2018 State of the City

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2018 State of the City

March 28, 7:30 a.m.
Renton Technical College

State of the City video


State of the City Highlights

State of the City text

I want to begin by saying the state of our city is very good.

I know, I have said this frequently over the years.

But it’s a fact. Things are going well in our city.

Many cities throughout the country are experiencing political turmoil as well as many other critical issues. 

Some are on the brink of bankruptcy. And we continue to hear about the major tragedies dominating the news. Natural disasters such as fires, floods, mudslides, hurricanes and snow storms. 

And then there’s the mass shootings.

Here are a few headlines to help make my point:

  • Nashville mayor resigns as part of guilty plea to felony charge 
  • Six California cities face bankruptcy
  • New York City Council members arrested during immigration protest
  • Seattle’s homelessness worst per capita than New York or LA
  • Worst snowstorms in New York city history
  • 17 killed in mass shooting in Parkland, Florida
  • Fire-scorched land for sale in Santa Rosa
  • Seattle mayor resigns after fifth child-abuse allegation
  • Los Angeles wins title for world’s worst traffic
  • Rare recall effort moves forward in Black Diamond
Here are recent headlines regarding Renton:
  • First Financial Northwest Foundation donates $3 million for new community center
  • Hazen High orchestra recognized for academic success
  • PACCAR rides strong truck sales to record revenue
  • Valley Medical Center breaks ground on new cancer center
  • City aims for more diverse workforce
  • Revitalization in the works in downtown Renton
  • Boeing says record 2017 deliveries will continue

I admit, we’re only a heartbeat away from experiencing a tragic event. 

And most cities throughout the country are struggling with the impacts from the heroin epidemic, homelessness and traffic gridlock.

Good news in Renton
Positive news in Renton

Still, there are a lot of positive things happening in Renton!

  • We have hundreds of millions of dollars in private development being invested in our city. 
  • The Renton School District continues to do great things and will soon open a beautiful, new elementary school downtown. 
  • Renton Technical College is working on an expansion plan. 
  • Valley Medical Center is adding a new cancer center. 
  • Boeing continues to increase production at an astonishing rate.
  • Downtown revitalization is going very well.
  • Exciting redevelopment is occurring in the Sunset Neighborhood.
  • And we will be building a new community center to serve the kids and families in the Cascade/Benson Hill community.

Unfortunately, most of what dominates the media, especially when it involves government, tends to be negative. 

The public has genuine fear about their financial security, affordable housing, personal safety and what lies ahead for future generations. 

At the local level, residents are very stressed over the hours it takes to get to and from work every day. 

And they want real solutions to crime associated with the homelessness crisis and heroin epidemic. 

In Renton, we work hard to address these and other important issues.

For the past 10 years, city staff has concentrated on how we can increase efficiency and the service we provide to our residents and business community. 

We have focused on taking strategic steps to help improve the quality of life of our community.

To help achieve this, we have made a commitment to develop a workplace culture where employees routinely go that extra mile in serving our citizens.

And I feel this culture is paying off.

Every week, I receive comments from residents praising the service they have received from one of our employees. 

We do receive a few complaints, but we strive to be responsive and work hard to solve the issue.

Our productivity and quality of service has continued to improve despite all of the growth we’ve experienced.

  • Renton has doubled in population over the past 10 years, and our workforce has not grown proportionately. 
  • We are repairing many more miles of road. 
  • We are processing many more permit requests. 
  • We’re responding to many more calls for police service.  
  • And we’re doing a great job of maintaining a parks and trails system used by many more people. 
City of Renton administrative staff
Administrative Staff

As you have heard me say in previous updates, I have been blessed to work with a quality team of administrators who embrace the goal of pushing Renton to become the “Best City in King County.” 

Their commitment is paying off!

I want to take a moment to single out one of our administrators who has played a big role in helping to develop a culture of customer service.

Chief Administrative Office Jay Covington
Jay Covington

As most of you know, Jay Covington, our chief administrative officer, will be retiring after 28 years of service to Renton. 

  • Jay has been a significant contributor to the positive growth this city has experienced over all these years. 
  • He has also been a strong supporter of local organizations that are vital to this community. 
  • He was one of the founders of Communities In Schools of Renton and has made sure that the City remained a committed partner in this organization. 
  • He has also devoted a tremendous amount of time to the Renton Community Foundation as well as other local groups.

And now he plans to return to Idaho to manage his potato farm. 

Not exactly how I would define retirement!

Jay is going to be missed by us all. I have been very fortunate to have had him as a partner in my office for the past 11 years. 

Since we will soon take away his access card to city hall, it seems only appropriate that I provide Jay with a special Key to the City in honor of his years of service. 

This is another statement I make every year.

City partnerships

The primary reason the state of our city is great is thanks to the strong partnerships that were formed many years ago that remain strong today.

The quality of a community requires that we all have skin in the game.

Our partnership with Renton Technical College, Renton School District, Renton Chamber of Commerce and Valley Medical Center has resulted in creating a community that is a great place to live, learn, work and play.

The results of these partnerships can be measured in many ways. 

One way is the fact that billions of dollars have been invested in Renton in recent years, which equates into a stronger tax base, better services and more job opportunities for our residents.

Here is another example.

I want to spend a couple minutes talking about a project that is very exciting to me that truly epitomizes the benefit of partnerships.

It’s the Family First Community Center.

Family First Community Center
Family First Community Center

This center will offer a host of vital after-school programs for kids and families in the Cascade/Benson Hill community. 

Programs will include sports and recreation, health and wellness services, after-school STEM classes, and potential opportunities for kids to get involved in music and the arts.

As you know, we annexed the Cascade/Benson Hill community in 2008. 

This area was woefully underserved by King County. 

It lacked in most basic services such as public safety and road repairs, as well as parks and recreation programs to serve thousands of local residents.

This is where partners make a difference.

Seattle Seahawk Doug Baldwin was living in the area, and he came to me to explore how we could create a center to serve the kids.

A similar program made a big difference in his life as a youngster in Florida.

If we could figure out a way to make this happen, Doug offered to make a personal donation of $1 million.

Equally important, he made a commitment to help me raise other private dollars, and to provide ongoing services to the youth in our community through his foundation.

It has taken a couple years to get to this point, but we’re about to move forward on this tremendous, public amenity.

Family First Community Center donor list
Family First Donors

The Family First Community Center could not happen without the partnership of Doug, the Renton City Council, the Renton School Board, the local business community, and our state representatives in Olympia.

I want to take a moment to recognize some of our partners:

  • The Renton School District is providing the land.
  • We’re working with the Boeing Foundation to help fund ongoing after-school classes at the center.
  • First Financial Northwest Foundation pledged $3 million to this project.
  • CarPros has been making a donation for every car sold and has contributed nearly $100,000 to date.
  • Starbucks donated $150,000.
  • Kennydale residents Tom and Karen Easton donated $75,000.
  • Their Renton company, ATS Automation, donated nearly $50,000, and will match every dollar donated by their employees.
  • County council members Dave Upthegrove and Reagan Dunn donated $75,000 from available county funds.
  • And just a couple weeks ago, members of the Rotary Club of Renton stepped up in a big way! 
    • Over 100 members of the Renton Rotary Club pledged donations totaling $94,500 during their recent auction.
  • And then we have our state representatives!
    • Despite a very tight budget this year, our local state legislators worked hard to secure $1.5 million.

Thanks to their efforts, this puts us at $10 million towards our $15 million goal, enabling us to move forward with the design and construction of this facility!

That is the benefit of partnerships!

I want to highlight some of the progress we enjoyed this past year.

Thanks to the City Council, we have continued to hire more police officers to address our commitment of targeting and reducing criminal activity. 

Renton City Council
Renton City Council

Besides addressing the complex issues surrounding law enforcement, we have made it a priority to build a positive relationship between the police and our citizens. 

Our officers are getting out of their cars and interacting with the public. They are involved in youth programs and going the extra mile to serve those who are victims of crime.

Renton Police Drone
Renton Police Drone

And the Renton Police Department is a leader in technology. Our department has become the training ground for many departments interested in learning how to deploy drones for investigative and emergency situations. 

This technology has greatly improved the accuracy of gathering data at crime scenes while also offering tools that reduce costs and improve safety for the public and our officers.

Promoting Renton as a place to locate new businesses has been a priority for us for many years. The progress we have made is envied by many other cities in this county.

This past year was no exception.

  • Our staff issued over 5,700 permits. Private investment in Renton last year exceeded a half billion dollars.
  • We celebrated the opening of the new Hyatt Hotel on Lake Washington as well as the new Hampton Inn a couple blocks away.
  • IKEA opened its new store and Kaiser Permanente moved into their new office campus nearby. Kaiser, alone, invested $128 million in Renton and added about 1,200 jobs in Phase II. When complete, there will be nearly 2,300 jobs at the Renton campus.
  • Boeing continues to expand production and is up to 47 airplanes per month. Stay tuned as more production goals are announced.
  • Downtown Renton continues to experience tremendous change. 
    • The Lofts at 2nd and Main opened and we introduced our first two-way street conversion as part of our effort to create a more pedestrian-oriented community.
    • Other redevelopment took place and there are a number of projects that will come online downtown in the near future.
  • CarMax, the largest used-car dealership in the nation, opened up near IKEA. 
  • Significant redevelopment progress was made in the Sunset Neighborhood.
    • The 3-acre park that will serve thousands of kids and families in this community will be completed thanks to a $3-million-dollar grant obtained by our state legislators.
    • And the nearby shopping center has been sold with plans for a major mixed-use development on that site.
Merrill Gardens
Merrill Gardens

There are a lot of other projects underway or in the permitting process.

  • Valley Medical Center is adding a state-of-the-art cancer treatment center.
  • Merrill Gardens will be expanding with another building downtown and a couple new multi-family projects are close to breaking ground. 
  • Design work is underway for a potential redevelopment of the former city hall site that will be significant for the downtown.
  • Sartori Elementary School will open to students this fall. 
  • A 630,000 square foot, Class A office campus is under construction at Southport behind the hotel.
  • The Residence Inn by Marriott is under construction next to the Hampton Inn on Lake Washington Blvd.
  • Plans are in the works for a new multi-family complex at Renton Village, directly across from the new transit center that is planned at Rainier and Grady Way.
  • We just broke ground on a new fire station in Kennydale.
  • Plans are being prepared for the clean-up and development of Port Quendall, the 20-acre contaminated waterfront property near the Seahawks.
  • There are also plans being presented to the city for a new development on the vacant Stoneway site along the Maple Valley Highway.

We made progress with our roads last year. 

Sunset Lane improvements
Sunset Lane

We were successful at obtaining enough grants to supplement local tax dollars to complete over $16 million in road improvements. 

That’s in addition to our normal overlay program of city streets.

Some of the more visible projects included: 

Our parks, trail system and special events are enjoyed by literally millions of people each year. We continue to explore ways of maintaining and expanding our parks and trails to meet a growing demand.

Bird Island at Coulon Park
Bird Island at Coulon Park

How many of you have ever visited “Bird Island” at the south end of Coulon Park? We just completed a major restoration at this bird and wildlife sanctuary.

It is a very popular place and is visited by thousands of people each year.

We also purchased five acres of the May Creek corridor on Lake Washington Boulevard, across the creek from a park we opened in 2013.

One of the most visible improvements was along the Eastside Rail Corridor that once supported the Spirit of Washington Dinner Train. 

The rail has been removed from Coulon Park to the Seahawks facility and replaced with a pedestrian and bike trail that ultimately links up to the Burke Gilman Trail.

And finally, we continued to make great progress towards our commitment to be an inclusive community that embraces and celebrates its diversity.

 Seahawks Sign
Boeing 737

In closing I want to restate that the State of the City remains strong.

  • Our school district continues to provide great opportunities for local kids to be successful.
  • We have access to the best medical care in the region.
  • Renton Technical College continues to be a successful model that receives national attention.
  • Our business partners continue to support this community in many ways.
  • Renton is becoming headquarters to major new companies, offering new job opportunities and local investment.
  • We remain the home of the most successful aerospace company in the world, and the best NFL franchise in the country!
  • Other jurisdictions in this region envy our parks and trails system.
  • And we’re leading by example when it comes to being an inclusive city that genuinely values and supports all members of our diverse community.

Thank you for being here today.

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