April 22, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

After getting skunked last year, Eugene gets a big win at the 2024 legislature

6 min read

After coming up empty in 2023, Eugene received from the state legislature almost all of the funding the city requested. On March 6:

Ethan Nelson (Eugene, intergovernmental relations manager): We got skunked last year, right, and then we got a win this year. And so it’s always: ‘What do we do right? What do we do wrong?’ And so, the learning for me is that as we continue on, it’s the continual clarity on purpose—being able to have those conversations on an ongoing basis and show the value to the community.

[00:00:31] And this was one of the sessions where the city council, the state legislature, they had aligned priorities and there was also a lot of additional funding available at the state, the new revenue forecasts were showing that there is a surplus. And so that’s also a huge benefit.

[00:00:49] John Q: The city’s top priority was for help after PeaceHealth closed the University District hospital. With ambulances facing longer travel times and longer waiting times at the RiverBend emergency room, the city proposed a pilot program.

[00:01:05] Ethan Nelson (Eugene, intergovernmental relations manager): House Bill 4136 includes $1.3 million for a Basic Life Support (BLS) ambulance. That will be funding for two years. And then also Lane County received $3.2 million for innovation pilot programs.

[00:01:17] One of the really interesting things that (Fire Deputy) Chief (Chris) Heppel was updating me on is that in his work with PeaceHealth, they are actually bringing money to the table for a nurse navigation program, which he previously talked about and which the county ideally will put an RFP (Request for Proposal) on out for.

[00:01:36] So it’s pretty exciting about what is on the horizon for improvements, innovation improvements to the EMS (Emergency Medical Services) system, cost-saving measures, and then being able to pilot those on out and then share those learnings across the state with other EMS fire districts.

[00:01:54] Number 2: Unhoused response funding. And so we had identified the $7 million gap for the remaining biennium for the city of Eugene for shelter.

[00:02:03] And Senate Bill 1530 included $65 million for unhoused shelters statewide. Part of that $7 million gap is eligible for that, the $65 million. About a $1 million gap that we’ve identified, that’s not going to be eligible for the $65 million. And so our staff will be engaged in the OHCS (Oregon Housing and Community Services) process.

[00:02:27] So, housing infrastructure funding, and so Gov. Kotek’s housing bill, (SB) 1537, initially included funding for city infrastructure. That was then pulled on out and then it was dumped into (SB) 1530. So, (SB) 1537 became the really policy vehicle, and that will have impact on our land use policy, and there will probably be code amendments related to that.

[00:02:48] Then the last one is allow cities to undergo either one-time UGB (urban growth boundary) amendment or a land exchange and specify conditions. And we spent time looking at that and basically we have a lot of available land within our UGB and we would not be eligible for an expansion. The land that we have really, as we’ve said, needs to have infrastructure expansion to make it more cost-effective and feasible for development. But it is something that, more than likely, planning staff would want to come back and have a discussion with council on at some point.

[00:03:23] Councilor Greg Evans: There’s some planning that we’ve had in the last year…that Green Hill – Barger area is one of the areas and going north that has been identified in our 2037 plan for residential development, but there needs to be a certain amount of wetlands mitigation to make that happen.

[00:03:47] Ethan Nelson (Eugene, intergovernmental relations manager): And I think what our position continues to be is that it’s one thing to expand the UGB; it’s another thing to actually make it usable and affordable. To use Crow Road as an example: Crow Road has got infrastructure needs and wetland mitigation would be included in kind of the needs to make it developable.

[00:04:06] We would want to say: ‘State, can you help us make these lands more readily available at a lower cost for development,’ and therefore we would do the mitigation upfront. It’s just trying to do pre-development work to get more units into the pipeline. Yeah, it takes money, so whether the council provides that, or if it’s a local improvement district, or if the state comes in and provides direct funding…

[00:04:31] So, moving forward. (SB) 1530 and as I said, that was the funding bill. It was amended to include several allocations, including $6 million to the city of Eugene for water and sewer infrastructure improvements. Advocacy made it clear that this was a priority for a couple of years. And then our legislators really carried this home.

[00:04:50] So there’s $2 million to provide support for warming, cooling, emergency shelters or facilities; $4 million for deposit into the residential heat pump fund; and $15 million for deposit into the Healthy Homes Repair fund. And so those are all programs that either the city of Eugene, EWEB, (Lane County’s housing agency) Homes for Good, Lane County all will be able to access and advance housing and clients’ priorities.

[00:05:15] And then House Bill 4002, the Measure 110 reform. A lot of recriminalization of drug possession offenses. And so fundingwise, in terms of what is coming to Eugene and our area and the state, there’s a whole list of items here. There’s $4 million to Willamette Family Medical Detox and Residential Services Facility, which we assume to be near Eugene or within the metro area.

[00:05:43] And then ‘the Christmas tree’ bills, the end of session budget bill, there’s a bunch of add-ons in there: $5 million to Civic Alliance (ostensibly for the completion of Civic Stadium); $300,000 to Very Little Theater for capital improvements; $900,000 to Lane County for emergency communications equipment; $2 million to the U of O for construction of the semiconductor workforce training space; $1.5 (million) to Homes For Good for the Ollie Court affordable housing project.

[00:06:07] And then $7.5 million for Lane County for the multiuse facility at the fairgrounds. They said the $7.5 million will be available if all of the other funding is secured and the project is moving forward.

[00:06:21] Mayor Lucy Vinis: We really got our three big asks. We really got them. And it’s very promising. And with the unhoused, we’re teed up for 2025, hopefully, to do more. So, yeah, thank you.

[00:06:34] Councilor Randy Groves: I want to give my appreciation as well. And I also want to thank our state legislative representatives here locally. They did a very good job. I’m sure it wasn’t an easy process. Everything is condensed in a short session like that. And I think there’s clearly some things are going to help us provide better service. Thank you.

[00:06:55] Councilor Greg Evans: Thanks, Ethan. You did a great job and our legislative delegation came through for us.

[00:07:01] John Q: But there may be additional costs for the Measure 110 reform.

[00:07:06] Councilor Greg Evans: We’re running up against a budget cliff as far as what we’re going to be facing over the next few months and a year, with a significant hole in our budget. And then with the recriminalization being passed, what resources are we going to need to put to public safety to be able to address that gap?

[00:07:29] I’ve got to think that there’s going to be some significant financial impact that we’re going to have to deal with from an enforcement perspective. That will also include Municipal Court. All I see is the gap getting bigger.

[00:07:42] John Q: The city of Eugene gets state funding for all of its top priorities: dealing with its hospital closing, help with homelessness, and preparing the Crow Road area for housing. As a bonus, the legislature even supported the Eugene Emeralds.

Ethan Nelson thanks Cherish Bradshaw and the whole city team.

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