Keeping in touch: Notes from the Mayor

Mayor Lucy VinisThis blog aims to nurture our conversation and understanding of the issues before us. Every week, I will provide a weekly update on the activities in the city government, my activities as mayor, and brief reflections on progress, opportunities and challenges. You are invited to respond with reactions, insights and questions. We do this work together.

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Jul 10

July 10, 2020

Posted on July 10, 2020 at 7:16 PM by Nicole Bernstein

Council, staff and I continue to try to balance to the urgency of demands to address racial justice and police reform with the ongoing policy decisions before us.  We face four concurrent crises: homelessness, climate change, the pandemic, and racial justice.  They are interrelated.  All are equity issues and all require both immediate action and sustained commitment to implement structural change in our city, county, state and nation.

On Council’s agenda, these issues appear incrementally.  We address them following separate decision- making timelines.  But their pathways converge; and decisions in one area inform decisions in another.

This week’s only council meeting on Wednesday was solely devoted to reviewing the new draft of the Climate Action Plan 2.0.  This new version reflects the insights and priorities that emerged in the Mayor’s Ad Hoc Committee that was reconvened in 2020 to strengthen the plan’s actions, accountability and community engagement.  It is greatly improved with more specificity and timelines.  It also includes a robust list of community ideas that can and will be considered as additional strategies for meeting our goals.  The report is honest: it clearly states where we stand.  I was asked in the first Ad Hoc Committee meeting if Council is serious about meeting their Climate Recovery goals.  My answer is yes.  This document puts that work on a strong foundation, but there are more strategies to build, more data to gather, more investment and examination of new strategies to get us there. Please review it and comment.  Council is scheduled to vote on the final version on July 29th.

This week I listened to both the Human Resources Commission special session hosting representatives of Black Lives Matter advocacy groups; and the Police Commission. I joined Councilor Claire Syrett and Manager Sarah Medary in a walking tour of Whiteacker to discuss their proposal for providing more sanitary housing sites for the homeless; and I continued to reach out to community activists to talk about how we as a city can turn the corner from protest demands to engagement in local solutions. 

There is incredible, strong work on solutions underway in this community. Addressing homelessness is urgent.  COVID-19 has worsened an already dire humanitarian crisis by reducing available shelter capacity and exposing more people to the potential of losing their housing.  The city’s return to some enforcement of camping bans shines a light on the injustice of this situation – there is nowhere for people to go.  And police continue to be the first responders to complaints about homeless campers in too many cases.

The Council and County Board will meet on July 28th to review and hopefully prioritize our actions in addressing both the immediate need for shelter sites and our longer-term investment in a permanent shelter and other system improvements.  The Human Rights Commission has forwarded a strong statement and recommendations; as has the Kindness Campaign.  Council will also look at the Community Safety Initiative on July 20th to understand and consider their options in light of demands to reallocate funds.  None of these discussions is simple; all are urgent.