Opinion

Where was public at mayor’s State of the City address? | Editor's Notebook

It was, perhaps, the biggest show in town. It was at least the most important. But of 80 seats in the house, only eight or so were filled at any time, three of those by reporters.

Begging the question, “Why?”

The event: Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson’s annual State of the City address, Wednesday night, in the beautiful City Hall built with your tax dollars. Here’s what you missed.

Before her State of the City address, Erickson took one on the chin from a resident who accused her of telling city employees not to talk to his wife, a vocal critic of growth, and of not allowing his wife to attend a public meeting. (His wife spoke earlier at the meeting, calling for the City Council to adopt lower population-growth targets).

Another speaker, businessman Bill Austin, shed his nervousness at the podium with a story about how his shorts fell to his ankles during a gymnastics routine in high school. Feeling braver after the telling, he called for Front Street to be made one way, with parking on both sides of the street and elevated crosswalks, to ease traffic congestion and make the street safer for pedestrians.

Then, Erickson’s presentation. She told of how, in 2010, the city made up part of a $1.6 million revenue shortfall by offering voluntary separation incentives to city employees; 13 employees applied for the city’s offer and nine were accepted, saving $750,000 a year in salary and benefits. The city also reduced its fund transfers. JTM Construction, which built City Hall, finished the project under budget.

Speaking of City Hall, Poulsbo took out a $2 million line of credit to finish construction. This year, the city will consider refinancing the line of credit by issuing revenue bonds. Bonds are essentially funds acquired from investors, with repayment guaranteed by your tax dollars.

Space in City Hall was leased to the Poulsbo Historical Museum. Another potential tenant: The Bainbridge Island Municipal Court. City Hall may use its technology to provide a wireless canopy over downtown.

The city updated its zoning codes, finished a study of Dog Fish Creek, and adopted a plan for the development and maintenance of parks and urban trails. The city is looking for grant money to finance the expansion of Fish Park and other parks.

This year, the city will rebuild its pump station at 6th and Fjord. The old city hall will be demolished and the site made ready for development. The repairs to the Marine Science Center are expected to be completed this year.

The city will update its zoning code and sign ordinance, and will consider paid parking downtown.

The city is in contract negotiations with its police officers union, and the city hopes to boost the ranks of its reserve force and increase traffic enforcement.

Sales tax revenue is at 2006 levels, Erickson reported. She wants to see monthly festivals in Poulsbo to attract more visitors, and gave a thumbs up to Bill Austin’s proposed St. Patrick’s Day parade.

Erickson will focus a lot of her time in 2011 recruiting and supporting business development. The city will sell or rent some

of its real estate; Erickson would like to see a hotel or mixed-use development on the old city hall site. She’s also devoting her energy to social needs in the community, contributing her voice to numerous non-profit boards. The needs are there. Fishline serves 1,918 customers a month; that’s about 5,400 people a month, Erickson said.

The economy may be slow, but Poulsbo is forging ahead into the second decade of the 21st century. How the city develops, what the city looks like, and how your tax dollars are invested in services depends a lot on you.

A community is a reflection of the involvement of its residents. You at least owe it to yourself to make sure the mayor and City Council hear from you.

(By the way, the city Parks and Recreation Commission needs members. Every Saturday morning, the mayor is at City Hall to meet with you. And the City Council meets the first, second and third Wednesday of every month, at 7 p.m.)

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