There were noteworthy city news developments regarding police patrols, park repair needs, and economic stimulus prospects in December.
New police patrol districts: New city Police Chief Scott Cunningham has begun putting into place a revised police patrol deployment plan. The number of patrol "beats" has been increased from 18 to 24, and the average size reduced to two square miles. In addition, patrol officers will switch to permanent beat and shift assignments instead of rotating beat assignments. The intent is to improve the familiarity of patrol officers with their beat and shift, increase citizen contact, and improve the effectiveness of crime prevention and policing. Chief Cunningham ultimately plans to increase the number of beats to 30 as the changes are fully implemented. The immediate changes are being carried out with existing personnel and resources. As always, the question of when additional resources are needed requires ongoing review.
Economic stimulus package: Much current national policy news surrounding the incoming presidential administration is focusing on a proposed economic stimulus package. I and other city officials have been briefed on the proposals under development, and their prospects for approval in Congress. We are conferring with our city's partners in the National League of Cities (NLC) and our Washington representatives about possible benefits to our community. As part of our efforts, we have submitted to the governor and to NLC an extensive list of possible projects here which would meet the test of being ready to start early in 2009. These include transportation, energy and utilities, and other important public infrastructure projects. They also meet the dual test of serving important public needs, and if funded creating local jobs and economic activity. I will continue to track this developing effort during 2009.
Parks repair needs study: This fall the city council received a troubling report on the status of equipment repair in our city park system. At parks and recreation centers across the city, playground and other recreational equipment is aging and in need of replacement. In the Southwest Ward, for example, aged equipment has recently been taken out of service in both Miller and Little Creek parks, and not yet replaced due to budgetary constraints. I am among those who are concerned with this situation. Good quality parks and play areas are a necessary public health and fitness amenity for any city to stay a desirable place to live. I am concerned that these needs have been neglected in budgeting for many years. Even in the current fiscally constrained time, we need to take action to address this problem. I would welcome your feedback on this issue as we begin to prepare next year's budget.
Tree ordinance proposal: Sometime in early 2009, the city council will begin considering the report from the city/county planning board regarding a proposed tree-protection ordinance. This proposal would require most new development projects to include some amount of tree coverage. This issue has already gone through a multi-year development process. There are widely varying opinions among citizens and interest groups about what the ordinance should include. At least two possible approaches will be available for the council's review: the ordinance recommended by a public citizen study committee (which contains some existing tree coverage preservation requirements), and the version recommended by the planning board (which contains only some limited tree planting requirements). I will use this monthly report to let you know when these proposals are expected to reach the city council for review and comment. Your input will be welcome.
Other city issues: If you've received these monthly reports for a while, you may have noticed that the items I cover don't always coincide with the city news making headlines in our local paper or on television. I try to emphasize results and upcoming comment opportunities on issues that I think are of broadest interest and greatest impact to my constituents and other members of our community. For example, you don't find this month's report discussing the detailed blow-by-blow disputes about the Silk Plant Forest Citizen Review Committee study process or the arguments about whether the new baseball stadium is likely to be completed in April or July. Ultimately, the outcomes on such issues can be important, and I'll address them—but in the meantime I'm not trying to duplicate the "he-said-she-said" nature of daily news coverage. I especially focus on concerns that I hear about directly from residents and neighborhoods that I represent on the council.
Anytime there's something else you want to ask about, that I'm not covering, please feel free. Lots of folks do!