It was a big week for Council with a final vote on the Middle Housing code changes and budget committee; as well as conversations about chronic toxic polluters, civilian oversight, and exploration of the potential for the Mary Spilde LCC building as a long-term home for City Hall.
Monday was our first hybrid City Council meeting at which people were able to testify in person at our new council chambers. Only a handful chose to do so; while about 60 others signed up online. Most of the comments concerned Middle Housing. Council had postponed their final vote to a special meeting on Tuesday in order to allow this last round of comment. On Tuesday, Councilors agreed to one final adjustment to reduce the allowable lot coverage from the draft code’s 75 percent to 60 percent. It is a sensible compromise and enabled the entire ordinance to pass unanimously.
Also on Monday, Councilors heard a presentation about the regulatory structure and authority over pollution of land, water, air and noise. This is a first step in a series of Council work sessions and was intended to build a foundation for understanding the City’s existing authority, and possible pathways for greater authority in addressing pollution. The air and soil contamination stemming from JH Baxter impacting adjacent neighborhoods; and the complaints of vibrations from Zip 0 Log in the River Road area add urgency to the discussion. Council approved a motion by Claire Syrett to prepare an ordinance regulating vibration as a chronic pollution. The Council will hear related sessions on a public health overlay zone in West Eugene, fossil fuel risk bonds and insurance, and gas stations. In this work, Council is looking in two directions: to fix pollution and contamination dangers that have impacted the area and to look to land use and other mechanisms to prevent future impacts.
On Wednesday, the Interim Police Auditor provided an overview of the history, operations, and authority of her department. It is interesting to note that after the Independent Auditor’s office was established in 2006, Council has not revisited the code since 2009. Last year in response to the final recommendations of the Ad Hoc Committee on Police Policy, Council directed the City Manager, Police Auditor and Municipal Court Judge to sort those recommendations to facilitate the process for evaluation and possible action. That matrix was presented to Council in February. This work session was intended to ensure that Councilors have a sound understanding of the current authority of the Auditor and Civilian Review Board before they take a deeper dive into the specific recommendations of the Ad Hoc Committee.
The second agenda item on Wednesday was a discussion of the City Hall. As you know, this question of a new City Hall has circulated through the Council for 20 years. in 2017, Council agreed to a land swap with the County to enable them to build a new courthouse on the block that formerly housed the City Hall. The City has planned to build a new City Hall on the same block as the new permanent Farmers’ Market. In the meantime, the City has leased sections of three floors of the Mary Spilde downtown LCC building to serve as City Hall. We are halfway through that three-year lease and need to begin to define our next steps. Those could include building a new City Hall next to the Farmers’ Market as planned in 2017, or conduct a discussion with LCC about a longer term agreement to continue to share that building through some agreement to purchase part of all of the building. I have already heard concerns about this possibility. The reason for this public meeting is to make sure that this discussion is open. We are in the very early stages of this and there will be ample opportunities for people to express their views.
I have focused on local news, but will close with acknowledgement of the overwhelming despair we are feeling after two mass shootings in two weeks – taking the lives of people simply living their lives at a grocery store in Buffalo, NY; and children and their teacher in school in Uvalde, Texas. On Monday, I read a proclamation condemning gun violence and calling for federal action; and I have signed a similar call for action circulated by the National League of Cities. There is no reason for our failure to enact common-sense laws to end this continuing assault and loss of innocent life. This weekend, as we celebrate Memorial Day, let’s remember that our Veterans gave their lives to preserve life and liberty in this country -- not the liberty to kill; the liberty to pursue happiness. Wear orange on Friday, June 3 in recognition of National Gun Violence Awareness Day.