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.”