City seeks help from commissioners in setting priorities for mini retreat

ARLINGTON Volunteer commissioners, board members and city committee members were invited around the table Thursday, May 24, by the Arlington City Council and the administration to help the council set priorities in preparation of the upcoming mini-retreat this Saturday, June 9.
Participants included members of the Arlington Planning Commission, Airport Commission, the Parks, Arts and Recreation Commission, the Arlington Library Board, the Cemetery Board and several other committees.
After buffet dinner at the Hawthorn Inn, city attorney Steve Peiffle changed his hat to act as facilitator for the multiple round-table discussion. Each table included a councilmember and staff members as well as several volunteers.
Peiffle asked several questions of the group. Volunteers only were asked for input on how it is working with the city and how it could be improved. All were asked to visualize how to make the city a better place and what they regard as the biggest challenges and opportunities facing Arlington in the next five years.
Once all the input was gathered from each table and consolidated, the highly sophisticated and useful colored-dot technique was applied. All participants were provided red, yellow and blue dots to vote for their first, second and third most important issues.
The most popular category was economic development, jobs and branding, with 27 votes compared to 22 votes for transportation, including roads and trails.
Tied for third place were planning and zoning versus safety and security.
A Parks, Arts and Recreation Commissioner, Bob Leonard voiced the need to find a vision for Arlington that the whole community could identify with.
We need buy-in, Leonard said. He suggested that parks, nature and recreation are Arlingtons greatest strength and could put Arlington on the map.
Planning Commissioner Vicki Hadley said she would like to see a complete trail system linking the airport with Smokey Point and the Centennial Trail. She also suggested that the city should take more seriously the input of the planning commission.
Dont disregard our recommendations, she requested. She also was one of several who mentioned the need to unite Smokey Point and historical downtown Arlington.
As for transportation, SR 531 or 172nd Street was mentioned many times as well as the need for other east-west cross-town routes.
While all the volunteers only praised the cooperation they get from city staff, they also made numerous suggestions about how the city might communicate with its residents better, with ideas such as putting kiosks in parks and around town and inviting public input at community meetings.
Planning for schools and density, increasing jobs and planning for water and pollution were also named at many of the 10 different tables filled with people.
Arlington City Council and management will spend all day Saturday, June 9 at the River Rock Inn, at a mini-retreat, preparing to launch the annual budget setting process.
This is very helpful for us as we launch into the beginning of our budgeting process for next year and into the future, said Mayor Margaret Larson as she thanked all the participants.

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