A very busy week began with a joint meeting of the City Council and County Board to hear about the proposed framework for implementing the 10 recommendations of the TAC report to improve shelter and service delivery to stabilize people who are homeless.
The Steering Committee proposed a framework that addresses both our long-term institutional strength and the need for more immediate system improvements. It calls for the creation of a Strategic Initiatives Manager who would report to both city manager and county administrator to ensure there is an accountable, empowered director to ensure that proposed actions happen in a timely way. In brief, the framework sets a timeline for expanding our temporary shelter combined with a navigation center this year, developing a durable shelter to open in year three, and invest in permanent supportive housing over five years.
New staff will come on board gradually each year over three years. Immediate staffing support will focus on developing and implementing mobile street outreach teams and strengthening system coordination among existing programs – most likely this increased staffing will be included in both public agencies and private providers.
The plan also calls for the creation of a flexible funding source in the first year. Long term costs and funding streams will be proposed to council and county board in the coming months, once the Strategic Initiatives Manager’s role has been defined and county and city staff have the opportunity to develop more solid plans. Council voted 8-0 to support the manager in moving ahead on this work.
After a robust public forum with 42 citizens commenting on 5G, homelessness and climate change, council heard a few supportive voices on the restricted use of single-use plastic utensils, straws and condiment packages. The vote was deferred to Wednesday’s meeting when the ordinance passed unanimously. Once implemented, restaurants and take out businesses will only make these items available when requested by a customer.
On Wednesday, council heard an update on the Town Square concept and met representatives from the team leading the concept design phase. A local firm, Cogito, will lead the public engagement conversations following the model used in the riverfront park design. The first public comment event is May 22nd, 5-9 pm, at Whirled Pies. Council discussed budget challenges; there is currently $11 million designated for the city project, which will undoubtedly cost at least twice that amount. The cost estimates naturally hinge on design elements, and council will have a more focused conversation once the design process is farther along.
We followed this discussion with an update on the River Road/Santa Clara planning process. The neighborhoods have undertaken a thorough and inclusive engagement process leading to five area vision statements, 18 neighborhood goals and 75 neighborhood plan policies. This engagement is complemented by a corridor study to review how the land use can integrate with transportation needs and growth. The neighborhoods will finalize policies and move into the action planning phase to itemize specific actions, timelines and projected costs.
Outside of council deliberations, there were two community events that are worthy of mention and praise. Joe Minicozzi of the firm Urban 3 made three presentations to public officials, staff and community members reviewing Urban 3’s research into Eugene’s “economic cartography.” This enlightening research use our local data on infrastructure investment and costs to demonstrate the challenges of maintaining our roads and wastewater system. In short, investments and growth patterns of the past are driving continuing, increasing costs now and into the future. For example, we were a more compact community in the 1960s than we are today; but we made choices in that decade to build a road system for which the maintenance costs continue to grow. While we can’t change those choices, that reality can guide our thinking about how we make current decisions about growth and compact development.
And speaking of infrastructure, I had the pleasure on Thursday morning of joining kindergartners as they toured “Public Works Day.” It was a public works festival replete with the chance to climb on equipment, see how wastewater pipes are cleaned, run through “Tiny Town” holding bike handles to learn rules of the road, and take a hayride underneath an arborist riding a bucket overhead, see another arborist climbing a tree and watch a front loader dig in a pile. Everyone was smiling despite the spring showers.