Wrapping up the year, Council discussed options for sustainable funding for climate work and responses to homelessness; approved supplemental budget items; and reviewed the City Manager’s performance for 2020 and 2021.
The discussion of climate and homelessness funding was wide-ranging. These are top priorities for Council which has made significant commitments in 2021. While much of our Climate Action Plan is moving forward, councilors are aware that much is not funded, and that staff support is constrained. On the plus side, the federal infrastructure bill offers opportunities for local investment in electric vehicle charging infrastructure and improved corridors for biking, pedestrians and transit contained in our Transportation System Plan. Council also approved the supplemental budget addition of $100,000 to support staff time to develop the roadmap for decarbonization. That roadmap will describe what actions we need to take, but we will then need to determine how – and that will include understanding the costs.
With respect to homelessness, the City has benefitted from both State and Federal funding through the American Rescue Plan Act that is supporting our investments for two years, but it is not clear what funds would support this work after that two year period. The community and City Council are asking for measures of success; and this conversation ended with a general sense that the public is unlikely to support additional requests for money until we can demonstrate the effectiveness of our efforts – and our willingness and ability to target our efforts.
It is clear that regarding both climate and our response to homelessness, we will devote time in 2022 to understanding where our investments can have the greatest impact, and sometimes those decisions will be a judgement call -- it is not always well defined. But we can measure how many EV charging stations we’ve installed; the level of bus ridership; the number of people who have moved from sleeping in a tent into a more stable setting; and the experience of safety in our community.
The coming year will be challenging – we’re not out of COVID and, in fact, are likely headed into another spike in infections; we will still have too many people with no safe, warm place to sleep, and our actions to address a changing climate will continue to be incremental. That said, the council and staff have built a strong foundation for progress on these issues and I expect good things to come.
We launch the new year with the State of the City on January 5th at 5:30. While Councilors will assemble in person, the audience will be limited. The event will be livestreamed and available on the website. Please tune in. Until then, stay safe, wear your masks, and take some time to rejuvenate so we’re all ready for the work ahead.