. This will be another fun event that allows Tukwila to showcase itself on a local, national, and even an international level.

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Do we face challenges other than those mentioned earlier? We certainly do!

In this ever-challenging economic environment, we must continue to find ways to maintain our streets and other infrastructure, and to address the shortcomings and conditions of City facilities. Our buildings are old and require ongoing maintenance, our City telephone system is outdated and difficult to maintain, and our City personnel in many departments are not conveniently located for maximum efficiency. We are working on plans for addressing these issues so that, when the economy improves and revenues increase, we can take appropriate action to correct these shortcomings.

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I am proud of the way we have faced the major challenges of the past year, and of our success in moving a number of City priorities forward. This has required hard work by the City Council and by staff. I am especially pleased that we have made such progress during a time of change in several staff leadership positions. We are very happy for Rhonda Berry in her new position with King County. Losing her experience and history with the City has been at least partially offset by having such a close friend now in the county executive’s office.

I’d like to especially thank Shawn Hunstock for taking on the duties of the interim City Administrator upon Rhonda’s departure. A relatively recent addition to the City’s management team, Shawn has proven himself to be an outstanding leader. In addition to helping guide the City through some of the most difficult financial conditions in our history, he has modernized, streamlined and professionalized the manner in which we operate internally. The fact that he was willing to take on this added responsibility in addition to his normal duties of Financial Director speaks volumes regarding his commitment to our City.

We have also been fortunate to welcome back to Tukwila several former employees and to have the opportunity to promote several of our most loyal employees to key management roles. Nora Gierloff returned as Assistant Community Development Director, Bob Giberson is serving admirably as Public Works Director, Robin Tishmak was recently promoted to City Engineer, and Stephanie Brown has stepped into her position as Human Resources Director without skipping a beat. Last but certainly not least, we welcomed back Steve Lancaster to serve as Rhonda Berry’s replacement as City Administrator, and most recently Joyce Trantina returned to the City as Executive Assistant in our City Administration.

I would like to close by reflecting on a comment I received at a recent convention held at the Doubletree Hotel in Tukwila. That convention consisted of 400 attendees, and while visiting with a resident from the Skyway area of Tukwila, she was very complimentary with her perception of our City. She stated that the Tukwila Urban Center and all the retail and commercial activity are assets that any city would welcome, but her perception of Tukwila was that – away from all the retail activity – “Tukwila still has such a rural, small town feel with all the trees, parks, and trails” that many do not associate with our city. A compliment indeed!

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I look forward to working with every Council member, all our City staff, the residents and the businesses of Tukwila in the years to come. By working together to address the challenges that present themselves and enjoying the good things available to us, we can make Tukwila an even better place to live, to work, and to raise our families.

I am extremely proud to serve as mayor of Tukwila.


Jim Haggerton
Mayor, City of Tukwila