Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

An impromptu panelist at National Association of Black Counties. by Pat Farr

Friday, March 7th, 2014

 

Heavy snow in Washington DC gave me an unexpected opportunity

Heavy snow in Washington DC gave me an unexpected opportunity

 

I attended the National Association of Counties Legislative Conference in Washington DC March 1-5 2014.

National Association of Black Counties (NABCO) is a broadly-membered confederation of county officials across the country.

I have been speaking with former Lane County Commissioner Bobby Green responding to his criticism of the lack of diversity in applicants that our recent search for County Administrator produced.  While the national search Lane County conducted produced the best qualified county administrator with impeccable credentials and references (see story here) I have taken former Commissioner Green’s concerns very seriously.  I regarded the meetings of NABCO at the Legislative Conference as an opportunity to find ways to diversify future searches by the Board of Commissioners or by the County Administrator.

I have not been disappointed by contacts that  I have made in Washington this past week.

On March 3, Monday, it snowed heavily in Washington DC.  My first agenda item at the conference was to attend the 9 am meeting of NABCO.  It was a panel discussion with a large group of students from the Washington area to address questions about involvement in public service and address health issue education, particularly surrounding sexually transmitted diseases.

When I entered the room only two people were there, the NABCO administrator and another young woman.  I asked if I had the wrong room, and they told me that I was in the right place but the start of the meeting was delayed because the panelists and the audience had been held up by the blizzard.

It worked out ok for me though.  The second woman in the room was Paige Hendrix, assistant to Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith.  Commissioner Smith and Ms. Hendrix are both deeply involved in the diversity efforts of Multnomah County.  While we waited for the panelists and students to arrive Ms. Hendrix and I engaged in a 45-minute discussion about recruiting qualified applicants from communities of color.

She gave me a host of contacts and set the stage for a discussion between Commissioner Smith and I later in the conference covering the subject.

Toward the end of our discussion the group of students arrived and filed into the meeting room.  There were a hundred or so.

As it turns out the entire group of panelists had not yet arrived, so I was asked to sit in on the panel to respond to questions about public service.  I was honored to do so.  The students were very attentive and eager to learn.

While it wasn’t the way I had planned to spend time at the conference it turned out to be a fantastic opportunity for me to not only pass along knowledge but to gain insights into how I can become more effective in my elective roles.

We spent the morning discussing avenues high school and college students could prepare themselves for work in public policy or elective office.  It was pleasing to me to see tomorrow’s leaders listening and learning.

Hiring a new Lane County Administrator. by Pat Farr

Monday, February 17th, 2014

Lane County logo blue

“County administrator’s firing tops list of the year’s biggest news”

 

This was the headline of the Register-Guard’s  “Year in review” article last December 22 covering the top news stories of 2013.  It trumped this top ten list compiled by the newspaper:

1. Liane Richardson: Administrator fired for changing her pay

2. Homeless/SLEEPS: Battles over where homeless can camp

3. Police scandals: Accusations fly in Springfield, Eugene

4. Public safety levy: Voters OK money measure for county jail beds

5. Student housing: Developers seek to cash in on UO students

6. Forest plan: Wyden, DeFazio champion bills to increase logging

7. Downtown buzz: Heart of Eugene comes alive with businesses, bars

8. Civic Stadium: Competition intense on how to develop school-owned property

9 (tie). Plastic bag ban: Eugene bans plastic bags at retail outlets+

9 (tie). UO football: A bowl victory, a new coach, a Heisman candidate

10. Big chill: Cold snap brings week of freezing temperatures

This week, Lane County’s Board of Commissioners will begin the final steps for hiring a new County Administrator.

The county’s last two administrators left under less than glowing circumstances.  Liane Richardson was fired and Jeff Spartz left after only three years on the job.  It is imperative that this Board’s hire is one who will be prepared to stay with the county for a period long enough to implement the important policy decisions that will be directed throughout the next three years.  It is also essential that the new staff chief will fit in well with the existing culture, both internally and externally in the community.

The Board has narrowed its list of finalists and will conduct interviews this week.  A full schedule of the Board’s meetings for this week, including dates and times of public and executive session meetings can be seen HERE.

On Wednesday, Commissioners will meet the candidates and have an informal reception.

Interviews will happen on Thursday, and the Board will meet in executive session Thursday and again on Friday to review the interview sessions.

I anticipate a job offer being tendered as early as next week.

 

Pulling together to keep people warm. by Pat Farr

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

“Pat, you have to call Charley Harvey right away, one of the Egan centers can’t open tonight and they need a place for people to sleep!”

Lieutenant Tom Egan on a grenade range in 1977.  Tom and I served together in Alpha Company of the 2d Battalion of the 162d Infantry.

Lieutenant Tom Egan teaching soldiers on a grenade range in 1977. Tom and I served together in Alpha Company of the 2d Battalion of the 162d Infantry.

My wife, Debi Farr, had received a frantic message from Harvey, who runs the Egan Warming Center for St. Vincent de Paul Society of Lane County–he needed to talk to me.  Egan Warming  Center, named for US Army and Oregon National Guard Major Tom Egan (see ForumLane article, Tom Egan was a cavalry officer) who died of exposure just before Christmas in 2008, is a group of emergency shelters that open on the coldest nights of the winter each year.

I called Harvey, then St. Vincent’s Director Terry McDonald and found out that one of the regular shelters, a church, could not operate last night, November 21, and the search was on for a one-night alternative.

My next call was to Alicia Hayes, Lane County’s acting administrator, who is also a Eugene 4J School Board Member.  We sat in Alex Cuyler’s office and brainstormed what could be done.  Listening to Alicia think out loud, bouncing ideas, I realized that something was going to happen to provide emergency shelter.  We talked about the Wheeler Pavilion at the Fairgrounds and determined that even though the Holiday Fair was being set up, we could probably come up with  a plan.  Alicia mentioned Harris Hall and then a light bulb switched on.

“4J has empty schools.”  She took over.

I needed to make a quick drive to the First Street Animal Shelter to check on a report that the heating units had broken down, leaving dogs in the cold.  While I was sitting in the parking lot, I called Rebecca Larson, program director for St. Vincent.

“We found a spot,” she said.  Parker Elementary School would be used for the night.

Thanks to Alicia Hayes, school superintendent Sheldon Burman (and the many others whose names I cannot list) for taking action to make last night just a little more comfortable for men and women and kids who otherwise would have had a long, cold night.

A Breach of Public Trust: R-G Editorial hits the nail(s) on the head. by Pat Farr

Sunday, September 29th, 2013

 

The Register-Guard Editorial Board published an article headlined, A breach of public trust  (Sunday 9/29/13).  It contained many important points, including criticism of Commissioners’ transparency: “So much for transparency and vows by commissioners to bring county government from behind closed doors,”

And questions about the redacted pages of the USO report: “The county says Richardson’s claim is false. Perhaps. But if that’s true, why is it refusing to release the interviews? What’s in them that officials don’t want the public to know?”

WHAT IS NOT POINTED OUT IN THE EDITORIAL is that I had publicly called for a full discussion of the report, the redaction and the reasoning, to be held in executive session.  See Forum Lane, “About the Report” (Friday 9/27/13, two days prior to the printing of the editorial), in which I make public an email that I had sent to Commissioners, the D.A., et al, stating:

 I would like to press for a complete discussion, in executive session, of the report, including the redaction and the reasoning.  I would request that Mr. Gardner be present for the discussion.”

In the interest of allowing release of as much information as is possible, I have called for a County Commission discussion of the USO Consulting investigation report regarding former County Administrator Liane Richardson.

I first spoke of full disclosure of all elements of the report that were permissible legally and did not needlessly violate privacy concerns in August:  Forum Lane #3158  (8/5/13) and Register Guard, “Farr says report should be public” (8/3/13)

Executive session is reserved for items demanding utmost frankness of discussion, and decisions not involving litigation, negotiation or privacy issues are made public following the executive session.  The dismissal of Liane Richardson was one such discussion.

Points made in the R-G editorial are succinct and demand response.  Only through a thorough discussion and subsequent action in a public meeting can the points be answered.  Otherwise any one person’s imagination is free to fill in the (27 pages of) blanks created by the redaction.

 

Lane County Commissioners pass Order for “Emergency Temporary Closure” of Wayne Morse Terrace. by Pat Farr

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

 

During a recent Board of County Commissioners meeting, Commissioner Pete Sorensen, high atop his self-built pedestal, proclaimed that his fellow Commissioners, myself included, had “A new-found interest in public health…”  This is typical of the distortion of truth that he regularly reads into the record.  It makes all else he says suspect.  (to see a webcast of the entire meeting, indexed for viewing go here)

Public Service Building

The campsite that had been occupied by protesters for nearly two weeks in front of the Lane County Courthouse was (more or less) peacefully evacuated on the evening of September 4.  Several of the campers chose to stay in place in order to be arrested.  Eugene City Police assisted with the closure and associated Municipal citations.

That afternoon, the Board of Commissioners had voted to temporarily close the Wayne Morse Terrace (and its designated free speech area) for a period of up to seven days for sanitation and cleaning.  The recommendation for cleaning came from the Dr. Patrick Luedke, Lane County’s Public Health Officer.

Another motion to redefine appropriate use of the Terrace, as an amendment to the Lane Manual, was put on hold until a Lane Code change process is completed.

The Lane Manual can be amended by Board Order without public hearing.  Amendments to the Lane Code involve a public hearing process with at least three readings spaced at least 13 days apart.  First reading on the code amendment took place at the September 4 Special Board Meeting.

Public comment and input will be received throughout the process.

The Terrace has been closed temporarily closed for up to seven days for sanitation.  I have requested that the area designated as “Free Speech Area” be returned to public use as quickly as possible.  I expect that it will be available for use before the weekend of September 7 and 8.  Commissioner Faye Stewart amended the motion for temporary closure to include provision for an ongoing designated free speech area during the cleaning of the Terrace.

Additional consideration for reopening of the area used by Eugene’s Farmers’ Market and Saturday Market is high on the list of sanitation priorities.  I expect it to be available for fully functioning markets by September 7.

Dale Stoneburg

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

Forum Lane is going to get some management. Dale Stoneburg has graciously agreed to handle the managing editor duties. Dale will discuss his plans for Forum Lane in future posts.

Eugene Service Fee Polling Trend

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

Polling on the Eugene service fee is now posted here.

4J Polling Trend Numbers

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

Polling on the 4J Bond Measure are now posted here.

Coos Bay Rail Link is moving–literally. by Pat Farr

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

 

The Coos Bay Rail Link re-establishment is beginning to look like a reality.  As we look to add manufacturing and production in Lane County, the prospect of an available deep-water port in Coos Bay-North Bend is attractive.

A Coos Bay Rail link train approaches the crossing at Green Hill Road just west of Eugene

The following was reported by Elise Hamner of the Oregon International Port of Coos Bay on Friday April 27, 2013:

Port and railroad restore full freight service to shippers on entire Coos Bay rail line

A Coos Bay Rail Link-CBR freight train this afternoon is moving the first rail shipment of plywood out of the Roseburg Forest Products mill in Coquille since the rail line closed five and a half years ago. This accomplishment marks the full restoration of freight rail service on the Oregon International Port of Coos Bay’s 134-mile Coos Bay rail line.

“We, as a community, have done the impossible,” said Port CEO David Koch. “We’ve accomplished what so many naysayers said couldn’t be done.”

This month, North Bend-based Billeter Marine and Scott Partney Construction completed the final step of repairing two critical wooden trestles to open the remaining 20 miles of rail line to Coquille. Roseburg Forest Products’ Director of Transportation Jeff Brandt said the return of rail service is very exciting for the Coquille mill and its employees.

“Moving product by rail directly out of Coquille can eliminate up to 18 truckloads per day of material being shipped to another mill, where it then is loaded on a rail car,” Brandt said. “This will not only allow us to be more competitive by reducing our costs, but it will benefit the community and environment by reducing highway traffic and emissions.”

Roseburg also transports wood chips on the rail line to its export shipping terminal on the North Spit of Coos Bay. The company is one of 11 manufacturers and agricultural producers who have transported wood products, steel, chromite ore and organic cattle feed on the shortline since 2011.

“Shippers moved 2,480 rail cars of commodities across the Coos Bay rail line in 2012. We expect to double shipments on the rail line this year now that we have service to Coquille,” said Scott Parkinson, president of the Coos Bay Rail Link-CBR, which operates the railroad.

The Port of Coos Bay purchased the line in 2009-10 and is nearing completion of a $31 million rehabilitation project. Federal and state investments in the line have brought on-the-ground improvements to every single mile of tracks between Coquille and the rail line’s connection in Eugene to the North American rail system. Almost all of the supplies and work on the tracks and trestles have been provided by companies locally and in Oregon and Washington. Ethel, Wash.-based Balfour Beatty’s team completed the major track work, utilizing ties and ballast provided by Conrad Wood Preserving of North Bend, Knife River Inc. of Coos Bay and Babb Construction of Eugene. Other vital partners locally have included Kyle Electric; Reese Electric; Stebbins, Coffey & Collins and Stuntzner Engineering; along with LRL Construction of Tillamook, H&S Construction of Roseburg and several other companies.

The Coos Bay Rail Link began freight rail operations in October 2011 and now employs 12 people, with a total payroll exceeding $500,000.

 

Why is Commissioner Sorensen a “No” voter? by Pat Farr

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

 

There are three reasons it’s puzzling to me why South Eugene County Commissioner Pete Sorensen voted no on jobs again.

On March 20 Sorensen said, “No” to “Project Squeeze,” a plan to make Lane County competitive in its efforts to bring a company here which would provide as many as 230 jobs paying a minimum of $37,000 (plus benefits).  A job paying 37K annually equates to more than $17.00 per hour ($17.78 actually).
Why “No” Pete.?  I am legitimately puzzled.  Here’s why I am puzzled:

One, Commissioner Sorensen, during an Executive Session discussion on the 20th, and during the subsequent open meeting, at no point indicated that he would be a “no” vote and offered absolutely no reasons why he might be such.

Two, following the meeting, in the presence of staff, media and the entire Board of Commissioners (Faye Stewart was present Tuesday via phone link) I asked Sorensen, “Why did you vote no?”

His response was, “It would not be appropriate to discuss that outside of a meeting.” Maybe that’s so, but probably not.  Nonetheless, commissioner, why did you not discuss it during the public meeting?

(I read in the Register-Guard this morning that he would rather 230 different small companies added one job each.  Well, who wouldn’t?  But bring ‘em on, Pete. Companies need reasons to grow, and the $8.5 million or more payroll represented by “Project Squeeze”–most of which would be spent locally by local families–represents a whole lot of reasons for local companies to grow).

Three: Sorensen recently voted, “No” on another project that would bring local jobs and affordable housing to downtown Eugene, citing that “The pendulum has swung too far” and the City of Eugene is placing too much emphasis on multi-family housing.

I hope and expect that Commissioner Sorensen will be more open in the future about his real reasons for being an outlier on votes involving the economic health of our community.  In fact on all of his dissenting votes.  Maybe he’ll give me reasons to agree with him.