Members of the Olympia City Council are exploring a community outreach plan, including the creation of a citizen task force, in response to the May 21 police shooting.
Mayor Stephen Buxbaum presented a report to the council Tuesday with recommendations for “next steps” that can be accomplished in the short term, specifically when “addressing the connection between crime and poverty.”
As part of that discussion, Buxbaum and Mayor Pro Tem Nathaniel Jones agreed to assemble five to seven community leaders for a “convener group.” According to the mayor’s report, the group would seek “diverse public input from the community and develop educational opportunities” on issues such as technology, community courts, restorative justice and more.
Council members already have been involved with community outreach in the weeks since the May 21 incident, in which an Olympia police officer shot two men after responding to a shoplifting call.
“I’m looking for those couple of things we can do immediately to be responsive to our community,” Buxbaum said Tuesday. “We’ll be drafting a charter for that group and we’ll get that underway as soon as possible.”
In addition, the mayor plans to reach out to city leaders in Lacey and Tumwater to help mold a regional effort for improving the criminal justice system in Thurston County.
In his report, the mayor urged council members to learn more about technology such as body cameras and dashboard cameras for police, and to assess financial options for making such investments in the police department. Buxbaum also said the city needs to prepare for the community’s response once the county releases the results of the shooting investigation in the coming weeks.
In other council action Tuesday:
• The council received an update on potential projects for theCommunity Renewal Area,
which is an economic development tool that will allow the city to work with private property owners to address downtown properties in poor condition.
City staff has been seeking requests for proposals since February. Based on feedback from a recent workshop and the Community and Economic Revitalization Committee (CERC), the request for proposals will focus on the Water Street area between Fourth and Fifth avenues.
The Water Street area measures about 1 acre and includes two city-owned properties that will be demolished later this year, said Keith Stahley, the city’s director of community planning and development. Those buildings are at 301 Fourth Ave. W. (site of Little Da Nang restaurant) and 407 Water St. SW (site of Olympia Alano Club).
City officials say redevelopment on this block is critical because of its proximity to the Heritage Park Fountain and the waterfront. The city also wants any redevelopment to complement the existing amenities nearby. One idea floated by the city is to incorporate Water Street itself into a development, such as creating a “festival street.”
Stahley said the goal is to have a developer under contract and moving forward with some kind of project by April 2016. The request for proposals for Water Street is expected to go before council for approval July 7.
• The Olympia City Council will host its mid-year retreat from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday (June 20) at the LOTT Clean Water Alliance building, 500 Adams St. NE. The retreat is open to the public. The agenda includes a discussion of 2015 goals and accomplishments as well as a review of the council’s meeting format. Members of the General Government Committee also will review the format for council reports.
• The council will not meet for the rest of June, and will hold its next regular business meeting at 7 p.m. July 7 at City Hall.