Tuesday, March 17, 2020

City Council, March 17th - Pandemic Emergency Edition

Huh. After canceling last night's Work Session, now the City has called an emergency meeting for tonight. They could have kept last night's meeting and changed the agenda. This lurching on-off-on suggests the City may be uncoordinated at the moment, and that should be a little concerning.

Still, there are some proposed procedural changes to meetings that are substantive, and might not easily have been substituted into last night's agenda:
  1. Suspend public comment at all City Council, URA Board, and SHA Commission meetings through April 27th.
  2. Limit total attendance at all City Council, URA Board, and SHA Commission meeting to 25 people (inclusive of governing body members, staff, and the public) through April 27th,
  3. The City Manager is delegated authority to, if necessary, cancel a meeting of the City Council, URA Board, or SHA Commission, notwithstanding an applicable rule that requires a minimum number of meetings in a month,
  4. Council, URA Board, and SHA Commission public meetings may be conducted utilizing technology to allow members of the governing body, staff, and the public to attend and participate in the meeting, so long as the meetings are conducted consistent with state law.
These are a bummer for the spirit of open meeting law - but what do you do? Making all comment be submitted in writing seems fair for the duration of the pandemic. 

Additionally, the City proposes to ban camping on sidewalks downtown and to push camping out to Wallace Marine Park and Cascade Gateway Park:
The Declaration:
1) Authorizes the City Manager to issue order and take other necessary steps to implement the Declaration,
2) Prohibits “public gatherings” in “public spaces” and restricts public spaces to active pedestrian use, and
3) Suspends the public camping prohibition (SRC 95.720) in all unimproved areas in Wallace Marine and Cascade Gateway parks....

The allowance for public camping in unimproved areas at Wallace Marine and Cascade Gateway has the following requirements:
1) Campsite may have up to ten people,
2) Campsite must be separated by at least 50 feet from each other and any improved area within the park or abutting properties.
They have secured a letter from ARCHES supporting some kind of action, but the endorsement may not be for this particular plan. It will be interesting to read and hear how service providers comment on the specifics of the plan.

CANDO has general criticism, but the pandemic, and prospects that the coronavirus both harms people lacking shelter and potentially would create a reservoir of infection in various campsites, adds new dimensions to the public health emergency and may warrant measures that in normal times had seemed unjust, stigmatizing, or hurtful. Council will be criticized no matter what they do and it is very hard to see any "good" outcome or plan. It's all various flavors of bad at this point.

This post may be updated.

1 comment:

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

looks like Council passed it without amendment