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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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Oct 09

October 9, 2020

Posted on October 9, 2020 at 6:10 PM by Niyah Ross

There were no Council meetings this first week of the month, but the second meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee on Police Polices convened on Tuesday.  I encourage people to either tune into these virtual meetings or watch the recorded session through the City’s website.  Eugene is unique for taking this approach, bringing a broad array of people and perspectives together to learn about, understand, and propose changes to our police policies.  The second session focused on oversight and accountability, featuring brief presentations by the Auditor’s office, the Police Commission and the Civilian Review Board.  There is a lot of information to digest and we all regret the need to do this virtually.  I am optimistic that the committee will be able to zero-in on a few key changes to propose to Council in January. 

We are hearing a lot of concern about the increasing spread of the Coronavirus. Many people are looking to the City for a law enforcement response to groups of people who are not masked.  The Eugene Police and the University Police are emphasizing education when they approach gatherings. We have the authority to issue citations, but at this point, our priority is to create a cultural norm around taking care of one another.  Everyone is tired and stressed by the cost of staying home, frustrated to miss social gatherings, and hating masks.  The reality is that the simple rules of masks, hand washing, physical distancing and reducing gatherings of people are the only ways we will get control of the spread of the virus.

As we approach Halloween, we expect this to continue to be very challenging.  The City has posted guidelines about Halloween which reinforce the same message.  Traditional Trick-or-Treating is a high-risk activity.  We look to families and neighborhoods to find safer ways to celebrate.  Ideas are also posted on the City’s website.

We also continue to hear concerns about homeless campers across the city.  For the most part, the City’s Parks and Open Spaces staff are monitoring campsites and cleaning them.  The Parks Ambassadors are the first point of contact for camping complaints that do not include suspected criminal activity.  Eugene Police are only called in when needed.  This means that we continue to have many campsites across the community.  Both the City and County are hiring Outreach Teams to connect with homeless campers, respond to their hygiene and other needs, and refer them to services when possible.  This coming Wednesday, October 14th, Council’s noon session will be a joint meeting with the County Board of Commissioners to discuss implementation of the TAC report strategies to address homelessness and our progress in an array of emergency and temporary shelter options.

Newly on my calendar is a recurring weekly meeting of the South Valley/Mid-Coast Wildfire Economic Recovery Team.  This large working group will provide insight and concerns to help inform the State’s response to clean up, debris management, and housing in the areas burned by the Holiday Farms and Echo Mountain Fires. Environmental remediation and housing reconstruction will be slow, and many who lost housing will now be included in our most vulnerable population.

These are daunting challenges.  But in every case – police reform in response to racial injustice, pandemic, homelessness and fires – our answers are the same.  We need to build housing, jobs, and opportunities.  We can do this.