Vancouver city councilors discuss upcoming legislative priorities

Although the state legislative session won’t begin until January next year, the Vancouver City Council met this week to discuss their top priorities for the upcoming session.

Among the priorities for state funding were environmental action, housing incentives, public safety and transportation.

“A lot of this is continuation of all the hard work we did last year, but this is an opportunity to check in on where we’re at, and what we really need to consider,” Bryan Enslow, principal of Arbutus Consulting, told the city council Monday night at a workshop.

Arbutus Consulting works as Vancouver’s state lobbying firm. The session, which will begin next January, will mostly follow up on bills that were not passed during this year’s long legislative session, Enslow said.

City councilors expressed a desire to use more state funding to help transportation projects in Vancouver. According to Enslow, the city plans to pitch two safety projects for funding, but some city councilors said that might take the focus away from other projects.

“We have some federal pots of money that have been created, and we have some projects on our wish list, but they’re not mentioned in top two and therefore we ended up with this mismatch of opportunities,” councilor Ty Stober said.

Enslow and city staff discussed environmental concerns, which has had a growing budget at the state level for several years. Enslow said the city and state need to be creative in thinking of new ways to spend climate funding in order to maximize the amount received.

This could include waste management programs that give incentives to recycle waste or to reduce the amount of packaging on products.

“Are there additional resources to help aid local governments with our climate action plans, especially cities like Vancouver that had been a leader in this area?” Enslow said.

For housing, the city councilors raised questions regarding several methods to alleviate the city’s housing crisis, such as incentives for condominiums and ways to supplement the city’s multi-family tax exemption program.

For safety funding, the city council’s top priorities were the future public safety training facility of Southwest Washington and treatment for individuals facing substance abuse.

“We need to be able to put out fires in four, five or six story towers of apartment complexes,” Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle said. “We can’t do that right now in our stations, and neither can the folks around us, so I’m going to push back a little bit.”

— Carlos Fuentes

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