In this time of unprecedented crisis, our city must unite, and quickly move to support itself, for the short- and long-term well-being of our entire community. Thank you, City Council, for starting to take action.
Several actions our city, the county, the state, and other community partners, including large corporations, can support immediately to help our community include:
•Making sure all vulnerable populations have access to food, as the supply at food pantries dwindles, and getting food for many now requires standing in long lines and a subsequent lack of social distancing.
•Providing support for the families of children who are out of school, potentially through summer. Making sure children can access meals and online learning, with technology and internet access, and English as a second language and special needs accommodations. Finding ways to help all working families manage this challenge.
•Enacting a moratorium on utility shutoffs, including power, water, and internet services, until the crisis is over. Provisioning of free Wi-Fi via mobile hotspots, so people, now unable to use the internet at the library, senior center and other facilities, can stay informed and connected to others. Supporting mortgage and rent relief for those who lose jobs, including the $500,000 rent relief fund established this week.
•Stabilizing the vulnerably housed by maintaining the new moratorium on oversized vehicle parking enforcement and affordable apartment demolitions, and prohibiting evictions for nonpayment of rent. Using vacant hotels to house the unsheltered.
•Providing emergency sanitation services to vehicle residents and other unstably housed people, since public facilities like park bathrooms, libraries, and churches, and private facilities, such as gyms, are now closed. Many of these residents are on the front line supporting us, working in restaurants and essential retail. Cities such as San Jose and Redwood City are doing this already. Providing sanitation services is a public health issue. Providing this service at Rengstorff Park is a great start.
•Opening our safe parking lots immediately and keeping them open 24/7, with sanitation stations, at Shoreline Amphitheatre and the VTA lot on Evelyn Street.
As we think of the slightly longer term, our city government must find ways to support our small businesses, which are so vital to the livability and character of our community, and support many families. We can't wait until later to do this. We must work in partnership with the county and state — and our chamber of commerce and other community partners — to enact emergency funding and loan programs to help businesses survive, and to pay employees. We need to consider a moratorium on small business evictions (like San Francisco), and look at tax and licensing relief, and find ways to drive demand in the future when businesses reopen. If we can bail out big business at the national level, we can support the businesses that are part of our daily lives, that are the lifeblood of our city.
While our government must step in, all of us must work together to take care of one another, and all of us should commit to checking in on seniors, the disabled, and others who may be having a very hard time right now. Kindness and patience, and the sudden appreciation that we are truly united at this moment, truly in this community together, will make this time bearable. We must pull together as a community, in true, old-fashioned Mountain View spirit, to take care of each other, and then be our best selves as we recover. Yes, this will require innovative thinking and swift action, new partnerships, crowdsourced solutions, and a renewed commitment to each other to try things we've never done before, and without lengthy studies and debate. With 85,000 amazing residents, hundreds of large companies, hundreds of small companies, and many great nonprofits and other community partners, we have what we need to do this. We can — we must — do this.
We are greater than this crisis, and we will be greater for it.
IdaRose Sylvester is a Mountain View resident.