On Tuesday night Richland City Council will discuss amendments to the Richland Charter, homelessness, and council assignments. The council talked about the amendments and the homeless issue at their Sept. 17, 2021, council retreat. They kicked the can down the road on both issues, particularly noting that they wanted the “new” council to consider the charter amendments.
Here are some of the points made in September.
City Attorney Heather Kintzler led the charter discussion during the September workshop. She pointed out that each amendment would have to be passed by voters in an election and could not be voted in a bundle. Having missed the 2020 election due to Covid restrictions on what the council could consider, the city would aim to put the amendments on the ballot in Nov. 2022 ballot in order to have the largest number of voters participate. Here are the some of the amendments considered:
*eliminating the two-year term for the city council candidate with the lowest number of winning votes. Some of them seemed particularly keen on that.
*having a separate vote for mayor which could occur even with the current city manager/council form of government
*allowing flexibility in where council could hold meetings. This was a particular favorite of Councilmember Sandra Kent
*electing some councilmembers from wards or districts. This was last voted on in 1971 and defeated by a vote of 3420 to 2379.
*banning local income tax. This is a personal favorite of Councilmember Terry Christensen. The other members were reluctant to clutter up the charter with something that was never going to happen anyway. Kent said, “None of us would be re-elected.”
*opening collective bargaining negotiation. This is another personal favorite of Christensen. A similar provision was passed in Spokane and has been challenged in the courts.
* eliminating of gender specific language.
*creating a bi-annual budget instead of an annual budget.
At the September 17 retreat, Director of Parks and Facilities Joe Schiessl reported that the Tri-Cities had about 222 homeless people in 2019; of those, 60 were unsheltered.
He outlined the laws that provide that unsheltered people cannot be tossed out off public property unless there is a shelter bed available for them.
Mayor Ryan Lukson suggested that the city take a pro-active approach and work with the other jurisdictions to find solutions to the problems.
Councilmember Marianne Boring pointed out that many of the homeless have mental health problems and/or drug addiction.
Councilmember Terry Christensen took a tougher approach. He said, “The softer you go and the more accommodating you are, the more it just explodes the problem and makes it worse….Let’s try to be as aggressive as we can….sprinkler timers, things like that can all make a difference about comfortable.”
Charter Amendments and the Homeless will be discussed on Tuesday night at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday. Tune in.