This was a quiet week for council which doesn’t
meet the first week of the month. A couple of the key issues on my calendar
this week were my weekly meeting with downtown and Fifth Street business owners
and my monthly meeting with the leadership of the 4J and Bethel Schools.
The focus of the conversation with business leaders was the Governor’s
guidelines for re-opening. Since that meeting, the Governor has announced her
intention to permit limited reopening of businesses beginning May 15th, in
counties that have met the “Gateway” criteria – in particular, declining
numbers of positive cases, adequate testing, and capacity for contact tracing.
Lane County announced their intention of submitting an application for Phase 1
opening. The Governor’s office has issued specific guidelines for
different business sectors: some of which, like retail, will more easily meet
requirements for physical distancing and will be able to open
sooner. There are many questions and concerns about how to assure
safety for employees and customers, the considerations for employees who are
receiving unemployment benefits, and the liability for businesses as they
re-open. Information will continue to flow in both directions as local
leadership, including the Chamber of Commerce, communicate with State
leadership and the State releases drafts for comment. There is an
increase in anxiety and tension as we all grapple with the implications of any
resumption of activity. We’re taking it one cautious step at a time.
In our regular meeting with the superintendents and board leadership of the
4J and Bethel School Districts, Sarah Medary and I mostly listened to the
concerns of the districts about lost teaching and connection to students.
The remote learning structure shines a bright light on the digital divide and
the challenges of students growing up in poorer households without internet
service. We are delving into the options for better addressing this,
particularly given the possibility of restrictions that might return in the
fall if the virus infection rate rises for a second surge. Both districts and
our police chief have expressed deep concerns about children living in abusive
households who now have no safety net or protection at school. All of
this is top of mind for our community.
As we look at a gradual re-opening, we are also looking at a shift from our
Emergency Response, particularly for our homeless population, into a more
sustainable on-going set of programs. We are fortunate to have extraordinary
providers in the community who have done incredible work – Whitebird, Carry it
Forward, and St. Vinnie’s -- and to have a template for ongoing work in the TAC
report. This will be a focus of work for the Shelter Subcommittee of the
Poverty and Homelessness Board and will certainly be part of the City’s budget
committee discussions that begin on May 13th.
And finally, we have received a powerful letter from the Oregon Asian Desi
Pacific Islanders Group denouncing acts of xenophobia and racism against the
Asian community that have increased in response to the pandemic. They
call on us t: Correct misrepresentations; Educate ourselves about the
interconnectedness of racism in our society; Report incidents of hate and bias;
Recognize the negative impact of these experiences on the targeted communities;
and Resist attempts to divide the Asian communities from the rest of the
community. Councilor Evans will bring a resolution to Council on Monday night
to declare May as Asian Pacific American Month to strengthen our support for
this community within our community.