The past few years saw economic strain, social unrest and obstacles posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
On a hopeful note, Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle highlighted the city’s recovery and plans for future resiliency during the annual State of the City address.
The speech premiered on Clark/Vancouver Television and the city’s various social media accounts. The mayor appeared in front of a fireplace as she relayed city initiatives from 2021 to those tuning in; she touched on matters ranging from community safety to affordable housing to city development.
In McEnerny-Ogle’s speech, she shared notes of optimism as Vancouver emerged from the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic. She thanked government employees, volunteers and the public for their persistence amid struggles presented throughout the year.
“Yet through it all, we united as a community to largely meet those demands,” she said. “Our successful collaboration has given us even more reason to focus on the inspiration, the hope and the positive potential 2022 holds for us.”
In the beginning of the address, McEnerny-Ogle focused on Vancouver’s partnership with Clark County Public Health to administer more than 40,000 vaccinations in 2021. She pointed to the city’s advances to provide stability during an uncertain time and asserted that 2022 serves as an opportunity to expand upon its recovery.
To increase police accountability, the Vancouver Police Department initiated the development of its police camera program, which is set to be cemented this year. Public outcry following four Vancouver police shootings that transpired within weeks in 2019 prompted the demand for transparency.
The adoption of the camera program was among 84 recommendations from the Police Executive Research Forum to improve the department’s culture and policies around use of force. Out of the recommendations, 74 have been implemented.
“The camera program — which will improve transparency, facilitate investigations, and hold both police and criminals accountable — is also part of our city’s larger response to resounding calls for police reform,” McEnerny-Ogle said.
In the realm of fire safety, the mayor said the passage of Proposition 2 will improve the fire department’s emergency services through funding more firefighter positions, equipment, facility construction and seismic retrofitting. The measure created a property tax tool to generate about $15 million a year.
Affordable housing, homelessness
Vancouver’s Affordable Housing Fund, introduced in 2017, distributed nearly $30 million to boost low-income housing. In 2021, the fund contributed to the creation of 308 new affordable housing units and aided 72 shelter beds, but McEnerny-Ogle said there is more that must be done to make Vancouver more livable.
The city’s first Safe Stay Community opened in December, carving the path for the implementation of more outdoor sites. Each community is operated by a local nonprofit 24/7 and provides 20 modular shelters for people who are working toward resolving their homelessness. City staff plan to have three Safe Stay Communities throughout Vancouver.
As science suggests the effects of climate change will continue to worsen in the coming years, cities have established plans to reduce the amount of harm the trend will inflict.
“We have ambitious goals that aspire to put us ahead of other major metropolitan cities in the challenge to achieve carbon neutrality,” McEnerny-Ogle said.
According to Vancouver’s Climate Action Plan, the city still intends on pursuing its aggressive goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2040 — a goal that outpaces those set by cities that are bastions for environmental endeavors, such as Seattle. The plan outlines objectives to incorporate eco-friendly efforts in the development of future structural projects, such as the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program.
In the address, the mayor also drew attention to what lies ahead regarding city developments and economic growth.
The State of the City address can be viewed at CVTV.org or on Vancouver’s social media channels. Details on how local and state taxes were used in the community can be found in the 2021 annual report.