Giving Veterans a Home. by Pat Farr

Thursday, April 4th, 2019

A new house for returning Veterans.

Volunteers and Veterans gather in front of Veterans House for its dedication

St. Vincent DePaul of Lane County and Bethel School District teamed with a host of volunteers and veterans to refurbish, remodel and repurpose this house in west Eugene to serve as a home for the household of a veteran returning from active duty.  Here.

School Board Chair Debi Farr, Superintendent Chris Parra and Eugene Mayor Lucy Vinis at the dedication of Bethel Schools and St. Vincent DePaul Veterans House in Bethel

This house becomes a part of the tremendous effort in Lane County to house homeless veterans.  Operation 365 in 2015/6 housed over 400 veterans’ families in a single year and has housed over 500 more since.  Here.

Henry Farr’s memorial flag flies on the lawn of Veteran House 10 in Bethel. Henry served in the Royal Navy

 

Brenda Wilson, Pete Kerns and Jon Ruiz at the VetHouse dedication on April 4 2019

Lane County’s strong commitment to housing and shelter is demonstrated by its Housing Improvement Plan. by Pat Farr

Thursday, January 17th, 2019

In 2018 Lane County Board of Commissioners, in its budget process, allocated $2,000,000 to its newly formed Housing Improvement Plan (HIP).

Lane County and the Homes for Good Housing Authority are partnering to break ground on this 51-apartment housing first project, The Commons on MLK, adjacent to Lane County Behavioral Health campus.  It is one of five permanent supportive housing projects recently funded in part by Lane County’s Housing Improvement Plan.

On January 12 the board gave $1.5m to five local housing projects that had been selected through a Request for Proposal (RFP) process.

The announcement the Board of Commissioners posted in 2018 stated:
“Lane County hereby solicits applications from cities, public agencies, private foundations, non-profit charities, healthcare organizations, affordable housing developers and supportive services providers for planning, development, and construction of Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH). Applications may include new construction, acquisition and rehabilitation of existing units for PSH. 

In addition to Permanent Supportive housing needs, Lane County recognizes that housing affordability is a significant countywide issue, particularly as it relates to the diversity, supply and affordability of housing options. Therefore, the County will also consider proposals that offer solutions to the broader challenges of housing affordability and that designate some of the units for PSH.”

The projects selected are directly tied to the Lane County Strategic Plan and the Poverty and Homelessness Board’s Strategic Plan.  The Poverty and Homelessness Board’s Governance Charter guides its ongoing work.  The PHB charter and strategic plan lay within Lane County’s 2018-2021 Strategic Plan.

The projects selected for funding by the Board of Commissioners are:

  • Tiny House project, $200,000: Permanent supportive housing for individuals with criminal histories vulnerable to homelessness due to a shortage of affordable housing available to those with felony convictions. Five duplexes will be built to 10 people to live in on property adjacent to Sponsors’ Roosevelt Crossing facility. Sponsors will own and manage the units, offering below-market rents. Construction is slated to begin this spring.
  • Polk Apartments expansion, $550,000: Permanent supportive housing for 10 former foster youth who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness. A mix of studio and single-room occupancy units will be added to an existing complex that currently houses 12 former foster youth for a total of 22. NEDCO owns the property and will manage the units. Construction is set to begin this fall.
  • Cottage Village project, $500,000: Thirteen tiny houses will provide affordable housing for those with low incomes (under 50 percent of median income) or very low incomes (under 30 percent of median income). The community will be built by SquareOne Villages and operate as a limited-equity housing cooperative. Construction is slated to begin this month.
  • Legion Cottages project, $250,000: A joint project of the American Legion, City of Cottage Grove and Homes for Good, it will develop four tiny homes to serve homeless veterans referred and case managed by the St. Vincent de Paul Vet LIFT program, which serves homeless veterans dually diagnosed with substance abuse and mental health issues. Construction is slated to begin this fall.
  • The Commons on MLK, $500,000: Fifty-one units of permanent supportive housing primarily targeted toward chronically homeless individuals who meet Frequent Users Systems Engagement criteria. Lane County also has transferred property adjacent to Lane County Behavioral Health to Homes for Good for this project. Construction is scheduled to begin in June.

These projects help fulfill goals of the HIP that include:

 Seed and incentivize a community effort to build Permanent Supportive Housing and to increase the supply of affordable housing in Lane County.

 Spark investment and leverage other public and private sector partners.

 Move quickly, with clearly defined outcomes, budgets and timelines to catalyze shovel-ready projects.

 

Justice for veterans: Lane County’s Veterans Treatment Court diverts veterans from jail into treatment. by Pat Farr

Saturday, January 12th, 2019

 

Retired US Marine Ron Cooper and I are stepping into Lane County’s Veterans Treatment Court. Ron has been a mentor and guide in the court since its launch.

Most veterans are strengthened by their military service, but the combat experience has unfortunately left a growing number of veterans with issue such as PTSD and traumatic brain injury. One in five veterans has symptoms of a mental health disorder or cognitive impairment (details here). One in six veterans who served in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom suffer from a substance use issue. Research continues to draw a link between substance use and combat-related mental illness (details here). Left untreated, mental health disorders common among veterans can directly lead to involvement in the criminal justice system.

Lane County’s Veterans Treatment Court, administered by Lane County Circuit Court Judge Valeri Love, requires regular court appearances, as well as mandatory attendance at treatment sessions, and frequent and random testing for drug and alcohol use. Veterans respond favorably to this structured environment, given their past experiences in the Armed Forces. However, a few will struggle, and it is exactly those veterans who need a veterans treatment court program the most. Without this structure, these veterans might re-offend and remain in the criminal justice system. The veterans treatment court is able to ensure they meet their obligations to themselves, the court, and their community.

TRAFFIC NIGHTMARE on Interstate 105. by Pat Farr

Friday, January 11th, 2019

 

Washington-Jefferson Bridge preservation traffic jams are doubling travel times (photo courtesy dreamtime.com)

Traffic jams on Interstate 105 both directions on the Washington-Jefferson bridge entering and leaving downtown Eugene.  While it’s temporary, it is here!  Oregon Department of Transportation issues notices of changes in traffic pattern throughout the project.

To see ODOT update on changes that will be occurring in the near future,  click here.

Lane County’s strategic plan is the road map to effective, open government. by Pat Farr

Monday, January 7th, 2019

Lane County’s one-page summary of its comprehensive strategic plan

In 2014 Lane County’s Board of Commissioners adopted what was its first comprehensive strategic plan encompassing four goal areas:

A Safe, Healthy County

Vibrant Communities

Robust Infrastructure

Our People and Partnerships

Since then, quarterly updates on progress toward the goals, tactics and strategies have been provided to the public and the Board to ensure that the plan is a living document that is understood and supported throughout Lane County Government.

Click here to see the one-page document.

Click here for a link to the entire strategic plan.

 

Lane County Poverty and Homelessness Board has a unified, coherent strategic plan. by Pat Farr

Friday, January 4th, 2019

 

Lane County’s Poverty and Homelessness Board (see link here) has a unified, coherent strategic plan for working toward eliminating homelessness in the county.  Progress on the long road is reported in a living, breathing document (see document here) that details the goals, strategy and partners involved in each item’s execution.  While due dates are not fully determined, the subcommittee performing the work on each item in the living document is identified. (see committees here).

The Poverty and Homelessness Board (PHB) meetings are now broadcast live on Metro TV Channel 25, rebroadcast and accessible for viewing online (link here). Minutes of all past meetings are published (link here).

Every year on December 17 the few of us who knew Tom Egan and many thousands who did not reflect on the the place he froze to death and collectively call for an end to homelessness.  This annual reflection helps elevate the PHB’s goal to “Inform and Enhance Public Awareness and Advocacy Efforts” surrounding poverty and homelessness.

Lane County Commissioner Pat Farr, who served with Egan in the Oregon Army National Guard, tells a story about Egan during a ceremony remembering him on Dec. 18, 2017. Picture is from Jack Moran’s essay published in the Register-Guard on Christmas Day 2018. (Brian Davies/The Register-Guard)

When I first became deeply involved in issues surrounding homelessness I was an executive manager at Jerry’s Home Improvement Center who had recently became Eugene City Councilor from Ward 6, Bethel.

Like everyone else who first gets a taste of the plight of the homeless children, men and women in Lane County I vowed to do something about it.  I wondered why people had not been paying attention and why local government was doing nothing.

I quickly found out that many resources–including government, nonprofit and private–had been dedicated on a wide array of fronts to helping solve the issue.

My first touch was in 1993, when Jerry’s began planning the immense home center you see at 2600 Highway 99 North.  On the site we were going to build our new store there were six houses, all occupied and four of them in good enough shape to preserve instead of raze.

The Jerry’s flagship store stands where houses that are now on Hope Loop once stood.

Jerry bought the houses and commissioned me to work with local agencies to find a new place to move them.  Teaming with St. Vincent DePaul a new location was identified and a new street, Hope Loop, was platted in west Eugene to re-place the homes.

Fast forward a year and I am now a Eugene City Councilor, standing beside Eugene Mayor Ruth Bascom and Springfield Mayor Bill Morisette dedicating those homes to St. Vincent DePaul’s low income housing programs.  Mayor Ruth Bascom has appointed me to the newly-formed Council Committee to Finance Affordable Housing and my work on poverty and homelessness issues has begun in earnest.

Pat Farr with Eugene Mayor Ruth Bascom and Springfield Mayor Bill Morisette dedicating houses that were formerly located at the current site of Jerry’s Home Improvment Center to the St. Vincent DePaul at Hope Loop in west Eugene.

In the years since then I have been asked to participate in a spectrum of programs and efforts designed to give people safe, secure and sanctioned places to sleep, with a strong focus on permanent housing.  Understanding that the best progress is only possible through consolidated work and detailed coordinated planning, the PHB (see link here) was formed in 2014 to bring government, nonprofit, private industry and dedicated individuals together in a powerful policy-recommending group.

PHB and its subcommittee members (see document here) are focused on  strategic plan to reduce homelessness and poverty.  The Board keeps track of details of the plan in a living document listing its strategies and tactics and providing updates on progress.  (See document here)

Jack Moran’s well-researched essay on Egan, published on Christmas Day 2018  (see essay here) has helped forward the PHB’s strategy to inform and enhance public awareness and advocacy efforts surrounding poverty and homelessness but much work and coordinated effort still lay ahead.

Operation Welcome Home will inspire housing for homeless veterans. by Pat Farr

Saturday, November 17th, 2018

Welcome Home Oregon Veterans.

The signed declaration committing to seeking an end to veterans homelessness in Oregon

Here in Lane County we are redoubling our efforts to provide housing and services to homeless veterans. I’m proud to have represented our county and cities at Operation Welcome Home’s launch last Thursday. As usual, Lise Stuart and our Veterans Team are looking far into the future to find innovative ways to serve our military heroes today… Read more here.

Operation Welcome Home centers the goal of ending veterans’ homelessness and uses Lane County’s and national best practices and clear goalposts to advance that goal.

Lane County identifies camping area outside downtown Eugene core in response to safety, sanitation and security concerns. by Pat Farr

Sunday, October 28th, 2018

 

Lane County is working to address homelessness

“I have never been so disappointed in Lane County before…”

“I am continually cleaning up feces and other garbage from (my place of business)…”

“Lane  County needs to spend more time on action and less on surveys and talk…”

“Aren’t you tired of just talking about it…”

I sat silently Friday morning (October 26, 2018) as Eugene business people expressed their concerns and anger about homeless camping on public open space in the downtown core of Eugene.

The well-attended meeting (I was a non-participating guest) was a presentation by city staff and others to the Chamber of Commerce’s Local Government Affairs Committee about a homeless dusk-to-dawn camping proposal being considered by the City of Eugene to be located on the now-vacant former City Hall block downtown Eugene. View story here.

I personally decided then and there that action needed to be taken…today.  (I was not alone in recognizing the urgency for action).  I cancelled the rest of my work and activity for the day and focused on finding a way to not only respond to the concerns and demand for action expressed at the meeting I was attending, but to help find a safe, sanitary and more private location as an alternative place  for people to sleep.

Two hours later, County Administration had found a location on county land inside the city of Eugene and six hours later we were meeting with neighbors of the site to explain the county’s intentions.  The outreach to neighbors, as of this writing, is ongoing.

Working with Lane County Sheriff’s Department, Eugene Police, Lane County Public Works, Eugene City Manager’s Office and others the site was prepared before the end of the business day–a day that had started with the early meeting and quotes cited above.

This is not the ideal place or manner to address homelessness.  Lane County’s focus is on permanent housing and our efforts continue in cooperation with Lane County cities, the state of Oregon, the Federal Government, local nonprofits and businesses to add more housing at all levels to provide permanent and supportive housing.

But finding a place for men, women and children to sleep safely at night, with access to toilets and security, is a necessary part of keeping all parts of our cities and our county safe and accessible to all of the people who live here.

Not every comment at Friday’s meeting was negative.  In fact, most of the people in the room expressed and stated a clear understanding of the need to safely house people.

“As a group we have to champion this and make sure it is a success…”

“This is a start, we have to use this as an opportunity…”

“It is an important first step…”

Orderly sanctioned camp sites on Lane County property

Toilets, trash and recycle, fresh water and sanitation being added to reduce neighborhood impact

Cameras and 24-hour monitoring were added for safety and security

The step is taken and the work continues…

Read the Register-Guard associated article here.

 

Supporting continuing care and jail diversion for behavioral health patients. by Pat Farr

Saturday, July 14th, 2018

 

I presented this resolution to my fellow members of the National Association of Counties (NACo) Health Steering Committee.  It was supported unanimously (with slight amendment) and will be considered to be part of NACo’s federal policy.

My vantage point as I proposed a resolution amending Code of Federal Regulations #42

Proposed Resolution to Support Interagency Coordination to Assist “High Utilizers”

Issue: Interagency coordination to assist “high utilizers”

Proposed Policy:

NACo supports an amendment to 42 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 2 privacy provisions to explicitly allow information sharing between behavioral health and law enforcement in order to best serve individuals with substance issues.

Background: There is a need to support the development of protocols and systems among law enforcement, mental health, substance abuse, housing, corrections, and emergency medical service operations to provide coordinated assistance to high utilizers. A high utilizer: (a) manifests obvious signs of substance abuse, mental illness, or has been diagnosed by a qualified mental health professional as having a mental illness; and (b) consumes a significantly disproportionate quantity of public resources, such as emergency, housing, judicial, corrections, and law enforcement services.

The privacy provisions in 42 CFR were motivated by the understanding that stigma and fear of prosecution might dissuade persons with substance use disorders from seeking treatment.  42 CFR laws protect substance abusers’ rights and, in cases where it is more stringent, overrule HIPAA regulations.

HIPAA laws were passed to protect personal health information from being disclosed electronically on an unsecured site and without consent.  As a result, confidentiality is two-fold:  1) all information identifying a person as a substance abuser is confidential and may not be released without a consent by the client or legal guardian (42 CFR, Part 2), and 2) all personal health information, including demographic data, that is created by the provider and relates to the person’s medical or mental health, services provided, and payment falls under the protection of HIPAA and may not be released without consent by the client or legal guardian.

In most cases, addiction treatment providers fall under the more stringent laws of 42 CFR, Part 2, but there is still confusion about the two sets of laws that define who and what is to be protected. Under 42 CFR, when a person is identified as a substance abuser no information, even confirmation of the person being in treatment, may be released without a written authorization by the client or guardian. In contrast, the HIPAA privacy rule is balanced so that it permits the disclosure of health information needed for patient care and other important purposes (i.e., coordination of care, consultation between providers and referrals).

To develop and support multidisciplinary teams that coordinate, implement, and administer community-based crisis responses and long-term plans for high utilizers, a uniform set of privacy rules for the proper dissemination of information between agencies needs to exist. Information sharing is essential to the coordination of care across service providers. The confusion caused by the differences between HIPAA and 42 CFR often result in reduced information sharing and coordination, even when it is permissible.

Fiscal/Urban/Rural Impact: Individuals with mental illnesses are overrepresented at every stage of the criminal justice process.  In response, many jurisdictions have developed a range of policy and programmatic responses that depend on collaboration among the criminal justice, mental health, and substance abuse treatment systems. A critical component of this cross-system collaboration is information sharing, particularly information about the health and treatment of people with mental illnesses who are the focus of these responses. At the program level, this information can be used to identify target populations for interventions, evaluate program effectiveness, and determine whether programs are cost-efficient. However, legal and technical barriers, both real and perceived, often prevent a smooth exchange of information among these systems and impede identifying individuals with mental illness or substance abuse issues and developing effective plans for appropriate diversion, treatment, and transition from a criminal justice setting back into the community.

 

Sponsor(s): Pat Farr, Chairman, Board of County Commissioners, Lane County, Ore.

 

 

 

State of the County Address January 2018. by Pat Farr

Monday, January 8th, 2018

Following is the full text of the State of the County Address I delivered in Harris Hall on January 8 2018.  Thank you to the Shasta Middle School Jazz Band directed by Mike Reetz for the interlude and musical numbers.

 

2017 has been a year of stabilization and progress for Lane County.

But 2017 has also been a year of challenges for the county. 

Facing the largest housing crisis, perhaps ever in the history of Oregon and Lane County, counties and cities throughout this state have struggled to find adequate numbers of decent places for men and women and families to live, leaving many suffering from grossly inadequate living conditions or for the first time in their lives living in homelessness.

Throughout the nation certain factions who have long been silent either through fear of being exposed for their views or through simple cowardice found themselves emboldened to openly in our streets and buildings threaten underrepresented populations, people of color or people who had felt safe with their gender identity or sexual orientation.  Threats of violence, retribution, oppression and suppression have become tragically more common than any time in recent history.

The physical and mental health of our county and people living here have been severely challenged by inadequate resources, facilities or planning and by illness and diseases that have shortened lives and drastically changed living conditions for the people suffering from preventable or chronic disorders.

Safety in our communities and on our roads and highways, always at the top of our list of concerns, has been challenged by increasing crime and the highest highway death toll of any of Oregon’s 36 counties.

Natural disasters ranging from historically devastating ice storms that paralyzed parts of the county and a long, dry fire season that found Oregonians and Lane County residents with no respite from mind-boggling smoke incursion.

Along with the other timber-producing counties in Oregon, Lane County has seen its federal revenue from timber harvest reduced to a trickle of its promised, former stream that raised the specter of reduced services, layoffs and closing facilities.  Lane County’s budget had become a bleeding wound that threatened even the basic services a county is required to deliver.

But despite the challenges that we encountered during 2017, this has been a year of stabilization and progress for Lane County. We have celebrated the beginning of new efforts to improve the health and safety of our communities across Lane County. And we continue to work hard to protect the financial stability we have achieved through careful planning.

The heart of stability and progress for any organization is its abiity to develop, communicate and execute a strategic plan that defines goals and tactics that every member of the organization understands and more importantly understands his or her role in the success of the plan.

Lane County is completing its third year of a three-year plan that aggressively aimed high with its goals and strategies.  Lane County’s dynamic plan has been bolstered by tactics at the department and team levels that have driven us to new levels of organization, production and accountability.

Our strategic plan has three goal areas: A safe and healthy county; vibrant communities and infrastructure.  Implementing the strategies under these three goal areas while working with an ever-more challenging budget has required controlling internal costs while structurally balancing revenue and expenses.  During my first four years as commissioner and during the decade prior to that the county struggled with layoffs, service cuts continuing decimation of needed reserves.

For the first time in seven years, this fiscal year has seen the county balance its General Fund and Road Fund without using reserves and without laying off valuable, talented staff or reducing services to residents.

We continue to control internal costs by implementing financial strategies such as refinancing old and ongoing debt and saving taxpayers over three million dollars.  Through self-insurance and reduction of administrative overhead our health insurance rates saw zero growth for the third consecutive year.  I challenge you to find another government body, nonprofit or private industry that can report that.

These and other such efforts produce cost savings that allow us to place more resources into direct services that people expect.  As a result of this exemplary financial stewardship, Moody’s Financial Services has upgraded Lane County’s credit rating to the highest level it has ever been—Aa2.

Lane County government was recognized this year by the Portland Business Journal as the third heathiest large employer in Oregon.  No other government agency in Oregon placed within the top 5 in any category.

Four years ago, during my previous term as board chair, we hired a new administrator, Steve Mokrohisky.  When he called me to accept the job, I was literally standing on the tarmac adjacent to an airport runway.  He accepted the job and the challenges of it and moved his family to Lane County.

During our first meeting together we talked at length about strategic planning and how essential a strong plan would be to meet the seemingly crippling challenges ahead.  Today, as we complete the final half-year of our first strategic plan we are embarking on our next three-year plan that will build on the successes and use our momentum and our solid staff to continue to make Lane County the best place to live.

I will cover the work of our three goal areas, the work that helped us to address the challenges that we encountered this past year in ways that would not have been possible five years ago.

A safe and healthy county.

Lane County has a Poverty and Homelessness Board that is unequalled in any Oregon County.  The PHB is comprised of elected officials, service providers, law enforcement, private industry and served individuals.

While the board has been successful in a broad spectrum of areas, I will talk about the work of one single subcommittee.  In 2015, the committee that is now the Shelter and Supportive Housing Committee formulated and executed Operation 365, housing homeless veterans.  The work plan housed 404 homeless veterans during that year, culminating in an invitation to a White House celebration in late 2016.  Through 2017, programs implemented through the plan have housed over four hundred more veterans.

The next challenge of the Shelter and Supportive Housing Committee is to enhance all levels of housing and shelter in our community.  Our winter emergency housing strategies, in its second year, is delivering overnight shelter, every night through this winter for hundreds of men, women and children.

Our current goal is called Operation 600:  planning and siting 600 supportive housing units by 2021.  Units that will house vulnerable individuals who are suffering from behavioral health disorders and active substance use.  It’s a lofty goal, but we are on our way.  When my former comrade-in-arms Major Tom Egan froze to death on our city streets it raised a hue-and-cry to make sure others were not suffering that same fate.  Adding safe, supported residential facilities, wet bed housing, we can help ensure that our most vulnerable neighbors will not suffer Tom Egan’s fate.

And we are on our way. Recently, e celebrated the opening of the Oaks at 14th, a facility that we were proud to partner with Sponsors, HACSA and others on. The Oaks at 14th provides affordable, permanent housing for individuals with criminal histories, including veterans, seniors, and people with disabilities.

Additionally, we have embarked on a frequent user system engagement plan, FUSE, that identifies the most frequent users of emergency services and provides them with immediate targeted help, including residential and medical.  The first year of the plan has produced incredible results and has garnered support for the ongoing program.

Our first county-operated supportive housing unit, on county property at MLK Boulevard, is in the planning stages and will ultimately house with wrap-around care, 50 individuals in safe and healing residence.

We adopted Lane County’s first-ever transportation safety action plan which is designed to help reduce the high number of fatalities on Lane County road through education, engineering and enforcement.

The removal of tobacco from our 70 County-operated parks, the increase in the tobacco purchase and consumption age to 21 years old, and the approval of a policy that will make County-owned properties tobacco-free.

In May of 2017 we sought to renew our Public Safety Levy for an additional five years.  We had received another successful audit of the use of levy funds in January of 2017 and anticipate a fourth audit later this month showing that we are keeping our promises to voters.  By actually reducing the amount levied by over 30% we garnered the trust of taxpayers during the first levy and they approved the renewal with a 72% yes vote.

The levy has ensured greater funding for youth services, added mental health specialists to jail staff and is a cornerstone of the Sheriff’s Department partnering with Lane County Behavioral Health to help first responders provide assistance needed in the best and safest way to our community members with mental illness.

In 2017, the Board adopted five Community Health Improvement Plan priorities for Lane County. The priorities were developed after vigorous community outreach and work with our partners. They are focused on economic development, housing and rural care, which we know are a foundation to a safe and healthy county.

Vibrant Communities

I am committed and all of Lane County Government is committed to ensuring that our county and our cities are a safe, nurturing and welcoming place to live.  We will not tolerate inequities waged on our the people who live with us and beside us in our community.  In 2017, our newly formed Equity and Access Advisory Board began meeting. This is a group of community members committed to helping Lane County place equity at the heart of its decisions – both internally and in our communities. Members have already helped to craft provisions regarding foreign citizenship that were adopted into Lane Manual by commissioners in July.

Our two-year vegetation management program study was completed in 2017 and the citizen committee unanimously presented a program to the board of commissioners that provided for effective preservation of our transportation infrastructure while minimizing roadside spray and overspray.

Additionally, our Parks Advisory Committee, fresh off its two-year large events task force work is embarking on a multi-year multi-disciplinary Parks and Open Space Master Plan.

Finally, I will talk about our ongoing work in cooperation with the city of Eugene and state government to site and build a new Lane County Justice Center to replace our aging courthouse, a new and vibrant Eugene City Hall and significantly a year-round permanently sited Lane County Farmers’ Market.  This work is ongoing and I expect plan finalization early in 2018.

Infrastructure.

Our third county-wide priority is infrastructure, which provides the backbone that supports our work in the first two priority areas.  Our infrastructure encompasses both physical and policy-based elements.

In 2017 Lane County’s office of Performance Auditor completed audits and forwarded recommendations in a number of areas, significantly our Behavioral Health and Road Maintenance divisions underwent performance auditing and the results were largely positive and will help us plan better for the future.

Lane County’s Performance Auditor reports to the Board of County Commissioners and is charged with identifying ways to improve the efficiency, transparency and effectiveness of county government.

Working with our legislators we helped craft and pass a transportation package that will provide and expected 8 million dollars per year for improvements in our roads and highways and helping us maintain our 1440 miles of county roads, hundreds of bridges and bike paths.

The most vital aspect of our infrastructure is the staff of talented and dedicated men and women who have chosen Lane County as their place to work.  I want to thank them for their commitment to their work, their drive to make Lane County a better place to live and to work and on behalf of the 360,000 people whose lives they affect every day offer my deep gratitude for their service.

I want to call out the names of four individuals who have had a profound and positive influence on the work I do here.

First, is Deeni Leeke, the face of Lane County to thousands of people who visit or call here annually. You know her voice and her face, she works in our front office on the third floor.  Her nature and her talent make every day I spend in my office more pleasant and productive.

Next is Diana Alldredge.  You may not know her face or her voice, but Diana is the flawless historian for just about every committee and public meeting in our Human Services Department.  Before I became a commissioner I would often chat with Diana in her office while waiting for Steve Manela.  She keeps the most flawless minutes record not only that I have ever seen, but that is possible.

Third is Lise Stuart, who helps administer numerous programs in human services, but significantly is the data reporter for our veterans housing programs, Operation 365 and its children.

Last on my short list is Diana Jones.  She is my voice in the sky.  Her work is unnoticed by the public, but if she did not do it to the level she customarily does, even on vacations and days off, the public would certainly notice.

Only four names, but representative of the hundreds of people who have dedicated their work and their lives to serving the people of Lane County.

Thank you to the men and women of AFSCME General, AFSCME Nurses, Admin-Pro, Public Works Local 626,  Lane County Federation of Oregon Parole and Probation Officers Association, Lane County Peace Officers Association, Prosecuting Attorneys  and non-represented staff.  You make my life better and you mean the world to the people who live here.

2018 will see a continued focus on providing short- and long-term solutions to homelessness. Our overnight parking program pilot in the River Road area will begin and pair interested businesses and religious institutions with people in need of a safe place to sleep.

We will also work to update our strategic plan so that we are focused and prepared for the opportunities and challenges over the next three years.

PLAY VIDEO

While we still face the obstacle of limited resources, we are creating the solid foundation we need to continue offering vital services to our community.

Working closely with our partner and overlapping jurisdictions is essential to effectively and efficiently providing services and infrastructure to the people we serve.  Finding new and innovative ways to both complement and enhance each other’s work is an ongoing process.

 

My term as board chair is about to expire, but my ongoing work will be more vigorous than ever.  Seeking innovative ways to leverage our resources into making Lane County the best place to live in Oregon and in the United States will consume me.  We had a great year—a banner year.  My work starting tomorrow sitting at the end of the bench will keep me very busy.  Until every child has food and shelter, until no man woman or child suffers from lack of medical care, until no man woman or child is homeless, the work goes on.

Please join me in celebrating our achievements in 2017 and looking forward to our work in 2018.

And now, to symbolize the magnitude of the work completed, planned and started this year, a site most people have never seen before, to recognize the brightness of the work ahead of us, Ms. Ashbridge, can you please shed light on our work in Harris Hall?

CURTAINS OPEN revealing the panoramic view of trees and sky outside Harris Hall