Mayors from across the Eastside gathered Sept. 9 at Cascadia College in Bothell for Leadership Eastside’s annual mayors’ panel — including Redmond Mayor John Marchione. Leadership Eastside CEO James Whitfield moderated the panel.
The luncheon event also allowed participants in Leadership Eastside’s leadership development classes and other attendees the opportunity to participate in small group discussions about the challenges and opportunities facing the Eastside, which fed into the discussion topics during the panel.
When asked what they are most proud of in their communities, many of the mayors cited their work to curb the effects of climate change.
“Environmental sustainability is something we’ve been working on,” said Mercer Island Mayor Bruce Bassett, citing his city’s participation in a climate collaborative.
“I’m really proud of our Climate Action Plan,” Kirkland Mayor Amy Walen said, adding her city has been working hard to reduce its carbon footprint.
Others said collaboration, both inside and outside of their own communities, has been key.
“Redmond’s contribution to the greater good is regionalism,” Marchione said, going on to cite work with other communities on transportation and working with Issaquah for dispatching services.
For Issaquah, the city’s social media usage for neighborhood outreach has been an area of growth, according to Issaquah Mayor Fred Butler. “It’s just one tool to connect with citizens.”
When asked about the challenges facing their cities, dealing with the growing pains of the region was touched on by all of the mayors. The Eastside’s growing population is having widespread effects in the area, on everything from affordable housing and access to child care to transportation and infrastructure.
“We have a crumbling infrastructure,” Kenmore Mayor David Baker said of the area as a whole, adding the wear and tear on the roads and bridges is hard to stay ahead of with the increased traffic coming through.
Financing these road construction projects also can be difficult, especially for the smaller cities.
“One of the biggest challenges small cities have is funding infrastructure projects,” said Woodinville Mayor Bernie Talmas.
“We really have inadequate transportation options available,” Renton Mayor Denis Law said, adding that officials from the cities, counties and state are trying to work together to establish a solution.
“Regional traffic requires a regional solution,” Butler added.
Some of the mayors tied the increased traffic to a lack of affordable housing.
“People drive north and south because that’s where they work, but they can’t afford to live there,” said Duvall Mayor Will Ibershof.
With all of the new housing needed to accommodate the Eastside’s new residents, the impact on the environment also is of concern to some.
“In Sammamish, we’re concerned about the impact of development on the environment,” said Sammamish Mayor Don Gerend, adding there is a concentrated effort to seek out low-impact development projects.
Marchione added he’d like to see a growth policy in place that is environmentally friendly.
The mayors also discussed the need to be more welcoming to new residents in the area.
Bothell Mayor Andy Rheaume said there are a lot of efforts to make that happen, making the welcoming movement seem a little uncoordinated. “That, to me, is something we could coordinated better.”
The topic of growth continued to dominate the panel as the mayors discussed what’s next for the Eastside.
“The region’s going to continue to grow,” Butler said. “We need to figure out how we can accommodate that.”
“It’s a good thing that we’re growing,” Rheaume added. “But we’re dealing with the repercussions of that. We have to live within our means.”
Bellevue Mayor John Stokes and Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson were also in attendance.