Olympia City Council Sets Annual Legislative Priorities

Meeting with 22nd Legislative District Caucus set for January 7th.

Topping the city of Olympia’s list of 2021 legislative priorities are three very visible issues in our community: people experiencing homelessness, housing affordability, and the open carrying of weapons during rallies and protests.

Council members will be discussing them with 22nd District legislators beginning at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, January 7. You can see the meeting via Zoom, https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85701101554

The city is asking:
  • For state support in addressing homelessness and assistance in providing affordable housing, mental health, and chemical dependency services. The city says it has the highest percentage of rent-burdened households and the largest concentration of unhoused individuals in Thurston County. The city also is looking for lawmakers’ support for renter/tenant protections, including rent control, which cities cannot institute under current state law.
  • For the Legislature to clarify state law (RCW 38.40.120) on militias to address behaviors that took place in Olympia over the summer by groups carrying firearms and other weapons. These groups at times “patrolled” downtown Olympia and on other occasions violently engaged with counter-protestors. Cities say the law is vague and penalties for its violation need to be harsher. The city also wants lawmakers to expand local governments’ authority to regulate firearms to address the kind of violence that erupted in Olympia and injured at least three people in December 2020. Since late summer, the city has been pressuring the state to do something to allow it to limit weapons at demonstrations. 
Other priorities are: 
  • Legislative action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from a variety of sources and funding to help with local efforts to address climate change.
  • $6 million for design and right-of-way acquisition for new U.S. 101 interchange ramps in west Olympia, the city’s highest priority for transportation construction funds. 
  • $3 million for the future purchase and renovation of National Guard Armory on 512 Eastside St. The Guard is scheduled to vacate the building by July when it completes its move to a new building. Last year, the council was briefed on how the Armory would fit into is new Creative District, perhaps by becoming an arts or community center.
  • $5 million to finish the $16.5 million Fones Road improvement project, including fixing pavement and improving pedestrian and cyclist safety and addressing traffic congestion. 
  • Approximately $7 million to finish four parks and recreation projects: Phase three of the Karen Fraser Woodland Trail that will extend the trail from Eastside Street through Watershed Park to Henderson Boulevard; completion of the Grass Lake Nature Trail, including ADA upgrades; work on the Lions Park Sprayground; and ADA upgrades and field renovations at Yauger Park.
By Mindy Chambers

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