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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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Sep 08

September 8, 2020

Posted on September 8, 2020 at 3:39 PM by Niyah Ross

Council will return on the Wednesday, Sept. 9th, for its first meeting since the summer recess began in late July.  Although they have not been in public meetings, progress has been made on key issues with council and staff throughout August.

First, after the July vote to convene an Ad Hoc Committee on police reform, staff, Councilors Yeh and Evans, and I reached out to the community to ensure broad representation among the 30 seats on that committee.  The final roster was completed on September 1st.  This is a critical first step in our response to the Black Lives Matter movement and I am inspired by the breadth and depth of this citizen committee.  They will meet 10-12 times between September and January when they will present their recommendations to council.

Staff is continuing to reach out to communities of color to fulfill a second Council direction: convening a series of workshops to review public safety priorities and investments, particularly with respect to the Community Safety Initiative. The goal is to identify ways in which we should enhance or modify our public safety system to best meet the needs of communities of color.  The insights from these workshops will help inform council’s supplemental budget discussions in December.

Both City and County staff and elected leaders are focused on the skyrocketing challenge of homelessness, which has grown through the pandemic and is likely to worsen.  The Council and County Board met in July to hear a presentation about both the implementation of the TAC report and our inclement weather strategies.  In addition to the increased number of unsheltered people, reduced services and physical distancing requirements in response to COVID 19 make congregate shelters unhealthy and will dramatically reduce the capacity of the Egan Warming Shelters to serve people during the coldest weather.

There has been an enormous community investment and energy in seeking pathways to increase our shelter options – both at the staff level and among community activists and organizations.  There are a couple of key messages: first, the City is working hard to identify additional sites that can house varying numbers of people – from microsites with 10 residents to rest stops with 20 or more.  Two neighborhood associations, Whiteaker and Jefferson Westside have also identified sites.  The county is looking at both public and private land within the Urban Growth Boundary.  In a meeting with service providers last week, the city discussed the potential range of funding to support these sites that we expect through the federal CARES Act.  The Kindness Campaign and others have offered to help with community engagement and outreach.   Many people have commented that the public has no sense of progress on this issue, and that public support will be critical in enabling us to stand up these sites across the community. Time is short, and we will need to move relatively quickly to implement new shelter options by early November.

Coming up on Wednesday, Council will receive a briefing on the current status of the merged Springfield/Eugene Fire Department and discuss the on-going negotiations with NW Natural on the franchise agreement.  Both are related to budget discussions, climate change, and resiliency.  Later this month, council will engage in a day-long workshop on Saturday the 26th to take a deeper look at the revenue projections, options and priorities given the economic crisis resulting from the pandemic