North County Outlook - Community newspaper serving Marysville, Arlington, Tulalip, Smokey Point, Lakewood

Mayor Tolbert gives State of the City

 

Christopher Andersson

Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert delivers her State of the City address to Gleneagle homeowners on March 21.

In her State of the City address, Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert said she hopes the city can attract retail businesses, provide family-wage jobs and manage growth.

Tolbert has delivered her State of the City to local organizations over the last month, including the Arlington-Smokey Point Chamber of Commerce on March 14.

She highlighted areas like employment, infrastructure, quality of life, public safety and others.

For local employment, Tolbert said that family-wage jobs are a key area where the city can grow.

Many of the local industries say that they don't have enough skilled labor to fill their jobs, Tolbert said, and she hopes those positions can be filled with skilled local people.

To help encourage better skills locally, Everett Community College began to offer classes at Weston High School last year, said Tolbert.

"We're concerned about providing pathways for our young people because the pathways that many are on is not healthy," she said.

Tolbert said these could be the first steps toward more higher education in Arlington.

"We hope to build a brick and mortar college here," she said.

Arlington officials also hope to bring more retail businesses to increase their retail tax base.

"We decided that's the area we needed to focus on because I don't want to ask you all for more taxes. I think if we can grow the right kind of retail businesses we can expand our revenues and keep up with the services we want to provide," said Tolbert.

The city has also targeted about 100 retail businesses that they hope they can attract to the city by working with a Seattle marketing firm on their Arlington Awaits campaign, which launched earlier this year.

Officials are also currently planning for the future. The state sets planning goals for growth for all cities and Arlington has to plan for 7,000 additional residents in the next two decades.

Tolbert said staff are making their plan based on "horizontal mixed use" set-ups.

"It would be smaller centers, like we have downtown, where we'll have a mixture of housing in the back and retail and service-based business up front, so it creates a natural center where people can walk and shop," she said.

Tolbert said that city officials want to manage a growing city while maintaining the current character as well.

"We're looking for ways to accommodate that growth so that it doesn't transform our city into something that looks like Highway 99," she said.

The America's Best Communities competition will come to a finale soon, said Tolbert, with the winners being announced on April 19.

There is a $3 million top prize with smaller prizes for runner-ups. Arlington is currently one of the eight semi-finalists.

The communities of Arlington and Darrington have implemented 11 initiatives they hope will help revitalize their community and stand out from the pack.

The Arlington Youth Council was one of those initiatives that will last longer than the competition.

Tolbert hopes the council will serve as "the voice of the youth, without a filter," she said. The biggest thing the council is focusing on now is providing good recreation options for local teenagers.

"We want to give our young people in the community options that are healthy and whole for them," said Tolbert.

Another of the ABC initiatives provided a WiFi hotspot in downtown Arlington and one in Darrington.

In talking with locals who used the hotspot, Tolbert said that one student "went to the WiFi hotspots to do her applications for college and she was just accepted to college."

Providing internet access to all is an important goal of the city for the future, said Tolbert.

"If we don't have affordable access to broadband for all of the young families and the families that are below poverty, we're not setting up our kids for success for the future," she said.

Tolbert said that staffing has been a challenge for the local police department in recent years.

Demand is growing throughout the state because of police departments that are restaffing, and Arlington Police officials "do not feel it is a good idea to lower our standards," said Tolbert, who added she agreed with that assessment.

The police department recently swore in an officer and have a couple of candidates going through the academy now, though, and it is possible the department will be fully staffed soon, she said.

She also thanked the citizens for the levy lid lift vote, which helped fund new fire engines for the city's fire department.

"We saw how important that equipment was when we had a fire downtown late last year," said Tolbert.

"Those buildings are very close together and because of our new ladder truck we were able to attack the fire without damage to the building beside," she said.

Tolbert hopes that the city can do better partnering with other organizations to provide solutions to the homelessness crisis.

"Right now we're pushing problems from one town to the next," she said. Simply moving them to the next city is expending a lot of resources that would be better spent providing real solutions, she said.

 

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