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Tolbert gives State of the City


March 21, 2018 | View PDF

Christopher Andersson

Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert delivers her State of the City speech at a Stilly Valley Chamber of Commerce meeting on March 13.

Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert talked about the city's efforts toward public safety, getting those with addictions treated, and the economy during her State of the City on March 13.

Policing continues to focus on community connection, with 358 meetings between police officers and businesses or other organizations last year, said Tolbert.

"They made time to have conversations with the community," she said.

Tolbert said that the city has been continuing to put new initiatives in place to reduce drug crime, most of which is "being driven by the opioid crisis that is spreading across the United States," she said.

Police received new tools like the Stay Out of Drag Area ordinance, which gave local officers more authority over repeat offenders.

Another new tool, trespass orders, allowed the police department to "partner with businesses or residents so they could protect your property when you weren't there," said Tolbert.

The city also put effort into shutting down some properties which were home to frequent drug crimes.

"One of the questions I get is 'why does it take so long to close down a drug house,'" said Tolbert. "There's a legal path [to closing down a drug house] and it is laborious, labor-intensive and expensive."

Local police officers still pursued that path though, and made some headway last year.

There will be a number of efforts to help those who want to try to fight their addiction issues as well.

A new "embedded social worker" is scheduled to start in April who will go out with a police officer to help offer assistance to those that want it.

"This is the way we're going to help some of the repeat offenders and those that are troubled on our streets, to move them on a path to help change their lives," said Tolbert.

The city also created a flex fund from donations from organizations and citizens that will be used to help people get out of homelessness and addiction.

"Unfortunately, when they're coming out of the woods they don't have everything they need to get in that detox center," said Tolbert. "They might need some clean clothes, they might need a toiletry bag, they might need transportation to the facility."

A public defense legal grant also provides a "program that identifies clients that would benefit from a referral to social services," said Tolbert.

So far those clients have seen a 35 percent reduction in recidivism (the act of repeating a crime after being released), said Tolbert.

The city of Arlington received a United Way grant to help identify the gaps in their social services as well.

"So when we have people who have a need and they don't have transportation and we don't have those services in Arlington, how do we build bridges to those services," said Tolbert.

Economically the city is a "time of rapid growth," said Tolbert.

"We hear frightening numbers about the number of people coming to this region," she said, with some estimates predicting an additional 1.5 million people to the Puget Sound region in the upcoming decade.

That means the city has to plan for growth, and is mandated to by the state as well, said Tolbert.

City officials are largely planning for a "horizontal mixed use" model for future development, that they hope will provide walkable commercial districts with multi-family apartments and single-family residences nearby.

They are also working on planning for "complete streets," said Tolbert, that will not be just for cars and trucks, but also pedestrians and bicyclists.

"So it's pedestrian friendly, it moves people around on cars, or on foot, or on bikes," she said.

Tolbert said the city hopes to have a presentation about the city's plans for their streets by the end of the this year.

In addition, using street design they hope to discourage panhandling, said Tolbert.

For jobs, Arlington has received around a 23 percent increase in jobs since 2011, and currently have around 13,000 jobs.

Last year 55 new businesses came to the city, including nine manufacturing businesses.

Arlington Awaits videos were created to "tell the story of businesses in Arlington," and attract potential new businesses, said Tolbert.

These online videos have received more than 800,000 views currently.

The Arlington Marysville Manufacturing Industrial Center next to Smokey Point is also an area that Tolbert will be a centerpiece of growth for the city.

"We're about ready to cross a threshold in a meeting the last week of March in which we think the Puget Sound Regional Council will adopt these new policies that will allow us to compete for federal infrastructure investment," said Tolbert.

City employee Sarah Lopez is also the city's new 'Economic Revitalization Project Manager' meant to continue projects from the America's Best Communities competition to encourage growth.

"It was unfortunate that we were not the number one winner, but the work was good and the initiatives were good and Sarah is carrying on that work," said Tolbert.

With all the growth Tolbert said she doesn't want Arlington to become something else entirely though.

"We're very committed to retaining the small-town charm that Arlington has," she said.


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