Happy New Year! This first week of Council meetings opened 2022 on a positive note, without deep controversy. Council heard an update about Oregon 22 plans, a report on the Municipal Court, and the annual report on the outcomes funded by the five-year levy to support library operations.
The Oregon 22 World Athletic Championship is scheduled in Hayward Field in July. While the OR 22 organizing team includes representatives from the City, their focus is on the athletic events. The City of Eugene is hosting the free fan festival in our new Riverfront Park. You will recall that during past Olympic Track Trials, a fan festival area was adjacent to Hayward Field. The expanded track stadium no longer provides enough room, so the City is inviting the world to visit our new park -- connecting visitors to the river and to our downtown. The City is committed to providing a free, relaxed atmosphere to ensure that anyone who lives or visits can watch the events free on a giant screen, enjoy food and other live entertainment. Our planning includes an equity panel to ensure that all communities within our community are honored and celebrated as part of our efforts to showcase Oregon. Volunteers are needed for this fan festival – in addition to and separate from the volunteers supporting the track and field events.
Following this presentation, Municipal Court Judge Greg Gill reviewed the challenges and accomplishments of the Municipal Court. In 2020 when the pandemic prevented in person court proceedings, the Municipal Court instituted a virtual court which continued in 2021, offering an option to offenders and also expanding the court’s overall capacity. Now in 2022, they expect to be fully operating with five court rooms including the virtual court that helps keep pace with need. The Court staff has been nimble and responsive to shifting conditions, including the increased load related to implementation of the Community Safety Initiative and successful efforts by Eugene Police to better respond to criminal activity. The Court has also been effective in sustaining our Community Court, which diverts minor offenders from the court system and connects them to community service alternatives and nonprofit social service agencies.
On Wednesday, Council was treated to a presentation by the Library director on progress in meeting the expectations and goals supported by the five-year library levy. The commitment promised in the levy was to increase library programs, hours, and materials and technology. In the face of restrictions as a result of the pandemic, the library focused on its role as a lifeline –pursuing their core promise with innovative problem solving to meet needs that were sharper and deeper because of the pandemic, including help with job searches, access to the internet, and activities for children and seniors. This included programming like storybook walks in which children’s books were printed on signs along walks in public parks; the distribution of 500 mobile hotspots – the largest number distributed by any library in the state – to enable people to access the internet wherever they are in the city; and creating invention kits for people to engage in hands on activities at home. Library hours are now fully restored to pre-pandemic times, and the investments of the past year are reflected in improved facilities including hearing loops to help the hard of hearing in the building, Wi-Fi and charging stations, and increased digital as well as material options.
In closing I will share the library’s equity framework: “windows and mirrors.” Windows enable us to see one another; mirrors enable us to see ourselves. It’s a wonderful metaphor as we embark on a new year and honor the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday on Monday.