Auburn’s legislative priorities target police, landlords, behavioral health

Funding for police, landlords and behavioral health services are among Auburn’s legislative priorities during the upcoming session, director of administration Dana Hinman said.

During the Auburn City Council study session on Sept. 26, Hinman gave a presentation to council on the city’s legislative priorities.

Public safety and land use

Hinman said the city wants the Legislature to reverse the law regarding the burden of proof for police pursuits from the higher standard of probable cause back down to reasonable suspicion.

In addition to reversing the pursuit legislation, Hinman said the city wants the state to re-criminalize possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia. Councilmember Chris Stearns pointed out there already are penalties for drug possession on the books because it is a misdemeanor. Deputy Attorney Harry Boesche said that’s not enough.

“Possession of a controlled substance has been reduced to a misdemeanor, so I think the gist would be to restore it to its original felony status,” Boesche said.

In 2021, the Washington state Supreme Court ruled that if someone is living in their car or RV and it gets towed, the owner can’t be forced to pay to get their vehicle out of impound because it constitutes their home. The city is looking to get state funding so they can continue to tow cars or RVs that people are living in.

“We would ask for maybe some language changes or funding so those vehicles can be towed if needed,” Hinman said.

The city is seeking more funding for the law enforcement academy and additional funding for officer wellness and diversity equity and inclusion training.

The city wants the state to approve an additional impact fee on new buildings to benefit police, Hinman said.

For affordable housing, Hinman said rather than create new affordable housing units in the city or provide funds for low-income renters, the state should give money to landlords to improve their existing properties.

“Building something new takes a long time and is very expensive and there are many cities around that do have a good number of affordable housing units, but may not be up to par as far as livability is concerned,” Hinman said. “So our ask of the Legislature is to perhaps provide funding for property owners to rehabilitate and keep their housing stock in good working order.”

On the topic of housing, Hinman said the city wants the Legislature to not pass any new policies or regulations regarding zoning like the “missing middle” housing bill proposed last year.

“The last one is really just asking the Legislature to seriously consider what they’re asking and making sure that their ask is reasonable,” Hinman said. “For example, the missing middle housing bill that we opposed last year, not only was it bad policy, but it had an absolutely unreasonable time frame.”

Public works, parks and more

The city’s number one ask for public works is that the state stop raiding the public works budget to fund other holes in the state budget, Hinman said.

Creation of a street maintenance utility for the preservation of Auburn’s roadways is another thing the city would like to see happen during this legislative session. Hinman said another priority is getting the ability to charge properties for street lighting because current revenues aren’t meeting the need for street lighting.

Maintaining infrastructure for clean drinking water is another priority for the city, Hinman said.

The city’s priority for parks and open spaces is to simply maintain funding and support the State Historical Society capital budget request to go toward the transformation of the post office into an arts and culture center.

In addition to this, the city is supporting the Washington Recreation and Parks Association’s request for money for maintenance that was deferred during COVID-19.

The final priority Hinman discussed was relating to behavioral health.

“We’re really focused on supporting anything the Legislature can do to continue to build out our behavioral health system and increase employment and get more staff,” Hinman said.

This would be to alleviate police from calls for people in mental health crises and have qualified professionals respond instead.