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Tuesday, February 10, 2009, 2pm
Here are some of the key points Mayor Harding discussed to a full house of almost 100 people at the Chamber Forum today:
– There is no reason to highlight traffic & water; we’re working on those.
Let’s talk about the good things. Harding had so many people come up to him in Las Vegas at his daughter’s Miss America pageant telling him they know about Yelm because of Janet being Miss Washington from here.

1. Economy
– Cash reserves are well established now to maintain current level of services. If the economy continues a decline, we’ll have to assess service cuts by year’s end.
– Revenues were up only 3% in 2008; we expected higher.
– We did fall quite a bit short with revenue last year.
– We are expecting a continuing economic decline.
– Gone to a biennium budget (every 2 years) that looks fine for the next 2 years, though we can amend at any time.
– Working to draw new jobs, businesses, industry here for when economy picks up, in cooperation with other organizations like Thurston Regional Planning, Thurston EDC, etc.

2. Transportation
Seems to be the topic of the day based on the NVN’s Question of the Week.
– Projects completed in a 3-4 year window are a gauge of our accomplishments. I stood before this collective three years ago and said we were going to spend alot of money on our roads. We did! (listed all of the road improvements)
– All of this would not have happened were not for our partnerships, i.e. Yelm Community Schools
– We built 60,000 feet of sidewalks – 5 miles.
– We built 15 streets in the city that we did not have in our grid previously
– Next phase is to plan east /west connection south of Yelm Avenue, just like we did with the Inner loop north of Yelm Ave., with a goal to make more of our grid connect.
– SR 510 Loop is a big project, one that is not a city project, rather the State’s. We have no control on how that will take shape or be funded. “I feel we’ll have a partial phase constructed this year… If the $11.3 million in funding stays in place, we will have construction on Phase 1 this year!”

– We need to answer the critics within the city and keep moving forward, balance regulating development and provide affordable housing. This area is known for homes that are lower than most in Puget Sound, and people are attracted here for that reason.
– Governing is not all about providing tangibles, the philosophy is important, like thinking outside of the box. We did that in 2008 by cutting costs and improving service, making us more efficient. Two areas were the animal license fees being eliminated. The hope is more animals will be licensed so there will be less expense to provide care from the city. Water late fees were eliminated, because the $5 fee cost more than the office-expense to go after those.

– “The biggest demand on the city for services comes from outside of the city. Our city serves 5,000 people, yet demands are placed on our roads, parks and facilities from a lot wider area. The difficult part is making those outside of the city understand that someone in the city is paying for services you are using. The library is an excellent example. I am confident in the end, there will be a library in Yelm, but what it will look like will be far different. The issue is how much can 5,000 people provide for an area serving multi-thousands? Timberland Regional Library has approached us with changing this facility (Yelm’s Library). We do not know yet; it may be in the same place or maybe not.”
– Bottom line: 5,000 people can’t provide a home for the Library that serve so many more!
[Ed. Note: Does Mayor Harding NOT know that there are thousands of property owners who pay property taxes in Thurston County outside of the Yelm City limits to fund the Yelm Library, to Yelm Community Schools, to the Yelm Cemetery? Fortunately, 2 Timberland Library representatives were in the audience to hear this comment! This writer asked them if they had heard the same comment. Yes, they did! ]

5. Water
– We are doing a good job on water rights transfers that are in the works.
– We are working with State agencies in partnership on this issue.

6. Protection
– Area youth are a big issue.
– Planning will start on a Recreation/Community Center this year — not construction.
– Working on Youth Safety Policies identifying Youth at Risk.
– Focusing more on networking with Youth Services not here in Yelm, i.e. seeking to get a Big Brothers/Big Sisters Chapter here.

7. Questions from Audience
– Megan Hansen of the NVN asked about plans for a traffic study.
Grant Beck, Community Planning Dept. answered: traffic study counts were done last month. He gave no details.
– Tom Dewell of the Yelm Food Co-op asked about how can someone help like himself who lives outside of the City, since he pays no taxes as a resident here. The Mayor said locating the business in the city limits affords the city to garner a 30% business tax, which is a tremendous help.

8. Closing
The Mayor asked how he could do things different for this presentation next year to make interesting.
[Ed. Note: For Mayor Harding to do this next year would mean he ran again for Mayor this Fall and won. Right now, no one has come forward to throw their hat in the ring to oppose Mayor Harding, if he chooses to run again.]

Copyright 2009 Stephen R. Klein. All Rights Reserved

In his weekly Op-Ed piece on newsstands February 12th, NVN Publisher Keven Graves says “Hoping that mayor seeks second term”

Mr. Graves, that’s a slam-dunk!
Mayor Harding WILL run unopposed and your newspaper will not have to conduct a Town Hall Forum, once again, IMHO.

Posted by Steve on February 10, 2009 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

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