June 12, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

City, county can recognize River Road, Santa Clara neighborhood volunteers in the time bank

3 min read
Though the city and county are about to discard thousands of hours of neighborhood efforts, they can recognize and reward that volunteer time, while also building community resilience, in Eugene-area time banks.

by John Quetzalcoatl Murray

In the course of reporting on the River Road – Santa Clara Neighborhood Plan, I heard members of the Eugene City Council, the Lane County Board of Commissioners, the River Road Community Organization and the Santa Clara Community Organization widely praise and recognize the residents who volunteered thousands of unpaid hours contributing to this project. 

I also heard that as circumstances changed over the years—including reduced budgets and state legislative mandates that reduced local options—many of the volunteers’ recommended zoning changes, code amendments, and other policy documents were discarded and do not appear in the final plans submitted for final approval in April 2024. 

While this unfortunate outcome was largely out of councilors’ and commissioners’ control, it is possible to curb the resulting disappointment, disillusionment, disengagement, and decline in trust in local government. It is possible to recognize the neighborhood volunteers, reward their efforts with a promise of material benefit, and continue to build community—by recording the number of volunteer hours in time bank accounts. 

A time bank is a network of individual, organizational, and business members who provide services, track and bank their hours, and then spend those hours to get their own needs met. There is no barter or exchange; one member does a friendly, neighborly favor for another and records the time they spent doing so. Members share their talents and services, record their hours, then “spend” them later on services they want. All hours are treated as equal in value.

After seeing a TED talk about how a New Zealand time bank helped its community recover from two major earthquakes, Eugene neighborhood preparedness volunteers created two local time banks.  The time banks can foster relationships and catalog resources to help our community prepare for and recover from disruptive events, such as major winter storms, high winds, power outages, wildfires, earthquakes, and pandemics. 

Lane County’s two local time banks are standing by, ready to accept your “payments” to the volunteers who participated in the River Road – Santa Clara Neighborhood Plan planning project. Check out the Lane Services Sharing Network and the Whole Community Time Bank online. 

This practice can also be used by Eugene’s Office of Equity and Community Engagement—which has been recording the volunteer hours donated by neighborhood organizations for years—even as it expands to serve and log volunteer hours recorded by other community organizations and nonprofits. This equitable method of recognizing volunteers for their civic participation will be especially useful in a time of reduced government budgets. 

We are continuing to ask our local legislators to support state regulation, so that local time banks will be subject to the same security and auditing standards that are applied to all other banks. In fact, we are also encouraging all local banks to allow customers to open accounts in the local “time dollar” currency. (The IRS has previously ruled that time bank payments are not subject to taxes, as long as the time dollars are not converted to another currency.) 

Although local officials had little control over many of the events that led to these unfortunate outcomes for the RRCO-SCCO plan, the decision to recognize and reward volunteers for their valuable time is still available to them.

With the city and county accepting comments until final action is taken on the neighborhood plan this month, this column was submitted to the Eugene City Council and Lane County Board of Commissioners by email to: RRSCPlan@eugene-or.gov.

You can also submit written statements c/o Elena Domingo, City of Eugene Planning Division, 99 West 10th Avenue, Eugene, OR 97401.

The Eugene City Council has a work session scheduled on Wednesday, April 10 at 12 p.m., with a vote scheduled for April 22, 2024 at 7:30 p.m. The Lane County Board of Commissioners has scheduled the third reading with deliberation and action on Tuesday, April 23 at 1:30 p.m.

Whole Community News

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