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.

View All Posts

Sep 17

September 17, 2021

Posted on September 17, 2021 at 4:53 PM by Niyah Ross

This was a full week for Council whose work sessions covered two major issues: The Community Safety Initiative (CSI) and Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU).


A team of City staff reported to Council on the Community Safety Initiative including an overview of the 2019 ordinance and the data about our public safety system that drove the decision making. Council heard about both the revenue raised for the first two quarters of 2021 through the payroll tax and about the current metrics and performance in police response and capacity.  


There was good news and bad news.  The good news was revenue: despite the pandemic, payroll tax income exceeded the modest expectations incorporated in the FY2022 budget.  You will recall that when approved by Council, CSI projections envisioned revenue of $23.6 million.  During the budget process in the spring of 2021, the City calculated a January-June revenue of $4.7 million; the actual receipts are $7.9 million.


The bad news is that having fully staffed all Eugene Police vacancies prior to the pandemic, the EPD are now down by 17 positions that are supported in the General Fund budget, putting the expansion of staffing anticipated through the additional funds in the CSI is into the future.  The impact of this shortage of personnel is reflected in the inability of police to respond to calls for service – the very issue we had hoped the CSI investment would address. Chief Skinner noted that for a daily average of 413 calls for service, EPD is unable to respond in any way to 166.


You will recall that in the past year the City convened an Ad Hoc Committee on Police Policies and conducted a second round of community engagement and outreach to discuss the CSI.  There were several consistent messages from that work: homelessness continues to be a primary concern; and the need for an alternative, nonuniformed response to calls, dispatched by an alternative to the 911 system, would offer a more appropriate and reassuring response than a uniformed, armed police officer.


The next step in this conversation will come to Council in October when staff will present options for both fulfilling our commitments in the CSI, adjusting to police staffing shortages, and responding to community demands for greater investment and focus on alternative public safety responses.


On Wednesday, Council approved five motions and the full text of the amended ordinance governing Accessory Dwelling Units. This vote had been postponed in July to September 15th in order to accommodate requests from the Jefferson Westside neighborhood, in particular, to have more time to review them. The neighborhood’s leadership offered a re-written section of the ordinance which Councilor Semple offered as a substitute for the main motion.  It failed. Finally, having begun this policy journey in 2018, the City has an ADU ordinance that removes barriers to their construction and complies with state statute. 


It is important to have this piece of code completed as we begin a more complex discussion of our ordinance to comply with HB 2001. That statute requires the city to allow duplexes on all lots which allow single family residential housing; and to permit other “middle” types of housing like triplexes, quads, and townhouses on residential lots where they comply with siting and design standards.  The City has until June 2022 to complete our code to comply; and Council will hold its first work session on this issue later this fall. If we fail to pass our own code, the state’s model code will be imposed.  This is an important step in responding to the dual challenges of population growth and climate change and there is a lot of energy swirling around it – by historic neighborhoods that are leery of middle housing types; and by participants in the City’s outreach and surveys who want diversity and depth in our housing supply.