EUGENE, Or --- There was no shortage of praise for Mayor Kitty Piercy as she delivered Eugene's State Of The City Address. The audience applauded frequently as the mayor highlighted some of the accomplishments of 2010.
Some of the 2010 achievements included five downtown revitalization projects in the works, improvements made to public safety and repairing roads. Despite the hardships the city faced last year, Mayor Piercy awarded individuals and organizations in the community that helped her further the city’s goals for 2010.
But as the local economy rebounds from the recession, Mayor Piercy said in 2011 making sure people have jobs is still a priority.
Other areas of focus for the year include addressing homelessness, figuring out how to support public school during its budget crisis and building a world class transit system.
While the New Year brings new goals, Mayor Piercy said 2011 will be the year that old projects like the downtown revitalization project come to fruition.
Text of Mayor Kitty Piercy's remarks
The State of the City is our traditional salute to the past year and our kick-off to the one just beginning. It gives us the opportunity to talk about what we’ve accomplished and the challenges we face. We’re here tonight to celebrate living and working together in this community.
We know the most important thing about our lives, our jobs and this city we call home is how we care for each other, how we care about the well-being of all who live here, now and in the future, and how we build toward a common good that will enable us to live well together.
It is about how we do this in the best and worst of times.
Let me begin my comments by thanking Jennifer Solomon for her service, Mike Clark and Betty Taylor for their council leadership, and by welcoming Pat Farr back.
Let me ask us to remember with gratitude two former Mayors of Eugene who passed away this year: Ruth Bascom and Gus Keller.
Thank you Willamette Jazz Band for honoring us with your presence tonight. You are a great example of the talent of our city’s young people and the value of our public schools.
Thank you city staff and city manager for your great fortitude, intelligence and leadership in these tough times - managing a slow recovery with continued dedication to providing the very best for the people of Eugene.
Let us give special thanks to our police and fire departments who protect our lives and property at great personal risk every day.
Thank you, City Council, for your hours of meetings, real discussion and difficult decision-making. You have demonstrated how people of diverse opinions can work well together to provide direction for our city.
Thanks to the hundreds of community volunteers who’ve helped our departments, served on committees and advisory bodies, or stepped up for their neighborhoods or non-profits. You make Eugene a great city.
There’s no doubt that in 2010 our economy was our number one issue. Incomes suffered and unemployment stayed high. Our city finances remained tight and regular services were more difficult to provide. We responded by focusing on smart governance, using the triple bottom line of social equity, economic development and protecting our natural resources as a lens, to maximize our dollars and our service while cutting over $17 million from our General Fund budget over the last two years.
Was this easy? No, but it is something we diligently addressed. We recognized that with crisis comes opportunity and while we must deal with the crisis, we must also seize opportunities. We recognized that while we strain to deal with the lasting effects of the recession, we must also plan for a better and more prosperous future.
Eugene is a great place, full of talented people and resources - capable of strong leadership in our state and in our nation.
What did we accomplish? An amazing amount, given the times.
We have five downtown revitalization projects on the move. Whoopee! You told us that having a successful downtown is a major community priority and after many ups and downs, we are finally seeing our work come to fruition.
There’s the Beam’s renovation of Centre Court, Bennett’s office building filling the Aster pit, Lane Community College’s innovative Green Learning Centre and five-story student housing complex in the Sears pit, Masters’ apartments on Pearl and former Mayor Brian Obie’s Inn at 5th. When you add in Lord Leebrick opening on Broadway, the Jazz Station expansion, opening of OPUS 7, great restaurants and waterholes, there’s a lot going on. That’s about $100 million in new investment in the heart of our city.
We’ve incrementally improved our public safety response and capacity. You told us public safety is key to the livability of our community and a responsive police force is important.
We’ve added police officers and training, a renovated and efficient police facility, data-based deployment, rental of additional jail beds from Springfield and closer public safety coordination with the University of Oregon. Summer in the City kept the downtown blocks filled with healthy activities.
Our Independent Police Auditor and Civilian Review Board are functioning well. Several high-profile cases were handled and resolved with great sensitivity and transparency. The oversight process we so painstakingly put into place is running more smoothly, building confidence in the integrity of our civilian review system and our Police Department.)
We maximized our resources and our firefighting capacity through the collaborative merging of services with Springfield and single fire chief oversight. This approach has been recognized for its innovation.
Roads, roads, and more roads were repaired. You told us that maintaining our existing infrastructure is a priority. With careful use of your tax dollars, our public works department repaired and rebuilt more roads than ever before in the history of this city. You agreed to support a road bond for fixing a specific list of roads and that is exactly what we have done with a citizen group’s oversight.
We provided state leadership in the Oregon rail discussion. Eugene sponsored a state rail summit to initiate work on the Cascadia Rail Corridor from Eugene to Vancouver, British Columbia. Along with Portland business leader John Russell, I’ve agreed to co-chair a state committee to develop a preferred rail alignment for both passenger and freight between our city and Portland. Millions of dollars have been infused into the corridor, which holds the economic promise of great travel through two states and two countries.
Eugene is a strong voice at the table in state transportation planning to ensure mobility and access, while reducing green house gases and fossil fuel dependence. We serve on several important state-wide committees.
Eugene helped form the regional Area Commission on Transportation to ensure our region can be more competitive for federal dollars. This ACT is a collaborative organization that includes Lane County government and cities.
Eugene moved along our public transit system vision for the future. We know that EmX enables us to achieve a number of council and community goals in terms of accessible transportation, transit-oriented development, green house gas reduction, and reduced reliance on fossil fuels. We’re part of the process to determine the preferred way to extend EmX out into west Eugene, and we’re working our way through community concerns to find the right solutions.
Eugene continued to be a national leader in bike system improvements with one of the highest percentages of bike usage in the country. With our continued focus on transportation planning that considers bicycle infrastructure improvements; it’s only going to get better.
We moved forward our sustainability goals through the completion of our Climate and Energy Action Plan, and used the triple bottom line lens to make city decisions. This year more than ever, sustainability was imbedded in the work of the city using our talent and resources to protect our natural resources, strengthen our economy and ensure social equity for our people.
Sustainability is imbedded in economic development initiatives aimed at reducing the costs of business and positioning us for a carbon-constrained economy. We are managing not only the present, but looking forward to the future in an unchartered world. LCC has taken the lead on a one-stop business assistance center. The Chamber of Commerce has worked to support new investment strategies and to foster entrepreneurs. Eugene has supported local business development through our Business Development Loan Program.
Sustainability is imbedded in our protection of natural resources and provision of cultural services. More people than ever use our parks and trails, visit our libraries and attend our cultural activities. These resources have been hugely important in tough times and we have even been able to add to them with some amazing public contributions.
We helped provide for our most vulnerable population through the Human Services Commission, Courthouse Gardens, Project Homeless Connect, the Egan Warming Shelters, and partnering to build our stock of affordable housing options.
We worked to be a Human Rights City through conferences, celebrations and summits and through actions of commitment to equality and justice – through speaking out.
We built strong partnerships with our schools, universities and community college, EWEB and LTD, and our government partners throughout the area and state - and we have done it successfully while holding true to our values.
We had healthy and substantive community discussions about important city issues such as growth and development. People of all perspectives gave time and talent to more productive community deliberations. We’ve led an enormous community planning effort encompassing land use, transportation, social equity, economic development and environmental stewardship. This is Envision Eugene and you’re all invited to be part of it.
This city commitment to people, planet and profits has grown and strengthened over the last few years with careful and smart work by many people. It has not always been easy nor do I suspect it will be in the future. The life of a city is complex. We are moving forward with steady hands at the wheel.
Our efforts have been noticed. ICLEI, a national coalition of local governments for sustainability, recognized our leadership in sustainability initiatives and innovation. We were named among the top bike cities in the country by Bike Magazine. We were named one of the 100 best cities for business by Forbes; a best place to retire; a great place for people with pets; home of a great university that is a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities; a best small city for families; a smarter city; and a best place to live.
“Eugene is a breath of fresh air, unlike other places which duplicate each other across this land,” and “considered Paradise” are just a couple of the quotes about our city I’ve found.
We‘ve also recently been noted as one of the nation’s most progressive communities and that is only possible because of all the work, cooperation, and vision coming from our citizens, council, staff and leadership, working in a new era of collaboration to make Eugene a great city and place in the 21st century.
And if that is not enough to launch you into 2011, let’s not forget our Ducks, the University of Oregon Debate Team and the On the Rocks an a cappella group, all competing nationally to accolades and honor.
We live in the sweet spot.
In 2011 we will continue to move our economic plan. People must have jobs - jobs that pay well and keep our community unique, healthy, clean and strong. We have a lot to build on. We’ll measure our progress and make adjustments as we go.
We’ll take some specific additional steps to further address homelessness and the needs of our young people. In particular, we’ll take a look at how we might locally support our public schools during this time of state funding crisis.
We’ll see all our downtown projects come to fruition and work on adding more. We’ll work on creating a safer community. We’ll work with the U of O and our neighborhood associations on a wide range of safety and livability issues.
We’ll focus city efforts on an arts and culture district. Although we’ve lost some ground in the visual arts due to the recession, we remain committed to supporting the wealth of talent we are so fortunate to have in this community.
We’ll decide the future of our city hall and plan accordingly. This is called “getting our own house in order.”
We’ll implement our ambitious climate and energy plan to ensure that we are as prepared as we can be for an uncertain future, and we’ll maintain our huge commitments as a Human Rights City.
We’ll finish Envision Eugene and integrate it into all our other planning processes.
We’ll have inclusive and respectful policy discussions at all levels.
We’ll evaluate the proposed third segment of EmX in order to continue to build our world-class transit system.
We’ll support strengthening our state’s passenger and freight rail system, ensuring that Eugene benefits economically.
We’ll move up to platinum status in bike friendliness through implementation of our bike and pedestrian plan.
And we will care for each other and take pride in our city where so much is done and so much is possible.
Desmond Morris – “Clearly the city is not a concrete jungle, it is a human zoo.”
Margaret Mead – “A city is a place where there is no need to wait for next week to get the answer to a question, to taste the food of another country, to find new voices to listen to and familiar ones to listen to again.”
William Shakespeare – “What is the city, but the people?”
Eugene is ours and we are it and another year begins.