This was a short week for council which met on Monday only, without a Wednesday meeting. Council reviewed and approved legislative policies and priorities in anticipation of the 2024 State legislative short session, and received an update on the City’s preparations in advance of the closure of the PeaceHealth University District hospital.
The legislative policies and priorities are an essential step for council to guide staff in their response to bills presented to the state legislature. The policy document is a series of statements about issues, either in support or opposition. It includes, for example:
- Eugene supports the preservation and expansion of programs and tools to fund the development, preservation, and protections of housing affordable to low-income persons.
- Eugene supports state and federal measures to place a price on carbon emissions through mechanisms such as a carbon tax/fee or a cap and trade program.
- Eugene supports legislation that condemns all forms of hate, xenophobia, racism, white supremacy, Anti- Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, sexism and other forms of bigotry.
Council’s agreement to these principles enables staff to more effectively respond to proposed legislation. Discussion of proposed bills and their status is conducted primarily by the three councilors who sit on the Intergovernmental Relations Committee. I join those meetings as a non-voting member. On issues of disagreement, the committee refers legislative questions to the full council.
The Priorities document lists the City’s specific requests. This year’s priorities seek support for our public health response to the closure of the PeaceHealth University District hospital; support for our response to homelessness; support for two specific infrastructure investments; and increased support for mental health and crisis support systems.
Our second item on Monday was an update from the Fire Chief on our preparations for the emergency room closure. There are many elements to our response. In the immediate term, the EMS crews have focused on increasingly directing folks to Riverbend. Today, the West Eugene Urgent Care is moving to the medical building across the street from the University District Emergency Room and will have some increased capacity and diagnostics for patients. There will also be additional EMS staffing at the Valley River station; and an EMS squad focused on the “friendly faces” -- people who are frequent users of the emergency response system. Our contract with Mid-Valley Ambulance has capacity to increase their service; and the Fire Dept will continue to track in real time the uses of vehicles, personnel and response times in order to adjust. The biggest issue is having enough equipment – there is apparently a long delay in the availability of new chassis for these vehicles. The take-away: the Fire Department has been agile and creative; we’re hopeful for financial support from the state to help pay for our increased services; and we’ll look to implementing some longer-term solutions over the coming year.
I want to close by noting that our public comment period on Monday night was dominated by demands for a resolution by Council on the Israel/Gaza conflict. I opened the meeting with remarks about my understanding of our role at time like this. Here is an excerpt from those comments:
It is important as elected officials to stand firmly in support of US policies that promote a peaceful end to this conflict. A resolution from this council can be a powerful re-assertion of values that this council has expressed in earlier resolutions in support of peace and in opposition to hate.
But issuing a resolution is not enough and not a substitute for the work we must do here at home. The trauma of this war and loss of life reaches directly to this community.
Our friends and neighbors who are Jewish and Palestinian need our support as they face a surge in antisemitism, anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hate speech and crimes. Peace begins with us – not with accusations or diminishment of the suffering on either side, but as a community that shares their grief and extends our hands and hearts in compassion....
...We have a moment to stand for peace, with clarity about the depth of pain and the challenge of compromise that is required. We should all do so with clear heads and honest hearts.