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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 16

May 15, 2020

Posted on May 16, 2020 at 5:39 PM by Nicole Bernstein

This was a big week for the community and the state, and that was reflected in council discussions.  The week was bookended by a staff presentation on Monday of the city’s Recovery Planning; and on Friday, Lane County joined 27 other Oregon counties in beginning Phase 1 re-opening. 

The City’s Recovery Planning is a multi-year approach to guide economic recovery.  Re-opening is a deliberative but shorter term, immediate process. The city’s recovery plan seeks to restore independence, economic strength, and impacted systems over 12-24 months.  That will include transitioning from our emergency response to sustainable programs – including programs directed toward the unsheltered, the unemployed and our business community. The goal is to get people back to work recognizing that some of our largest employers, like Valley River Center, have been profoundly impacted by the shut down, as well as our many small, local businesses. 

To jump to the end of the week – the other bookend -- today marks the first day of Lane County’s Phase 1 re-opening.  A number of local restaurants and brew pubs will open their doors, using physical distancing and robust sanitation to keep employees and employers safe.  Our success in calibrating and staging a gradual re-opening will determine our preparedness for the next step.  We continue to urge people to restrict their travel and to telecommute if possible.  My sense of this process is that the re-opening is harder than the Stay Home process.  With Stay Home, the directive was clear and doing so enables everyone to feel safe.  Re-opening opens us all to more risk.  I am proud of the local businesses who are navigating this tricky territory and encourage you all to develop a habit of wearing masks in public. 

In the middle of the week, Council discussed the pros and cons of moving forward with investment in the infrastructure to support development along our riverfront. There are strong reasons to do this: public investment in infrastructure opens the door for private investment – and that means jobs and is a key part of our economic recovery.  The infrastructure including roads, electricity, water and wastewater will enable the public to readily access the new park, which is under-development. Council will vote on the use of Supplemental Budget funds for this purpose on Monday, the 18th. 

On Wednesday night, the Budget Committee received its first insights from the Manager and Executive Team about the coming fiscal year.  Because we are not dependent on a sales tax, it is the loss of property tax that most heavily impacts our budget. The General Fund will be down by $6.4 million; and over the coming years, the cumulative loss between FY22-26 is in the range of $25 million. The city has maintained a strong reserve fund, and that will help us weather the immediate crisis.  The budget committee will begin next week to look at specific proposed changes to city programs. 

On a positive note, May is Bike Month.  Bikes are good for many things – transportation, health, and mental health.  Ride safely and take care.