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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 30

April 30, 2021

Posted on April 30, 2021 at 12:00 PM by Niyah Ross

This was a full week for Council which began with a long night on Monday including both a robust public forum and a public hearing.  On Wednesday, the Budget Committee heard the Manager’s presentation for FY22.  

On Monday, Council discussed two pathways to better manage the high number of vehicles in which people are camping.  This work session followed a discussion two weeks ago in which staff provided data and maps indicating the enormous increase in the number of people who are living in vehicles and the impacts to neighborhoods and businesses.  After full and detailed discussion, Council agreed to move forward in two ways: first, to implement a focused increase in parking signage in industrial/commercial areas, particularly in West Eugene, to clarify where vehicles can and cannot park; and second, to move proposed City Code changes to a public hearing that would clarify and close some gaps in the parking code that impede the City’s ability to manage where overnight parking is happening. For example, the new language adopts a new definition of a “block” to include both sides of a street as opposed to one side, which is how the code currently reads.  Council voted to move these code changes to a public hearing.

This is a hard discussion and reflects the urgency of the need to provide safe sleeping options for people who are unhoused and the profound impacts of such a large population of unsheltered people on the commercial and residential streets where they are living for lack of better alternatives. 

Following this discussion on Monday, Council held a public hearing on a proposal to expand those safe sleeping options.  Specifically, the proposal would develop 200 additional vehicle and 300 tent sites in multiple locations in the City.  Due to the lateness of the hour, Council continued deliberation over the ordinance language and approved the ordinance in the work session on Wednesday.  The intent of Council was to be sure that designated sites provide garbage collection, toilets, hand washing and potable water, and that the City will have an additional goal to be able to provide electricity.  The site management will be coordinated with service providers in the same way that the temporary sites at Washington Jefferson Park and 13th have been managed. A joint team of City and County staff are gathering information on potential sites.  Passage of this ordinance is necessary to give the Manager authority to either purchase or lease those sites.

The deliberation over these two actions consumed both work sessions.  A discussion about the LCC aviation program at the Airport, and a review of the proposed multi-unit housing development at the former LCC site at 1059 Willamette were postponed.

On Wednesday night, the City Manager presented her Budget framework and priorities for the FY 22 budget.  The proposed budget reflects $4.6 million in reductions, but includes on-going investments in Council’s priority areas, including additional investments in homeless services and climate policy.  One of the hardest cuts to swallow for a number of committee members is a reduction of one fire engine at Station 2.  

The City is working in a changing landscape.  We are discussing the budget in light of known and projected resources, fully aware that American Rescue Plan funds will have a positive impact in the coming fiscal year.  We simply don’t know enough yet about the guidelines and restrictions of those funds.  The Manager will reconvene the full budget committee for a Supplemental process in FY 22 once this is clearer.

Finally, discussions about the Community Safety Initiative allocations is coming to Council on May 10th.  These funds are separate and dedicated – they are not part of the General Fund.