January 26, 2023

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

State of the City 2023 in 10 minutes

8 min read
Here's the 10-minute version of Eugene's report on homelessness, housing, public safety, and climate change, from the State of the City address Jan. 4, 2023.

[00:00:00] John Q: Eugene Mayor Lucy Vinis offered the annual report on the community’s top priorities. Hosting the ceremony, Council President Greg Evans.

[00:00:08] Council President Greg Evans: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the 2023 ‘State of the City’ message. My name is Greg Evans, City Council president, and your host for this evening’s event. We’re honored and delighted that you are here to help us celebrate what we have accomplished over the past year, the people who make this such a wonderful community, and to set our goals for the future.

[00:00:37] On behalf of City Council, I’d like to take a minute to thank a number of individuals who have served on some of our standing committees that make recommendations to city council on policy issues and advise city staff.

[00:00:53] The following individuals completed their terms or moved on in 2022, and I want to recognize them for their time, talent, and expertise.

  • Budget Committee: Jon Jasper
  • Civilian Review Board: Michael Hames-García and William Whalen
  • Historic Review Board: Sarah Shmigelsky
  • Human Rights Commission: Daniel Borson, Kirstin London, Amanda McCluskey, Heather Sielicki, and Joel Iboa
  • Planning Commission: Kristen Taylor
  • Police Commission: Maisie Davis and Shawntel Robertson
  • Sustainability Commission: Drew Johnson, Julia Johnson, Jon Kloor
  • Toxics Board: Nicole Paterson
  • Whilamut Citizen Planning Committee: Sam Stroich, Laurel Burke, Karl Eysenbach, Ruth Hyde, and Nicholas Gombart.

[00:01:56] And I sincerely apologize if I’ve missed anyone, and thank all of you for your service.

[00:02:03] John Q: The evening also featured awards and entertainment, remarks from city councilors, and a 2022 highlights video. Here’s the address in 10 minutes.

[00:02:14] Council President Greg Evans: And now I invite you all to listen to Mayor Vinis as she delivers the 2023 State of the City address.

[00:02:22] Mayor Lucy Vinis: Welcome back. It is great to see you in the Hult Center once again. Coming together in this community space is a moment to rekindle our shared vision of the city we wish to be in the world—where everyone has a place to live. A city with plentiful parks and open spaces that are safe and accessible to everyone.

[00:02:46] A place children can thrive. A city that is easy to navigate by car, bus, bike, or on foot. A city that offers ample family wage jobs, and healthy businesses that meet our needs. A city that is rich with activities and amenities to expand our horizons. And a city whose landscape, buildings, and actions reduce our impact on global warming.

[00:03:12] In 2022, the city conducted a community survey of households across the community. Homelessness, housing, public safety and climate change still top the list of things you want the city’s leadership to address.

[00:03:26] Homelessness. This is the top concern on everyone’s list.

[00:03:30] In 2022, parts of our city witnessed great progress. We diffused an ongoing and unruly situation in West Eugene through commercial street parking regulation and consistent monitoring. People living at the temporary sites in Washington-Jefferson Park and at 13th and Chambers were largely able to relocate to the new safe sleep sites. The city now offers almost 700 shelter beds, including nine rest stops and four safe sleep sites.

[00:03:59] Each of these sites is unique, but they share a quiet, purposeful culture of safety and hope.

[00:04:06] Housing. We remain concerned about the displacement of renters from their homes when housing costs are high and too many people are under the threat of homelessness. Renters are suffering in this market. We also understand that property owners face risks to their property if they have irresponsible tenants or tenants who are unable to pay the rent.

[00:04:29] We must find a balance. All councilors understand that the long-term solution to housing cost and availability is to build more housing.

[00:04:38] One of council’s first actions in 2022 was adoption of the Housing Implementation Pipeline, or HIP. The HIP outlines our goals to create more housing of all types, including more affordable homes, as well as addressing the needs of renters.

[00:04:53] Middle housing dominated the first half of 2022. I have advocated for middle housing since taking office in 2017. I am proud of the council for voting unanimously on a package of zoning code changes that not only comply with state requirements, but include incentives to encourage more affordable units to be built.

[00:05:15] It took incremental, thoughtful work by councilors, staff, and members of the public to get to that vote, and it depended on extraordinary levels of public engagement. The city team won a state award for their multifaceted and deliberative outreach and information gathering. This is a significant step and it is key to enabling us to meet the desperate need for housing in our community and also meet our climate goals.

[00:05:44] The construction of middle housing within a short walk to major corridors aligns with council’s decision to study five major corridors for enhanced transit and improved biking and walking. This policy—coordinated with Lane Transit District—is intentionally incremental. Each corridor is unique. In each step along the way, the city will engage the affected neighborhood as well as the whole community.

[00:06:10] The consideration of EmX and other transit corridor improvements are components of our gradual and thoughtful progression toward the Eugene of the future, a city that enables more people to live close to transit, and to reduce our dependence on gas-powered cars.

[00:06:30] We all have a voice and role to play to build that resilient city of our near future.

[00:06:37] Public safety is number three on the list of top concerns in our community.

[00:06:42] In 2022, the city followed three tracks. First, the Police Department continues to hire more officers and to direct the Special Crimes Unit to address the worst violent and drug-related activity, and they continue to succeed in finding and arresting this higher level of criminal.

[00:06:59] Second, the city has a constellation of alternative response teams, non-uniformed and unarmed. The most well-known is CAHOOTS, to respond to mental health emergencies, but we have added other teams to meet needs across the city.

[00:07:15] And third, questions about police actions and accountability and fairness and safety for people of color led council to appoint the Ad Hoc Committee on Police Policies, which presented its recommendations for reforms in 2021.

[00:07:30] In 2022, and into 2023, council is reviewing those recommendations. This illustrates again how change happens in our city through deliberative incremental work.

[00:07:41] Climate Change. Council’s response to climate change was front and center in 2022 and will continue to be a priority this year. The Climate Action Plan 2.0 identified transportation and buildings as two of three key contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. The council has already adopted policies to reduce the fossil fuels in transportation. In 2022, our focus turned to the impact of buildings on climate.

[00:08:08] The work was framed by five motions put forward by our former colleague, Claire Syrett. Those motions pointed in two directions. First, to guide or regulate the energy source for new construction, and second, to improve the resiliency and sustainability of existing buildings.

[00:08:25] We are doing this work in stages, the first of which would prohibit the use of fossil fuels in new low-rise residential construction initiated after June 2023. This will come to a vote soon. In my mind, this is straightforward: Housing policy is climate policy. What and where we build is key in our response to climate change.

[00:08:50] This policy also aligns with our housing priorities to increase the supply of smaller, more compact housing, which is also more energy-efficient. Regarding existing buildings, council has reviewed the costs and benefits of retrofitting residential, commercial, and industrial buildings over time as technology and costs make those changes feasible.

[00:09:14] We have received a lot of public comment about this work. Some strongly urge council to act quickly and decisively to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels. Others fear that council’s action will literally turn off the gas.

[00:09:29] The choice is not to ‘do nothing’ or ‘everything all at once.’ It is to take incremental actions to make Eugene a city that is sustainable on this warming planet.

[00:09:41] I welcome the opportunity to reboot our sense of common purpose. All of our ongoing issues share common themes. They are fundamentally about equity. Our need to create a community culture in which people have access to housing and opportunity, feel protected and safe, and benefit from both a built and natural landscape that is more resilient in the face of global warming.

[00:10:05] In all of these endeavors, we have consistently relied on our business community. We count on the business community to help carry the load, and yet we don’t have a comprehensive plan in place to support and grow the businesses that we depend on.

[00:10:22] We don’t have a current economic development plan for our city. It is time. In 2022, I convened monthly meetings of a Mayor’s Business Advisory Council that informed my thinking about the range of issues before council. This year I will convene a Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Business Council on Economic Development. The council will have a six-month timeline to outline strategic priorities for a healthy local economy.

[00:10:49] This year marks the third year of the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council. This dynamic group of high school students has matured as an organization and their priorities reflect their perspective as teenagers growing up in this community. They will lead in the future. They are the change and they need to be our partners. You will hear more from them in 2023.

[00:11:13] Every year I have been in office, I have closed my ‘State of the City’ address anticipating the World Athletics Championships / Oregon22. That stellar event has now come and gone. It brought the world to Eugene and put our city in front of the largest TV audience ever to watch this biennial track and field championship.

[00:11:34] Our city team created a glorious free festival at the new Riverfront Park that for 10 days reminded us of the joy and exhilaration of coming together to share music, dance, food, and athletics in a public space. We fulfilled the call of being the change we wish to be in the world, where we celebrated all of the communities within our community.

[00:11:58] In the day-to-day life of a city, change happens slowly. I’m ready and eager to take the next steps with you. Join me.

[00:12:08] John Q: The ten-minute version of Mayor Lucy Vinis and the State of the City 2023.

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