Olympia council revises non-discrimination policies for LGBT community

The Olympia City Council unanimously approved an amendment to city code Tuesday to cover non-discrimination policies related to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

The revision was prompted by Olympia’s score on the 2013 Municipal Equality Index, which is sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign. The index rates cities nationwide for their sensitivity and outreach to the LGBT community. Olympia scored 67 out of 100 possible points. In response, City Manager Steve Hall put together a task force to find ways to raise Olympia’s score.

The new ordinance expands the definition of sexual orientation related to gender identity and expression. The ordinance also requires city contractors on projects of $50,000 or more to sign a declaration that says they have non-discrimination policies. The Olympia Police Department and the city manager have appointed liaisons to address the needs of the LGBT community, according to a resolution.

"We’re committed to achieving the highest possible score on the index," Hall told the council Tuesday. "We’re getting better. We’re not an A plus yet, but we’re on that path."

Mayor Stephen Buxbaum said the index is challenging for a small city such as Olympia, which lacks the resources of bigger cities to meet the index’s criteria. For example, Tacoma scored 90 on the 2013 index, and Seattle scored 100.

"I wish in some ways there was a small city index," Buxbaum said Tuesday.

The council also approved a proclamation declaring the third weekend in June to be Capital Pride Weekend. The proclamation comes ahead of the 24th annual Pride Festival slated for June 20-22 in downtown Olympia.

In a speech to the council, Jake Powell of Capital City Pride thanked the city for laying a foundation of tolerance that has allowed the LGBT community to feel welcome in Olympia.

"Tonight’s Pride proclamation is another expression of that strong and steady support for LGBT citizens and visitors to be part of a great community," Powell said. "To paraphrase Margaret Mead, ‘Never underestimate the power of a small city committed to changing the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.’"

In other council action Tuesday, the council voted unanimously to approve the city’s list of transportation projects that need state and federal funding.

Known as the Six-Year Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP), the city’s plan identifies 34 projects for construction in 2015-2020. The state requires cities to outline specific transportation projects in order to be eligible for state and federal funding.

According to the city, the 34 projects have a total cost of $135 million. Of that total, the city is asking for $48.6 million in federal grants and $16.8 million in state grants, the city reports.

Two citizens spoke during a public hearing before the council approved the plan and passed a related resolution. Karen Messmer, president of the Olympia Safe Streets Campaign, urged the city to engage schools and find ways to reduce congestion near Cain Road and North Street, possibly by adjusting start and end times for school days. That intersection is slated for a $2.6 million project that will address "capacity issues" by installing bike lanes, sidewalks, planter strips, street lighting and more, according to the city. Another commenter, Cristiana Figueroa of the LBA Woods Park Coalition, was critical of plans to extend Log Cabin Road east of Boulevard Road because "there’s no connection to Wiggins Road to make it worthwhile."

The most expensive proposals in the TIP are the Percival Landing boardwalk and float replacement at $20.7 million; the Herman Road bike lanes project at about $20.5 million; and the Fones Road widening project for about $15.4 million, according to the city.