Port Angeles City Council mulls legislative priorities

List focuses on housing, waterfront center, transporation

PORT ANGELES — City officials are expected to ask the state Legislature to fund housing initiatives, the waterfront arts center and public transportation in the 2020 session.

The City Council discussed legislative priorities Dec. 17 and will finalize the list after a new council majority is seated Jan. 7.

The 2020 legislative session will begin Jan. 13. It is scheduled to be a shorter, 60-day session as the state’s biennial budget was approved this year.

“I think it’s important to point out that this is not a year of large monetary asks because the budget is set at this point,” City Manager Nathan West told the council.

“There might be room for some small dollar amount asks.”

West suggested that the council shorten its list of legislative requests, saying it had “far too many priorities” in 2019.

“It’s really important that we take the time to thank our Legislature for all that they accomplished in 2019,” West added, “recognizing that a number of things that they implemented actually really paid off for the city of Port Angeles.”

The City Council directed staff to pare down the legislative priorities by supporting the Association of Washington Cities’ list.

AWC priorities include investments in affordable housing and protecting the state Public Works Trust Fund for municipal infrastructure projects.

“As much as we want to say a lot in this [priority list], we really should bring it down to not just one page, but one side of one piece of paper, not two sides,” Council member Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin said.

Deputy Mayor Kate Dexter suggested a funding request for Clallam Transit to help offset the impacts of state Initiative 976, the $30 car tabs measure that voters approved in November.

Clallam Transit officials have said some projects, including the planned mid-day expansion of the Strait Shot route to Bainbridge Island, would be deferred if I-976 is upheld in court.

“Without that state funding, we can’t start a mid-day Strait Shot,” said Dexter, who also serves on the Clallam Transit Board.

“I think there’s some practical considerations from the city’s perspective to supporting a request for restoration of state funding for Clallam Transit.”

Council member Mike French said the Association of Washington Cities, or AWC, would ask the Legislature to support transit funding.

Schromen-Wawrin suggested that the city support Washington Low Income Housing Alliance priorities. The alliance is supporting a bill that would require landlords to have a legitimate purpose for evictions, he said.

“I would say that that agenda is more bold … than AWC’s agenda,” Schromen-Wawrin said.

“That’s part of just the process of AWC being a much larger association and having a lot of different interests at play.”

Housing has been the No. 1 issue for the Port Angeles City Council this year.

City voters in November approved a one-tenth of one-percent sales tax increase for affordable housing initiatives.

French proposed the measure as a qualifying tax for House Bill 1406, which was co-sponsored by state Reps. Mike Chapman, D-Port Angeles, and Steve Tharinger, D-Port Townsend.

The city is now eligible for a state sales tax credit to encourage more investments in affordable and supportive housing under House Bill 1406.

Council members said they would support a state funding request on behalf of the Port Angeles waterfront arts center.

Construction has begun on the 41,000-square-foot Field Arts & Events Hall at the corner of Oak and Front streets downtown.

Navarra Carr, Charlie McCaughan, Brendan Meyer and LaTrisha Suggs will join the City Council before it approves a final list of legislative priorities Jan. 7.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].

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