Strong WA

nurturing resilient communities
across Washington State

What is Strong WA?

Strong Towns of Washington State (Strong WA) is a coalition of people nurturing resilient communities across the state, inspired by the ideals of Strong Towns.

We believe that the strength of our state is entirely dependent on the strength of every city and town in our state.

While those of us in Strong WA will primarily focus on nurturing our own cities and towns, we will also come together to fix state-wide policies that inhibit the strength and resiliency of our cities and towns.

Our efforts to change state policy will be most effective if we come together from across the state as a groundswell of local leaders from a full diversity of cities and towns across the state with a clear vision of the changes we need.

Together, we will reach out to our legislative representatives, listen and learn about the challenges facing our communities, and collaboratively create financial models and incentives that nurture financially resilient cities and towns across the State of Washington. 

Since May 2020, we've been bringing together innovative leaders like you to grow this coalition into a state-wide movement.

Our coalition strives to be non-partisan, primarily seeking to enable financial sustainability for all our cities and towns.

Will you join us? Fill out the form below...

What is a "Strong Town"?

"Strong towns" are generally:

To achieve this, a strong town must:

(source: strongtowns.org/about)

Neighborhoods of strong towns are:

Strong towns cannot happen without strong citizens.

People of strong towns are:

Local governments of strong towns should: 


The thumbnail photo above left is at Palafox Pl and E Intendencia St in Pensacola, FL--winner of the 2019 Strongest Town Contest.

Why are our cities and towns financially fragile?

The modern American pattern of sprawling low-intensity development (and restricting it from increasing in intensity) is a stark divergence from the traditional incremental development pattern that had been proven over centuries of human civilization. As these cities age, some start to realize their precarious financial position. It has already bankrupted some of the first cities that followed this pattern of development.

The cost to maintain the infrastructure and services to support sprawling low-productivity land use exceeds the tax revenue it creates. To become financially sustainable and resilient, cities need to (1) constrain the expansion of infrastructure such that it can be sustained by the intensity of development that financially supports it and (2) nurture the incremental infill of productive places for people  such that it can adequately fund the maintenance of the infrastructure that supports it.

A harmful pattern we see is higher levels of government subsidizing expansion of local infrastructure in areas that are not expected to achieve the level of investment (and the resulting tax base) to support its future maintenance, repair, and replacement of infrastructure. 

As described by Strong Towns, "The way we build our cities now squanders precious resources that should be used to make our communities more prosperous...

"We are trading short-term growth for long-term liabilities,
and it's slowly bankrupting us."

...We all inherited the development pattern invented by Americans in the last century. Most consider it normal, the way things are done, despite how radical an experiment it is. It’s only human to justify the pain and instability this new approach has caused, to focus on the symptoms, because an alternative is too difficult to imagine."

How can the state nurture financial resiliency of all our communities?

What state policies prevent our communities from being stronger and more financially resilient? We'd love for you to share your ideas with our group about your insights on this topic. But here are some that we find particularly interesting...

Spencer Gardner (planning director for the City of Spokane since 2022) wrote a 3-article series on this topic:

As Gardner and Marohn explain in those articles, we expect the state to establish a system that brings cities toward solutions by tuning the economic incentives to be aligned with the well-being of communities and their people, rather than establishing more top-down mandates that attempt (and generally fail) to adequately solve the complex challenges facing our communities.

Want to learn more about our ideas? Take a look at our Policy Concepts under development.

(Want more details? Ask rodney@strongwa.org.)

These are just a few ideas illustrating how changes in state policy could help our fragile cities become stronger. What's your idea?

The thumbnail photo at the left of this section's header is a view of Kirkland's Rose Hill, looking east along NE 85th St near I-405, in an area that is being planned for a major interchange rebuild including direct ramps to high-occupancy/toll lanes and a BRT (bus rapid transit) station. Current land uses have been oriented toward generating sales tax revenue rather, but it is expected to shift in coming years to become a more valuable  place for people.

How can I support Strong WA?

To spread our organization across Washington State, we need your help to:


With your help, we to build an coordinated organization of ears, eyes, and hands across the state that will:

(This effort needs to be coordinated--please let us know if you would like to help.)


Furthermore, we need people who would like to help:


Would you like to help? Here's how to get involved...

Who's the instigator?

Rodney Rutherford has followed Strong Towns throughout his many years as a community organizer, incrementally strengthening neighborhoods along the way.

In the mid-2000s while living in Seattle, Rodney was struck by the frustrations of commuters stuck in traffic and volunteered on projects that would ensure easier mobility for all, most notably serving with the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board until he moved to Kirkland in 2008.

Rodney is a systems engineer: he loves to learn how systems work, how they fail, and how they can be improved to better serve people. Professionally, he's worked on a variety of information systems at Google Kirkland since 2007, and now leads a small team of engineers. Outside work, Rodney loves to improve the systems that impact our communities. 

In 2010, Rodney served on his neighborhood association board for eight of these years. Seeking to strengthen social ties in the neighborhood, Rodney established The Neighbor Project in 2012, a donation-based self-serve espresso cart in his neighborhood. Since then, Rodney has volunteered at that same site as a weekly host at the Safe Parking Program, providing homeless women and families a safe place to sleep in their cars. This experience inspired him to raise awareness of housing models that can better meet the changing needs of his community.  Inspired by this, he co-founded Liveable Kirkland to collaboratively envision places for everyone in his community, while also advancing the sustainability and quality of Kirkland's neighborhoods. He also represented neighborhoods on Kirkland’s Housing Strategy Plan Advisory Group in 2017, and influenced the update of neighborhood plans in 2018. He's served on Kirkland's Planning Commission since October 2019.

Rodney has resided in Kirkland’s Rose Hill with his wife and two kids since 2008, and has always lived within four miles of Lake Washington.

Where did the photos on this page come from?

The background image is the Yakima River. The river symbolizes how we are all connected throughout the state. The water of the river powers our state, irrigates our crops, shapes our land, inspires our people, and connects our communities, from the mountains to the Pacific Ocean. 

(source: http://www.publicdomainfiles.com/show_file.php?id=13949071212772)

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(in order of appearance, with sources linked)

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