Council was still on break last week, but we began to prepare for our first virtual council meeting this Wednesday, April 8th. That meeting is a work session that will begin with an update on the City’s COVID-19 response followed by a discussion and vote regarding another six-month extension on the NW Natural franchise agreement. This proposed extension is necessary to allow time to negotiate an agreement that incorporates our carbon-reduction goals, a priority in our Climate Action Plan.
As Mayor, last week was the first week since the COVID outbreak that I spent some time considering ongoing council issues not related to the pandemic. Our scheduled beginning for our budget process will be pushed back a few weeks to May 13th. The Manager’s draft budget was crafted before the pandemic, and needs amendments to reflect the significant costs incurred by the City’s response and the projected impact for the coming year. The Budget Committee and Council will have to re-calibrate some priorities and timelines. It will be a spring of tough decisions.
For the past three weeks and continuing into the foreseeable future, I have held weekly check in calls with local restaurants and breweries about the impact of the Stay Home order on their businesses. This week I am beginning a new Zoom chat with downtown and 5th St. Market storefronts. The consequences of the closures are dire for these local businesses who are the foundation of our revitalized downtown. The Chamber continues to be an incredible resource and partner. The City has an Economic Recovery team that is also developing strategies to help our local economy get back on its feet and people back to work.
Staff are also busy figuring out the logistics for our first full council meeting and public forum on April 13th -- more information to come. People will be able to comment with audio, but not be seen by video. Staff will keep a queue and hold speakers to two minutes.
Finally, I spent a few hours of my weekend making face masks for myself and family. There are many tips online depending on whether you have a sewing machine or not. I’m looking forward to the array of fashion statements as these homemade masks make their debut. Thank you all for creating such a tremendous community! The signs are hopeful that our social distancing and Stay Home efforts are working.