Mayor Earling calls for citizen involvement, responsibility“We need to put down our swords” – Mayor Dave Earling
Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling spoke to a packed house at the Wade James Theatre Wednesday morning for a “State of the City” address, asking citizens to “take responsibility, show leadership and move our community forward.”
The enthusiastic crowd heard Earling talk about a number of issues, and to start a dialog about Edmonds’ future.
“In my mind, today's address is not just about Edmonds' city government,” he said, “but it is intended to think and talk about the rich and varied pieces of fabric that make up our community.”
Earling spoke of some of the community’s leading businesses and organizations that are making big changes for the good.
He called the arts in Edmonds an “economic force.”
“Think about our arts community,” he said. “How many communities have performing groups that include their own symphony, their own choral group, two performing dance companies, two performing theater groups, the remarkable music groups at Edmonds-Woodway and Meadowdale high schools, and a world-class performance hall, The Edmonds Center for the Arts.”
In addition, he noted, there are the Edmonds Arts Festival; the many artists who have gained local and national reputations; local galleries that mount varied quality art shows; and the Thursday Night Art Walk that connects the arts, businesses and community.
“We also have the treasure of well-known writers in Edmonds,” he said. “Many talented and published writers gather each year for the annual Writers on the Sound Conference.”
Earling sees an even bigger future for the arts.
“I believe we as a community fall short in recognizing the full potential of our arts community,” he said. “Collectively we can become a unified voice that will build beyond the strength we have.
“The arts, in fact, are an economic force with potential beyond its current power. We have all of these pieces that should be better, stronger and more unified to become a powerful regional voice. We should be an artistic force all of Puget Sound should acknowledge.”
Earling announced he is calling for an Arts Summit to be held June 29 at The Center for the Arts to “explore how we can capitalize on the excellence we have, to grow, and expand this unique gift we all cherish and benefit from.”
The state of city government includes a lot of accomplishments over the past year, Earling said, but “we need to focus on the needs, short- and long-term of our city.”
This year, the city cut $1.5 million from its general fund and trimmed health care costs by $300,000, but services are beginning to be lost and residents are “beginning to feel it.”
Because of $14 million in grants for vital infrastructure improvements, Earling said residents will see major improvements this year from Highway 99 to City Park.
But what’s next for the city?
“The most important is dealing with our long-term financial sustainability,” Earling said. “We might be able to get our General Fund through 2014 OK, but the projections for the outlying years of 2015-2017 show a potential shortfall of $400-500,000 each year, or a total of $1.2-1.5 million.
“We need to be thinking and planning ahead for difficult decisions and good answers,” he said.
“In all likelihood, we will need a revenue boost of some sort, and probably we will need a combination of fiscal discipline, which we have become very good at, slowly improving economy, economic development and the potential for levy proposals,” he said.
Earling called for less confrontation, more cooperation.
“Because we have such a caring, involved community, we sometimes put ourselves at odds with each other on important issues,” he said.
“We need to put down our swords and begin to work toward the middle on critical issues that for too long have held our community hostage.
“Quite often we simply do not trust each other. We need to change that mindset.
“We seldom have opportunities to gather and engage in dialogue on a higher plane when our common interests are at stake. We need to find ways to move to this higher plane more often.
“We must find ways to move our community forward, staying faithful to our ‘small town atmosphere’ and at the same time understand there are vital improvements to be made if we hope to succeed and keep our city prosperous.
“As your mayor, I pledge to work tirelessly to find solutions to solve the challenges with creative and hopefully innovative thought and action.
“My charge to you is to take the responsibility to show personal leadership and help to move our community forward.”
Those thoughts seemed to connect with many in attendance.
“I thought the mayor’s speech was excellent,” said Councilmember Kristianna Johnson. “He touched on some very important things – planning for the future, the strength of the community.
“I’m very proud, the mayor showed strong leadership. I support pretty much everything he said.”
Councilmember Diane Buckshnis agreed.
“I thought he did a fabulous job,” she said. “I was very impressed. He had good humor and great information. I was a happy camper.”