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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Oct 23

October 23, 2020

Posted on October 23, 2020 at 4:46 PM by Niyah Ross

There is so much going in the world around and we’re all living in such a state of tension over the election, that it is easy to lose track of the continuing work in the City.  I offer this blog as a way to temper some of that heightened anxiety.  Good work is happening.  

Council this week moved forward on three important pieces. On Monday night, Council reviewed the revised plans for community workshops and focus groups to review the Community Safety Initiative investments.  These discussions are an opportunity for the City to return to organizations representing BIPOC communities, in particular, for a deeper look at the allocation of funding within the Community Safety Initiative.  Councilors wanted to be sure that enough time was allowed for staff to engage in smaller group discussions, as well as to offer an opportunity for the community as a whole to revisit the matrix of investments.  The CSI includes funds for police staffing, municipal court and community court, as well homeless services and CAHOOTS. In response to the protest demands this summer, we understood that communities of color had not been offered enough opportunities to identify how the public safety system could best meet their needs.  Staff will begin outreach to those organizations this month and conduct workshops, focus groups and a survey over the winter before returning to Council in early 2021.

On Wednesday, Council returned to their discussion of Urban Reserves and voted in favor of the plan that identifies a 27-year supply of developable land outside the existing Urban Growth Boundary (UGB.) This land would be eligible for incorporation into the UGB after the year 2032 if all existing development options have been exhausted within the UGB.  This 27-year option was one of four possible options presented to both County Board and Council.  The County Planning Commission recommended a 30-year option that included some Class 1 agricultural land which was excluded in the 27-year option.  The Board will vote on November 10th.  The two jurisdictions must agree on a single recommendation.  This is an important planning step and a challenging one.  We need to ensure we have land available for our growing community while also preserving farm and forest land.  It is not easy to predict the need; but the decision ties together our commitments for compact development, responsiveness to climate change, and resiliency.

The second discussion on Wednesday revolved around a recommendation from the Human Rights Commission that the City recognize “housing status” as a protected class. Staff presented an elucidating clarification of Council’s options and the implications of their choices.  There are two different governing laws that could be amended to include this language.  The first is the City’s Human Rights Code, which protects people from discriminatory actions in employment, housing, public contracting and public accommodations.  It was not clear how this might conflict or confuse the City’s Ordinance against camping, for example.  For some advocates, that is the motivation for requesting the change.  Council requested a follow-up work session to have a deeper discussion of the intended and unintended consequences of this change.

The second option is to add protection to the unhoused in the Hate and Bias Law that forbids intimidation in the second degree. This is separate from the Human Rights Code and can be more readily changed.  The City is already in the process of updating some of our code language to “true up” with changes in State law.  Council voted to include homelessness or unhoused as a protected status in a code amendment to the Hate and Bias Law to be included with the other code amendments coming to council shortly.  This is an important step in shining a light on the predation that endangers people who are living without shelter and specifying those hate and bias crimes for criminal charges.

This is all work that acts on our commitments to racial justice, to compact development and climate change, and to protection of the most vulnerable among us.  Take heart.  We often don’t move fast enough, but we are moving forward.