It was a short week and relatively quiet for council. For the first time in my three-plus years on council, I opened and closed a public hearing without any testimony. The most interesting presentation at our Wednesday meeting was the report on our pilot project with the Southeast Neighbors to reduce their vulnerability to a wildfire.
In partnership with the Oregon Dept. of Forestry and Northwest Youth Corps, the Eugene-Springfield Fire Department and the City of Eugene cleared woody debris and vegetation to reduce vulnerability to a wildfire at four sites in southeast Eugene. The locations included Spencer Butte Middle School, the Woodleaf Village property, and forested areas at Owl and Cline Roads and 30th and Spring. Youth from NW Youth Corps received on the job training and neighbors were educated about protecting their own homes. Council had dedicated $200,000 for this project in the last budget cycle and our hope is to be able to continue and broaden this work across the south hills to avoid a catastrophic fire like the one that destroyed Paradise, CA.
On other news, the city prosecutor declined to press charges against the demonstrators at Elk Horn Brewery two weeks ago. I have issued a statement of my intention to convene a gathering of business owners, advocates for the homeless and other community members to come together to help us find a path toward better cooperation. Both business owners and homeless advocates express frustration that their experiences and needs are not heard or respected. Respectful, solutions-oriented conversation is a place to begin and I will work with staff to coordinate this initial meeting.
Finally, the Poverty and Homelessness Board received a hopeful and promising briefing on the progress implementing the TAC report to improve our services to the homeless. Our new strategic initiatives manager, Sarai Johnson, has started to work; two possible sites for a shelter are in the final stages of review; and a city pilot project for outreach teams is in development. The webcast of this meeting is available on the county website.
In addition, I have submitted written testimony to the legislature supporting Speaker Kotek’s HB 4001 that would designate funds for a navigation center in Eugene. This supports our work to include a navigation center within the new permanent shelter where people will be able to access services. State funds could be used to support operational costs of the shelter and navigation center if the center is operational by November 30, 2020, which is our plan.