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Keeping in touch: Notes from the Mayor

Mayor Lucy VinisThis blog aims to nurture our conversation and understanding of the issues before us. Every week, I will provide a weekly update on the activities in the city government, my activities as mayor, and brief reflections on progress, opportunities and challenges. You are invited to respond with reactions, insights and questions. We do this work together.

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May 04

May 1, 2020

Posted on May 4, 2020 at 11:45 AM by Nicole Bernstein

This week is a reminder of the extent to which as a city we are straddling two realities: the need to keep moving on important city policies and actions; and the constantly shifting landscape in which we are functioning because of COVID 19.

On Monday night, Council received a briefing on the financial picture from a high level – detailed information will be presented by the Manager at the Budget Committee’s initial meeting on May 13th. On the expense side, Sarah Medary explained that the city has shifted both personnel and financial resources in order to support our emergency response. The cost is really in terms of the other work that is not getting done as result. The city is fully documenting those costs as part of an eventual application to FEMA. On the revenue side, Finance Director, Twylla Miller, reported that specific revenue streams are dramatically reduced – airport and parking, in particular. At the same time, the focus and expectation is that city services in the coming fiscal year will not be deeply constricted the way they were in 2009; but the fiscal year beginning in July is not likely to have much in the way of funds for new programs.
This report was followed by a review and approval of the Eugene-Springfield Consolidated Plan. This five-year plan outlines the need and priorities for federal funding from Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to support the creation and renovation of affordable housing as well as community social service projects. The plan includes a robust analysis of the need, and identifies five priorities for affordable housing: increase the supply; rehabilitate existing affordable housing to serve low-income people; provide down payment assistance for home owners; provide rental assistance for housing stability and homelessness prevention; and remove barriers to affordable and supportive housing.
Of these five, rental assistance is a new priority triggered by the COVID 19 crisis and loss of employment of so many tenants. The amount of proposed funding in the plan is very low, but subject to adjustment as other federal funding comes available. The five-year plan comprises five annual action plans to enable the cities to review their progress and adjust funding priorities as needed.
At Wednesday’s meeting, COVID dominated. We began with a presentation by County HHS Director Karen Gaffney followed by a full explanation from the County’s Public Health Director, Patrick Luedtke of the status of testing and other “gateway” measures of our preparedness to gradually re-open. A couple of key points: COVID 19 is dangerous—much more so than the typical flu. Of about one million positive cases, over 55,000 died in 90 days. Annual flu averages about 50,000 deaths over a six-month period. The consequences of opening too soon are dire. Our rate of testing has vastly increased, but we’re still not at the level we need in order to confidently reopen.
This was followed by a power point presentation by Sarah Means, Regional Solutions Coordinator from the Governor’s office, about the Governor’s framework for reopening. The good news is that the Governor is now releasing guidelines for re-opening a range of business sectors and planning is moving forward.  The bad news is that we’re not there yet. We will be. There have been no new cases in Lane County in a week. The Governor also announced today a partnership with OHSU to randomly test 100,000 people statewide to improve our understanding of the extent of infection.
Next week will be quiet for Council, which doesn’t meet on the first week of the month.