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 30

July 30, 2021

Posted on July 30, 2021 at 2:28 PM by Caitlin Wallace

This was the last week of Council’s meetings for the summer. Council will return on September 8th, hopefully in person. With that in mind, the week’s meetings set the stage for discussions that will resume in the fall. 

At Monday’s work session, the Council had a chance to review and discuss the 50 recommendations of the Ad Hoc Committee on Police Policy. The City Manager, Interim Police Auditor and Municipal Court Judge developed a matrix that delineates three main actions for each recommendation: the decision making authority (Executive leadership, Council, County, State, or Federal); What needs to change (City code, collective bargaining agreement, training, Police Manual, City Charter, Case law, State or Federal law); and the current status (in progress, uncertain implementation path, under review, approved and in process, complete, or no further action.) When Council returns in the fall, the fields in the framework will be filled and will serve as the initial guide for the next review steps. The Matrix will be on the City’s website and will be a living document, adjusted as work proceeds. The intention is to be thorough and transparent in our review of the recommendations. 

Our second session on Monday was both an update on our response to hate and bias crimes and an opportunity for Council to approve a couple of changes. Staff reported on the historical and current occurrence and trends of these crimes in our community, noting that the newest update will be released in August. The trends are disturbing and the report notes that “data available from 2012 to 2020 indicates that bias activity is a constant issue affecting many Eugene residents, especially those in marginalized communities.” Of particular note, in 2020, 26 of 54 reported hate and bias crimes targeted Black Americans. The other note is that a very small percentage of these crimes results in prosecution, largely because the perpetrators are rarely caught because it is very hard to identify them. Council approved motions to send two proposed ordinances to a public hearing to align city with state law: adding the crime of Intimidation by Display of a Noose; and to increase the maximum penalty for Bias Crime in the Second Degree from $2,500 to $6,250. 

At the Council meeting later Monday night, Council approved a change in the ordinance governing Commercial Setbacks. This slow-moving decision is in response to a number of buildings, notably 13th and Olive, that comply with existing code and include apartments that front on the sidewalk with no separation or buffer. Council’s decision flips the existing code on its head: before this change, the default code has not required a setback; now, the default in the new code requires a setback. Designs that adjust height separations for first floor apartments or include windows and taller ceilings for commercial uses can do so without a setback. 

On Wednesday, Council and the County Board of Commissioners met in a joint session to review progress in implementing the recommendations of the Technical Assistance Collaborative (TAC). As you will recall, the two bodies approved 10 TAC recommendations to address homelessness in 2019. Much of this work has moved forward: we hired a joint shelter and housing strategist to coordinate our efforts; the County has purchased 100 River Avenue to serve as our permanent shelter and navigation center and is designing the renovation; 161 units of permanent supportive housing are in varying stages of completion; we have expanded and hired our outreach teams; and the County has expanded rapid rehousing programs. 

In addition, the reduction in congregate shelters in response to the pandemic and state and federal relief funds pumped resources into alternative shelters. As we look at the TAC, both Commissioners and Councilors observed a need to update our numbers and our thinking: the number of unsheltered people is much higher than it was when the recommendations were developed; and our investment in alternative shelters is a larger part of our immediate and on-going response than we envisioned just a few years ago. There is interest in continuing to build on this multi-jurisdictional approach and to incorporate the investments and priorities in Springfield into our ongoing work. 

Even though Council will not be meeting in August, we will all be hard at work. The work on safe sleeping sites continues; the hazards of heat and wildfire are ever-present and some additional fire resources have been brought into town. At the same time, we are able to take advantage of some of our much loved summer activities. Yesterday I reviewed the submissions to the Mayor’s Art Show and cut the ribbon for the expanded and renovated Campbell Community Center. August offers us a Slug Queen contest and a Pride Festival, and the opening of the new Riverfront Park. We will be wearing masks indoors once again – but we will also be gathering outdoors. Enjoy and stay safe.