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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 01

July 1, 2022

Posted on July 1, 2022 at 8:01 PM by Sara McKinney

Every year the last week in June is a critical deadline because the last day of June marks the end of the City’s fiscal year and the deadline for passing the coming year’s budget. This year, June 30th is also significant because it is the State’s mandated starting point for the new codes allowing Middle Housing on residential lots throughout the city.  We marked both quietly.

The coming year’s budget is modest, with additional funds allocated to a few limited areas.  In addition to the Manager’s proposed budget items that included funding for continued improvements downtown as well as maintenance costs for the plaza and Farmers’ Market, support for a Climate Analyst and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion position in the Police Auditor’s office, the final budget also included funding for another downtown bathroom and $500,000 of American Rescue Plan (ARPA) funds to complete Phase 2 of Striker Field in north Eugene.

We are facing tight fiscal years and preparing for a shift from an annual budget cycle to a two-year budget. Council will participate in a two-day strategic planning process in September to align their priorities.  Council has long sought to make a tighter correlation between their policy priorities and budget choices.  This may sound obvious, but the General Fund dollars over which the budget committee and council have authority is only a part of the City’s overall budget.  Many of the costs are “baked in” leaving relatively little room for adjustments.  The two-year budget cycle, combined with the review of services now underway by city departments, is intended to help us build a stronger correlation.  

Monday’s work session featured the annual report by both the Interim Police Auditor and the Civilian Review Board.  This report covered their work in 2021, which encompassed ongoing investigations into complaints related to the racial justice protests in 2020 as well as the Auditor’s participation and support for the work of the Ad Hoc Committee on Police Policies. The work on the Ad Hoc Committee’s recommendations is on-going, and the Auditor’s request for funding for a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) staff person, included in the budget, is in part a response to concerns raised by that committee.  

The Civilian Review Board is the next layer of police oversight.  Over ten meetings, they reviewed 16 cases from among the 339 total complaints received by the Auditor’s office.  Of those, 12 were allegations of misconduct and four were incident reviews.

Both reports reflect the challenges of an increase of allegations in 2021 and shortage of staffing to review those cases. Body Worn Cameras were a focus for the Ad Hoc Committee and a key asset for those reviews.  They provide invaluable information; and both Auditor and CRB recommend policies that will ensure cameras are recording and not muted.  EPD is in the process of revising their policy and practice.

On Wednesday, Council approved a motion directing the Manager to prepare a draft resolution for placing a $61.2 million bond on the November ballot that would continue the City’s investment in road repairs and safety improvements.  If approved by voters, this would be the fourth road bond passed since 2008.  The proposed bond would retain the current tax rate of $0.63/$1000 in assessed property value. Council adjusted the allocations in the new bond proposal to triple from $1 million to $3 million the amount devoted to pedestrian and biking safety, including sidewalk improvements and bike paths, as well as lighting.  This will return to Council on July 13th.

On the national level, it has been a very hard week.  On women’s reproductive rights and the EPA’s authority to regulate power plants, the Supreme Court is rolling back the clock.  As we all consider the impacts of these decisions on our personal lives and our lives in community, remember that good work happens at home.  We are fortunate to live in Oregon and even more, to live in Eugene.  

I joined a few staff and community volunteers yesterday to walk a few blocks downtown admiring the Middle Housing that was built in our community decades ago.  In this case, rolling back the clock to allow that form of housing to reemerge in our neighborhoods is something to celebrate. Happy 4th!