Issaquah City Council sets goals for 2012

May 17, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

Leaders pick downtown parking, economic development as 2012 focus

Solving parking headaches in downtown Issaquah is a top priority for city leaders next year.

The ongoing problem emerged as the No. 1 goal May 14 as City Council members set goals for 2012.

The city intends to examine possible solutions, because parking is often difficult in the historic downtown corridor during ArtWalk and other summertime events.

The council opted to revisit the longtime headache for downtown merchants and consumers. The city conducted other downtown parking studies in the past.

Other priorities included a continued focus on economic development, offering additional city information online, and discussing possible arrangements for the aging Julius Boehm Pool and cash-strapped Lake Sammamish State Park.

In a rare Saturday meeting, council members slimmed a long list to 13 priorities for 2012, and then ranked 11 as goals. The council intends to discuss the remaining items before the annual budget session in the fall.

The goal-setting retreat, alongside the budget proposal each fall and the State of the City address each winter, helps form the municipal budget for the year ahead.

Though the focus remained on economic development, parks and other perennial topics, council members outlined efforts to focus on mountain biking, waste reduction, additional social services and more accessible budget discussions.

Improving city economy is focus

Councilman Fred Butler called for the city to focus on attracting tenants to empty storefronts.

“Every time I turn around, I see new ‘for lease’ signs for a business that’s no longer here, or businesses that have been vacant for a long time,” he said.

Butler said a vacant storefront is easier and faster to prepare for occupants than constructing a building.

The council could also consider creating a city commission dedicated to economic vitality.

“We’re working toward being more specific, rather than a general, feel-good statement about what we’d like to see,” Butler said.

Councilman Joshua Schaer raised questions about a proposed commission dedicated to economic development issues. Other municipal boards often discuss economic development issues.

“It seems like there’s potential for overlapping interests, and then you could have the same issue analyzed multiple times by different groups — and maybe that’s fine, because we do have that happen,” he said. “I don’t want to see us create all of these commissions and then have duplication of efforts.”

Issaquah leaders also intend to consider options for Lake Sammamish State Park, including a possible transfer from state to city ownership.

Councilwoman Stacy Goodman said the goal is meant to open a dialogue about the park.

The park is in unincorporated King County and under Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission management. The state faces a $5.1 billion budget shortfall for 2011-13, prompting leaders to create a $30 annual pass for state parks and recreation lands.

Olympia lobbyist could boost city

The council also called on the city to examine hiring a part-time lobbyist to shape legislative agendas and advocate for Issaquah in Olympia.

“I’m not talking about going off to D.C. and lobbying the federal government, but just during the legislative session, to have someone on retainer or on call to help us prior to the session to develop our legislative agenda and then during session, assist us in pursuing those things that are Issaquah-specific,” Butler said.

The statewide Association of Washington Cities handles broad issues, but the council is interested in hiring a lobbyist to push for local projects, such as a proposed dam for the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery.

Most council members balance careers and official duties, so lobbying is difficult, although Mayor Ava Frisinger advocates for the city to lawmakers.

“It’s unfortunate but true that you need to have somebody do it for you,” Council President John Traeger said.

The city started a push after goal-setting last year to overhaul the municipal website. Now, council members asked for more and easier-to-access information to be posted online.

“We are doing more than some cities do. We are probably doing less than some other cities do,” Frisinger said. “This would be part of what we are doing in the redesign of the website, because the whole impetus for redesigning the website is to make it more readily accessible to people who want to find out something about the city.”

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