After an hour and a half of public comment, the City Council Transportation and Public Works committee unanimously approved the Downtown Improvement District's (DID) 2014 budget.
The neon green-clad members of the DID first began roaming the streets of downtown in 2008. They assist tourists, give directions, clean up trash, plant trees, shrubs and flowers, and try to keep downtown streets clear of minor crimes.
DID's $6.5 million budget is paid for almost entirely through a property assessment on 650 downtown property owners. In the spring a number of property owners from the Warehouse District banded together in an attempt to reduce or eliminate the assessment. Jim Erickson is representing that group and spoke against the assessment, although supporters of the DID outnumbered its detractors by a wide margin.
According to state law, if 35 percent of downtown property owners object to the assessments the city ordinance that created the DID will be voided. Erickson said this option will be pursued by his group.
In response to concerns raised by Erickson and others, a new amendment was attached to the 2014 budget aimed at fostering more communication between stakeholders. The ammendment will:
- Allow for an annual meeting between the DID, ratepayers, and city staff to help inform the DID's budget decisions.
- Clarify the City's role when making decisions related to district contracts, district rate calculation, and district boundaries.
- Require review of business practices that are deemed critical to the execution of the contract.
The DID's 2014 budget still requires the City Council's full approval.