This was a short week for Council, which honored Veteran’s Day on Monday night and didn't convene on Wednesday in recognition of the national holiday. It is a good time to recalibrate – how do we move back toward acknowledging that we are united states when we are so divided? At the local level, we do that by focusing on the work that unites us – our survival as a community.
The first half of Monday’s work session focused on the Resiliency Plan from the Metropolitan Wastewater Management Commission (MWMC). MWMC is one of the unsung hero agencies in our community – when they do their work well, we take it for granted. This is a multijurisdictional committee overseen by a board including one councilor from each city and one county commissioner.
The Resiliency Plan is a long-range analysis and plan to ensure that our essential wastewater infrastructure can survive, function, and ultimately fully recover in response to a 500-year flood, a Cascadia earthquake, and the impacts of climate change. Suffice it to say, much of our essential infrastructure needs seismic upgrades – both pumping stations and pipes. I had not before realized that the Owosso footbridge is the span that carries wastewater across the river.
For each of the climate and geologic challenges, the plan sets for short-term operational goals and longer-term fixes. Upgrading the entire system of $335 million of assets over a 50-year timeline will cost about $35 million. These will not be City of Eugene General Fund dollars -- MWMC manages its own funds.
As an example of the effectiveness of the organization, Councilor Yeh, who represents the City on the Board, noted that MWMC for three years in a row has had a 100% accuracy rate in the required random testing of wastewater samples for the EPA. They are now testing for COVID.
In keeping with disaster recovery, on Thursday I joined the weekly meeting of the South Valley Mid-Coast Wildfire Economic Recovery Team. Debris clean-up from the Holiday Farm Fire is moving along steadily. Household debris from over 350 properties has been removed and propane tanks are empty and ready to be hauled as scrap. Once all 500 properties have finished this first step of clean-up, the second round of ash and debris clearing will begin, hopefully in early December.
The meeting also featured Lane County providers who have stepped up to assist evacuees in several ways. White Bird is collating a resource book for people to have a one-stop-shop place for all information they need; and Code for America has created “Open Eugene” which will host those resources online.
In addition, on Monday, Council approved a requested extension from the members of the Ad Hoc Committee on Police Policy. The committee of 30 members is working their way through a demanding timeline to grapple with complex information. The initial reporting deadline was the end of January. The Council approved extending to the end of March to allow the committee more time to meet in subcommittees on specific topics, and to discuss a wider array of topics. To date the Committee and associated subcommittee have discussed civilian oversight changes. The proposed changes from the subcommittee regarding the structure and purpose of the Civilian Review Board led to a lengthy discussion, highlighting the challenge of reconfiguring a body that functions within city ordinance and state statute. The proposed changes will return to the subcommittee for refinement.
The Committee also began consideration of Use of Force policies. Many of the questions revolved around de-escalation. A subcommittee will now dive deeper into those issues before coming back to the whole committee. This is hard work. There’s a lot of information to grasp and time is too short. I encourage people to watch at least parts of these meetings to ground yourselves in the complexity and nuance of these issues to help us find common ground on the adjustments we want and need to make.
Finally, speaking of common ground, the Governor today has pulled us back to deeper restrictions in order to contain the spread of COVID-19. This is not what we wanted. We are all tired of this and struggling to face a winter without celebrations and gatherings.
Restaurants and bars are once again restricted to take out, which jeopardizes the future of many of these local businesses. The harsh reality is that if we want these businesses to recover and to see our children to get back into school classrooms and activities, we all need to mask up, wash our hands, maintain distancing, and refrain from gathering in groups. Thank you all.