Mayor Lucy Vinis
WelcomeBelow you will find links to my weekly blog, monthly recaps, and the Mayor’s Report, a dynamic list of projects that council and staff are working on – a real-time living tool to track our work and progress online, providing consistent updates of where we are on important issues. I hope everyone finds these tools useful.
A few weeks ago, Paul Hawken, author, researcher and visionary, spoke in Eugene to the Association of Oregon Recyclers as the keynote for their annual conference. The message of his work, Project Drawdown, is that the 100 projects we can undertake to reverse global warming reflect work that we should do anyway. The projects include reducing our food waste and educating girls – work that is good on its own -- and also happens to forward our goals for a cooler planet.
I’m devoting a lot of time to talking and thinking about these and other challenges facing Eugene.
I recently met with Tom Atlee, an expert on civic engagement, who got me thinking: how do we get to a culture of “Yes”? What will it take for us as a community to see the challenges of growth as an opportunity to create a better community, not as a moment of loss, distrust and frustration?
In June I attended the semi-annual meeting of the US Conference of Mayors (USCM) in Boston. The words and actions of many mayors resonate with Paul Hawken’s thinking: infrastructure, innovation, inclusion are the USCM’s key priorities.
In three days of meetings, I attended five sessions that addressed housing and homelessness. Many cities are travelling the same path as Eugene, struggling with housing affordability and availability, redevelopment and expansion of neighborhoods, investments in infrastructure, and concerns about pricing out and marginalizing sectors of their communities. Many cities have moved faster than Eugene in enacting or considering construction excise taxes, codes related to accessory dwelling units and tiny houses, and raising funds to support housing construction through bonds and levies. All cities struggle with continuing reductions in federal support for building and renovating subsidized housing. Under the current administration, funding for core housing supports may be eliminated altogether.
These issues are on our doorstep. I returned to Eugene to grapple with ongoing discussions related to implementing the principles adopted in our Envision Eugene process. Council has walked a careful path in reviewing the potential and impacts of a construction excise tax and reducing barriers to the construction of accessory dwelling units. Our tentative steps on these issues is of concern because we are just at the beginning of a series of policy choices. Under the umbrella of Envision Eugene, eight other planning processes include a distinct public involvement plans, including growth monitoring, urban reserves, clear and objective housing criteria, the Climate Action Plan, and our 2035 Transportation System Plan.
Our challenge in engaging the public in the decision-making process is to provide the right amount of information at the right time, to include as many residents from different corners and perspectives as possible, and to ensure that the process is respectful, worthwhile to those involved, and constructive for our community.
At a meeting of the Neighborhood Leaders Council on June 24th , active citizens expressed frustration with many aspects of our public involvement processes – from the timeliness of meeting materials, to the staging of input and feedback opportunities, the quality of information provided, and the decision about who represents the concerns of neighborhoods.
For my part, I will advocate for improving the city’s process, timeliness, consistency, responsiveness and feedback to residents. We can and should do better; we live in an age when communication and survey tools are better than ever. I’m grateful to citizens who offer constructive solutions for how to enhance our public conversations.
I take heart in the lessons and experiences of my fellow mayors across the country. We’re acting individually and collectively to address local and national issues. I attended a meeting of a new partnership, Mayors and CEOs for Housing Investment, and hope that Eugene can add our voice to this effort to press our federal leadership to see housing as essential infrastructure, deserving of federal support in the same way as transportation is.
We can match that call for action on the federal level with action on the ground. I hear pleas every day for the city to do something about our housing crisis. I also hear public frustration that council is either not moving fast enough or too fast; listening to no one, or the wrong ones. Council’s pace of progress on this important work is tied to the public’s pace in working toward collective solutions.
We can be a leader but only if we can embrace a culture of yes. The work to address population growth and climate change is work we should do anyway. And it begins with an optimistic willingness to embrace the opportunities before us.