Also, city responsive to public records requests, 'Great Place' strategy for downtown becoming reality and 2 join Parks board
Strong development activity and moderate job growth will fuel Bellevue's economy over the next several years.
That was the prediction delivered to the City Council Monday by City Budget Manager Jonathan Swift, who said Bellevue's economic outlook is generally positive, but increased inflation and a slowing of the housing market could dampen growth.
Swift delivered his forecast as part of the Finance Department's Early Outlook Forecast, which focuses on how the city's economy is expected to perform over the next six years.
Swift said growth in employment and personal income have kept the region's economy relatively healthy even as rising gasoline, food and other prices, and a weakening housing market, have adversely impacted the national economy.
Swift also noted that long-term, the city's existing financial resources will not be sufficient to address the multitude of service and capital needs identified through the city's Long Range Financial Planning initiative now underway.
Started in 2007, the initiative's goal is to identify major population, demographic, urbanization and other trends expected to impact the city's financial resources the next 20 years, and create a financially sustainable model that will allow necessary investments to occur. The initiative is expected to be a major topic during the city's regular budget review process later this year.
Among the major points included in Swift's outlook were:
- Bellevue's high level of development activity is expected to last through much of the 2009-2010 biennium;
- The city's employment growth and development activity is contributing to increased population density in the Central Business District. By 2010, the downtown residential population is expected to grow to 10,000 people, up from 6,200 in 2007;
- Increased inflation and a further slowing of the housing market could hamper the city's projected growth cycle. While home prices have remained relatively strong despite the downturn, housing sales and housing permits regionally have dropped off considerably.
Swift said while the region grew at nearly twice the rate of the nation in 2007, economists expect growth in 2009 to mirror the national outlook of slower growth before accelerating moderately in 2010.
Feedback: Jonathan Swift, 425-452-7863
City found fully responsive to public records requests
A recent audit of public records requests of Washington's 30 largest cities, counties and state agencies found Bellevue to be fully responsive and already performing in a manner consistent with many recommended best practices.
Results of the performance audit were the subject Monday at a public hearing before council members. The hearing was required as part of Initiative 900, the measure approved by voters in 2005 which gave the state auditor authority to conduct public records performance audits of state and local governments.
The audit was conducted from November 2006, through March 2008. The state auditor's office submitted 10 unannounced records requests to each public entity. Their performances were then judged against the best practices contained in the state Public Records Act and the state attorney general's model rules for public disclosure. Each entity was also judged based on their performance compared to their peers.
The audit concluded that most of the 30 audited cities, counties and state agencies provided good, timely customer service in responding to the public records requests. Bellevue was found to be fully responsive for each request, providing records that met the intent and spirit of the law.
The audit recommended a number of best practices that the audited entities could consider to enhance their performance, including enhanced staff training to handle requests more expeditiously and the use of e-mail to respond to requests when possible. Bellevue already adheres to most of the best practices recommended by the audit, City Clerk Myrna Basich said.
According to the state attorney general's office, Bellevue has established a "culture of compliance" with regard to public records requests. As part of its new electronic content management system, the city expects to have an online submission process for public records requests on its website by year’s end.
Feedback: Myrna Basich, 425-452-2733
Turning "Great Place" strategy into downtown streetscape
Bellevue's long-standing goal for downtown is summed up in a "Great Place"strategy to create a regional center by tying together distinct neighborhoods through unique public areas and infrastructure.
On Monday, Council members were updated on how that strategy is being turned into reality by way of projects are funded in the city's capital budget. From a list of 39 downtown projects in the 2007-2013 Capital Investment Program, 25 are budgeted to receive funding.
The Great Place strategy aims to make downtown "viable, livable, memorable and accessible." To do that, it emphasizes a "multi-modal" transportation system that includes a variety of options in addition to driving.
Capital project budgets range from $20,000 to coordinate planning for a connection from downtown to Meydenbauer Bay, to $3 million for enhancements on the Northeast Sixth Street corridor, to $6.38 million to widen Northeast Second Street from Bellevue Way to 112th Avenue Northeast.
Other projects include planning for a downtown fire station ($1 million), work on a downtown circulator bus ($1 million), creation of the new Ashwood Park Plaza ($1.2 million), work on mid-block pedestrian crossings ($1.3 million), a "Great Streets" effort to improve walkability and enhance the appearance of street corridors ($3.8 million) and widening Northeast Eighth Street from 106th to 108th Avenue Northeast ($4 million).
The most expensive project on the downtown list is the extension of Northeast 10th Street above Interstate 405, from 112th Avenue Northeast to 116th Avenue Northeast. It's funded at $10.44 million in the Capital Investment Program, but Bellevue’s share is approximately $105,000. The rest comes from state and federal grants.
The 2003 Downtown Plan Update and more information about the Great Streets Project are available on the Downtown Planning page. Coming soon will be an updated web page with information about many of the downtown projects listed in the capital budget.
Feedback: Nancy LaCombe, 425-452-4382
Parks and Community Services Board members appointed
The City Council appointed two new members to the city's Parks and Community Services Board.
Kathy George and Lynne Robinson were appointed to four-year terms. The board, comprised of seven members, advises the Council on issues such as natural resources, land resources and environmental education; parks planning and construction; and community services.
George and Robinson replace William Aron and Dr. Peter Maxim. Both served two consecutive terms on the board, the maximum allowed under city rules.
Feedback: Kim McCool, 425-452-7810
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