Mayor Armondo Pavone announced that the city is closing city hall effective Tuesday, March 17 with few exceptions. He also announced that he will start releasing daily updates on COVID-19 impacts to city services in the mayor’s newsletter, available in multiple languages at rentonwa.gov.
On Monday, March 16 Renton City Council held its first telework-council meeting in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. The council and mayor all called in to the meeting, televised on channel 21. It was a lonely council chambers as only City Clerk Jason Seth and a staffmember from Economic Development were there in person.
Public comment at the council meetings was not allowed in person but can still be given to the city clerk’s office via email firstname.lastname@example.org or handwritten to city hall through mail or in person drop off at the police lobby window.
At the meeting, Councilmember Kim-Khánh Van proposed that the city place a moratorium on evictions for renters and provide additional funds for small businesses. Van said she wanted to explore this more for the 42.8 percent of Renton residents that are renters, residents of color and vulnerable people being hurt by the outbreak. Councilmember Ryan McIrvin seconded her motion.
The idea of a moratorium will be discussed at the council Committee of the Whole meeting, March 23 via teleconference. As of press deadline, Seattle, Burien and Kenmore are the cities in King County to offer a temporary eviction ban.
Van said she herself is a landlord and so a moratorium is against her own interests, but given the health risks involved it’s important to look into it and not push people out of homes. She said they can’t just sit and wait for state and federal agents to help prevent displacement in Renton. Now is the time to come together and protect the most vulnerable.
“We would be growing the homeless population, and hurt the health of our community,” Van said. “I don’t think a wait-and-see policy is going to help.”
She also proposed that the city explore ways to support small businesses and keep them in mind during this outbreak.
The only exception for city hall visits will be in-custody court hearings. Visitors and those looking to drop off mail will be asked to use the police drop-in window at the entrance of city hall. Health screenings will also be implemented for employees at all facilities per CDC guidelines.
During the Administrative Report, City Chief Administrative Officer Bob Harrison said that the Renton Census planning for events has been thrown by coronavirus outbreak, but the city will still be working on outreach and assistance online and via social media. Renton Census Counts information is available at rentonwa.gov/census2020. Census invitations are going out this week to Renton residents.