This year Renton said goodbye to longtime community leaders, as three-term Mayor Denis Law, 20 year councilmember Don Persson and 18-year Renton School District Board Director Lynn Desmarais announced their retirements. The election brought several candidates for all the positions, that were narrowed down through the August primary. In the November election, councilmember Armondo Pavone won to be Renton’s next mayor by 6 percentage points. Council also received new members Kim-Khanh Van and Valerie O’Halloran, after Carol Ann Witschi resigned, and a third new councilmember will be appointed as Pavone takes office in 2020. The Renton School District also ran a construction bond to build a new elementary school twice, it missed the validation mark in February but overwhelmingly was approved in November.
Boeing 737 Max
After the second fatal crash of a 737 Max jet grounded the plane in March, all eyes were on Renton. The Boeing plant in the city manufactures the plane, which is now the subject of scrutiny by aviation regulators and legislative leaders. Local businesses, residents and Boeing employees have watched the grounding continue throughout the year. Now Boeing has announced the Renton factory will shut down, and move workers elsewhere, until Federal Aviation Administration completes its safety tests, and Boeing has appointed a new CEO. Meanwhile the city of Renton, residents and workers are bracing for the financial aftermath of a tough year with the employer of 15 percent of Renton’s workforce, which is only continuing into 2020.
Developments got a lot of traffic this year, some good news and some bad. The city accepted an application, and approved with conditions, both a Topgolf facility and a Chick-Fil-A, that has been increasingly popping up in Washington. Topgolf, a high-tech golf driving range facility set for 745 Park Ave. N, is set to complete in 2021. Chick-fil-a, located at the old Diamond Lil’s Casino at 361 Rainier Ave. S., underwent traffic analysis to find ways to handle the large crowds that Chick-Fil-A has brought to other King County cities.
But one major project saw a halt. At the Greater Hi-Lands Shopping Center, property owners evicted longtime business in December 2018 for the demolition and construction of a mixed use building and townhomes. But the deal between the owners and the developers fell through in March, before the purchase was completed. The shopping center sits vacant while the city and private owners look for a new developer to take on the approved plans, called the Solera Project.
Sound Transit, after much anticipation, moved forward with purchasing property along Rainier Avenue South and South Grady Way for a new transit center. The center will support the new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) from Bellevue to Burien. It also allows the transit center to move out of downtown. Construction was set to begin in 2023.
Renton’s new resident
To match the changing times and to find a creative look for a crack in the roof of a downtown building, Renton Municipal Arts Commission and Western Neon collaborated on a 750-pound dragon. The sculpture was celebrated with folks flooding downtown Renton to see the lighting of the eyes and mouth on the beast. The dragon was then named Erasmus, in honor of city founder Erasmus Smithers.
Standing for pride
The city of Renton raised the pride flag in June in a historic measure for Pride Month. Residents and community members then organized to combat hateful vandalism at a local church that had raised rainbow doors in honor of Pride Month, and counter-protested at two Renton library pride-related events.
Golf course audit
A Washington State audit of the city of Renton, after city officials submitted concerns about a Maplewood Golf Course employee stealing money, showed that the cashier took at least thousands of dollars, but a lack of long-term financial oversight made it hard to tell exactly how much was stolen, and if it went longer than the four months the employee was caught for (they worked as a cashier since 2013).
Cashier changes hearts
Everyone who goes to the Benson Hill Fred Meyer knows the cashier at check stand nine, Bev McQueen. But for her, she just wants to make people happy and smiling, and her love of everyone around her has been absolutely contagious her last 20 years working in Renton. She likely will retire soon, but doesn’t want to let her customers, AKA her friends, down.