Coming on the heels of the violence in DC on the
same night as our annual State of the City, this first week back after break
offered Council an opportunity to welcome new members and re-engage in the
constructive work that progressed through the challenges of 2020. The
meetings this week built on themes of equity and access – a welcome
counterpoint to the Proud Boys and others whose goal is to disrupt this
Specifically, Monday’s work session reviewed the enormous range of efforts
to increase equity in community engagement, policy development and
delivery. These include internal city programs in human resources,
trainings in “belonging,” and intervention training to respond to incidents of
race and bias. Councilors noted the efforts to increase access for
Spanish speakers, with more translations, more Spanish programming, and
continued outreach on public safety by the Auditor’s office. The list is
broad and deep – including housing, police, climate and business opportunities.
I encourage you to review it in the council packet online.
That session was followed by the annual report from the Police
Commission. This volunteer committee has been well-positioned and
responsive to the community demands expressed in Black Lives Matter protests
and increased their membership in order to ensure broader representation of
BIPOC and LGBTQ communities. They play a vital role in our ability to
build police policies that serve our entire community.
Following the work session, we hosted the largest public forum we’ve heard
since last summer -- 48 people signed up. Most of the testimony focused
on the City’s negotiations with NW Natural Gas. A large group of high
school students urged Council to cease negotiations if NW Natural doesn’t include
an agreement not to build more fossil fuel infrastructure and fees that can be
applied toward helping lower income people transition from gas heating to
electricity. These are both pressure points in the ongoing negotiations
between the City and NW Natural.
Council will receive an update on the progress later this month and has made
it clear in past discussions that alignment with our Climate Recovery Goals is
an essential factor in those negotiations. This commitment is embodied in
the Climate Action Plan 2.0. That said, these are not simple to negotiate,
and Council has allowed time for staff try to land in a place that continues
our climate action progress without creating unsustainable disruption to
households and businesses that rely on this utility.
The passion of this testimony was matched by the passionate testimony of
others seeking a strong statement from Council condemning the white supremacist
actions in DC and in Oregon, and commitment to keep our BIPOC neighbors in our
I released a statement last week and Councilor Syrett read a statement at
the Monday meeting. In response to the testimony, Council requested time
to revisit their 2019 resolution condemning white supremacy. The review of the
2019 resolution has been scheduled for Wednesday, January 20th
during the second half of the noon work session.
On Wednesday, the meeting opened with a briefing from Chief Skinner about
the Police Department’s preparations in anticipation of Proud Boys and other
groups planning to disrupt the inauguration. The Chief forcefully made it
clear that the Proud Boys and similar groups are not welcome in Eugene.
The EPD will remain politically neutral in their plans to allow free speech to
take place yet will respond to behavior that is either intimidating or
threatening. The Chief is in contact with the local FBI and with some
representatives from communities of color who are in danger and targeted by
these violent groups.
This discussion was followed by an update of progress on our commitment to
build a 75-bed permanent shelter for homeless people in our community. As
you will recall, this is one of 10 actions that the City and County adopted
based on the Homeless System Analysis and Shelter Feasibility Study conducted
in 2018. The shelter is to be associated with navigation services,
to ensure that guests, primarily chronically homeless adults, can move on to
more stable transitional housing as a result of their stay at the
Using coronavirus funds, the County purchased one of two proposed sites for
the shelter, a former medical clinic for veterans on River Avenue. This
is currently being used to provide care to homeless adults with COVID. The
hope is the site will be able to convert to a shelter by the end of 2021. There
is the potential of State funds that the City might be able to dedicate to
supporting the new shelter’s operations.
Finally, I want to close by recognizing how tense and fearful we are all
feeling in this very unstable time. The message that came through
strongly in Council meetings this week is one of constructive action and
perseverance – to do better for more people in our community. We look to
our annual recognition on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday as an opportunity
to recommit ourselves to do better for others in our community and “I have
decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear,” Dr. Martin
Luther King Jr.