We’ve been in the grips of this pandemic for over 15 months, and we’re not out of the woods yet. Too many Olympians have lost friends, neighbors, and loved ones, and too many others have lost jobs, wages, and livelihoods. We will be forever changed by this experience, and we’ll all need each other as we find a new normal. That’s why as a council member I have supported the creation of Thurston Strong, developed in partnership with the Thurston Economic Development Council and the Thurston County Chamber to lead the way to help our small businesses get their doors open and keep them open in the post-covid economy.
Social Justice & Equity
Over the past year, Olympia has finally begun to take a hard look at how we do business as a city through an equity, diversity, and inclusion lens. This started with hiring our city’s very first Equity & Inclusion Coordinator, Olivia Salazar de Breaux. I was also proud to champion what would become the Social Justice & Equity Commission, a citizen-led advisory board to help guide our city on these important issues. I am fully committed to continuing this work. Equity must be baked into every part of what we do as a city including our Comprehensive Plan and our budget. Social justice and equity must become our city’s business.
Most experts say we have less than 10 years to change course away from catastrophic climate change. Advocates, young people, and tribal leaders have stood up and demanded that we be bold and brave and take the necessary steps to prevent the worst-case scenarios from becoming reality. I have heard their call to action loud and clear. Since I took office, I have been working hard with other leaders to develop regional climate action and sea-level rise response plans, including as chair of the steering committee tasked to develop an implementation strategy for these plans. It continues to be my goal to fulfill our community’s vision of a better future and a healthy, thriving planet.
During my first year on council, I voted to declare homelessness a crisis in our community, which allowed us to prioritize and fund solutions to address the crisis. The next steps include developing programs that will provide essential support for unsheltered folks to help end the cycle of homelessness in our community. This includes job training, education, mental health, and addiction services. This response was crafted by a workgroup made up of members of our community representing all stakeholders, including currently and formerly homeless individuals. I also supported the creation of the Home Fund to pay for these critical services, including a housing project with wrap-around services that is scheduled to be opened next year and will house 60 people and include an additional 60-bed shelter. I will continue to support these efforts and work hard to ensure we increase our efforts, working with regional partners and the State Legislature to further address this crisis.
Olympia has twice the number of people living in poverty as the country does on average, and there is no doubt that addressing the housing crisis caused by income inequality will require coordination at the local, state, and national levels. Every year I have been in office we’ve seen more people moving to the area than housing units being built. Vacancy rates in Olympia are estimated to be below 2%. Experts suggest that for our community to have sustainable rent prices (less than 30% of household income) we need vacancy rates in the 5-7% range. For every $100 that rent goes up, homelessness goes up 6-13%. To address this problem, we need to work together regionally to prioritize, incentivize, encourage the development of housing for all income ranges, especially affordable and workforce housing. That’s why I supported the creation of the Regional Housing Council, a group that will work to maximize state and federal funds to develop housing projects, with an emphasis on affordable housing.
Our community’s relationship with our police and justice system is one of the most important issues before us. In response to the shooting of two young Black men by Olympia Police in 2015, we instituted an ad hoc Public Safety Committee that ultimately resulted in the 2017 Public Safety Levy, which funded programs like our nationally recognized community court, mental health and addiction crisis response, and de-escalation and trauma-informed communication training for our police. I’m proud to be the first Chair of the council’s permanent Public Safety Committee, formed in 2020. As chair, I am leading the process to examine our relationship with our police department. I passionately believe in our community’s ability to reimagine public safety in a way that will bring everyone to the table. In the next 9-12 months we will be working within a community-driven process to completely reimagine public safety in our community.
I Work For You
None of these issues can be solved by a single vote or a single council member. It will take all of us working together to recover from Covid-19, stop climate change, solve the housing and homelessness crisis, and heal the wounds of 400 years of systemic racism. Building trust is always the first order of business, and the council must make room at the table for everyone.
Remember that if you live in Olympia, I work for you. My door is always open. I can’t solve problems I don’t know about, so please don’t hesitate to reach out anytime you have an issue involving the city and its departments.
I hope to earn your vote in the coming election, and I look forward to working with you.