Council squeezed in an extra work session this week on Tuesday in order to hear back-to-back presentations about Community Justice.
Part One of this was a presentation about the capacity and gaps in our police and municipal court systems. There was good news and bad news. The good news is that a number of the new initiatives to meet the needs of the community are proving to be effective. Notably the efforts of Community Outreach Team, Park Safety and Community Court programs, combined with increased funding for CAHOOTS, have reduced the number of crimes like disorderly conduct, trespassing, and drug offenses. Additionally, police are following “21st Century” policing practices that call for more communication, engagement and de-escalation at the scene of a crime. The downside is that our limited police staffing – some of whom are diverted or spending more time in these endeavors – impacts the general availability of police who are too often slow to respond or unable to respond to calls for assistance. This information will be integral to our budget considerations and discussions with the new police chief about staffing levels.
The second day of Community Justice focused on our ambulance services. The Chief reported on the department’s efforts to “right size” the emergency vehicles used on emergency calls. The department added basic life support services and paramedic staff to complement the advanced life support ambulances. This improved response time helping to ensure that vehicles are available to respond to life-threatening incidents more readily because they are not being used to transport patients with less serious health issues.
Council also received a report on the staff’s plans to divest in banking institutions that are heavily invested in the fossil fuel industry, and especially in infrastructure like the Dakota Access Pipeline. Our contract with US Bank expires in October this year. Staff are dividing needs into three service levels: community banking which we hope can be contracted with local banks or credit unions; Depository banking that serves as the city’s main account for payroll and accounts payable; and Merchant Services which meet our credit card needs. The challenge is that our $677,000,000 budget is too big for most local banks to be able to meet our needs in the latter two categories. Banks who apply will be asked to respond to a questionnaire to gauge the level of their investment in the fossil fuel industry. The goal is to engage with the best banking institution that has the smallest connection to fossil fuel infrastructure.
And finally, on Wednesday five city councilors joined me in attending the “Better Housing Together” forum hosted by the UO to discuss missing middle housing. The capacity crowd of 235 represented public officials, staff, and a broad array of citizens concerned about housing or working in the housing industry. The goal is to build a common community understanding and commitment to support policies and practices to help us meet our housing needs. Council will discuss missing middle housing at the 5:30 work session this Monday, Feb. 26th.