(UPDATE: Here’s the official Council news release)
(Updated Tuesday – Archived meeting video now substituted above – public comment starts 27 minutes in)
ORIGINAL REPORT, 2:43 PM: The City Council is in the middle of public comment right now, preceding the rest of this afternoon’s agenda, which starts with the proposal to give an as-yet-unspecified human-services organization $500,000 for shelter and other assistance to be given to “Nickelsville” campers, so they can be moved out and the camp closed by September 1st. You can watch live, while the meeting is under way, by clicking “play” above. Three commenters have spoken so far, all expressing concerns about the item – two regarding accountability, and one in opposition. As we publish this, Joanne Brayden, known as “JoB” here on WSB, is speaking about her experience volunteering to help the camp residents, and urging the council to use this expenditure to also help those living in other “encampments,” such as the nearby greenbelts. “There are families there, and children – we need to help them,” she concluded. The public-comment period is open to any topic on the agenda, so the person following her is speaking about something else. Updates as we go.
2:53 PM: Highland Park Action Committee co-chair Billy Stauffer is speaking now. He reinforces the request for using part of the money to get “campers” out of the greenbelt. “As people leave Nickelsville, the greenbelt will see more and more campers,” he warns. He also suggests the restoration work Nature Consortium has been doing in the greenbelt – some of which, he says, has been undone by “campers” – could use some support. He reminds the council this is the third summer Nickelsville has been occupying the 7116 W. Marginal Way SW site without authorization.
3 PM: The formal discussion of the bill now begins. It’s a substitute version – we’re not seeing the new version on the agenda; here’s what’s currently there. Council President Sally Clark says this was introduced “a couple weeks ago” (actually, it was introduced just one week ago). She says the substitute version has some “technical” changes – including cleaning up language about what other cities had done, and spelling out accountability for what’s being done with the money and who is spoken to, setting a mid-August date for a formal report on how it’s going. Clark addresses the HPAC request about the greenbelt and says they’d have to talk about whether that comes out of this money or additional money. She also alludes to a discussion during this morning’s Council briefing meeting regarding the greenbelt-restoration issue (we’ll check that out later). “This is not a small undertaking, but that should not stop us from trying,” Clark concludes, opening the floor to comment from other councilmembers.
Councilmember Sally Bagshaw suggests the issue of campers in the greenbelt(s) could be addressed by changing the language; Clark expresses concern about that, particularly since the number of such “campers” is unknown. Councilmember Tim Burgess notes that the most recent city budget has money specifically earmarked for “encampment cleanups” and protocol for how it can be used.
Councilmember Nick Licata, who wasn’t one of the seven councilmembers who sent the mayor the “close it by September 1st” letter that sparked this bill, says he will support it. He thinks there will need to be more money to deal with people in greenbelt encampments.
Councilmember Bagshaw says she agrees with him and others that this is “a start.”
3:15 PM: The bill passes unanimously. Who gets the $500,000? Last time we asked the Human Services Department last week, that was yet to be worked out.
4:26 PM: Here’s the official Council news release. Another encampment issue comes up tomorrow – a 5:30 pm hearing on Councilmember Licata’s proposal to expand the zones where they could be allowed.
4:52 PM: We’re listening to the video of the morning “briefing” meeting mentioned during this one; starting around 20 minutes in, there was extensive discussion about how this should be monitored and what if it’s not as successful as they hope. (See for yourself, here.)