Mayor Denis Law said the sate of the city is “strong” and the city’s future is bright, despite the divisiveness brought on by the 2016 presidential election.
At his annual State of the City address on March 30 at Renton Technical College, Law gave the run down on the recent boom of economic development, increasing property crime, public safety concerns, immigration issues, transportation and more.
Law began his address by highlighting the economic development in the city during the past year, including Group Health’s 29-acre campus, IKEA’s 400,00 square-feet new building and the continued downtown revitalization efforts.
“Last year we had well over $2 billion invested in our community and there are a number of exciting projects yet to be announced,” he said.
“NOT ALL WAS ROSY LAST YEAR”
Law then changed the direction, addressing the 2016 presidential election and said it “created a divided nation — a level most of us never experienced.”
He also talked about the homeless epidemic and the heroin-related deaths reported throughout the county and city.
“In Renton, we’re actively working with local churches and other volunteer agencies to help provide services to those who are in need of food, shelter and other services,” he said, later mentioning the work of Center of Hope and Cold Weather Shelter.
Law addressed the rising property crime throughout the city, including increasing reports of mail theft, car prowls, auto thefts, burglaries and robberies.
“In Renton, public safety continues to be our number one priority. The desire to feel safe where you live and work is human nature. This is the environment we’re working very hard to create,” he said.
He praised Renton Police Department staff who are “committed to exploring innovative ways to reduce crime” and who are “working hard to improve relations between police officers and the public they serve.” He highlighted RPD’s efforts to interact with youth at parks and recreation centers, their work with Renton African American Pastors group and their recent connection with the city’s Latino community.
CONNECTING WITH THE COMMUNITY
Law then talked about about the city’s progress in building relationships with members of the community though the Mayor’s Inclusion Task Force, a group assembled by Law in 2015 to support the city’s mission to “serve all who live in the Renton community.” The task force was responsible for the city’s first multicultural festival.
He said the city is trying to better understand the needs and challenges facing the senior population, through the senior fair that attracted 700 people. He said that they are planning another event this fall.
Law also highlighted the various job fairs the city hosted along with the Chamber of Commerce and school district last year and said they plan to continue those fairs in 2017.
Law addressed the nation’s immigration issues, saying it is “taking a heavy toll on many residents.”
“The fear is very real. Our concern is that victims or witnesses of crimes won’t call the police in fear of being deported for not having proper documentation,” he added.
He said city officials have been meeting with leaders from various immigrant groups to emphasize that Renton does not check immigration status of people, nor do they plan to do so in the future.
“Some critics are concerned that our lack of enforcing some of the federal immigration policies is allowing wanted criminals to run free. This is not true,” Law said. “We treat all suspected criminals the same. If caught, they are arrested and processed through the criminal justice system. If we come across an individual who has an outstanding warrant, they face arrest regardless of their immigration status.”
Law shifted gears to talk about the culture at City Hall, highlighting the city’s new effort to improve productivity and efficiency, as well as successful code enforcement, including reduced number of abandoned shopping carts and successful anti-graffiti campaigns.
RENTON REGIONAL FIRE AUTHORITY
Law addressed the city’s fire service being voted into the regional fire authority, a move that will help the fire department raise enough dollars to maintain fast response times and emergency calls. He also noted that voters approved an extra fee “that increased the amount of fire units able to respond to calls today.”
He mentioned the new fire station that will be built in the Kennydale neighborhood and praised Chief Rick Marshall who has “devoted his entire career working for this city.”
Law circled back to the economic development in the city, highlighting the upcoming Hyatt Regency Hotel (set to open near Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park in June), the 110-room Hampton Inn and the 146-room Marriott Residence Inn.
He also focused on the city’s vision to create a “pedestrian-friendly downtown,” and listed recent developments that have already contributed to their efforts, including The Lofts, the remodeled Cortona Building, Four Generals Brewing and more.
Law mentioned the major changes taking place in the Sunset area, including the 3-acre park that’s underway, as well as housing for low-income families and plans for retail shopping outlets.
He then shifted his focus down to the Valley floor to focus on IKEA’s impact on Renton as the store “not only provides over 400 local jobs, but the sales tax collected helps pay for a lot of city services, including police, parks and roads.”
He mentioned Valley Medical Center’s new 160,000-square-feet, five-story, medical facility, as well as the final construction of Group Health Cooperative’s (recently acquired by Kaiser Permanente) new campus.
Law said despite the passage of a statewide transportation package and Sound Transit 3, “transportation will continue to be a real challenge for this entire region.”
He continued, saying these issues will continue to impact the quality of life and negatively impact commerce but mentioned the items the city will benefit from ST3 — new transit center and Bus Rapid Transit along Interstate-405 to Bellevue and Lynnwood.
Law wrapped up the session by saying the state of the city is “strong.”
“And I fear the public divisiveness, brought on by the presidential campaign, will take a long time to heal. But our future in Renton is bright,” he added.