Posted on July 22, 2019 at 9:22 AM by Elena Domingo
The main topic of the week was agreement by the city council to direct staff to move forward on the next phase of implementing the recommendations of the TAC report.
As you may recall, the TAC report assessing our homeless services and feasibility of a permanent shelter made 10 recommendations. A joint county/city Implementation Steering Committee then worked with staff to create a framework for that implementation which identified timelines, personnel, costs, and outcomes. There is a sense of urgency about this work. We all know we are facing a burgeoning challenge. The goal of the implementation is to sequence the actions appropriately in order to act as quickly and effectively as possible.
The five recommendations begin with the new position of Strategic Initiatives Manager who can execute and administer our increasing investment, and report to both county and city governments. Some have questioned the price of $525,000 over three years. Please keep in mind that is $175,000 per year and reflects both salary – for one or more people, plus program cost. Leadership is critical and this investment heralds a new era of stronger coordination between city and county.
Second, the council approved the allocation of $836,000 toward the creation of a permanent shelter. The plan is to build a modular “sprung” unit because they are fast to construct and easily modified and reconfigured. The buildings come in several forms. Additional funds will be needed to furnish the interior. More details on this structure cannot be finalized until we find a site. Identifying the site is the critical challenge – and will be the key initial responsibility of the Strategic Initiative Manager.
The shelter is intended to house only 75 people at a time. This is based on the recommendation of the TAC report that the shelter should serve as an open door into services, not as a long term place for people to stay. We expect consistent turnover as residents move on to more permanent housing.
Third, the council approved investment in a mobile outreach team that can meet unsheltered people where they are, rather than require them to come to services. Building trust, relationships and understanding is essential to encourage often traumatized and easily triggered people to take a risk by entering a shelter or accessing other services.
Fourth, the council approved $60,000 for a landlord outreach program. This has worked in other cities where they were able to maximize the use of existing housing stock through an array of options, whether that is a tax benefit to the landlord or a connection of the landlord to tenant mediation services.
And finally, the council approved $279,000 in contingency funds that can be used to meet emerging or emergency challenges – these might be identified by the mobile outreach team or by the landlord engagement process or in some other way.
Coupled with the expanded investment in Community Safety, these efforts will make a visible and lasting difference in our community – addressing the suffering caused by homelessness and restoring confidence in the safety of our community. I will add one more priority: we also need to work on mental health and drug addiction treatment. This is not within the city’s departments – it is a county function. I asked the Poverty and Homelessness Board this week to provide us with a full picture of the behavioral health services currently available so we can collectively understand our pathway to addressing this most visible challenge.
Posted on July 5, 2019 at 4:19 PM by Elena Domingo
Posted on June 14, 2019 at 5:29 PM by Elena Domingo
The headline for this week is council’s approval of an ordinance to create a payroll tax to support enhanced community safety services. Based on community response at the public form, online submissions and in conversations in the community, the final ordinance included an exemption for all minimum wage workers; and a reduced payroll tax to 0.03% for workers who earn between $12-15/hour. All other workers will pay a slightly increased tax to compensate for the revenue lost by those exemptions, 0.044%. The employer rate was held at 0.02%.
The new ordinance also requires a public vote after seven years to approve continuation of the tax; as well as a report regarding the financial impacts of the tax on businesses. In a second vote, council also approved sending to the November ballot a charter amendment that would constrain future councils from raising the tax rate and from diverting funds from the tax to a purpose other than community safety.
I recognize that some in the community object to a payroll tax in principle. I appreciate that concern. Too many in our community struggle to make ends meet, and now, if they may make above minimum wage, they are subject to another tax. At the same time, it is important to remember that the amount of the tax is very small. It is designed to be broad and shallow. It is able to be a small tax because so many people will pay into it. While most agree we need better community safety services, no one has come forward with an alternative revenue proposal that comes anywhere close to raising this amount of funds with such a small request to taxpayers.
The premise is that public safety, like roads, is something we all need and from which we all benefit. When public safety systems are inadequate, as they have been in Eugene for decades, we all suffer. How many of you have experienced a property crime and been told by the police they will be slow to arrive or not come at all? How many have complained of people who run red lights with impunity because no officer is available to stop and issue a ticket? How many have complained about disruptive or threatening behavior in your neighborhood for which there was no timely police response? Our new police chief is committed to addressing these livability crimes with the revenues from this tax. The results will be measurable and will be reported as increased service calls and reduced time for police response.
Unanswered complaints about public safety impact our entire metropolitan area – Springfield residents who work in Eugene are just as vulnerable in the city limits as are Eugene residents. And they share with Eugene the 911 services and Fire Department that will be expanded with this new revenue stream.
Finally, this proposal has been criticized both for providing too little support for homeless services and for providing too much. The community safety ordinance is approved in tandem with our initiative to enhance and expand our homeless services as recommended in the TAC report. The two efforts are significant and complementary; and they rely on different funding streams. Both are accountable to you, the voters. And both will change our community for the better in the coming years.
Posted on June 7, 2019 at 3:35 PM by Elena Domingo
Posted on May 31, 2019 at 2:46 PM by Nicole Bernstein
Posted on May 24, 2019 at 3:31 PM by Nicole Bernstein
Posted on May 17, 2019 at 3:53 PM by Nicole Bernstein