In back to back meetings on Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon, council was updated about three ongoing concerns; the work of the sustainability commission; progress on park and rec improvements funded by last year’s bond and levy; and the beginning work to craft our Consolidated Plan to qualify for federal housing dollars. In between, we hosted a robust public forum, with many speaking about homelessness and crime affecting local businesses. This week also saw the release of the first draft of the Climate Action Plan (CAP)2.0, our roadmap to reducing our fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions.
The Sustainability Commission continues to be a powerful advisor to council, increasingly important as we strive to meet the goals of the CAP 2.0. In 2020 they propose to expand their efforts at community engagement, specifically on climate actions, to reach more broadly and deeply to members of the community whose voices are not often heard.
The levy and bond-funded work in Parks and Rec is inspiring. Parks are cleaner, offer newly resurfaced trails and re-opened restrooms, and additional safety with both police officers and park ambassadors. Design and construction plans are moving forward for a vastly upgraded pool at Echo Hollow; with work on Sheldon pool coming just behind. Parks improvements are reflected in neighborhoods throughout the city.
The Eugene Springfield Consolidated Plan is the five year planning document that both assesses our need for affordable housing and sets targets for the housing the two cities propose to build and refurbish in the coming five years. Each year of the plan is guided by a specific annual action plan. The plan is a requirement to receive HUD funds and is due in May, 2020. Projects funded through HUD dollars included Bascom Village and the Youth House on Willamette. YaPoAh Terrace renovations, the affordable housing at 5th Street, and the permanent supportive housing in the Commons on MLK all benefit from these funds.
As for public forum, council heard from 47 people most of whom spoke about impacts of crime to their businesses; and others who advocated on behalf of homeless people in our community who are compelled to camp in public view. Tensions were high. Councilor Evans and Yeh, joined me and Senator Prozanski in a follow-up meeting on Thursday with a few of the business owners to begin to identify additional ways and resources that could alleviate both the degree of homelessness in our community and reduce the level of crime.
Two important notes: not all homeless are criminals and not all criminals are homeless. The city is implementing the TAC recommendations to reduce homelessness; and gradually increasing public safety investments, which will see a boost of revenue and consequent services when the community safety payroll tax is implemented next year. Those long-term, sustainable investments will have enormous, positive impact on the quality of life in our community for everyone. The challenge is to get from here to there when people feel the daily impact. I’m grateful to everyone who spoke and continues to work with us to be responsive, humane and fair.