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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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Apr 09

April 9, 2021

Posted on April 9, 2021 at 7:17 PM by Niyah Ross

This was a week of engagement mostly at a federal level.  There were no Council meetings – Council will be back from its spring break on Monday, the 12th.

I began on Monday with the opportunity to welcome the Second Gentleman, Douglas Emhoff, to a roundtable discussion about the impacts of the pandemic.  While this session was less in the headlines than his visit earlier in the day to Whitebird’s vaccine clinic at the WOW Hall, it was a powerful session. Mr. Emhoff heard and responded to testimony from two Oregon Legal Aid clients, one of whom sought legal help to access unemployment benefits, and the other needed assistance to contest an eviction notice.  I was struck both by Mr. Emhoff’s careful attention and responsiveness, and his genuine commitment to communicating what he is hearing to the President and Vice President and translate those challenges into meaningful policy responses.  It filled me with hope.

On Thursday, I joined a roundtable on transit investments hosted by Congressman DeFazio, who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.  This was an opportunity for Lane Transit District (LTD) to talk about their fleet transition to electric buses; for the Amalgamated Transit Workers union to talk about the impact of their jobs in supporting the community.  I spoke to our commitment to completing the transformation of Franklin Boulevard into a safe multi-modal transportation corridor, including not only bus rapid transit but safe routes for bicycling and walking.  The City is applying for a federal grant for this project now; and could also benefit from the Biden Administration’s jobs and infrastructure investments.

On Thursday, elected and staff representatives of Eugene, Springfield, Lane County, LTD, Springfield Public Schools and Willamalane met to review our series of “United Front” meetings beginning next week.  The United Front is a decades-long regional partnership that joins together annually to meet with both our elected federal delegation – Senators Wyden and Merkley, and Rep. DeFazio – and with federal agencies to explore policy and funding options that will benefit local projects.  Key priorities include transportation infrastructure, like Franklin Boulevard, investments in housing and homelessness, and economic recovery.  For the first time in my tenure as mayor, I feel hopeful that we’ll actually succeed in these requests because the Biden Administration’s priorities align with the work we are doing locally.

 And finally, on Friday, I attended the first of two days of the Environmental Justice Pathway Summit, convened by Beyond Toxics and the local chapter of the NAACP.  The opening session included three presentations about the City’s history of racism and exclusion. It is a history too few of us know or acknowledge and understanding the depth of our overt and implicit racist past is the only way we can build a path to a more equitable and welcoming community.  In the afternoon, I attended the keynote address by Sheila Watt-Cloutier, hosted by the University of Oregon’s Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples lecture. Ms. Watt-Cloutier was a 2007 Nobel Peace Prize nominee and author of a book titled “The Right to be Cold” about protecting the Arctic.  Her talk was inspiring and quotable, and I leave you with one memorable closing comment: “Things will change at the speed of empathy and trust.”