The Olympia City Council took a 30,000-foot view of the issues facing the city Friday — including homelessness, downtown, and comprehensive and shoreline plans.
Today, the seven-member group will bring the view somewhere between there and Earth. It will turn those issues into a list of priorities for 2013, along with a set of steps to accomplish them, as it wraps up its two-day annual retreat.
Friday’s 51/2-hour session at LOTT headquarters in downtown Olympia included splitting the council and city staffers into four groups that brainstormed dozens of potential priorities. Here is a sampling:
• Acquiring property on the downtown isthmus. The city hopes to use a combination of grants and city funds to buy the so-called Triway parcels, where a controversial proposal to build condominiums sparked a community effort to acquire the land for a park.
• The Shoreline Master Program and city comprehensive plan. Both have been discussed for several years, and the hope is to finish them this year.
• Downtown improvement. That means a continuation of the city’s Downtown Ambassador Program, a group that cleans downtown, provides directions to visitors and offers social-service referrals to the homeless. The city is also working on creating a Community Renewal Area, in which it could acquire and redevelop distressed properties.
• Homelessness. The council talked about how to address it regionally, with Thurston County taking the lead. “The responsibility needs to be placed at the appropriate level,” Mayor Stephen Buxbaum said — the county. Buxbaum is advocating for a more comprehensive delivery system for social services.
• Council perception and marketing. The council talked about how to better market its accomplishments, particularly downtown. There was discussion of how to “decouple” the association between downtown and the issue of homelessness, as planning director Keith Stahley reported his group’s thoughts.
• Dog park relocation. Neighbors of the dog park at Sunrise Park on the west side have been clamoring to relocate the park, which they say has been noisy, among other issues. That is expected to happen this year.
• A “sustainable” budget for 2013, and how to get public input. Councilman Jim Cooper asked, “What does community involvement really mean?”
• Economic development. Cooper said the city needs to expand its tax base. As finance director Jane Kirkemo said, “We need to focus on our economy, what we want our economy to be.”
Aside from talking about 2013 goals, the council began talking about which members will sit on council committees, such as the finance committee, and external boards such as Intercity Transit. That will be determined today, along with a new set of 2013 goals.
IF YOU GO
The Olympia City Council retreat continues from 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. today in the boardroom of the LOTT Clean Water Alliance, 500 Adams St. NE, Olympia. All sessions are open to the public.Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869 email@example.com @MattBatcheldor