Mayor Monohon delivers State of City speech

Mayor Bryon Monohon delivered to a packed room his annual State of the City speech before the Forks Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 30. Preceding Monohon in addressing the Chamber was Rep. Derek Kilmer, who joined Congress on Jan. 3.

Following is the Mayor's prepared statement he provided to the Forks Forum prior to the meeting. Watch here for a news update on the meeting.
State of the City January 2013 - Forks Mayor Bryon Monohon 

I am pleased to say that the City of Forks is a well run institution with great people who are skilled, conscientious and empowered to do their jobs. The police department under the direction of retired Snohomish County Sheriff Rick Bart is visible, competent, well-trained and capable of efficient law enforcement and they are getting better every week. Our current patrol officers include Mike Rowley who has been with us for several years and is the officer most likely to get dirty or wet on a shift, Mike Gentry a Port Angeles native who is nearing the three year mark and is steady at nabbing wanted individuals, Julie Goode a lateral from Suquamish who is one of the only people in the state to have been on a high school state championship team that had an over-all losing record, Don Ponton who joins us from Utah with years of experience in rural law enforcement, Todd Garcia who came from Nebraska for Twilight and we were able to steal him away before Aberdeen got him, and Jamie SuedeI who graduates from Academy tomorrow. She is originally from Bellingham and has a psychology degree from UW Tacoma. Yes, folks, we have two ladies in uniform and on the street. This is the crew that made the heroin busts in town last Friday on their own without outside assistance.

Kelsey Pearson continues in records, evidence and public reception and is undertaking the total cleaning and refurbishing of the squad room under Rick's tutelage. Our corrections staff continues unchanged over the last three years. Brandon Leask, Lex Prose, Ginger Baker-Simons, Sue Roberts, and Jackson Folkner run the jail under long-time Sargent Ed Klahn. They are all incredibly patient people that deal with folks that often have very challenging issues in their lives. Last Sunday found us with 36 inmates of which 13 were from the West End, 15 from Port Angeles and Sequim, and the others were from Hoquiam, Shelton and Poulsbo.

We continue to have some unreached goals in the police department but I am incredibly proud and confident of our service. Also I need a tip of the hat to Diane Winters and Lee Schilling who have given hours of their time and effort in service of the police and the community. Another tip of the hat goes to the recently formed police advisory committee who are overseeing many of our changes and trainings first hand. At this time we have quality law enforcement in Forks. We've come a long ways over the last several years.

In the front office we have transitioned as the retirements of Dan Leinan, Cindy Pederson, and Vivian Morris in January of last year left a gap of 76 years of cumulative service in City Hall. While those folks are very much missed new clerk/treasurer Audrey Grafstrom, deputy clerk Val Russell and administrative assistant Christi Barron have patiently and calmly learned their new duties and each bring their years of knowledge of our community into these responsible positions. It is a testament to the over-all caliber of skilled workers in our community that we have been able to hire locally for all three of these jobs. They also bring the happy dance to City Hall every time the month end numbers balance. You'll have to be there to see it. Caryn Depew continues as accounting technician and has been a key piece in maintain stability during our transition period this last year. Nerissa Davis continues as Human Resources Director and Legal Assistant and general overall trouble shooter. Rod Fleck, city attorney is finding that his longevity is moving him even more into a teaching and networking role along with his prosecution and planning duties. Take the time to ask him why the transit center is really two kiosks with a roof and you'll find out how this works. Rod remains one of the premier natural resource attorneys in the state and we're lucky to have him and his smile.

On the public works side we're blessed with an incredibly gifted crew with a few at or pushing thirty years of service. Public Works director Dave Zellar has great experience dealing with bureaucracy and red tape and is a great liaison to any government agency or engineering firm he deals with. Danny Wahlgren waste water operator is a true talent with computer and electrical equipment and is painstaking thorough and accurate with all he does. Ivan Cowles is every bit as skilled on the water supply side of things. If you ask him about his yearly missionary trips to India you will learn that Forks has many more ties to the global community than just being a setting for Twilight. Dick Martin, he with the great mustache, is building inspector and plays a mean bluegrass guitar in local bands. Lately he has taken to singing in City Hall. We're not so sure about that. Mike Marshall keeps the parks in great shape while also finding time to mentor our youth by coaching football. Tim Smith Utilities and Maintenance worker continues his quest to be the quietest employee in the country. I know those around him would disagree. He's a hard worker and a dedicated guy. Archie Larson has admirably run the community service crew these last several years and keeps the town looking good while helping folks work off their community service hours. And most importantly Donna Bayne is responsible for janitorial and grounds keeping and is always good spirited about it. It's a tough job.

The City Council consists of Bruce Guckenberg who is Mayor Pro tem, Mike Breidenbach, John Hillcar, Kevin Hinchen and Juanita Weissenfels. These are the folks who ask the tough questions, go through the finances with a fine tooth comb often saving us and those we work with money, and reasonably and rationally talk things over until a consensus is reached even if all don't agree.

So, there along with several other appreciated boards and commissions are the people of and around City Hall. My goal is to always maintain an upbeat positive place to work with a focus on problem solving, staying calm in the face of adversity and hopefully a touch of good public relations and professionalism mixed in as well. I've learned that donuts, cake and pie seem to motivate them to work better.

We've had many successes as a community this last year. Russell Road is open. Division St. is rebuilt with sidewalks and along with the recent work on Bogachiel and Calawah Ways we have become much

more of a walkable community. The new high school is open. We had a ribbon cutting on the Catholic Archdiocese housing this last year. Sales tax numbers have been strong and trend better than the county on the whole. We are blessed with good working relationships with other local and county governments. Our state and federal elected officials have also been responsive to us and I know that they are only a phone call away when needed. The local tribes and tribal governments, especially the Quileutes, have been wonderful to work with and it is a joy to share our lives with them. We still get visitors and notoriety from Twilight even as the fans are returning to explore our area even further to see more of the natural beauty and culture. For many of these visitors Forks is considered to be the home town they never had. And there is one last huge success to share with you which is perhaps the greatest success; the City of Forks has no debt.

There certainly have been challenges and sadness this last year. The Rainforest Arts Center fire has been particularly stressful and time consuming for me. First, tell your friends and relatives and especially those from East County, "there is not an arsonist at work in Forks." ATF has come and gone and unfortunately we've got some older buildings with older wiring even after all of the work that was done on the Odd Fellows Hall. We're a can-do positive community that stands up to trouble and faces it down so indeed the phoenix will rise from the ashes. I know that you've all got lots of questions about the plans with the insurance monies but the city still doesn't have a lot of answers on things and we're waiting further information from the insurance company. Plans studying the possibility to rebuild are proceeding. Tentative plans include a joint Chamber of Commerce/WEBPA meeting in mid March followed by a community wide meeting in the end of March to ascertain wishes and ideas as to what a new facility will look like. Using a fast timeline a rebuild would occur in early/middle 2014. Also stay posted for a memorial service or wake for the RAC in late February. Take this intermediate time to jot down ideas and do pass your thoughts to your City Councilmembers as they have the ultimate say on future plans.

Likely, along with most city council members, I'll tell you that the topic which we all got the most beat

up over this year was not having a real Christmas tree. The City crew has liked the ease of the artificial tree and not having to spend a lot of time on the tree after every major December storm and in all honesty we hadn't heard a peep of unhappiness for years before this December's deluge of comments. Our green, laser eyed Santa Claus has caught more than its share of complaints as well. We'll change some things up this year.

One last thing of note is we're all aware of the fact that we have some properties around town that are in a condition that don't leave a very good impression on citizens or visitors. The city is aware of this and it will become a topic of action as we move into March and April.

In honor of Congressman Kilmer's presence I will use the rest of my speech as an opportunity to couch several of Forks' current issues and my remarks on a more regional, national and perhaps global focus. These are the issues that I and the city employees face on a daily basis and have no direct solution or course of action for, those areas that need our attention to proceed into the near future as a country. It is indeed an honor to have the Congressman and his staff here today. We respect that and as always we seek to be parts of solutions not causes of problems. Also, as we always do please realize that our words to our leaders over the past many years are offered as voices of concern, caution, and are set in an historical context rather than intended in anyway as antagonistic or mean spirited. Today I have six points of thought and discussion.

1. Infrastructure. Like every community we have grave concerns about the conditions of our roads and highways and how to maintain and replace them. In Forks it takes only a mud slide here or a closed bridge there to lock us in place for a considerable amount of time. The Calawah River bridge is a good example as it is past its slated removal age and driving across the decking involves a fairly slow speed and strong hands on the wheel. Likewise our airports are lightly used but further hampered by regulations and planning that limit our use and access to them. Other infrastructure issues such as water and sewer are always pressing needs in the near future for almost all cities.

2. Public safety. First, Forks like other communities is faced with drug and theft problems unlike any we've faced in the past. We know that our police and citizenry are up to the task to deal with this yet it reflects social woes which are greater than what we can control. While of course some of our local residents cause some of these issues our communities on the peninsula are plagued with drifters and street people who have no real place to go and if there were adequate resources available these new type of vagrants seem to have little interest in accessing them in any event. A compare and contrast between the Lincoln St. Safeway in Port Angeles and the East John St. Safeway on Capitol Hill in Seattle drives home the fact that what once was thought to be mostly an urban problem can actually present as worse in our smaller cities. Second, even with a welcomed but sometimes misguided Border Patrol presence our miles of unsecured beaches in Clallam County pose me concern. In all honesty when an area has this much lightly secured coastline and wilderness area our first line of defense remains an armed citizenry. Third, emergency preparedness also continues to be a real and pressing issue that is always in need of greater attention and support.

3.Activities for the underutilized and the unemployed. School dropout rates continue to be a problem for our country, this county and our community. During my stint as a substitute teacher years ago I realized that the impossible challenge of our age seems to be educating many children that have limited motivation. Combined with poverty and unsettled home lives we see kids leaving school in junior high and soon having children of their own. As a mental health case manager I see adults who have no sense or understanding of work but would still benefit greatly from something or anything to do. Many have some sense of entitlement regarding their benefit checks and services. Our schools and social services are really quite strong, underfunded but strong, and I personally can't bear seeing teachers getting blamed for poorly performing students when the root causes are social problems. We need to find rewarding activities and projects for people to do that will educate them while increasing their sense of self-worth and responsibility.

4. Support our National Park and Forest Services with real resources and policy direction. Here's my personal soapbox definition of the day as penned by me. "A visit to a National Park or a forest should be able to instill and inspire a child to pursue a love of the environment, an appreciation of natural resources and their uses, a desire for accessible outdoor recreational activities and a life-long interest in the science, finance and social structure of sustainable stewardship forthe American people. Anything else is a bunch of boring legalistic adults with an agenda arguing with each other." Other countries such as Costa Rica do this much better than we do. I would recommend that we begin with infrastructure projects such as new visitor centers or a tram and welcome people even as we honor the concept of back country wilderness.

5. We need a regionally sustainable natural resource and environmental policy. The United States of America is a capitalistic, consumer driven society. Our raw materials come from someplace in the world be it through trade or from within our own boundaries. What remains of our timber communities continue to be tired of the old toilet paper and owl jokes. America. where are your toilet paper and wood resources coming from and why is it ok for us as a country to use foreign wood sources but when American wood is sent overseas in a somewhat free market society timber communities are labeled poor stewards of the environment or economic backwaters? Why is our environment in America more important than the environment in another country unless it is a case of haves versus have-nots or certainly the "Not in my back yard folks"?

6. We need a new communication standard. As a mayor I take an oath of office to execute my duties and uphold the laws of the United States of America. Ideally, I should represent all of the citizenry not dependent upon color, creed, religion, political affiliation, nationality, age, etc. with etc. becoming an ever increasing and complex list of diversity. I strive to respect everybody that comes to talk to me although some moments of the day or night are more opportune than others and for each person that shares their thoughts and concerns I honor for being heartfelt and reflective of who they are and what troubles them. Everyday I can strive to become a better listener, a better person, and a more effective leader. A common theme from these discussions is that our federal, state and local governments make decisions and take actions that upset and scare many people. We have an executive, a legislative and a judicial branch of government. Some of us know that. Yet we also have massive agency branches which have the ability to infringe and impose upon the executive, legislative and judicial branches and lack the direct oversight and answerability to the average citizen. For all my friends who are worried about everything from Agenda 21 to keeping themselves safe from gun toting vigilantes, I know that we can focus on making government work better for us and make lives better while not making things more complicated and punitive. The enemy is ultimately not us and it is ultimately not the government. Let's focus on making our lives full, rich and rewarding and support the rights that our forefathers granted us while all taking some steps to help and assist those less fortunate around us. The communities of the Olympic peninsula, all of us different in our own way should be world leaders in developing a totally integrated example of self sufficient living and economics through the laws and visions presented by our founding fathers. There is a wonderful legacy for our children.

In conclusion I've learned two key things from being mayor these last three years. First, it takes a lot more work to make things function smoothly than a person would realize. The perfect analogy is flipping the light switch. Power on, power off. Easy. Everything behind the switch is far more complex than we can imagine and leading a city is similar. Second, people are going to do what people are going to do. It is our task as citizens to help guide folks to good outcomes but we've got the right to live and learn from our successes as well as our mistakes and we have to respect that. As always, it is an honor and pleasure to be the Mayor of the wonderful City of Forks and I appreciate your trust and support in making this a great place to live. Thank you. 

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