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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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Jul 02

July 2, 2021

Posted on July 2, 2021 at 7:23 PM by Niyah Ross

Monday's work session provided Council with an opportunity to hear and reflect on the work of three key public safety bodies: the Police Commission, Police Auditor’s Office, and the Civilian Review Board.  The Police Commission and Civilian Review Board (CRB) are volunteer boards appointed by Council; the Auditor is one of three employees hired by Council (the other two being the City Manager and the Municipal Judge).  

The Commission, Auditor’s office and CRB are, and will be, instrumental in our continuing work to create a public safety system that is responsive to our safety needs, transparent and accountable.  All three bodies carried significant responsibility in reviewing policies and the impact of police action in response to the racial justice protests last summer.  The Commission not only completed their planned 2020-21 review of policies including  for example, prohibited camping, search and seizure, and traffic enforcement; they also developed an emerging issues workplan in support of Black Lives Matter, including review of polices concerning civil disturbance, pepperball use, handcuffing control holds and impact weapons among others.

The Police Auditor’s Office reviewed over 600 hours of video of the protests and police response the last weekend of May 2020; reviewed four investigations of force; and provided expertise in the deliberations of the Ad Hoc Committee on Police Policy.  The Auditor is working with the City Manager and Municipal Court Judge to undertake an initial review of the Ad Hoc Committee’s recommendation to help frame the Council’s deliberation.  The Auditor’s office has expanded outreach to the Spanish speaking community, supporting translations and contributing to the City’s weekly online Spanish language news segment.  They expect to bring back well-attended public forums in Spanish post-COVID. In addition, the Auditor plans to add a Diversity and Equity role to the auditor’s office to work closely with the EPD.

The Auditor’s office staffs the Civilian Review Board which submitted to Council summaries of a dozen cases reflecting the range of issues in 407 complaints to the Auditor’s office in 2020.  The Board’s annual report noted that the use of Blue Team Software by the police to report uses of force combined with body-worn cameras enhances the clarity of the review process, and also adds to the workload of the Auditor’s office in reviewing video. Required by ordinance to meet at least four times a year, the CRB in in 2020 held ten public meetings. CRB members also serve as representatives on the Police Commission and Human Rights Commission.  Their report is detailed and informative, and I encourage people who are interested in how civilian oversight is conducted to take some time to read it.

On Wednesday, Council had a follow-up discussion regarding the “naming” policy.  We have held off on a naming request made several years ago with a goal of reconsidering the process to be more inclusive and to reflect contributions by people in our community who are too often overlooked – particularly Black Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC).  Staff reviewed related work by the City that can inform the Council’s consideration of changes.

In particular,  Council’s resolution condemning white supremacy and white nationalism included a commitment to identify and memorialize “Sites of Memory” in our community and to commemorate unsung heroes who have countered white supremacy and discrimination.  Concurrently, the City is also researching and expanding our cultural narrative – identifying significant sites and creating space and opportunity for cultural expression in downtown and beyond.  In addition, the Human Rights Commission is researching place and building names that they might recommend changing because the people being recognized are not representative of our values of a welcoming and inclusive community.  These efforts will be completed by the end of the year.  Council will likely delay revisions to the naming policy until after that time, although there is concern about further prolonging action on naming requests that have already been made.

Finally, Council received a final report on the 2021 legislative session.  Under Council’s operating agreements, three councilors comprise the Intergovernmental Relations Committee (IGR) as voting members, with the mayor as a nonvoting member, to review proposed legislation and direct staff efforts to advocate for or oppose bills as they emerge.  The work is built on a set of agreed Council policy directives.  Although the Council as a whole received periodic updates, unless there is disagreement among the three IGR members, the Council does not engage in these legislative policy discussions.

This session was huge in many ways and delivered many important legislative commitments and investments that have impact on our community.  Yesterday, we celebrated some of this work with a media event at the Riverfront.  Our Eugene delegations delivered $11 million in investments in Eugene, including $5 million to complete the Riverfront Park and Plaza and $2 million to Eugene Springfield Fire for apprenticeships.  In addition, the whole delegation designated American Rescue Plan funds to support $3.5 million for shelter land purchase and development, and individual commitments by Rep. Nathanson support the community broadband plan development; and Sen. Manning’s contribution to purchase a  Crisis Negotiations Vehicle for the EPD.

Finally, Police Chief Skinner and Fire Chief Heppel shared information about their preparations for the July 4th holiday. We are all concerned about the danger of fireworks igniting a massive wildfire.  Please remember the restrictions:  No fireworks are allowed in areas south of 18th and east of Agate.  Fireworks are only permitted on July 3rd and 4th; fireworks that fly into the air, explode or travel more than 12 feet along the ground are illegal without a permit.  People can download a fireworks app to report the illegal use of fireworks:   https://www.eugene-or.gov/120/Fire-and-Emergency-Medical-Services

Be safe.  Happy Fourth!