I will catch up on two weeks of reports in this blog.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was a travel day for me and two city staff who joined colleagues from Springfield, Lane County, Lane Transit District, Willamalane Parks and Rec District, and Springfield Schools on the annual “United Front” lobbying trip to Washington, DC.
Together we participated in 30 meetings in two days that included sessions with our federal delegation, Senators Wyden and Merkley, and Representative DeFazio, as well as federal agencies that support our local work. Despite the dysfunction we witness at the federal level, the trip was valuable and surprisingly reassuring. First, it is valuable for our local jurisdictions to work together on issues of common cause and support our representatives. Second, staff in the federal agencies in some cases have longstanding and positive commitments to our community. For example, we are benefiting now from the second of two Brownfield grants from the EPA that are enabling us to reclaim brownfields for development; and Health and Human Services informed us of three grant opportunities that can support our work on housing and homelessness. Finally, the Department of Transportation staffer is a 2012 graduate of the UO, and was immediately in tune with our goals to enhance Franklin Boulevard and continue expansion of Bus Rapid Transit. Funding may not be immediate, but the direct relationships we nurture with these trips help ensure a positive review when we seek support.
Monday this week found Council hosting a robust public forum with 48 speakers who addressed more than a dozen topics. These ranged from calls for divestment from banks involved with fossil fuel extraction and production; calls to proceed with implementing a railroad quiet zone, to concern about the proliferation of marijuana retailers downtown, and urging council to move forward in reviewing the code changes for secondary dwelling units. We also heard from both citizen groups advocating for a city auditor function – the petitioners who placed the independent auditor initiative on the ballot and the citizens who drafted an alternative measure that they hope the council will finalize into a ballot measure. Council voted on Wednesday to direct staff to draft a final ballot measure based on the amended language for the alternative proposal. The final version of that measure will return to Council on February 12th, when we will vote whether to submit it for the May election.
And last, but not least, Council also received a final briefing about the Parks and Recreation Master Plan and voted to draft multiple measures for the ballot: one is a levy to augment the operations and maintenance of the park system; the second a bond to support investment in capital improvements. For each of these, Council is considering two possible dollar amounts depending on whether renovation of the Sheldon swimming pool is added to the list of projects – that will increase both the capital investment as well as add proportionally to the operations and maintenance levy. These also will return to Council for a final vote on February 12th.