Association of Washington Cities reports: Cities are facing increased responsibilities with fewer resources

Friday, February 21, 2020

Cities are facing increased responsibilities with fewer resources. That's one key finding of a report recently released by the Association of Washington Cities (AWC).
"...the state has consistently limited local options for cities to adequately fund their most basic services, meet the needs that accompany population growth, and keep up with the effects of inflation. Further exacerbating the situation, the Legislature has repeatedly swept city assistance programs to help fill state budget gaps."

The report was unveiled in January and distributed to city leaders and legislators during the association's City Action Days that took place January 28 and 29 in Olympia. Using data, research, and trends, the 2020 State of the Cities report examines the conditions in Washington's 281 cities.

The report found that cities bring significant value to the state and its residents. People who live and work in cities drive the state's economy and send revenue to the state's coffers. As owners of much of the state's critical infrastructure, cities are essential to getting goods to market. And cities are the governments closest to the people, representing 65% of the state's population.

"This report makes clear that when the state invests in cities, every Washingtonian and all levels of government benefit," said AWC CEO Peter King. "Cities drive our state's economic health and are where the majority of our citizens call home and go to work every day. When the state invests in cities, everyone wins."

But cities face increased responsibilities and are struggling to meet their most basic needs, like aging infrastructure and public safety. New and emerging challenges are cropping up in cities across the state, such as affordable housing shortages, increased homelessness, the behavioral health crisis, and others.

The report explores the benefits that cities bring to the state, introduces the challenges facing many cities, and proposes a handful of ideas that the state can use to best support cities. This includes increased revenue options, increased investment in transportation and other basic infrastructure, and a stronger partnership with the state on affordable housing and behavioral health response.

142 cities contributed to the report by responding to a survey on major issues and challenges facing cities. The report's chapters cover city budgets, public safety, human resources, infrastructure, transportation, affordable housing and homelessness, and economic development.


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