Mayor Cassie Franklin gives the State of Everett Update at the Edward Hansen Conference Center in Everett, Washington on Thursday, March 9, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Mayor Cassie Franklin gives the State of Everett Update at the Edward Hansen Conference Center in Everett, Washington on Thursday, March 9, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Everett mayor’s speech mum on scandal, focuses on crime, climate, housing

Amid an investigation into possibly blurred personal and professional lines, Cassie Franklin charted a city plan in her annual address.

EVERETT — With the cloud of an investigation hanging over her due to her relationship with the deputy mayor, Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin laid out plans for climate action, health and housing support, public safety and prosperity in the annual state of the city speech Thursday.

Delivering her fifth mayoral address, Franklin reflected on past successes and seemingly evergreen challenges such as homelessness, unaddressed mental health needs and violent crime.

“Navigating this city through the ups and downs as your mayor is one of my greatest honors,” she said in her speech. “And while the job is rewarding, it also comes with its challenges. For example being constantly in the limelight doesn’t allow for much privacy for me and my daughter.”

The speech, often a large gathering of the county’s government and industry leaders, came three weeks after the Everett City Council publicly outed a personal relationship between Franklin and Deputy Mayor Nick Harper. Franklin filed for divorce in November. Harper is married.

The council unanimously approved hiring a law firm to investigate if the relationship violates any laws or policies or city resources were misused.

Franklin has said she checked with the city’s human resources department about policies for dating a city employee. She also declined to comment on the relationship and instead said her focus is on the running the city.

To that end, she laid out five directives in response to climate change, health and housing needs, public safety and “prosperity.”

Public safety remains the city’s top priority, especially with an apparent rise in shootings, firearm thefts and gang-related activity.

Mayor Cassie Franklin gives the State of Everett Update at the Edward Hansen Conference Center in Everett, Washington on Thursday, March 9, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

She announced several initiatives to address it:

• The Everett Police Department’s gang unit will become a violent crime unit with a broader focus;

• Create a community violence prevention and response program with an outside organization and continue its safe firearm storage and gun disposal offers;

• Pursuing gun safety legislation at the state and federal levels;

• Seek extreme risk protection orders to keep firearms from people who could harm themselves or others.

A behavioral health crisis of people with untreated mental health conditions and addiction has affected the city, Franklin said.

The city plans to work with the county and state, as well as service providers, to add behavioral health facilities and providers, while supporting legislative and policy changes to boost funding.

Everett’s population is projected to grow by 66,000 people over 20 years. They’ll need somewhere to live, too, resulting in the need for an estimated 36,000 more homes.

“We have to continue to make it easier and more attractive to build here,” Franklin said Thursday.

To meet that demand, Franklin announced steps to streamline the city’s permit process and bolster development incentives. Others would advocate for affordable and middle-income housing, protect affordable housing and bolster shelter options for homeless people.

After summers with heat domes and smoke-filled skies, the city is finally moving on its climate action plan.

Everett will start by transitioning buildings, properties and vehicles away from a reliance on fossil fuels to use of renewable sources of energy. City staff also are making an inventory of its trees and an urban forest management plan to protect the canopy, as well as planning for parks within a 10-minute walk of homes.

The city needs to keep businesses in Everett and recruit more, Franklin said. Some of the focus would be on a 10-year strategy for businesses in south Everett, specifically the Evergreen, Holly and Westmont neighborhoods, to preserve them.

Pursuing partnerships with other organizations would bolster entertainment, recreation and artistic offerings in another initiative.

The city and county continue to plan for development of a new 15,000-person outdoor stadium where the AquaSox can continue playing Minor League Baseball. The space could also host an amphitheater and park. A space has not been selected yet, but Franklin said her preference is near Everett Station because of the development potential.

Ben Watanabe: 425-339-3037; bwatanabe@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @benwatanabe.

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