What is Bothell’s public safety future? | Mayor’s Memo

Your feedback is needed to shape Bothell’s future.

  • Wednesday, May 30, 2018 4:52pm
  • Opinion
Mayor Andy Rheaume

Mayor Andy Rheaume

By Mayor Andy Rheaume

Public safety is one of the city of Bothell’s highest priorities. Our residents value living in a community where they feel safe to enjoy downtown businesses and restaurants, attend community events and explore our outdoor spaces.

But, increasingly, residents are expressing concerns about changes in the community and whether our city can remain safe in the midst of dramatic population growth and increasing societal challenges. There is a growing concern about illegal drugs and accompanying petty crimes. These demands on public safety services are straining resources.

Over the past year, we’ve been taking a hard look at the challenges facing public safety – police, fire, EMS and the court – and what is needed to meet them.

The City Council is looking to our residents for guidance as we consider alternatives to stabilize public safety funding, including a potential ballot measure. If we were to choose to submit a proposal to voters in November 2018, we would need to make decisions about that in June. Visit bothellwa.gov/publicsafety to learn more and make your voice heard.

The good news is our emergency responders and court staff do a fantastic job. You can expect a speedy response when you call 911 in Bothell (which isn’t always true in other communities).

But we’ve stretched our public safety services to the limit. Consider these facts:

Over the past 10 years, the number of police officers and fire fighters has stayed flat even as the population has grown by nearly 50 percent – and continues to grow.

Our fire fighters responded to more than 6,300 incidents last year.

Our fire stations are more than 30 years old.

The technology and other tools needed to support police, fire and courts are outdated.

While new growth in part pays for increased needs for services, it doesn’t pay for all of it. One-time development revenue can be helpful in the short term, but voter-approved legislation limiting taxing requires the city to ask voters what they want for their community.

It is essential, of course, that the city be efficient with taxpayer’s dollars. But emergency services are driven by demands – we can’t cut back the number of 911 calls that are made or the number of court appearances that need to be scheduled for defendants. And, the opportunities to create efficiencies are limited when 85 percent of the city’s overall budget is for ongoing payroll – the salaries of the people who provide direct services to our citizens.

In looking for other funding sources, we’re also challenged by the fact that Bothell – like many other cities – is still digging out of the Great Recession. To ease the burden on taxpayers, the city chose to forego the 1 percent property tax increase for six consecutive years during the recession and relied on financial reserves during that time. That financial strategy is not sustainable and now threatens the city’s future ability to provide services across the board.

We need your feedback to shape our future. Please go to www.bothellwa.gov/PublicSafety, get informed and get involved.

More in Opinion

KCLS forges partnerships for broader public benefit

Partnerships make it possible for KCLS to serve a broader range of people, while stretching tax dollars.

The importance of being counted | Windows and Mirrors

The 2020 Census is coming and that can greatly affect everything from government representation and federal funding.

This year’s biggest election for Democrats isn’t on the ballot

Four women are vying to become the next House speaker. The Democratic caucus will decide in July.

Proud to be themselves | Windows and Mirrors

June is Pride month and PFLAG Bellevue Eastside has been supporting the local LGBTQ+ community since 1996.

From Eastside to East Coast | Reporter’s Notebook

Reporter Kailan Manandic bids farewell to the Eastside for new adventures in Boston.

Alternative to Sammamish River Trail | Letter

The proposed King County improvements to the Sammamish River Trail should be… Continue reading

In the hands of voters | Letter

Every voter in the state of Washington should be furious with the… Continue reading

A humanitarian crisis | Letter

Hundreds killed or injured. Many raped. Bodies found in the Nile. Sudan… Continue reading

Governor’s watch: timing is everything

Inslee, possible candidates eye 2020 race

Closing the margins | Windows and Mirrors

How a program at Mercer Island High School is helping students affect social change.

Summertime opportunities to read, learn and grow

A monthly column about King County libraries.

Redirecting funds | Letter

There has been a recent influx of publicity about mental health treatment… Continue reading