Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle said Thursday everyone should be proud of how far Vancouver has come, but they need to also be aware of how much work the city has before it.
McEnerny-Ogle gave her first State of the City address to a crowd of more than 100 crammed into City Hall’s lobby.
“While our city is on solid financial footing now, with continued growth in population, costs and inflation, the city services we currently know, expect and depend on will decline within the next five years,” McEnerny-Ogle said.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of accomplishments to celebrate, she pointed out, or that the city is anything less than strong.
“I’ve consistently heard that people want local government that works, that is effective, that is a good steward of taxpayer money, that takes care of public assets, and that delivers basic services well,” she said. “And what I have observed from my years on (the city) council is that every day, the city’s 1,019 employees strive to do just that.”
Topping the list of 2017 highlights was the waterfront development project.
“Isn’t it exciting to think that by this September you will be able to walk or bike on the park’s new waterfront trail or just sit and enjoy the river view from one of many beautiful locations within the park?” McEnerny-Ogle asked the crowd.
In the last five years, the downtown area has also welcomed 48 new restaurants, breweries and coffee shops. That growth goes hand-in-hand with growth citywide. Last year Vancouver issued more than 9,400 building permits valued at more than $300 million.
“That is truly remarkable,” she said. “We’ve experienced growth in the size of the city too, as last year saw the annexation of the Van Mall North area and as of August, we welcomed over 5,500 new residents to the city.”
However, she said, urban growth has its complications. As residents continue to move in, the housing crisis continues to worsen. McEnerny-Ogle highlighted the Affordable Housing Fund as one solution the city is offering in response to the crisis. The city also revised its residential tax abatement program to focus more on affordable housing and changed the accessory dwelling unit code to allow for more housing options.
“Everyone realizes that we need to do more,” she added. “And I commit to you that we will continue working on developing new and collaborative solutions for our community.”
At the same time, the city has started to fund infrastructure projects, such as the parks irrigation system.
“You will see greener parks this summer,” McEnerny-Ogle said of the city’s decision to begin irrigating city parks once again. Watering had been curtailed during the recession.
And a new Complete Streets Policy adopted by the council in 2017 means a renewed focus on sidewalk expansion and pavement management.
“Each of these areas contributes to our economic vitality, vibrancy, and safety and helps to not only attract new people and businesses to our region, but to assure that residents who live here now will want to stay and continue to call Vancouver home,” she said.
A talk about Vancouver’s future isn’t complete without mention of the Interstate 5 Bridge.
“Replacing the I-5 Bridge is an important priority,” McEnerny-Ogle said. “Our residents are wondering what’s going on with this ever worsening I-5 congestion. There’s no question that it is adversely affecting our economy and our quality of life here in Vancouver.”
She added she’s committed to continuing the conversation between state and local lawmakers in Washington and Oregon to find a solution. The same can be said for her involvement on Oregon’s Value Pricing Committee as that state considers tolling on Interstate 5 and Interstate 205.
“I can’t stress how important this type of proactive planning is to ensure a strong future for Vancouver,” she said.
That planning must be coupled with a shared vision and shared prosperity for the community, McEnerny-Ogle added.
“In order for us to continue to be a safe, welcoming, and vibrant city, our prosperity must be shared by all,” she said.