Town where you live
Experience (300 characters max)
Elected to City Council in 2009 as a “voice of common sense.” Continue to focus on our economy, housing, environment, and homeless. Built strong relationships over the years and encourage people of all walks of life to become involved in our city government. A voice for all citizens of Olympia.
I have spent the last eight years on council working with the county and non-profit partners to create and support a coordinated entry approach for people experiencing homelessness. I currently represent the City of Olympia on the county wide Community Investment Partnership (CIP.)
The CIP is a funding structure that disburses funds based on a community health model called Thurston Thrives. One of the major proponents of Thurston Thrives is a housing first model. Olympia is a leader in housing first initiatives and currently is proposing a February ballot measure to fund permanent supportive housing and services for our unhoused populations. Affordable housing for all is a goal that continues to challenge communities all along the West coast. I’m proud of the proactive measures Olympia supports understanding that we need to stay flexible as housing needs shift in our houseless populations.
CDBG funds are a small but important part of our ability to resolve our region’s homeless issues. As council chair of the General Government committee for the last 6 years, I’ve had an opportunity to influence the priorities of our annual CDBG fund allocations. Within the tight parameters of how these funds can be disbursed, I have emphasized spending grant funds based on the county 10 year homelessness plan and Thurston Thrives initiatives. With the current threat of federal withdrawal of CDBG funding it’s more important than ever we use evidence-based best practices in our grant spend down.
Our city public works department has a vetted approach to not only annual pavement management but sidewalk repairs and lane re-striping. Each year council is briefed on the capital facilities plan (CFP) and approves a 6 year planning horizon and budget for street repairs. Public Works makes the best use of limited dollars by implementing a tiered road condition structure to prioritize which streets need repairs before failing. The goal is to spend a smaller amount early and more often rather than waiting for more costly repairs later. Council also approved a license tab fee for city residents and formed a Transportation Benefit District (TBD) in 2009. I served for several years as Chair and am currently Vice Chair of the committee. The sole use of that fund is prioritized street repairs.
Town where you live
Experience (300 characters max)
I’ve worked to make Olympia a better place. I was among the first Downtown Ambassadors, served on Olympia’s Artesian Commons Leadership Committee and founded 3 downtown projects. I’m former president of PiPE, a violence-prevention organization. I’ve worked on affordable housing and homelessness.
Olympians are falling into homelessness at an alarming rate. We need immediate stopgap solutions, long-term solutions for affordable housing, and prevention measures.
In the immediate, people without housing need safe, legal places to go. If there are no appropriate places to live, people can only choose inappropriate ones. Day centers, shelters, and basic campgrounds with toilets/trash pickup are reasonable stopgap measures to promote safety and public health. We could partner with a nonprofit, the County, or the Port.
Long term, we need housing for people on disability income (monthly SSI income is $200-700). We can incentivize affordable housing projects and update city zoning codes to make it easier to build tiny homes and other low-cost options to increase inventory.
Finally, we need prevention measures such as tenant protections and accessible mental health services so people don’t fall into homelessness due to a mental health flare-up.
The crisis of homelessness we know today was created over several decades due to economic forces driving up housing costs, elimination of affordable housing budgets, and cuts to other systems like mental health, medical care and other services. The Community Development Block Grant is one tool municipalities can use to stem the tide.
CDBG funding could support any of the desperately needed short-term stopgap measures to address the crisis (day centers, shelters, basic campgrounds) and could create positions to staff these places to ensure public safety, similar to the jobs created for the Artesian Commons Park, or the Downtown Ambassadors. Public staffed campgrounds were important to safety and survival during the Great Depression.
CDBG funding could be leveraged to acquire land for affordable housing to help meet the demand for housing for people on disability income. These projects could be in partnership with a nonprofit, the county or Port of Olympia.
People expect the city to take care of basic services and functions of government, and maintaining safe roads is one priority.
I think the council should employ neighborhood and community outreach in prioritizing street repairs. The people who know the streets best are those who use them every day. It’s neighbors who know when street conditions are unsafe or when a pothole is getting too big. Neighbors know which side streets are used by heavier-load vehicles such as school buses. And neighbors know what streets could benefit from traffic calming measures like speed bumps.
The process should be actively transparent. There is a perception that the neighborhoods with higher property values have their roads maintained to higher standards. Active community outreach would guard against this possibility and allow everyone access to the same information.