Friday, February 11, 2011

Highlights from the Mayor's State of the City Address

Posted By on Fri, Feb 11, 2011 at 4:05 PM

The state of the city, is, well, not too shabby, considering.

That’s was the message from Mayor Mary Verner, in front of this morning's Greater Spokane Incorporated breakfast. After noting recessionary and budgetary troubles, she launched into multiple anecdotes about all the areas where the city is excelling and then laid out several plans to improve efficiency in the future.

Considering her audience, Verner admitted that the speech was pretty business-focused. Overall, it was extremely positive, blaming national conditions for local troubles.

The full text is here, but if you just want highlights, read on.

The mayor debunking apoplectic chickens:

In Spokane, the sky did not fall in 2010. We refused to allow our budget struggles to overwhelm us … Over the last three years, we closed revenue shortfalls totaling $34 million … without raising taxes! … We kept critical public safety services — and amazingly, we kept our AA bond rating from Standard & Poor’s. Not bad work, in a year when other cities stumbled…

-- The city made up a considerable $13 million budget shortfall, thanks to major union concessions and budgetary innovations this year. This is after two years of hard budget cuts. She notes other aspects of innovation, including partnering with the county for animal control and evidence rooms, using the excess steam from the Waste to Energy plants, and partnering with Avista to reduce energy consumption.

The mayor, stocking the city’s trophy case:

Our collections of recognitions are impressive. The City and its employees also were honored for excellence in asphalt paving work, encouraging seat belt use, promoting water conservation, sustainability planning, reducing single-occupant vehicle commuting among employees, and outstanding operations at the Riverside Park Water Reclamation Facility. We also have the best tasting drinking water! ---

-The mayor also highlighted our seventh-year running Tree City USA award, from the Arbor Day foundation, and the best online snow-plowing site in the nation from OhMyGov. Congrats, @FakeSpokanePlow.

The mayor as sports fan, Biden critic:

The Eagles’ National Championship gave me the rare opportunity to let the Vice President of the United States know that he was sitting on the wrong side of the field.

-The mayor also gave a shout-out to the North Central and Ferris state champion teams, the Chiefs, the Cougars, the #1 ranked Whitworth Pirates, and even, generously, the Gonzaga Bulldogs.

The mayor attempting to define the precise je ne sais quoi of Spokane…

These dedicated young athletes demonstrate what I call the Spirit of Spokane. A somewhat intangible quality I see all around us. It is a feeling of community, of helping others, of banding together when times are tough. It is resilience and kindness and graciousness. It is who we are at our essence. It is Spokane.

… and how reporting suspicious packages is part of that spirit:

And the Spirit of Spokane was demonstrated in full force by those downtown workers who found the bomb on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and called it in. They did not ignore what they thought suspicious, and many of us owe them our lives!

The mayor, on small business complaints (the businesses are small, not the complaints):

Small business owners told us they have a need for greater certainty, the need for better access to City services and resources, the need for consistent leadership, and the need for stronger support for the local business community. We are responding — with creativity and innovation.

-- The city is launching an “Open for Business” program to ease the pain during construction projects, providing checklists to navigate permitting procedures, and figuring out ways to coordinate with organizations helping start-up businesses.

The mayor alluding, momentarily, to the shooting controversies that continue to dog law enforcement:

"We continue to address public demand for greater accountability in our Police Department. Thanks to the work of the Council and concerned citizens, we revised the duties of our new ombudsman to include independent investigatory authority and additional reporting requirements. The Ombudsman created an ad hoc committee to consider policies about TASER use and launched a web page where complaints can now be submitted on-line."

The mayor informing us that, national reports to the contrary, we’re not that racist:

"I reach out to you as not only business leaders, but also as community leaders, to address the perception of our community caused by the placement of a bomb on our parade route downtown on Martin Luther King, Jr., Day.
We are not perfect - no one is.

"But we also are not the community that has been depicted in the national media. On Martin Luther King Day, since that first small march in 1980, Spokane, as a community, annually, has stood up against hate and recommitted ourselves to equality and basic human rights for all. Through our words and deeds, we must recommit to our community’s image, and ensure that the image on the surface reflects a reality of who we are."

The mayor praising the city’s staunch refusal to be economically euthanized:

“Your City government is throwing off the blanket of hardship that tried to smother us last year. 2010 was about positioning for economic recovery; 2011 is about pursuing the recovery with vigor and enthusiasm.”

-- The sales tax revenue for the city was three percent better this January than the month before.

The mayor co-opting MSNBC’s new slogan:

"We’re transitioning from surviving to leaning forward. We’re starting fresh. As the gospel song goes, “It’s a new day, and a new beginning”… I am proud and honored to serve as your Mayor. Thank you, and as [Greater Spokane Incorporated President Rich Hadley] would say, 'Have a great Spokane day!'"

Responding to questions at the end:

"I have been an advocate for not allowing studded tires, but it's a decision that needs to be allowed at the state level."

The mayor encouraged the state delegation to ban studded tires. She also encouraged the state delegation to push for waste-to-energy plants and hydroelectric power to be counted as renewable energy, which would allow the city to take more advantage of state funds.

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About The Author

Daniel Walters

A lifelong Spokane native, staff writer Daniel Walters is the Inlander's City Hall reporter. But he also reports on a wide swath of other topics, including business, education, real estate development, land use, and other stories throughout North Idaho and Spokane County.He's reported on deep flaws in the Washington...