Meeting Overview: Kalamazoo City Commission 12/6/21

Public Media Network provides a brief overview of the Kalamazoo City Commission meeting on Monday, December 6, 2021.

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The Kalamazoo City Commission approved an emergency housing ordinance at their meeting on Monday, December 7.


This ordinance allows for temporary emergency housing in Kalamazoo and outlines the standards and parameters necessary for its development. This ordinance relies on housing providers to propose locations and apply for programs and develop housing units. 


“This emergency housing ordinance is yet another step that the city is taking to recognize that homelessness as an ongoing problem in Kalamazoo, and that we understand that we need more creative solutions to help people where they are at,” said Rebecca Kik, director of Community Planning and Economic Development.


These emergency housing options should offer housing options with safety and services in place, said Kik. 


Commissioner Hess asked if the city is urging other jurisdictions to join Kalamazoo in this work, so that all emergency housing isn’t concentrated in the city. No other municipalities are currently planning to adopt a similar resolution.


Commissioner Stephanie Hoffman advised that they try not to continue concentrating poverty to one area in the city. She also wondered if some housing pods could be reserved for families. 


“We cannot forget that there are families with children. There are mothers out here working every single day; paying bills, taking care of their children, and we are not seeing them because they’re invisible,” Hoffman said.


Commissioner Esteven Juarez asked which happened first: buying the pods, or creating the ordinance. He expressed admiration for the work that was done, but disappointment at the time it took to get here.


“We know that this is an issue that's ongoing; this is not nothing new… It's hard for me to sit here and think about it, that you guys have been talking about an ordinance for three years, three years…Though I appreciate the hard work… I just think we need people around the table that can have these conversations, and speak to these things in ways that they can get done a lot faster than they are,” Juarez said.


The ultimate number that can be housed on a site is determined by housing providers capacity, size of the site, location, and housing type. 


Juarez proposed limiting the amount of occupants for each site. He says the ability of the site to house a great number of people doesn’t necessarily mean that full occupancy will be the best way to manage these locations. 


The city commission decided to defer a rule change that would allow the city commission to return back to in-person meetings. The City Commission’s first in-person meeting would take place on January 3, based on this decision.


Live call-ins will take place during in-person meetings. To allow for hybrid comment options, the commission will allow live call-ins during general public comment, but not for individual agenda items. Masks will also be required, except for those with medical exemptions or religious beliefs that disallow it. 


Jamie McCarthy, sustainable development coordinator, presented a sustainability strategy plan.  This plan is in response to the city’s climate emergency declaration in 2019.


This plan focuses on ways to accelerate renewable energy, by fostering a healthy prepared community and creating a more circular economy through recycling and composting. This draft is subject to more community engagement and feedback, and will be presented to the commission again in February 2022. 


Citizens called in to voice opposition to the location of the pods, and to voice support and opposition to the emergency housing ordinance. Chris Glasser from the Eastside Neighborhood Association called in to voice his approval of the Emergency Ordinance, and condemned city residents with a “not in my backyard,” mentality. 


Deputy Chief David Boysen gave an update on how the city has responded to the September 2021 OIR report. This report reviewed public safety’s response to a series of protests in 2020, including the Proud Boys rally.