The Mountlake Terrace Civic Center: What's Next?
Those of you who have lived here for a number of years may be well aware of the situation with the Civic Center property and the current Interim City Hall. As we looked at previously, many of our residents have moved here in the past several years and may not be aware of the status of the Civic Center or the background. The abbreviated situation is this: we are currently renting space for our City Hall and the majority of the city believes that it makes more sense to have our own building on our own land. While the details of various proposals have resulted in much debate, I don't think many people will argue with that summary of the situation.
The brief history of the issue is that the original City Hall was built in 1961, served our city well, but ultimately was demolished due to a ceiling collapse and what many believed to be an unsafe building that was not feasible to upgrade or bring up to code. On three different occasions proposals for a new Civic Center have been put before voters; all failed to reach the 60% approval required to pass. I think we can all agree that in order to come up with something that will be approved by more than 60% of voters, the past proposals will need to be scaled back. The most significant change will likely be the elimination of the community center.
The City Council has been mostly silent of the matter since the April 2013 ballot measure failed but is scheduled to address the issue in 2014. The new City Manager, Arlene Fisher, has said that she hopes to help find a solution to the civic center.
I think one big reason that we haven't been able to come to a consensus is that the civic center issue has been blown up in to a divisive referendum both for those who want to affirm the direction our city is headed, and those who have disagreements with how past and current City Councils have made decisions (related or unrelated to the civic center). In order for the City Council, City staff, and residents to come up with a solution we are going to have to be intensely focused on the problem to be solved and take a break from the rhetoric that has been such a big part of the previous campaigns for and against various proposals. Yes, this means that we can't be arguing about whether the City could have squeezed another couple of years out of the old City Hall. Yes, this means we can't be arguing about whether or not the City's investment spurs future development. All the effort put into campaigning for or against another bond measures needs to be put into finding a solution that the vast majority of the city can get behind.
Easier said than done? Absolutely.
I'd like to open up comments on this post as a discussion about solutions. Let's leave the divisive rhetoric and the cynicism out. It's unlikely that City staff or Council members will chime in here but I know many of them read the site. Don't consider this as a replacement for contributing to the public discussion the Council will likely solicit, but comments here will likely be heard by more than those involved in this discussion.