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Sep 25

Our New Normal? - Jennifer Phillips, Fall 2020

Posted on September 25, 2020 at 10:46 AM by Becky Range

I cannot believe it is already September. Dealing with COVID-19 as a short-term emergency was, in some ways, easy for us to mentally process.  We plan for emergencies, mobilize and quickly respond, emotionally ready for extra shifts and long days. But what now? Public health restrictions and closures seem unending and our budget is even more strained.  How do we adjust to this “new normal” that comes with so much indefinite uncertainty?  With multi-million dollar budget shortfalls, layoffs, and furloughs, I asked staff to safely adjust our processes and deliver services more efficiently.  I’m proud of this team for doing exactly that.

We quickly developed a small business grant program to distribute $390,000 in CARES Act grants to eligible businesses. We’ve contracted with the Northshore Senior Center to develop an Emergency Financial Assistance program to allocate $400,500 to residents to help with rent, utility bills and putting food on their table.

Inspections dropped early this year, but activity has been steadily increasing and is only down about 20% compared to this time last year.  Our number of permit applications being processed right now is similar to 2019 numbers.  We are still seeing a lot of activity in residential development, including single family subdivisions, townhouses and large apartment projects.

 We’ve continued with important capital projects and road work, knowing that slipping schedules costs us money and delays improvements for you. Our largest capital project, SR 522 Stage 3, never stopped under full safety protocols. We are still protecting pavement and refreshing our road surfaces with slurry seal. This year alone, we’ve placed 70,000 square yards of slurry seal, or enough to cover almost 11 football fields! Our NE 188th St. project is moving right along and will deliver new sidewalks, bike lanes and curb ramps near Bothell High School. We’ve continued work to build our two new fire stations.  We recently applied for and received $9,977,700 in federal transportation funds from the Puget Sound Regional Council. 

We’re adjusting to COVID. But, we must also adjust to national and regional events that are changing conversations on diversity.  We have an estimated 4.5 times more residents of color in Bothell than in 1990.  Is our staff equipped to serve a community of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, heritages, and cultures?  In 2018 we created an internal committee focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Our Executive Department has been participating in a book study, meeting weekly to discuss anti-racism and we’ve scheduled implicit bias training for the entire organization. These are just baby steps. This summer I asked the committee what an engagement and diversity program should look like. Their report and fresh perspectives are changing how we approach decision-making and more importantly, helping leadership (and me!) take a close look at our own biases. Just as the community is growing and changing, we are committed to learning and growing as well!