by John Quetzalcoatl Murray
Mayor Lucy Vinis said although homelessness came in as her #3 priority during her “State of the City” speech, she plans to continue as a national leader on homelessness.
The mayor participated in a virtual interview by email Jan. 16, answering follow-up questions about her Jan. 8 ‘State of the City’ address.
John Q (KEPW 97.3 Whole Community News): Thank you, Mayor. Homelessness is not your top priority in 2024, according to your Jan. 8 “State of the City” address.
Although Gov. Kotek has declared a homelessness emergency, and Commissioner Pat Farr focused on homelessness in the “State of the County” address, and Eugene residents identify homelessness as their top concern, you determined that homelessness would not be your number one priority in your final year as mayor of Eugene.
Your deep understanding of the housing and homelessness space from your time with ShelterCare would appear to make you uniquely qualified to lead in this area, with the opportunity to align your professional background with the most pressing issue of our day, in a city with the highest per capita rate of homelessness in the nation.
Homelessness appears to be everyone else’s top concern, but not yours. Can you explain?
Mayor Lucy Vinis: If you listen carefully, homelessness is a priority included under the category of Public Health in my list of four priorities.
John Q: Thank you for the discussion, Mayor. We highlighted those homelessness sections from your speech as we published your address in its entirety. We also recognized your leadership role in seeking state funds for shelters created with one-time federal money, on the occasion of the governor’s one-year anniversary and updated homelessness emergency declarations.
Our question is: Why wasn’t homelessness your number one top priority?
To elaborate: Why did you choose climate over homelessness, especially after the city was forced to reverse its fossil fuel ordinance in 2023 and accomplished nothing with the investment of all of that staff and public time and energy?
As a followup: Was your State of the City address meant to send a message that Eugene is not “All In” with the governor’s initiative?
Mayor Lucy Vinis: I have one year remaining in my term. Homelessness is an abiding issue, as my speech made clear, and one on which I will continue to focus in 2024. I am already a leader on the issue of homelessness, locally, statewide and nationally. That’s not new and not changing in 2024. I highlighted issues that are of immediate concern that should draw our attention specifically in 2024 because of their time-sensitive urgency: budget shortfall and loss of a hospital in particular; as well as well highlighting the significance of the time-sensitive opportunity to take advantage of investments related to climate. There are many on-going issues for the city: public safety is another one. I focused on a few that should be in the public’s eye this year that people may not be watching as carefully but that will have enormous consequences.
John Q: Thank you for your response, Mayor. You can understand why such questions might be raised with your statement, “Climate is at the top of the list.” That is a higher priority than either #2 the city budget gap or #3 homelessness / public health.
We wish you well in your final year and in your post-Eugene endeavors.
Mayor Lucy Vinis: Thanks. We’re a leader on climate. And we have a critical shift to make because of the reaction to the gas ban last year and the federal and state opportunities now in play.