Mayor to lay out 2017 prioritiesGregerson to reflect on challenges, successes of 2016 in State of the City address
Ahead of her third State of the City address, Mayor Jennifer Gregerson says her greatest challenge in 2016 came in leading the community through the emotional aftermath of the July mass shooting that left three young people dead and one seriously injured.
“I don’t think anyone expects something like that will be part of being mayor of a city,” she said. “I had to figure out how to handle it. That was a huge personal challenge.”
Gregerson, who is up for re-election this year, said she came away from that tragedy wanting to help the community feel safe and better connected.
“I would say the shooting made me remember how important relationships are, how important kindness and compassion and public safety are,” she said. “The need for neighborliness and creating connections in the community has become really important to me and has redirected my priorities.”
For the first time in decades, the city assigned a school resource officer to Kamiak High School at the start of the 2016-17 school year.
“That’s been a good way to get the face of the city out into the community,” she said. “Our recreation programs are also bringing people together.”
She said she has made a point of communicating more with the Mukilteo School District superintendent and school board, resulting in collaboration on recreation programs such as free paddle-boarding lessons held in Kamiak High School’s pool last year.
“We had people of all ages trying out paddle boarding in the safety of the pool and, later in the summer, we did some lessons at Edgewater Beach Park,” she said, noting that she hopes to see that continue in 2017. “We want to take advantage of our school facilities and open them up for the community.”
This year, she said she is meeting with school principals to learn more about their student populations and how the city can be more involved in recreational programming.
In her ongoing effort to address depression, addiction and suicide, Gregerson said she helped the city put on educational forums in 2016 on healthy relationships and teen dating, as well as opioid addiction.
She said this year she intends to push ahead with efforts to create a peace park, partly in memory of those lost in July’s mass shooting but also for more general grieving and reflection.
“I think we can come together and create a place that has meaning for the entire community,” she said. “Honoring Anna, Jake and Jordan is really important, but I think we can do that in a way that also gives people a space to reflect on loss in general and find hope and peace.”
She said the city’s Parks and Arts Commission would begin considering that project later this year, which would require amending the city’s parks master plan. She also said she hopes to bring together those who have been calling for such a space in the next few months.
“My highest priority is to rebuild our sense of community, commemorate those we have lost, and work together to confront violence and spread compassion,” she said.
Beyond confronting tragedy and loss, Gregerson said 2016 was a successful year for the city. She said she believes she has made progress on all the goals she set for 2016, save for nailing down space for a senior center in the Boys and Girls Club’s plan for a new facility in Harbour Pointe.
“We have a new park stewardship program with volunteers getting into the Japanese and Big gulches, for example,” she said. “Beyond that, we had a really successful budget process and made sure that reflects our priorities.”
She also pointed to the city’s effort to reduce energy consumption through a program called Energy Bootcamp.
“We educated city employees about changing their habits,” she said. “On average, we reduced our energy use by 20 percent. If we keep that up for a full year, it would save us $5,200 in energy bills.”
This year, she expects the City Council will act on recommendations from a citizens’ task force on how to improve transportation infrastructure in the city, such as street and sidewalk improvements and bike lanes.
In the wake of President Donald Trump’s recent flurry of executive orders, Gregerson said she expects the council will look more closely at its handling of undocumented immigrants in light of the threat of federal funding being withheld.
“Mukilteo is a safe city,” she said. “Our officers have for a long time had a policy of not asking for immigration status. I really wouldn’t want a member of our community to feel they couldn’t report a crime for fear of repercussion for their status in this country. People should feel safe turning to the police.”
She said the city doesn’t rely on many federal grants, though cleaning up the tank farm on the waterfront will require an ongoing relationship with the Environmental Protection Agency.
“Should the city discover something that needs to be cleaned up, we would need to turn to the federal government,” she said.
In an open public meeting at 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 4, at City Hall, Gregerson plans to review the year that was and outline her action agenda for 2017. Those with a disability that might limit access should call 425-263-8018 as soon as possible to arrange accommodations.
“I look forward to this chance to lay out my vision for our community and hope residents, city staff and our great business community can join me for this special event,” she said. “We are ‘Mukilteo Strong,’ and this day will be a chance to reflect on that.”