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Paul Roberts, President, AWC Board of Directors Remarks to Association of Washington Cities, Wenatchee, June 26, 2015

The emerging challenges for cities in Washington State, and across the nation, are significant:

  • Demographic changes – are literally changing the face of our cities
  • Climate change – brings profound impacts on our infrastructure and our world
  • Technology changes – resulting in cyber security risks, new communication avenues and new applications for our work
  • Social changes – diversity, social equity, health, mental health, housing and human services resulting in changes on our streets, and changes in how we respond with police and fire in ways most of us could not have imagined even five years ago
  • Aging infrastructure – essential to healthy economies and healthy communities - not maintaining what we have and not investing in what we need for our future

We cannot rely on the federal government or the state government to meet our needs. As Carolyn Colman said yesterday: “The cavalry is not coming...” Sadly, Washington DC and Olympia are embroiled in red and blue – crips and bloods – politics – too invested in the fight to see meaningful solutions.

What sets us apart as city leaders is that we put governing above winning. There are democrats, republicans and independents in this room. But as city leaders, we are invested in finding solutions. We don’t let partisanship get in the way of citizenship. Developing good ideas and solving problems are what we do.

The task is ours to educate our community, and our elected leaders in Olympia and Washington. We need to model the behavior we are seeking.
In the long run, their success depends on our success.
Cities are where most people live, work and play.
Cities are where most jobs are created.
Cities are where people are educated.
Cites are where culture, art and wealth are created.

Infrastructure, is the foundation for all of it.
Water, waste water, surface water, transportation, electricity and energy are essential elements for healthy communities and healthy economies.

In this room, are the leaders of the state of Washington.
We poses the skills and the will to get things done.
We understand that infrastructure is not about the next election, it’s about the next generation.
We understand that tough votes need to be taken to build the economy of tomorrow.
We are building healthy communities and healthy economies with services and infrastructure for people we will never meet and never know.
We understand 1995 was not that long ago, and 2035 is not that far away. Healthy communities depend on our understanding this. It’s a generational thing...
We get it!

What makes us strong is our commitment to do the right things right.

Our Quality Communities Award Winner Nandina Cengic said it well when she said her success was based on modeling behavior - to become the person she wanted to be. We need to lead by example.

As we go forward with the next steps of the “Strong Cities” campaign, we have an opportunity to lead by example.

We have a great story to tell and the “Strong Cites” campaign is all about telling our stories.

In October of last year, Marysville Mayor and AWC Board Member Jon Nehring and I carpooled to the AWC Board meeting.
It was a particularly challenging meeting as we hashed through the difficulties with the House and Senate versions of a transportation package.
They were far apart at the time.
Jon is a moderate Republican and I am a moderate Democrat. We have known each other and worked together for over ten years, and we have great respect for one-another.

We were both frustrated that there was not more collaboration and compromise – and less partisanship in Olympia – and in DC.
On the way back to Snohomish County - a two hour drive on a late Friday afternoon – we talked through the issues, funding, reform, political posturing, and real substance. At the end of our drive, we both looked at each other and realized, if it were up to us, we could and would reach agreement and compromise on a transportation package.
Frankly, it would not be that difficult.
Would we both get all we wanted – no.
Would we reach a compromise on most major issues – yes.
Would we allow political posturing to get in the way of good decision making – no.
But, we would get a deal done because the state needs to move forward and we are invested in solving the problems.

I don’t know what will happen in Olympia, but I know our “Strong Cities” campaign is already having positive results.
In Spokane, Northeast Washington mayors got together, met with the editorial board of the Spokane paper, told the city story – and the editorial board understood and wrote a great editorial.
Snohomish County Cities did the same thing with the editorial board of the Everett Herald.
Thurston County Cities are doing much the same.

Telling our story in this way educates the editorial boards to the needs of cities and why this is important in these communities.
It transcends partisan politics. These are democrats and republicans coming together to solve problems.
And, it provides education of the news media, so when they have the opportunity to evaluate other political leaders, they will have background and context as to what cities and communities need to be healthy.

In Olympia and in Washington DC, our elected officials know we are here, know what we want and need, and they know we aren’t going away.

Today Congressman Larsen announced a rail safety initiative because we told our story!
He credits the work of AWC for bringing attention to the problems of long trains and hazardous cargo through heavily urbanized areas.
Also, the Senate has introduced safety legislation and our Senators understand our needs and are sponsors of this legislation.

By telling our stories, we are educating our leaders and making a difference.

We need to tell our stories in our communities, to our neighborhoods, to news organizations, in Olympia and DC.
We have great stories to tell.
My challenge to all of you is to help the people of Washington State understand why cities matter to them.
We need all of you to help all of us!

Thank you for your trust.
Let’s go do good work!