April 24, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

Oregon mayors to try, try again on direct funding for homelessness

4 min read
Eugene Mayor Lucy Vinis will join other Oregon mayors in Salem during Legislative Days Sept. 28. The mayors are seeking direct funding to cities for homelessness issues.

After the city’s requests for homelessness funding were rejected, Eugene asks, What went wrong? At the Intergovernmental Relations Committee Sept. 6:

Councilor Greg Evans: Where are we with the state as far as homelessness is concerned? I know that we had some issues back during (the 2023 Oregon legislative) session about the proposal that came with the mayor’s group to the legislature, and the difference in opinion from the governor’s office and what the mayor’s group had proposed and said to both the governor and the legislature about the city’s role in homelessness. Can you update us on that?

[00:00:46] Mayor Lucy Vinis: That was part of my conversation with Sen. (James) Manning, was of our follow-up to the legislature, talking about our frustration that we did everything we needed to do: We worked with the other cities, we presented this case, and that we still were not heard. And what could we do next?

[00:01:02] And so the senator offered to include us in the Legislative Days in this way. I’m also expecting that we will have this conversation at the League of Oregon Cities.

[00:01:13] Ethan Nelson (Intergovernmental Relations manager): We’ve been talking to the delegation to try to get a better understanding of why we didn’t get funds. Early on, the governor and legislative leadership said, ‘We don’t like the Oregon Mayor’s Association. We understand your need and we understand what you’re saying, but we don’t support it.’ So it was really clear from the get-go that we are an outlier.

[00:01:34] And we worked our channels to really seek out direct funding to Eugene, and we will continue to do that… and while we are also in cooperation and collaborating, we also need to recognize that there can be a pathway for us to secure funds to, as I understand it, there’s a $5 million gap in this biennial budget for unhoused response. And that’s what we’re going to continue to request state support for. We don’t get it, we don’t get it. But that’s been our priority.

[00:02:05] John Q: Eugene will get a great opportunity to make its case later this week.

[00:02:10] Ethan Nelson (IGR manager): So Legislative Days are coming on Sept. 27-29. Sen. Manning has responded to Mayor Vinis and is putting together a panel on city homelessness.

[00:02:24] Mayor Vinis will be leading that and we’re working on bringing in a few other mayors to join Mayor Vinis to talk specifically about a city’s perspective on unhoused emergency and response and not have it be cluttered by another level of government’s perspective.

[00:02:43] There will also likely be discussions on the recent revenue forecast, we won’t really know what that’s going to do for state budgets. It’s a good forecast. So we are hopeful that when we focus in on our priorities again, of getting direct funding for the city of Eugene, that there might be discretionary dollars.

[00:03:04] Councilor Greg Evans: What are the major issues that are going to come up on the horizon for the short session in February? I understand our top three priorities, and my particular interest is on the development of industrial lands in the Clear Lake Road area. If we don’t get that investment, we are going to miss out on not only the industrial development, but the jobs that come with those developments.

[00:03:33] Ethan Nelson: What I would propose for the city of Eugene, our priorities would be the same priorities that we had, the top three priorities we had during the long session, which would be: direct allocation of funding for homelessness from the state.

[00:03:51] The second one was infrastructure funding from the state for housing out at Crow Road. And then the third one was infrastructure funding for economic development out at Clear Lake Road.

[00:04:03] They are still top priorities, still needs, and we’ve got even more support from our partners in the community that we sometimes don’t necessarily find alignment with, and there’s a lot of alignment on that. So my recommendation to bring back in October is just those three top priorities.

[00:04:24] John Q: At the city council meeting Sept. 11:

[00:04:28] Councilor Greg Evans: I’m going to be reporting on behalf of the Intergovernmental Relations Committee.

[00:04:33] The focus will be on updating the 2023 legislative agenda in preparation for the 2024 short legislative session. The committee plans to send its approved and recommended agenda to the full council in late October. If you have any input on this effort, please reach out to one of the IGR committee members, (City) Manager (Sarah) Medary, or the IGR Manager Ethan Nelson.

[00:05:03] We discussed keeping the same funding priorities as in 2023, which include funding for unhoused response, housing infrastructure, and economic development infrastructure.

[00:05:16] Mayor Vinis will be testifying in the Senate Committee on Veterans, Emergency Management, Federal and World Affairs on Sept. 28 in Salem. Sen. Manning, who co-chairs the committee, invited Mayor Vinis to come and lead a panel presentation on the state of homelessness in Oregon cities.

[00:05:37] John Q: After Legislative Days, the League of Oregon Cities will be coming to Eugene in mid-October for their annual conference.

[00:05:45] Councilor Greg Evans: The committee also voted to appoint Mayor Vinis as the voting delegate to the League of Oregon Cities conference, for voting on who will be the next LOC board. The LOC conference is Oct. 12-14 and will be held here in Eugene. Mayor Vinis and I will be attending, but it would be great if councilors could stop by.

[00:06:08] John Q: After its funding requests were nixed during the regular session, the city gets two opportunities to make its case for help to cities on homelessness.

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