Council is in a race to address a number of important issues before taking a winter break.
On Nov. 20th, we held a public hearing about a proposed restriction on private, residential use of fireworks. The proposed ordinance restricts the use of fireworks to July 3rd -5th and Dec.31-Jan 1st; and bans the use of audible fireworks that can be heard beyond 50 feet. Aerial fireworks are already restricted to commercial displays. Council is navigating competing constituent demands – on one side to ban all fireworks because of the impact of noise and the fire danger; and on the other, wanting to preserve the excitement and tradition of the holidays. The vote will be scheduled for January.
Also on the 20th, we held a work session to review the key elements of the citizen initiative to create an independent auditor department; and to hear from the study group I convened to review the range of auditor structures, costs and scope that have been implemented in other cities and counties. Council requested more information from the city attorney regarding the scope, oversight, and residency implications. They will hold a second session on December 11th to hear that information and decide whether or not to respond as a council to the initiative – yes, no, or create an alternative.
On the 22nd, council received a briefing on our climate recovery progress and plans. Many aspects of this update were exciting and promising: the city is gradually upgrading hybrid vehicles for electric; the fire department is reducing the use of big, high fuel use engines with smaller vehicles, and are looking to using more R99 biodiesel. The Mayor’s AdHoc Committee worked for most of 2017 to provide insight and feedback into the structure and priorities for an updated Climate Energy Action Plan which will guide the community’s climate adaptation and mitigation strategies.
On the 27th we heard more positive progress in an update on downtown safety and atmosphere. The multi-departmental team invested $500,000 of council directed supplemental funds in a multi-pronged approach to revitalizing downtown. That approach included increased police presence and the dog ban as well as investment in the community court and outreach teams, combined with robust programming of events. Council will consider another round of supplemental budget investment this month.
And finally, on the 29th, council benefited from an enlightening presentation by two members of former President Obama’s task force on 21st Century Policing. This report offers us a framework for reviewing our own police department in a national context of best practices. The timing couldn’t be better as we are considering the qualities and priorities we seek in a new police chief. The good news is that we’re on the right track.