My first year in office has been a time of incredible learning, re-establishing our city's relationships inside and outside of government, focusing on priorities and taking action on community needs and interests. If there's a theme here, it is this: together, we're getting things done!
I have a passion for effective, accountable government and forming strong partnerships to deliver quality public services. We have engaged the Bellingham City Council, community members, city employees, and elected officials and peers at other agencies in setting and accomplishing our priorities. And I'm very happy to report that, together, we are doing just that. Here's an update on some key projects.
PROGRESS ON PRIORITIES
Moving our waterfront redevelopment project forward. We are recommending a plan that provides environmental clean-up, parks and public access, and jobs. After eight years, draft waterfront documents are finally available for public review through the upcoming legislative process. City and port staff teams worked diligently to meet our shared goal of finishing these key proposals by the end of 2012. While this is just the beginning of the next round of public discussion, completion of these documents is a significant milestone for the project. The next important steps of the process are about to begin, with planning commission public hearings and review this spring.
Ensuring cost-effective and unified emergency medical services. I worked closely with County Executive Jack Louws, interim Fire Chief Roger Christensen and others to develop an EMS plan that was unanimously approved by both the city and county councils. From this effort we've identified other ways to work together, such as the recent merging of the city's Fire Department administration and that of neighboring Whatcom County Fire District 8.
Protecting Lake Whatcom and our delivery of safe, affordable drinking water. With our various local and state partners, we are developing a joint strategic plan to address phosphorus and other pollution. We recently hired a natural resources assistant director to lead our efforts on behalf of the city. We're also implementing plans to address aquatic invasive species, the latest threat to our drinking water reservoir.
Hiring key management positions to lead priority city government functions. I have hired a new city attorney, human resources director and police chief, and the selection process is now under way for a new fire chief. These professionals will help lead our city into the future and I am grateful to add their experience and expertise to our outstanding department head team.
Initiating economic development actions to encourage existing businesses to stay and expand in our community and to attract new businesses. These actions include updating city development regulations, starting the update to our comprehensive plan, and of course moving forward on waterfront redevelopment. We're also taking steps to improve our downtown and Old Town core, as well as position other areas of the city to grow in sensible, sustainable ways.
Collaborating with the Bellingham City Council to balance our budget and live within our means while delivering essential city services Bellingham residents count on each day, including: police, fire, emergency medical and other public safety services; drinking water delivery and sewer service; safe streets, sidewalks and bike lanes; parks, trails and recreational activities; and library, museum and other cultural services.
DIRECTING RESOURCES TOWARD PRIORITIES
Much of my work the past year included refining priorities and directing resources to accomplish them. Even though our economy appears to be stabilizing, we continue to make hard choices about how to provide excellent services within our resources. That's why our budget process is so important; it is the formal system we use to identify and direct funding to implement our city-wide work plan.
Last spring, the Bellingham City Council agreed to adopt a two-year budget, and directed us to balance our city general fund with no more than a $400,000 deficit in 2013 and a zero deficit in 2014. These targets were ambitious, and the budget I proposed last fall achieved them. I am proud of city staff and the department head team for the hard work they invested to meet council's expectations.
Council chose to modify those goals when they adopted a final budget late last year. We will continue to work together to direct our resources toward priorities. I believe we can still reach a balanced budget by 2014 and will recommend a budget later this year that accomplishes that goal. We simply must eliminate our deficit spending to ensure our core services are sustainable into the future. I hope community members will follow our budget deliberations and provide feedback about which city services are most important, so that we can continue to meet essential needs first.
AGENDA FOR 2013
While I am very proud of all we accomplished last year, we will build on that agenda for 2013. In the coming months, look for progress in the following areas:
Guiding the proposed waterfront redevelopment plan through the legislative process while implementing key first steps, such as beginning street access projects and building a public trail around the former Georgia-Pacific wastewater basin.
Accelerating action on environmental clean-ups, using resources designated during the 2013 budget process to make progress on previously-unfunded city liabilities.
Evaluating city buildings, with an eye toward reducing expenses and increasing efficiency by consolidating properties and worksites.
Updating the city's comprehensive plan, with a focus on economic development, sensible, sustainable growth and fostering regional partnerships.
Completing the myDowntown planning process, including revising regulations and establishing actions to improve the vitality of downtown Bellingham.
Prioritizing and updating our aging-yet-essential information technology systems.
Focusing attention on community housing needs through the implementation of the voter-approved Home Fund and evaluating recommendations from the countywide Housing Affordability Task Force to make all housing more affordable in our community.
I want to thank The Bellingham Herald for the opportunity to provide regular updates about these and other topics. We'll use this space in the months ahead to provide more detail about our progress and opportunities for community members to tell us what they think. Meanwhile, you can count on us to continue to work together to get things done and provide essential services to the residents of Bellingham. Let us know how we are doing by contacting my office at 360-778-8100 or email@example.com .
This is one of a series of monthly Civic Agenda reports The Bellingham Herald invited Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville to provide to share updates about City of Bellingham issues and projects.