I end my freshman year as a member of the Eugene City Council knowing that I have barely scratched the surface of what needs to be accomplished for the good of our city and the resident of Ward 7. I came on to the council with some knowledge of our city’s challenges especially those related to our budget but over the past year I have discovered many other challenges as well as exciting opportunities to shape the future of our city. Among those are the Envision Eugene effort, the work of Santa Clara and River Road residents to plan for their future, and the regional transportation and economic prosperity planning work that includes Eugene, Springfield and Lane County. All of these efforts have important implications for our city’s future growth and sustainability.
My engagement with these challenges and opportunities has strengthened my belief that we must take deliberate steps to improve our region’s economic viability while continuing to support struggling families and those in need. One of the primary lessons I have taken from this past year is that as a city we can achieve what we plan for so we need to plan for what we want. To that end I have identified a number of priority items for which I believe our city should be planning. These include strengthening our emergency and transitional shelter programs, attracting and supporting “high-road” employers who pay living wages, and increasing our stock of affordable housing.
In the wake of the Great Recession it has become obvious that we need greater capacity to provide temporary and transitional shelter for people experiencing homelessness. I believe that Eugene does not have a publicly supported homeless shelter because we have not dedicated ourselves to building one. I intend to work with both the public and private sectors to plan for and build such a shelter (or system of shelters) for Eugene. This will take time but the sooner we begin the sooner we will achieve this goal.
Directly related to the need to provide more temporary shelter is the need to build more affordable housing and foster business who can create more good paying jobs. Many residents struggle with homelessness while employed and too many of us are burdened with high housing costs relative to our income. Our city needs a plan for increasing our stock of affordable housing and to attract and retain employers who pay livable wages. By working to address these two inter-related challenges of housing and wages we can begin to relieve the pressure on many residents who in turn will have more capacity to support our local businesses and build a thriving economy.
These are not easy challenges to address and many others have been working on them long before I came to sit on the city council. But I believe that this crisis brings the opportunity to renew our commitment to these goals. The Great Recession revealed the hidden cracks in our social service system and served to point out the inequities built into our economic system. As a community we are more aware of the need and motivated to seek a solution. I look forward to engaging my fellow city councilors in these efforts.
In addition to these significant challenges I will continue to engage as an advocate for Ward 7 in the Envision Eugene process which is meant to guide our city’s growth for the next decades. I believe a majority of our city would like to keep from expanding our Urban Growth Boundary but the challenge of finding ways to grow within our current footprint is daunting. As I see residents of other wards robustly engaged in the details of this effort, I am concerned that residents of Ward 7 are being left out of the conversation. I see this as an issue of equity – all residents should be afforded the same opportunities to plan for our city’s future – not just those with the ability to access experts, education and technology.
As for the other planning efforts under way, I continue to be impressed and encouraged by the work of River Road and Santa Clara residents to plan thoughtfully for the future of their neighborhoods. I am still very new to this process and believe the best role I can play is as an active listener and supporter of their work. I look forward to working closely with these and other residents to shape the vision for their communities’ future. I also look forward to helping Eugene be a leader in regional transportation and economic prosperity planning with our partners in the City of Springfield and Lane County.
Thank you to my fellow councilor and Mayor Piercy for making me feel welcome and valued as a new member of the Eugene City Council. I remain grateful for the opportunity to serve in this important role as representative of Ward 7 and look forward to the challenges and opportunities that 2014 will bring.