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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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Feb 18

February 18, 2022

Posted on February 18, 2022 at 6:03 PM by Niyah Ross

This was a week of thoughtful conversations and celebration as Council discussed the City’s transition to a two-budget cycle; listened to a full night of public forum testimony; and enjoyed a visual presentation of the City’s programs to support public art.

Of these, the public art discussion is the most enjoyable to share – and hopefully, the colorful murals, temporary art displays in storefront windows, and eclectic paintings on traffic system boxes are an on-going pleasant surprise as you move around the city. Not only is the City intentionally creating opportunities to turn our city into a living work of art, staff are also supporting working artists and building relationships and mentorships for newer artists to develop. It is exciting and inspiring work.

Budget discussions in general are not so colorful and engaging. But this particular conversation is exciting because the City is opening a door to a budgeting process that will enable us to see more clearly when, where and whether our budget allocations align and support our policy priorities. Despite our much improved online interactive budget presentation on the website, it is still very difficult to understand to what extent our policy priorities around climate or homelessness are reflected in dollar investments. The new cycle will extend from one year to two, with ample opportunity for course correction through the supplemental budget process in between. Staff are in the information gathering phase of this transition with an inventory of programs and their associated costs leading to an expected season of community engagement in the summer. The first two-year budget will be developed in 2023 for fiscal years 24/25.

Testimony at Monday’s public forum continued to include many comments related to the proposed actions to protect renters. We’re hearing a lot of testimony from property owners about the negative impacts of reduced credit score requirements, deposit and security fees, and charges to support tenants who are forced to relocate. We are also hearing from tenants desperate for changes that would relieve the challenges of securing and retaining housing in this terribly constrained housing market. Council will return to this issue in mid-March. We are looking for balance. There is ample data as well as anecdotal evidence that prospective tenants face enormous hurdles to access housing, are vulnerable to no-cause evictions, and find themselves in a weak position to get their security deposits returned. We have a responsibility to both sides of this transaction to create a landscape that is clear, fair, and consistent for rental owners and tenants alike.

Two final notes on this week: neighborhoods across the city, but particularly around the university and south, have been leafletted with anti-Semitic flyers. I have issued a statement condemning this hate speech and encouraging people who receive these leaflets to report it:

In contrast, last Sunday I attended the WOW Hall’s first gathering for healing in response to the shootings in January. It was gentle and earnest and a confirmation of all that is good in this community. There are more of us doing good things than those who are hateful and violent. Let the art displays in this City remind you of that.