I’m retired from the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) where I spent my last few years as the Purchasing and Telecommunications manager for the NW Region.
I started attending City Council and commission meetings two and a half years ago. I began speaking up during public comment and then used emails to contact the council. This made me realize that I could have a positive impact on my city. Now I want to take that one step further to be a part the council and set policy along with resolving issues.
I am excited about the changes I’ve seen in our city government over the past year. Our new City Manager is forward-thinking and has hired staff that is knowledgeable and approachable. It will be a pleasure working with them.
During my term I will be concentrating on the following areas: transportation, economic development and community. Each impacts the next. Being unable to get somewhere quickly can limit the businesses that want to locate in Maple Valley. If we don’t have businesses with livable wages in town, our citizens have to commute longer distances to work. If mom and dad are commuting for work to distant cities, they often don’t get home in time to have quality time with their kids. Making a positive change to one of the issues has the potential for improving the others.
Transportation: Because of my history with WSDOT, it is natural that I make transportation a part of my platform. I have an insider’s view of what is happening in our area. But, our transportation issues are not an easy fix.
I met with Lorena Eng, WSDOT NW Regional Administrator a couple of weeks ago and came out of the meeting feeling frustrated. Ms. Eng confirmed that the current Secretary of Transportation does not support any improvements to SR 169. Secretary Millar’s stance is that improving SR 169 just moves the “choke point” closer to I-405. Drivers will save time getting to I-405, but this will just create more frustration as their commute time will stay close to the same. I feel this isn’t the case since SR 169 also links with Cedar Grove Road and Jones Road, giving drivers alternate routes.
The traffic study completed by WSDOT last year showed that safety could be improved at the Cedar Grove intersection by adding a traffic circle. For several reasons this project isn’t going anywhere. It would have to be a huge traffic circle to manage the high volume and size of the vehicles. This would mean buying additional land, protecting the businesses at the intersection during construction, moving the pedestrian pathway and ensuring the Cedar river is not impacted. This makes the cost prohibitive at around $10 million. There is no funding available for a project of this size. (As a side note: the first choice for intersections in our state is traffic circles. WSDOT only installs an average of six traffic signals statewide per year.)
However, the safety study is resulting in at least one very minor change that could help congestion at the Cedar Grove intersection a small amount. WSDOT is looking at adding traffic lights on the side light poles going northbound so drivers will be able to see if the light is changing when big trucks are blocking the view of the current, middle of the road, lights. This means less likelihood of cars inadvertently running a red light.
I will be joining current council members to take our concerns to the legislature and will keep communication open with my sources at WSDOT.
Economic Development: I think that one of the best decisions made by our city in the past year was to add an Economic Development Manager. We finally have an expert to bring in businesses that will help our city grow which should result in a reduction of the tax burden on home owners.
Currently, much of the growth in Maple Valley is new homes. It hurts to see our forests replaced by houses. Unfortunately, the decisions that resulted in the new development were made, in some instances, several years ago and were driven by the Growth Management Act. It’s a done deal and we can only use them as an example of what we don’t want to do in the future.
The city is researching adding a hotel. Hotels are a known tax boost to any city. Having a hotel in our city also has the potential for our citizens to be able to stay here to work instead of having to commute. Yes, this will bring more vehicles to our already overcrowded highways. However, if the hotel is located close to SR 18 the impact will be less.
I have been very vocal about needing to do something about the golf course. It has been been losing money or barely succeeding since the city purchased it. There has been a push to bring in an unbiased expert to evaluate the golf course and give suggestions on how to make it profitable. I totally agree and will give this my full support.
Community: Shortly after my husband and I moved here we had a huge wind storm that knocked down trees and power throughout our neighborhood. During the storm, two of my neighbors checked in on us to make sure we were okay. When they found out that my husband was gone they made sure I had a warm place to stay and even hooked up one of their own generators to keep our food from spoiling. When the storm was over, all of the neighbors went from house to house cutting up downed trees, including the three in our backyard. That evening we had an impromptu block party with candlelight and the background noise of generators running. This is a perfect example of our Maple Valley community.
We want the very best for our citizens. The upcoming changes to Lake Wilderness Park, including the new playground and boat house, will give our families and kids a safe, up-to-date place to play. Summit Park will add much needed ball fields for organized sports. The additional playground at Summit will give an opportunity to add inclusiveness by having equipment for kids with disabilities. I will work hard to make sure this happens. Our kids who aren’t into organized sports will have a state-of-the-art skate park, currently being designed using input from the kids who will enjoy it. When Summit is completed, we will also have a dog park that will be a great addition for all of our citizens.
Not everything in our city is positive. Even though it’s not as prevalent as in larger cities, we have a homeless population. We need reach out to them to make sure that they are aware of resources that are available. And, above all, we need to support the organizations who are providing help with food and temporary housing as well as medical and emotional support.
Drug use in our city is a serious problem. Unfortunately we are seeing an uptick in the number of car prowls and break ins, likely related to users looking for money for their habit. We need to find a way to identify those who want help to make sure they have access to the organizations who can provide the services they need. We also have to protect our neighborhoods by dealing with those who are dangerous and destructive to make our city a less desirable place for them to stay.
The City of Maple Valley has long been known as a great place to raise families. We have received several national awards for being family friendly and for being a safe place to live. I am excited that I will be a part of keeping this legacy alive.