Mayor focuses on economy in State of the City address

February 7, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

Mayor Ava Frisinger highlighted a more muscular economic development effort and a reshuffled City Hall structure in the State of the City address — the speech to set Issaquah leaders’ agenda for the months ahead.

The address, delivered Feb. 6, days after the city announced employee layoffs, echoed a top priority from the City Council — a concerted effort to attract businesses to Issaquah and convince established businesses to remain in the city. The effort to remake City Hall functions also dominated the speech.

Ava Frisinger

“A major focus for 2012 will be enhancing our economic vitality, which is a community’s capacity to be economically competitive, resilient and attractive to both private and public enterprise,” Frisinger said.

Under a reorganization plan prepared by Seattle consultant Moss Adams and delivered late last year, the city focused on efficiency and effectiveness. The consultant discovered different cultures, expectations and management styles across municipal departments. Moss Adams pointed out the differences in coordination, scheduling and tracking across departments.

“In the end, our goal is to enhance customer service, find efficiencies and prepare our city for the years and decades ahead,” Frisinger said.

Though the reorganization emerged as a strong theme, Frisinger also used the address to spotlight ongoing projects.

Bellevue College continues a long process to open a campus in the Issaquah Highlands.

“We are working closely with the college to ensure this new campus meets our community needs and fits the look and feel of our fine city,” Frisinger said.

Transportation projects remain a focus for city planners, especially as the city considers a public-private partnership to improve roads near the Costco corporate headquarters and flagship warehouse.

The address also reflected on accomplishments from 2011.

The long-running effort to preserve Park Pointe — a slice of Tiger Mountain forest near Issaquah High School — ended in March 2011, after more than a decade of public and behind-the-scenes negotiations to halt construction of hundreds of houses once proposed for the land. Under the agreement, officials instead steered development from the Park Pointe site to land in the highlands.

Leaders also opened zHome, a city-led project to showcase “green” homebuilding practices in a multifamily setting. The townhouses in the Issaquah Highlands use zero net energy and 70 percent less water than a traditional home. The community is the first carbon-neutral and zero-energy multifamily community in the United States.

Frisinger also used YWCA Family Village at Issaquah to illustrate how the city and nonprofit organizations forged partnerships. The complex offers 146 rental units in a “green” setting for people employed in Issaquah but unable to afford other housing in the city.

“Bringing this much-needed affordable housing to the highlands was 15 years in the making for both King County and the city of Issaquah,” she said.

The latest State of the City address came as Frisinger and other leaders offer a renewed focus on economic development and reorganized City Hall operations.

City Administrator Bob Harrison announced details about the economic development effort late last year. The plan calls for Keith Niven, the longtime Major Development Review Team manager, to serve as economic development director and to hire economic development managers.

Frisinger delivered the State of the City address later than expected, because a snowy forecast prompted city leaders to cancel the Jan. 17 council meeting and reschedule the speech.

The annual address is the initial step to outline budget priorities for the city. The spring City Council goal-setting session and the autumn budget announcement also shape the municipal agenda.

In the 2011 address, Frisinger predicted “a momentous year for Issaquah” — and many milestones outlined in the speech came to pass in the months soon afterward. In addition to the landmark Park Pointe preservation, city leaders opened ultra-“green” Eastside Fire & Rescue Station 72 and joined Swedish Medical Center to inaugurate the Swedish/Issaquah campus.

Frisinger paid more attention to fiscal issues in the 2010 address. The mayor delivered the message months after the city shed employees and cut spending amid the economic downturn.

“While our to-do list is long, our commitment to fiscal responsibility is paramount,” she said in the 2012 address. “Budgets are tight, but I am confident we can continue providing the high-quality customer service that Issaquah is known for.”

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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