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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Jun 19

June 18, 2021

Posted on June 19, 2021 at 7:22 AM by Niyah Ross

This week began with sadness as news sank in of the sudden death of Lawanda Manning, wife of Sen. James Manning.  Lawanda was a steady force for good in our community and state.  Welcoming, gracious, and quick witted, she seemed to be everywhere, and always at the Senator’s side, advocating for just, compassionate, sensible policies. Lawanda welcomed me, as she did everyone, with a warmth that implied I was just the person she most wanted to see at that moment.  I join many in this community who will miss her dearly and who grieve with and for Senator Manning at this time.

 

Council addressed major issues this week. On Monday, Council held a public hearing concerning proposed amendments to the ordinance regulating parking with respect to commercial vehicles, vehicle storage on streets and parking time limits.  The proposed changes are intended to enhance the safety and enforcement of parking restrictions to reduce the impact of vehicles housing the unsheltered especially in commercial areas. The options were presented in response particularly to challenges in West Eugene where businesses are struggling with truck access to their warehouses because of the proliferation of campers and trailers; and where the large congregation of vehicles has created other safety and sanitation challenges. The revised ordinance reinforces the 72-hour time limit for street storage of vehicles, expands the definition of a “block” to include both sides of the street, and requires vehicles to be moved at least two blocks away to re-set the 72-hour clock.  Advocates for the unsheltered object to this increasing traumatization.  We are faced with conditions in certain parts of town where the behavior of some of the people living on the streets is threatening and dangerous.  Required movement of vehicles at the very least ensures that the City can clean the streets and reduce the sanitation challenges; and also provides some relief to the people living or working in heavily impacted areas.  It’s not perfect, and councilors are not all equally comfortable with the changes. It is set for a vote on Monday, the 21st.

 

This adjustment in parking should be seen in coordination with the City’s work to identify sanctioned safe tent and vehicle sites. Council will receive an update on the progress in assessing potential sites for 300 tents and 200 vehicles on Wednesday, the 23rd.  We hope to provide better managed, safe sites in the near term that will help people who are unhoused find more stability and at the same time reduce the impact of unsanctioned sites on both commercial and residential neighborhoods.

 

On Wednesday, the Council moved forward on the general criteria to be used in adjusting Council Ward boundaries.  With every ten-year census, the City uses new population figures to adjust the Ward boundaries.  This year the process is delayed because the 2020 Census figures will not be available until September. City staff, with Council’s input, is doing as much to anticipate the process as possible before the final census numbers are available.  One goal is to divide the Wards by close to equal populations numbers within a 3% range.  Tentatively, that population number is just over 21,500. Councilors are concerned about boundaries that might shift during this election year, wanting to ensure recognition of boundary changes that might exclude a councilor from their ward. This is the beginning of a robust process that will include many opportunities for public input in October after the census numbers are final and proposed boundaries can be drafted.

 

And finally, on Wednesday the City Manager presented a summary of her discussions with NW Natural regarding the franchise and carbon reduction agreements.  Council approved a motion directing the City Manager to continue her discussions with NW Natural regarding a commitment to specific GHG reduction projects as enabled by State legislation.  SB 844 was passed in the 2013 legislature as a voluntary program to incentivize utilities to undertake emissions reductions projects.  Under discussion with NW Natural, the gas company would negotiate projects with the Manager. Iff the City agrees, those proposals would then be sent to the State’s Public Utility Commission for approval and oversight. If agreed by both parties in the fall, NWN would undertake two projects during the four-year timeline of the new franchise agreement.  They would also pay an increased franchise fee.  The additional percent earned in the fee would support a dedicated fund to further our climate work.  It’s not done yet – and it’s not a complete deal – but it aligns with our climate goals, promotes energy efficiency and GHG reduction, and has a 90-day termination clause if we feel NWN isn’t holding up their end.  This will come back to Council in the fall and include a public hearing on the proposed franchise fee.

 

Also in this discussion, Council asked for an update on our progress in implementing the CAP 2.0, in recognition that the discussions with NW Natural are part of a larger set of strategies to reduce our GHG emissions and use of fossil fuels.

 

As a closing note – and one that Lawanda Manning would have loved – I attended the ribbon cutting for the newly renovated Echo Hollow Pool in Bethel, or “water-breaking” as Library, Recreation and Cultural Services Director, Renee Grube, called it.  This renovation is one of the projects funded by the Parks and Recreation bond and levy passed by the voters in 2018. The pool was 50 years old with a very inefficient, fossil fuel-intensive heating system.  To celebrate the opening, three elementary school children from the Bethel Schools were invited to take the first ride down the slide.  London Jackson, newly graduated from Kindergarten, responded to Renee’s question about what she liked best about the new pool “It’s blue, sparkly, and the slide looks like a dragon,” she said.

 

Summer is here.  I hope many of you take advantage of the chance to watch children, or slide yourselves, down the dragon’s back slide at the Echo Hollow Pool.