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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Dec 05

December 5, 2020

Posted on December 5, 2020 at 9:31 AM by Niyah Ross

The City Manager shared an inspiration to staff and Council this week with the title “There is no finish line” which is the title of a blog by a writer named Austin Kleon. The essence of his message is that we are not in a marathon; we are in a contest to stay the course – one loop after another.  To set our sight on a finish line is not helpful; to keep going around each loop, each day, is the way through.

This valuable insight is very helpful this week.  Our city is reverberating from another officer-involved shooting, our ongoing crisis with homelessness, and increasing impacts from the pandemic. It feels as if there is no end in sight – because there isn’t.  These are the challenges of our age, not just of 2020.  We won’t resolve all these issues on a known timeline; but we will put one step in front of the other to resolve the challenges that face us each day. And as we do that work, we keep our vision of a healthy, safe and equitable community in front of us.

A police shooting is a traumatic event and I understand and appreciate the level of concern in our community. I want to extend my compassion to all involved.

The tension of this moment is compounded by our need to wait for more information. In order to maintain the independence of the investigation and comply with Oregon state law, the investigation must be turned over to the Interagency Deadly Force Investigation Team (IDFIT) and the District Attorney’s office. This means our police department is limited in the amount of information they have and can provide.

The integrity of this investigation is critical, and it will take time. I know that is frustrating – we all care deeply. But please be patient for the legal wheels to turn.

In the meantime, the City Council remains dedicated to the work we’ve started with the Ad Hoc committee on police policies. We have a committed group of representatives that have been working hard to look deeply at existing policies and craft recommendations. It is as important as ever that we focus on the progress we can make together.

On another challenging issue, the City this weekend cleaned a large campsite in the Whiteaker neighborhood.  I have heard from several people questioning this action amidst COVID; and suggestions that if we simply helped people manage their garbage, we would not have to clear campsites.  The city’s policy through the pandemic is for the most part to let people who are unhoused remain in place in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19.  We have outreach teams, parks ambassadors, and social service providers who connect with campers to try to help them into shelter or, at least, stay healthy and safe. 

We have neighborhoods that are struggling with the challenges of people camping near their homes and businesses. In the case of this site, in addition to the buildup of garbage, there was dangerous and illegal activity taking place. The city had provided them with a portable restroom. Campers were given a week’s notice and were visited by social service providers for several weeks prior to the dispersal of the site.

This is not the situation any of us want.  We want people to be able to access the housing and services they need; and we want our neighborhoods to feel safe. We continue to invest in solutions – one rest stop, microsite or car camping location at a time. It’s not a marathon – it's test of perseverance and commitment.