Council's meetings this week anticipated and prepared for impending decisions and actions. On Wednesday, Council reviewed the list of policy priorities that underpin our advocacy when the legislative session opens in 2023. In the second half of the meeting, Council reviewed the accomplishments under the voter approved 2018 levy for parks that is up for renewal next year. Our three public hearings on Monday attracted limited written comments related to Clear and Objective Standards, but no public testimony as all three issues were largely adjustments to align with state law.
The first topic on Wednesday reviewed Council’s agreement regarding the process to focus staff’s lobbying efforts at the legislature on issues that align with council’s priorities. This continues to be tricky: staff anticipate 2,000-3,000 bills to be proposed in the long session. It is a balancing act to keep councilors informed and engaged but avoid diverting too much council work session time to these state policy discussions.
As mayor, I appoint three councilors to form the Intergovernmental Relations Committee (IGR) who work with staff to monitor and advise on legislation as it progresses. If that committee is divided in their support, opposition or neutrality on proposed legislation, they refer the issue to the full council. To support this work, the IGR and staff prepare a document that delineates policy perspectives on a broad range of areas such as homelessness, land use, public safety, and equity and inclusion. An example of a policy statement is this one under housing and homelessness: “Eugene supports the preservation and expansion of programs and tools to fund the development and preservation of housing affordable to low-income persons.”
In the work session, Council approved the document with the caveat that an additional policy statement would be drafted for their approval regarding Measure 110. Councilors expressed frustration about the slow implementation of the addiction treatment services that legislation was intended to provide.
In our second Wednesday session, staff reviewed the investments promised and delivered in the 2018 parks levy. The levy provided an average of about $3 million annually for safety and maintenance of parks and facilities. For example, the levy funded two Eugene police officers and two parks ambassadors to enhance safety; and enabled the city to re-open restrooms, increase trash and litter services, and improve habitat and maintain trails.
The staff and a volunteer advisory board had reviewed other possible revenue sources and agreed with their decision in 2018 that a levy is the most certain method for raising the amount of funds required. However, if renewed at the same rate of $.19/$1,000 of assessed value, the new levy would actually result in less support for this ongoing work because of higher costs and inflation. Council is facing a decision about whether to renew the levy and whether to maintain the same rate or increase it in order to keep pace with the costs. The city will survey residents to get a better understanding of the public’s preferences and tolerance for continued investment that will help inform Council’s deliberations.
Finally, I have two notes about my activities outside of council meetings. On Wednesday I participated in the “Xcelerator Workshop” convened by Contracting Alliance for Diversity and Equity (CADE). This is a collaboration with the University of Oregon, Eugene, Springfield, Lane County and Lane Transit District to promote entrepreneurship and economic development with ethnic minorities in Oregon. It is an important part of Eugene’s efforts to create more opportunities, and I attended this week’s workshop to present and encourage minority business leaders to take advantage of our programs which include business loans with more flexible collateral requirements and lower interest rates.
And on Wednesday evening, I joined a listening session and workshop titled “Honoring Black Legacy” at the Farmers Market Pavilion. City parks staff are working with an advisory board on three parks that are part of the history and the future of Eugene’s Black community: Alton Baker, Mattie Reynolds, and MLK Jr. Each has a distinct history and role in the community and this workshop was designed to gain insights about park improvements, designs and names. There’s more to come on this as plans develop to build out Mattie Reynolds Park, refurbish MLK Jr.; and consider whether that small neighborhood park is significant enough as a recognition of such an important American.