Councilmember Godden left office on January 1, 2016.
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Cities Regroup; Get Ready to Ask Legislators for Help

This week I’m in Vancouver, WA, attending the 77th Annual Conference of the Association of Washington Cities (AWC). The association works hard on behalf of its 281 member municipalities to remind the state that most of its people live in cities, great and small, and depend on the Legislature to work, hand in hand, to promote their welfare.

Things haven’t been good for cities in this economic down turn. The state long has ignored their plight, mandating programs without giving them resources to comply. And, in tough times, the state has grabbed scarce resources that would have gone to the cities, intent on using the proceeds to solve its own fiscal problems.

Where did the Public Works Trust Fund, ordinarily the source of infrastructure funds, go? Straight into the state’s coffers.

Not that it’s easy being the state either. Hard as life has been for the cities, the state has had an uncommonly difficult time finding resources for education, health and human services. And the crisis isn’t easing up. At Tuesday’s Board Meeting, the AWC lobbying team reported that he state is likely to have another $3 billion hole to fill during the 2011 session. Things could grow even worse if some of the initiatives aimed at the fall ballot gain voter approval.

During the 2010 legislative session, the AWC focused its lobbying efforts, asking only for greater flexibility in budgeting, help with storm water funding and an option for a street maintenance utility. The legislature acted narrowly on flexibility, but failed to provide help with storm water funding or street maintenance. AWC lobbyist Victoria Lincoln said that, in lean times, the best course is to lobby the Legislature to do no harm.

Belt tightening was the forecast for the mayors, councilmembers and city managers gathered yesterday in Vancouver. The war stories are heart rending: cities that have had to lay off all but the most essential staff; cities that do not have transportation funds – any transportation funds, period. Cities that are arranging for loans from the city’s cash pool.  At times like these, I find it difficult to complain about the cuts Seattle has had to make so far this year. On the other hand, there is strength in cities comparing notes on how they manage in tough times.