Local leaders look ahead to 2014

January 28, 2014

By Peter Clark

Local leaders looked ahead to the coming year at an Issaquah Chamber of Commerce luncheon Jan. 9.

New Mayor Fred Butler gave the opening speech, sharing what he hoped to provide Issaquah in his new administration and what challenges he expects to meet in 2014.

“After eight and a half days as your mayor, here I am,” he said to the full banquet hall at the Issaquah Holiday Inn.

He said he prepared for the speech by conducting a S.W.O.T. analysis of Issaquah, identifying what he believed Issaquah had in strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

“The city has fantastic, dedicated, hardworking staff,” he said. “We’ve got a seasoned city council that works well together. They represent you and they work very, very hard to do that. We’ve got a few weaknesses, as well.”

Butler went on to list a number of them that he hopes to work on this year. He listed longterm financial sustainability, transportation polices, the cost of fire service and sales tax volatility as issues he hopes to address, without offering specific solutions.

He named himself among Issaquah’s weaknesses.

“I’m a new mayor, I’m untested,” he said. “You don’t know how well I’m going to do as your mayor. I put myself right at the top of your weaknesses and I hope to change that with time.”

He reiterated pledges from his campaign when he said he would lead a community effort to face Issaquah’s drug issues in 2014.

“We need to figure out how to address that,” he said. “We’ve got a problem in our community. There will be a community discussion in January and I am working on that.”

Issaquah School District Superintendent Ron Thiele also spoke about progress in the days to come. Appointed a year ago, he said the district, the second largest employer in the area, has some real ideas for the future.

“The big initiative for the new year includes a unique partnership with Swedish Hospital,” Thiele said. “They will provide mental health services that will be available to all students. They’re out there on the job, right now.”

He said state mandates to adopt a new comprehensive assessment system and to address common core standards would take a great deal of the district’s attention in the coming year.

Theile did mention the upcoming Feb. 11 levy vote that would fund capital projects, transportation and technology.

“Levies are the bread and butter of public school systems,” he said. “These are critical to us. We are a great value for your dollar. We are spending your money and I think about that every day.”

Richard Gabel, chairman of the chamber of commerce, also gave a blueprint for how the organization hopes to connect with the community in the year to come.

“The chamber is here to provide a competitive edge to Issaquah small business,” Gabel said, outlining how it plans to gauge that edge in the region. “The chamber will be active in educating the public and issue a scorecard on Issaquah’s competitiveness with neighboring communities.”

He spoke of trying to coax solutions for transportation infrastructure and electrical infrastructure out of 2014.

“Accessibility is integral to sustaining our community’s growth,” he said, calling the current systems unstable for the future. “It endangers business retention and recruitment.”

Butler ended his speech on a positive note, which reflected the tone of his fellow speakers.

“Issaquah is in good shape,” he said. “When we pull together and work together, we get things done.”

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