First, a quibble: Mayor Cassie Franklin, in giving her inaugural State of Everett address Wednesday morning at downtown’s Edward D. Hansen center, didn’t open with a joke.
Skipping the staple of early-morning meetings typically served with coffee and breakfast casserole, Franklin was all business, as was one of the major themes or her address outlining her administration’s short- and long-term initiatives for the city.
In the half-hour address, Franklin announced three new policy directives outlining her priorities: public safety, community planning and economic development and civic engagement. Those are priorities that won’t surprise anyone who’s paid attention to recent events in Everett or the mayoral campaign, and they are informed not only by her past work on the city council but also through conversation with no fewer than 55 community members she named to a transition advisory board.
Regarding public safety, the mayor noted the need for continued progress in filling vacancies in the police department and addressing fire department staffing and deployment, as well as a response to confront the disturbing increase in gang- and youth-related violence through intervention and prevention.
Franklin also promised to build on programs proposed through the city’s Safe Streets plan to address addiction, mental illness and homelessness, such as supportive housing, access to treatment and employment, including an expansion of the city’s Safe Streets Work Crew program which connects homeless people with housing and services while cleaning city streets and encampments.
On community engagement, Franklin celebrated the city’s increasingly rich diversity of cultures, experience and faiths, seeking to use that diversity to Everett’s advantage. The mayor referred directly to the city’s two school districts — Everett and Mukilteo — where scores of languages are spoken in students’ homes and significant percentages are learning English.
Yet, she noted, Everett’s diversity has yet to catch up with the city government’s workforce. While 24 percent of the city’s residents identify as other than white, minorities represent only 10 percent of those employed by the city. Specific recommendations to recruit, hire and train to increase the city’s workforce diversity and other civic access and engagement goals were to be announced later Thursday, as would more detailed recommendations regarding public safety on Friday.
Specific initiatives regarding community planning and economic development were released Wednesday, following the address, and point to untapped potential in the city and the region.
“Everett is poised for prosperity,” the mayor said. “We have all of the ingredients we need to promote positive growth and create a vibrant, attractive community.”
There is room for improvement. Franklin’s directive notes that the county’s only metropolitan city is blessed with economic assets such as Boeing, the Port of Everett, Naval Station Everett and Providence Regional Medical Center, as well as successful school districts, Everett Community College and, now, WSU Everett. Yet its median household income — just under $50,000 — is about $25,000 less than that in the county as a whole. And its home ownership rate of 44 percent lags behind the county rate of 65 percent.
Among the initiatives, the plan calls for:
An Office of Communications and Marketing to develop a branding and marketing campaign to promote tourism and attract and retain employers.
An Office of Community Planning and Economic Development that for starters will work with the city’s partners to convince Boeing to build its new mid-market airliner in Everett, but also work on strategic plans for transportation and infrastructure, education and workforce training and affordable housing development.
Work that will encourage development and revitalization in regions throughout the city, including the downtown area near Everett Station and Angel of the Winds Arena, the Broadway/College District, Paine Field, Evergreen Way and the Everett Mall.
Few would argue with the goals set out by Mayor Franklin for public safety, civic engagement and economic development. What comes of those goals will now depend upon her, her administration, the city council, community and business leaders and Everett’s 110,000 or so residents.
Franklin, who won election to the mayor’s office by a little more than 1 percentage point over City Councilwoman Judy Tuohy, no doubt faced some skepticism during her campaign because she is a relative newcomer to Everett. She’ll likely continue to face some of that as mayor.
While not an Everett native or even a long-time resident, Franklin has an appreciation and enthusiasm for the city that comes from someone who chose to live and work here.
What she seeks to accomplish in Everett deserves support. And that’s no joke.