By Mellow DeTray

Here’s our recap of the regular Kent City Council meeting held on Tuesday night, May 2, 2023:

Celebrations & Proclamations

Melissa Edlund-Oakley, hired in 2008 as a legal secretary and now serving as a paralegal for the city, was recognized as May’s Employee of the Month. She is a team player, makes her co-workers feel seen and appreciated, and volunteers for every task and training opportunity. City Attorney Tammy Larson-White said she can’t imagine the office without Edlund-Oakley.

There were also four proclamations this evening: One in honor of Childcare Provider Appreciation Day on May 12th, another celebrating May as Bike Everywhere Month, one for National Correctional Officers Week from May 7th-13th, and the last recognizing Affordable Housing Week, also May 7th-13th.

Economic Development Report

So many things ran low due to supply chain issues during the peak years of the COVID 19 pandemic, that suppliers have gone to the other extreme, and now there is a surplus. Retail sales have also slowed. This has led to less of a need for trucking, and what is being called a “truck & rail recession”. Overall job postings within King County declined 41.4% in April 2023.

Kent Valley is still seeing better new construction numbers than the surrounding area, but it is expected to slow soon. Commercial real estate will also see a drop. The focus will need to be on vertical expansion eventually, as the area runs out of land to develop. Kent is outperforming the region in the industrial market, and has a vacancy rate below 5%.

Another change that we’re seeing post-COVID is a reduction in business travel, which affects a lot of local hotels. Many companies have switched to virtual conferences, rather than meeting in person, to save money. Those companies still utilizing business travel, where money is less of a concern, are going for a more high end experience.

There will soon be a need for large charging stations for bigger electric vehicles like trucks and buses, as more industries shift to EVs. Kent’s aerospace, third party logistics, and manufacturing industries are the areas where performance is still strong.

Drug & Alcohol Possession Ordinance Passes Unanimously

With state legislators failing to reach an agreement on the Blake Decision, Washington’s current drug possession policy will expire on July 1st of this year, making drugs essentially fully legal throughout the state. Many municipalities will be creating their own ordinances in order to address issues of crime and addiction around drug and alcohol use, and Kent’s ordinance may serve as a road map for the rest of the state.

The ordinance adopted at this meeting will give everyone caught with drugs the opportunity to choose treatment over jail time, balancing treatment with accountability. The ordinance scraps the old narcotics chapter passed decades ago, and sets up a new “alternative deferred prosecution program”. So anyone arrested for possession can choose a 2 year treatment program, where they will have required evaluations as well as support groups, in an “onramp to potential success”. If they mess up and re-use, they will be given this opportunity two more times before then being faced with prosecution and a criminal record. This ordinance goes into effect on July 1st unless the state comes to a new decision.

Mellow DeTray is a Seattle native who has spent the last 16 years raising her family in the region. She has volunteered at many local establishments over the years, including the Burien Library, Burien Actors Theatre, and Hot Feet Fitness. For many years she published a moderately popular cooking & lifestyle blog, and she had a brief stint in political journalism during a local election. Clear and informative writing has always been a side hobby of Mellow’s and she looks forward to bringing you unbiased coverage of City Council meetings.

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