Mayor Kitty Piercy’s favorability rating, by Eugene region, can be seen here.
Polling on the name ID of Eugene City Councilors in West Eugene can be seen here.
Willamette High School girls won the state 5A basketball championship last year. And they are ranked #1 entering the final weeks of this year’s season.
Annah Hickey, a Willamette High School senior, won the highly competitive Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce Future First Citizen award last year. This year another Willamette High School senior, McKenzie McCausland, won the award.
And this just in: Willamette High School and the Bethel School District has the highest public school graduation rate in the Eugene Springfield area. See the story: “Bethel Graduation Percentage Soars.”
Congratulations and thanks are in order for the students, parents, staff, administration and school board for the discipline and effort it takes to excel in education.
I am in favor of Lane Transit District’s (LTD) West 11th via 6th and 7th Avenue EmX bus rapid transit (BRT) line addition. This leg of the BRT system will link the downtown Lane Transit District terminal via Oregon Highway 99 to a western terminal at Commercial Street on West 11th Avenue. West 11th Avenue is also Oregon Highway 126.
Serious concerns have arisen during the planning phase of the link and have been voiced by a broad coalition of members of the community. Most of the concerns are reasonable and valid and either have been or will be addressed. As with any undertaking of this magnitude is not likely that everybody involved will be satisfied with the outcome.
BRT, and public transit in general, is an integral component of Lane County’s transportation plan. As fuel prices increase it is ever more urgent and desirable for travelers, particularly in the metropolitan area, to access public transit. BRT offers the ever growing and densifying urban area a means of traveling for business, recreation and public purposes in a dependable and rapid manner.
Completion of a BRT system, including routes that will eventually cover the metropolitan area of Eugene/Springfield and beyond, is essential for assuring dependable and affordable access to facilities and amenities.
The decision more than two years ago by the Eugene City Council to pursue the West 11th option over the Highway 99/Bethel option was unfortunate at best. A route linking the large growing urban area of northwest Eugene to the downtown core and the University of Oregon/Springfield BRT routes (that are already in place) would have addressed imminent needs more directly and would have met with less opposition. The route to Bethel would have caused less business and thoroughfare interuption and could have built a greater general public confidence in the future buildout of the system.
In light of that unfortunate decision, along with the Eugene City Council and Mayor’s radical decision to kill the long-planned West Eugene Parkway, we find ourselves in a less than ideal position to clearly satisfy the concerns of the opponents of the EmX line. Nonetheless, the ultimate successful build-out of the system, including multi-governmental financial support, places us in the postion of needing to approve the project.
Concerns that a large amount of Federal tax dollars are being expended on the system have been articulately stated. That being noted, in the United States one of the main functions of federal government has been and will remain providing integrated transportation systems. The Interstate Highway system, airports and US Highways are examples.
Historically the US government has backed large transportation public works projects. This project will be one such example of the government’s role in providing roads and addressing transportation needs. The tax money that will be spent on the construction of the project in Lane County will be granted from a list of competing projects nation wide. The money spent in Lane County comes from a large pool that is funding nation-wide projects.
The jobs and infrastructure that Lane Transit District’s project will provide will not only put people to work but will also facilitate public transportation long into the future.
There will of course be business disruptions during the construction phase of the project. That is unavoidable, but can be minimized and ultimately improve access to existing businesses along the route and future businesses and residences that will be developed as we densify our urban area.
During the construction phase it will be important to make certain that minimal interruption of business occurs. Contruction will be staged such that small sections of the route will be affected at any one time. Concerns that road building will take place along the entire route throughout the duration of the construction have been registered and will be addressed.
In order to be responsive to individual business operators, driveways will be kept open and signage in place to direct traffic into the affected business. I will suggest that a contact person will be available at all times to respond to the changing nature of the project build-out, and that if any business operators have concerns that arise due to unpredicted changes in building they will have a direct means to report the concern via phone or electronic media.
A part of the ongoing EmX project will be a study of other subsequent components of the BRT system, including a McVay Highway link to Lane Community College and a link to Bethel.
Rapid public transit exists in a large number of cities and metropolitan areas in the United States. By moving forward at this time Lane County can have a model system that will address the needs of public transit and supplement individual vehicle travel long into the future.
Pat Farr is a Eugene City Councilor representing Ward 6 in Northwest Eugene and a Lane County Commissioner-elect (presumptive) from the North Eugene District.
At a public hearing held at Caesar Chavez Elementary School regarding the possible location of a homeless camping site (like the ones Occupy Eugene inhabited last winter, see 33 articles here) the local area residents came out in full force with their opinion. By and large the opinion was: “Not in our back yard, please!” See the article in the Wednesday July 25 Register-Guard
Yielding to pressure from Occupy Eugene principals and supporters the City Council has charged the City Manager to identify sites where a homeless camp could be located. Who is to say what other neighbors in other neighborhoods would have to say about a tent city next door to them? In order to find out it has to appear to them that it could happen. Because, under the scenario being considered, it could. Why limit the discussion to West Eugene?
Therefore, when the manager is considering other sites for the City Council to consider regarding a permanent/semi permanent tent village inside or near the city of Eugene he should consider geographic and land use code distribution. Sites located from one corner of Eugene to the other and beyond.
The former Marine Reserve Center site near Caesar Chavez Elementary School has been highlighted as the first site to consider. It is essential that other sites throughout the community be considered. (For a number of reasons, one of which would be to give more people in the community direct reason to look at the issue of homelessness).
If remote or concealed sites are the only ones looked at it would be likely that few people would pay attention, would provide their personal input on the location or would examine the stated need for a camp and conditions that exist surrounding homeless camping.
Therefore we need to look at a variety of sites. An examination which includes a variety of considerations:
2. Current Ownership, and,
3. Land use designation
We should look at land that is:
1. In public use,
2. Land that is publicly owned and is not being fully utilized, and,
3. Private land.
Additionally we need to be able to consider land that is designated for a variety of uses including
3. Industrial, and,
4. Public use.
And we should invite every neighborhood to weigh in on how it would work in their part of the city.
Regarding public ownership we should look at land that is owned by various jurisdictions, including but not limited to land owned by:
1. the City of Eugene,
2. the City of Springfield,
3. Lane County,
4. EWEB, and,
5. 4J and Bethel School districts.
Sites to consider should include:
1. Closed 4J school sites
2. Civic Stadium
3. Land owned by Bethel such as the corner of Avalon and Legacy, and,
4. Parks such as:
_a. Alton Baker Park
_b. Tugman Park
_c. Amazon Park
_d. Bethel Park
_e. Sheldon Park
_f. Emerald Park
_g. Perkins Peninsula Park, or,
_h. Glenwood area parks or open space
These are examples and should all be included. Others sites similar to these should also be considered in a variety of geographically diverse locations in Eugene and the immediate vicinity.
I have few specifics to offer on currently privately owned land, but it could include:
1. Country Fair site
2. Small parcels that are currently agricultural
3. LCC/Goshen area privately owned land
All of these sites have distinct reasons that preclude them as a possible location, but if we do not include areas located in geographically diverse areas we will be remiss in engaging the entire community in the discussion.
In order to facilitate a full conversation across the entire community we should give the entire community a chance and a reason to weigh in.
Stay tuned to see what the City Manager brings back to the City Council for discussion in September. It could be your street corner.
EmX bus rapid transit (BRT) to west Eugene via West 11th/Highway 126 continues to draw mixed results. While the signs along the route give the impression that it is distinctly not wanted, quite often public opinion voiced at Eugene City Council meetings and in other forums call for support of the system.
Lane Transit District conducted its own poll recently which has drawn a new set of mixed results, with about half the respondents supporting the west 11th/Hwy 126 leg. Other polls by Lindholm Company, posted on the company’s blog and reported in Forum Lane, show results that demonstrate waning support.
An editorial in today’s Register Guard headlined, “Not a vote of confidence” concludes that the “LTD poll finds EmX support lukewarm at best.” Well stated. See the entire editorial here.
Having heard and read many hundreds of testimonies in an array of venues—email, LTD forums, Council Forums, Joint Elected Officials Forums, on the side of the street on West 11th, the list goes on—I decided to ask people who use a business along the route what they thought. I held a pair of open house meetings at Courtsports Athletic Club on Commerce Street. Commerce is the proposed terminus for the BRT line. The target audience for the meetings was intended to be club members, however the word got out and a lot of non-members showed up.
It was a non-sponsored event that I conducted without any support, other than maps, from city or LTD staff. I held it on a Monday evening and a Tuesday morning in February and invited both oral and written comments. Greg Evans, an LTD board member accepted an invitation to join me to help answer questions. In that it was not a scientifically selected group of respondents I will not say that the results are in any way an accurate measurement of the community at large. I will say, however, that the people who use the facility at the end of the BRT line wanted to be heard.
I received nearly a hundred comments on 3 X 5 cards. Comments were grouped into three basic categories: response to the terminus location, response to EmX in general, concern about LTD’s other service.
Here are a few samples of comments received:
“We totally need EmX rapid transit. It will connect West Eugene to the rest of the city…but please have LTD (leave) us parking spaces for the gym—we need them.”
“Why choose the W11th route? These businesses are mostly auto services and drive through. Other routes would be better.”
“Have the turnaround where nobody parks, like (empty ends of parking lots.)”
“The Wal-Mart parking lot closest to west 11th…”
“Why spend all that money?”
“I live west of Eugene and would like the EmX terminus on Commerce and would regularly ride the EmX. The west Eugene EmX is an important leg of a metropolitan wide system. With global warming we need (it),”
By and large the many people who wrote love LTD and many are riders. But like the editorial in today’s paper I found the response to the proposed west 11th extension and terminus on Commerce to be “lukewarm at best.”
City Manager Jon Ruiz made a presentation to the Eugene City Council on Wednesday March 13 that brought together the many thousands of hours spent on gathering and processing information about the city’s future growth.
He thanked the Community Resource Group (CRG) for its months of long and well attended meetings, as well as the additional meetings by the Planning Commission, subcommittees of the CRG and the diligence of city staff in helping him prepare his very well-made presentation.
Ruiz detailed his recommendations addressing his “Seven Pillars” of the approach to providing adequate residential, industrial and commercial land inside the Eugene Urban Growth Boundary. He is recommending modest expansion of the Boundary.
Assuming a 1.4% job growth rate (modest, I believe, but safe) Ruiz is recommending adding around 350 acres for homes, 322 acres for parks and schools (mainly in Bethel), and approximately 475 acres for jobs.
Significantly, unlike historic precedent, Ruiz is suggesting an ongoing monitoring of performance toward the expected growth and adjustments to the plan after five and ten years. I suggested that the review not begin at five years, but be completed at five years. That would allow for immediate implementation of needed changes to the long-term plan as opposed to beginning a lengthy review at that point. The suggestion met with approval.
Keep an eye on Forum Lane for more details.
Mayor Piercy made a statement that “We should turn on a red light every time Pat talks about that…”
Councilor Zelenka fell short of his oft-stated, “For the record: The West Eugene Parkway is dead…” but muttered something about that not being the issue in this particular case. See the webcast of the meeting.
Well, maybe the red light should be left on because even though it’s off the books the demise of the parkway continues to haunt us.
“ODOT has been working for over 20 years with the City of Eugene and Lane County to develop the proposed West Eugene Parkway as the best way to handle growing traffic in the area. This homepage has been designed to be a repository for current planning efforts related to the project and will be updated with current information…” taken from the ODOT document titled “Northwest Region, Region 2″.
Here’s some current information that came up in the meeting on the 25th: a large number of acres of land that are zoned residential land (acres that are integral to our long-range planning), located west of Danebo Avenue and adjacent to State Highway 26 (see study area page 5) cannot be developed because the state tells us we do not have the “transportation facilities” to build there.
“Transportation facilities,” I thought. “What does that mean? A bus station?”
To satisfy my curiosity I asked what that means. I was told that “transportation facilities” in this case means “roads.”
I wondered out loud why the land was zoned residential beyond the western edge of our urban area. I was told that the need for residences in that location, in the original plan, was to support the jobs that would come as a result of the development of the adjacent industrial land.
Well, why was the adjacent industrial land not developed as planned? The answer was, oh my gosh, because the state has told us we don’t have the “transportation facilities” to support development.
I am not in the habit of grilling city staff. They are good at their work and they don’t need yet another Councilor gainsaying their efforts. But I wanted to know.
And so I pressed on, “Is there a ‘transportation facility’ in the original plan that is no longer in place to support the development?”
At this point City Manager Jon Ruiz addressed the microphone, “Councilor, I take that to be a rhetorical question…” (this is an expression he uses when he might otherwise have said, “That’s a stupid question!”)
Of course you know by now the answer: that the missing “transportation facility” from the plan—the originally planned road—is the West Eugene Parkway. We had planned for it for decades and we had constructed our residential, industrial and commercial land plan with it in mind. Now it’s gone—“Dead” as Councilor Zelenka repeatedly tells us—we can no longer build houses and bring jobs to the area it would have served.
Here’s another rhetorical question: “If it’s dead, who killed it?”
PS: here’s the answer to the first rhetorical question, asked in the title of this article: “Not in the near future!”
Mayor Kitty Piercy has the authority and responsibility to appoint Council membership and liaison to the committees that provide valuable input not only on Council policy action, but in some cases policy recommendations that go much farther than the bounds of the Eugene City Council.
For instance, the MPC (Metropolitan Policy Committee), listed below, provides not only input but in some cases final authority on regional policy decisions, as in the case of recent LTD EmX land acquisition and construction support.
So the committee assignments are a split between those which are predominantly token in nature and those which bring about policy recommendations that affect the entire community.
Here is a copy of the memo sent to Council announcing the Mayor’s assignments (dated January 24):
I have most of the council assignments completed with very few changes from last year. I replaced myself on two committees with councilors: HSC and Police Commission. There is a new LCOG economic committee assignment that I’m asking Councilor Clark to fill.
Thank you all for your service on these committees in the year ahead. I’ll ask Beth to make sure you know when these committees are meeting.
Human Rights Commission Councilor Farr
Sustainability Commission Councilor Zelenka
IGR Councilors Poling, Clark and Taylor
Travel Lane County Councilor Poling
Lane Metro Partnership Councilor Farr
Housing Policy Board Councilor Pryor
Lane Workforce Partnership Councilor Taylor
LCOG Councilor Pryor
MPC Councilor Zelenka and Mayor Piercy
MWMC Councilor Brown
PSCC Councilor Ortiz
McKenzie Water Council Councilor Brown
Police Commission Councilor Clark, Councilor Ortiz
Human Services Commission Councilors Ortiz and Farr
LCOG Economic Committee Councilor Clark
LRAPA Councilor Ortiz
Public Safety Coord.Comm. Councilor Ortiz”
So what’s disappointing to me?
Clearly the imbalance stretches beyond citizen appointments. The Metropolitan Policy Committee conducts a wide range of business that is relevant to every jurisdiction in the county and beyond. The Eugene Council membership will be, as it has been, represented by Councilor Alan Zelenka and Mayor Kitty Piercy with Councilor Betty Tayor serving as alternate. You judge the balance.
On January 12 I sent a request to the Mayor asking to be assigned to the MPC
The Mayor responded with a denial of my request, stating that she wanted to keep the committee assignment the same, based upon maintaining the current direction of the MPC, including:
“Councilor Zelenka also has key assignments. He has become one of the state leaders on green house gas reduction and the scenario planning that we are doing through our federal livability grant, ODOT’s scenario planning, and the state directives for green house gas reduction. So he too holds an important transportation policy role for our city on a number of fronts.”
Nobody can deny the significance of Zelenka’s work on greenhouse gas reduction and the City’s stated policy on the same. But I contend that work could continue without continued assignment to MPC, which covers much more than this single issue.
The cited emails are in the public record.
The Mayor has the authority to make the appointments, but also the responsibility to do so in a measured fashion. While MPC members are tasked to provide only the views and will of the government body they represent, obviously personal bias will always be present.
While I am pleased with the thought of my upcoming work on my assigned committees, I am disappointed with the continued assignment to MPC made by the Mayor.
New ratings on the LTD Board in Eugene has just been posted. They are going down.
The EmX controversy looks to be dragging down the LTD Board ratings. There is a clear correlation. It is possible that the EmX controversy will affect the long-term ability of LTD to plan for and to provide public transit service in Eugene.
EmX has been seen as one way, among several, to mitigate the severe long-term transportation problems in West Eugene. Many of the current problems were caused by the elimination of the West Eugene Parkway project (WEP). The WEP had been repeatedly supported by the voters, but a narrow council majority stopped the project. The council has yet to produce a viable alternative. In the mean time, traffic gets worse and worse in West Eugene.
It would be a shame if the elimination of WEP inhibited public transit development in Eugene.