Submitted by Rotary Club of Olympia
Rotary Club of Olympia recently enjoyed a comprehensive update of city priorities when City Manager Steve Hall and State DES Director Chris Liu addressed the group.
Hall stressed the council’s goals for a cleaner, safer, more welcoming downtown for all to enjoy, and offered a comprehensive PowerPoint presentation covering six areas of concern: Storefront Occupancy, Crime Statistics, Parking Availability, Downtown Housing, Public Perception, and Sea Level Rise. Hall made a compelling case the city is doing its best to address them all, and made it clear the complexity of issues, the overlapping and competing constituencies and needs, and perpetually strained budget all provide significant challenges, but progress is being made in all areas.
Public investment in downtown is high. The city has put $77 million into the downtown area, the Port of Olympia $63 million, and LOTT $90 million. We have a new city hall, a new children’s museum, a rebuilt Percival Landing, a new marquee at Washington Center for the Performing Arts, and land acquisition on the Isthmus. Hall also cited a successful 2012 ballot measure where the citizens supported a tiny increase in sales tax that has allowed the city to double the number downtown police patrols.
Liu’s remarks began with an explanation of the Department of Enterprise Services, a “new” state agency created during the Governor Gregoire administration that merged General Administration, Printing, Personnel, Information Services, and the Office of Financial Management (OFM). According to Liu the streamlined agency has demonstrated savings of $18 million in the first year, and is expected to save an additional $27 million over the next two years.
Statewide DES controls over 12 million sq. ft. of real estate, but the purpose of his remarks at this meeting was how DES and the city coordinate and share management of overlapping local interests. As an example Heritage and Sylvester parks are both “state” properties, but are in the city so the two entities must work together to keep them functioning.
During the post-presentation Q & A, both were asked about Capital Lake. One of them gave a comprehensive list of the issues and challenges involved and the other, when asked, said, “I agree with him.” The line got a great laugh.