Mayor Greg Nickels stopped by this month’s Greenwood-Phinney Chamber of Commerce meeting this afternoon for a short speech followed by a Q-and-A.
“I’ve started an awful lot of speeches lately with, ‘We’re in tough times’ and I hate to do that, but…” Nickels said right off the bat.
The mayor gave a broad overview of how the city is handling the global financial crisis. He said the city is not having to make severe cuts like some other governmental entities, but it did have to dip into its $30 million Rainy Day Fund to the tune of $5 million. “But, we still have $25 million to buffer whatever may happen this year,” he said. “Tough times, but we’re moving forward and we’re going to be okay.”
Nickels said the entire city will be seeing a lot of street construction this year as it catches up on maintenance, thanks to the Bridging the Gap measure approved by voters.
He was most excited about transportation issues. “In seven days, 23 hours and 23 minutes, we’re going to be opening up the light rail,” he said with a laugh. After spending the last 21 years working on transit issues at various levels of government, he’s happy the day is almost here. “It’s been a very, very long time. Fifteen years from now we’ll have a mass transit system that will be capable of moving one million people a day.”
He was aware of the proposed Fred Meyer redevelopment that is garnering so much neighborhood attention, and said he was excited for a mixed use development that would bring more people to live and work in downtown Greenwood. “We want to make sure we get something very special in that development,” he said.
Chamber President Steve Giliberto asked about the possibility of the city somehow encouraging businesses that are office-based rather than retail to locate in neighborhoods outside of downtown. He expressed concern that a number of retail spots in newer mixed-used developments are still vacant, and could be filled by offices. “We’d be interested in seeing that,” Nickels said. “If you can live and work in one place, our transportation issues will be much better.”
Nickels also stressed the importance of creating “green” jobs. “We are fundamentally changing our economy from one of conspicuous consumption to one of conspicuous conservation,” he said.
He expressed the hope that Seattle could become “branded” as the Green Building Capital of the U.S., explaining that Seattle will be one of the first markets for Nissan’s new electric cars in 2010, and the city will make it easier to get permits for 220 outlets for electric vehicles.