Willamette Valley News, Wednesday 2/8 – Springfield City Officials Consider Ordinances About Camping On Public Property, Lane County Board Of Commissioners Put Public Safety Levy Renewal On May Ballot

The latest news stories and stories of interest in the Willamette Valley from the digital home of Southern Oregon, from Wynne Broadcasting’s WillametteValleyMagazine.com

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Willamette Valley Weather

Springfield City Officials Consider Ordinances About Camping On Public Property

Springfield city officials are looking at changes to ordinances about sleeping on public property to comply with federal court rulings and new state law. They said they are considering some elements of what other cities have done.

An Oregon state law passed in 2021 prohibits cities from banning camping or sleeping in public spaces, though it allows for regulations that most people, including those experiencing homelessness, would consider fair.

Cities must update their ordinances and policies by July, or otherwise ensure they comply with the new state law that’s similar to requirements of federal court rulings.

From a 24-hour limit on sleeping in one place to protections for waterways, regulations enacted by other Oregon cities provide options similar to a paint palette, Councilor Joe Pishioneri said. “There’s no clear color, but what is clear to me is everybody’s trying,” he said. Springfield officials can pick and choose what works for the city out of examples from Bend, Corvallis, Medford, and more, Pishioneri said.

Springfield’s ordinance does not comply with the federal court rulings or the new state law because it bans sleeping in anything from a sleeping bag to a lean-to or other structure on public property, City Attorney Mary Bridget Smith told officials late last year.

The state law, passed during the 2021 legislative session, requires any city or county law regulating the acts of sitting, lying, sleeping or keeping warm and dry outside to be objectively reasonable to people, including those experiencing homelessness. Smith clarified the scope of the changes is narrow and applies only to publicly owned properties that are open to the public.

There aren’t many shelter options for people in Springfield, a staff memo reads. The memo notes the options likely don’t comply because they have access limitations.

The memo lists three temporary shelter options and their limitations:

  • An Egan Warming Center site at the Springfield Memorial Building on A Street is only open as a sheltering option when the forecast calls for temperatures below 30 degrees.
  • Shankle Brooklyn Street Shelter in Glenwood provides shelter for 12 people at a time based on referral.
  • Front Door assessment is available at Catholic Community Services on G Street, but the process doesn’t provide an immediate solution for someone camping on public property.

Springfield also allows religious and social institutions and industrial sites to host up to three people living in vehicles through an overnight parking program, and is temporarily allowing people to live in RVs on private property with permission from the property owner and other requirements.

Springfield isn’t trying to take a template from anywhere, Smith said, but talking about what others are doing can “be a nice jumping-off point.”

She presented on time, place and manner restrictions in other cities:

  • Time restrictions included a requirement to move after 24 hours except in certain circumstances and prohibitions limiting camping to overnight hours.
  • Place restrictions included prohibiting camping in residential areas, near water, on streets, in rights of way, parking lots and close to trails and other park features.
  • Manner restrictions include limits on the size of sleeping areas and prohibitions on burning, storing personal property and making too much noise after 10 p.m.

Pishioneri liked the 24-hour limit. Smith said that’s intended to prevent established camps, which trigger notification of cleanup and storage requirements under a different state law. He also said he wants Springfield to protect waterways, especially since the McKenzie River and connected wellheads are the city’s source of drinking water.

Councilors will continue discussions on the camping ordinance in another work session on March 6th.

Staff plan to schedule a public hearing on the ordinance on April 17 and have reserved time during a meeting on May 1 as a placeholder for a second public hearing as needed.

Lane County Board Of Commissioners Put Public Safety Levy Renewal On May Ballot

The Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously to place the question of renewing the current public safety levy before voters during the May 16, 2023 election. The passage of this measure would not increase the tax rate.

Measure renewal would maintain a minimum of 255 local jail beds, providing the Sheriff greater capacity to hold those arrested for violent felonies or Measure 11 offenses until their cases are resolved instead of releasing them due to lack of space. Since the original levy took effect in 2013, no violent felony or Measure 11 arrestees have been released pre-trial due to lack of space.

Levy renewal would also: ➡️ maintain investment in medical mental health services within the Lane County Jail to help those in custody make positive improvements and build life skills in an effort to reduce recidivism.

➡️ continue to provide counseling, secure treatment and detention services for youth offenders. In Youth Services, the public safety levy funds 8 of 16 youth detention beds and 8 of 15 Phoenix Treatment Program beds.

Currently, the public safety levy provides 52 percent of the operational funding for the Lane County Jail.

The estimated tax rate for this levy is $0.55 per $1,000 of assessed value. The median Lane County homeowner is estimated to pay an average of $9.83 per month for five years.

Levy funds are placed in a restricted fund earmarked for the Lane County Jail and Youth Services. An annual independent financial audit of levy spending is required and presented publicly. Read more at https://www.lanecounty.org/…/PR_020723_Public_Safety_Levy

Lane Transit District Makes Changes to Route Schedules

Lane Transit District will operate under a new schedule now, with reductions to eight routes, additions to one route, and scheduling shifts to three routes. LTD plans to prolong the suspension of three routes.

LTD attributed the cutbacks to a combination of reduced ridership and a shortage of drivers. The press release said ridership is at 70% of what it was pre-pandemic. LTD Chief Marketing Officer Pat Walsh said LTD is actively recruiting and that LTD can only provide the level of service it is staffed to deliver until positions are filled.

Schedule changes to EMX and the continued suspension of routes 27, 73 and 79 might affect University of Oregon students.

EMX – Full EMX trips will now occur every 15 minutes instead of every 10 minutes between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. on weekdays. 

In between those, additional weekday trips have been added so that between 1:44 p.m. and 4:50 p.m. there is service along the route from Eugene Station to Springfield Station every 7 and a half minutes. The same is true for the trip from Springfield to Eugene between 2:43 p.m. and 5:50 p.m.

Routes 27, 73 and 78 – In the press release LTD announced there would be “no service until further notice” on these routes. These were three of seven routes suspended when LTD cut back services at the start of the pandemic. The other four have since returned.

Route 27 Fairmount ran from downtown through the West University, South University, Fairmount and Laurel Hill Valley Neighborhoods. Route 73 UO/Willamette ran from UO Station south through the Southeast Neighborhood along Willamette St. Route 78 UO/Seneca/Warren ran west from UO station through the Churchill Neighborhood.

Other changes can be found on LTD’s website.

Common School Fund will send a record $72.2 million to Oregon public schools in 2023

Fund that’s supported education since statehood sends the highest-ever amount to schools

SALEM, Ore. – Oregon’s K-12 public schools will receive a record $72.2 million from the Common School Fund in 2023, officials announced during today’s State Land Board meeting. 

Every one of Oregon’s 197 public school districts receives money from the Common School Fund every year. How much each district receives depends on the number of students served. In 2023, Portland Public Schools, the state’s largest district, will receive $6.4 million. Lincoln County School District will receive about $675,000. Rogue River School District will receive just over $113,000. See 2023 distributions for all Oregon school districts.✎ EditSign

The average 2023 distribution is approximately $367,000. Baker School District, with about 1,700 students, will receive $237,422 in 2023. 

“The Common School Fund is valuable in sustaining all of our efforts across our district,” said Erin Lair, Superintendent of Baker School District, “everything from maintaining facilities to instruction.” 

The Common School Fund has supported Oregon schools since statehood, when the federal government granted our new state nearly 3.4 million acres “for the use of schools.” The State Land Board was established to oversee these school lands, which generate revenue for the Fund. 

Now valued at $2.1 billion, the Common School Fund is invested by the State Treasurer and the Oregon Investment Council. The Fund earned an average 4.42 percent rate of return over the three-year period ending in 2022. 

“We’re incredibly pleased with the Common School Fund’s performance in recent years under Treasury’s management. These sustained returns will allow us to send a record-setting amount to Oregon public schools,” said State Treasurer Tobias Read. “We look forward to seeing the positive impact this will have on students across the state, from increased resources in the classroom to facility improvements.”

Annually, 3.5 percent of the Fund is distributed to schools. The 2023 distribution of $72.2 million, the highest-ever distribution, is $8 million more than the 2022 distribution of $64.2 million and $12.1 million more than the 2021 distribution of $60.1 million.

Today, approximately 772,000 acres of school lands are managed by the Department of State Lands on behalf of the Land Board. $1.38 million in net income from school land leases, sales, and other land management activities was added to the Fund in fiscal year 2022. 

“Generation after generation of Oregon students have been supported by school lands,” said DSL Director Vicki Walker. “My grandchildren now benefit from the $2.4 million going to Eugene schools in 2023, just as my children did from past Common School Fund distributions.” 

About the State Land Board and the Department of State Lands: The State Land Board consists of Governor Tina Kotek, Secretary of State Shemia Fagan and State Treasurer Tobias Read. Established by the Oregon Constitution in 1859, the Land Board oversees the state’s Common School Fund. The Department of State Lands is the Land Board’s administrative agency, managing the lands and resources that help fund Oregon’s public schools and protecting the state’s waterways and wetlands for the many benefits they provide. ### www.oregon.gov/dsl

Governor Kotek Seeking Applicants For Newly Created Housing Production Advisory Council

Governor Kotek is accepting applications for her newly created Housing Production Advisory Council, which was established through an executive order on Kotek’s first full day in office Tuesday, January 10th.

The Housing Production Advisory Council will be responsible for proposing an action plan to meet the state’s housing production goals. It will be composed of 25 members, including the governor or her designee, bipartisan members of the Oregon House and Senate, relevant state agency directors, and a Tribal member. The largest share of members, 18, will be appointed by Kotek with the goal of assembling a highly effective, diverse, and representative council, ready to get to work for Oregonians.

Kotek is looking to appoint housing developers with expertise in permanent supportive, affordable and market-rate housing; representatives of rural and coastal communities; representatives of communities of color; local government representatives; and experts in land use, fair housing, permitting, workforce development, and construction.

Oregonians interested in applying for the council are encouraged to submit an application, which can be found at http://bit.ly/3Y7W8yT. Applications are due Wednesday, Feb. 15. Appointees will begin work on the council in early March.

Kotek’s executive order established an annual housing production goal of 36,000 additional housing units at all levels of affordability across the state to address Oregon’s current housing shortage and keep pace with projected population growth. That’s an ambitious target — about an 80% increase over current construction trends — and would set Oregon on a path to build 360,000 additional homes over the next decade.

The executive order dictates that two co-chairs be appointed, one living or working in an urban area and the other in a rural area. The council is scheduled to provide a recommended framework for an action plan by April 1. https://www.oregon.gov/newsroom/Pages/NewsDetail.aspx?newsid=87634#:~:text=The%20Housing%20Production%20Advisory%20Council,directors%2C%20and%20a%20Tribal%20member.

Oregon Dept. of Forestry gives $4.4 million in grants to boost capacity at Oregon tree nurseries

SALEM, Ore. – Ten tree nurseries across the state are receiving over $4.4 million this year to help them increase their ability to produce badly needed seedlings. The seedlings are needed to help reforest millions of acres deforested in recent years by wildfire, disease and pests. 

The money was given to ODF after passage by the Oregon Legislature in 2021 of House Bill 5006. The bill was a response to the devastating 2020 wildfires which burned a million acres of forest. In the wake of those fires, there were many barriers to reforesting, including shortages of money, labor, and for some smaller landowners appropriate tree seedlings. 

ODF Small Forestland Owner Assistance Unit Manager Nate Agalzoff said, “These grants are helping nurseries make strategic investments to increase their ability to grow more seedlings, which will enable them to better support reforestation needs in the future.”

Nurseries are using the funds to invest in everything from adding irrigation to building new greenhouses and seedbed space as well as storage facilities for storing seedling trees. Funds can also go toward:

  • equipment
  • the cost of collecting or purchasing tree seeds,
  • buying land on which to expand nursery facilities.

“These grants are increasing overall capacity across the state for whenever seedling demand rises,” said ODF Reforestation Program Project Coordinator Astrea Strawn. “In the case of nurseries in Union and Hood River counties, the grants also ensure there will be capacity to provide geographically appropriate seedlings for those areas.”

Strawn said funds must be spent before the end of this summer. 

“This makes us optimistic that landowners, especially smaller ones, will have better access to seedlings. When they do, they can promptly reforest after future tree losses to keep Oregon’s working forests working for Oregonians,” she said.

“The funding will allow Lava Nursery, Inc. to increase seedling production for the small woodland owners, helping them to meet their reforestation needs after forest fires and/or harvest operations,” said Lava’s Assistant Nursery Manager Jeff Snyder. “These funds will also allow for additional freezer storage capability for long-term storage of seedlings to ensure the best quality seedlings are available at the time of planting.”

To qualify for a grant, a nursery had to have experience growing high-quality commercial conifer trees for reforestation in Oregon, including Douglas-fir, grand fir, noble fir, western redcedar, ponderosa pine and others.

“The awards were targeted to nurseries which showed interest in helping with future reforestation needs, whether from wildfires or climate change losses,” said Strawn.

Nurseries which received funds include:

  • Brooks Tree Farm – Salem in Marion County $540,000
  • Drakes Crossing Nursery – Silverton in Marion County $540,000
  • PRT Growing Services – Cottage Grove and Hubbard $540,000
  • Trillium Gardens – Eugene in Lane County $531,000
  • Weyerhaeuser – Aurora and Turner in the Willamette Valley $500,000
  • Champoeg Nursery – Aurora in Marion County $458,000
  • Lava Nursery, Inc. – Parkdale in Hood County $458,000
  • Scholls Valley Native Nursery – Forest Grove in Washington County $367,000
  • The Plantworks, LLC – Cove in Union County $276,000
  • Kintigh Nursery – Springfield in Lane County $238,000

Oregon House Contemplating Tax Breaks To Homeowners Who Rent Out Rooms

House Bill 3032 would allow homeowners to subtract up to $12,000 per rented room from their state-taxable income each year. The House Committee on Housing and Homelessness endorsed the measure on a 9-1 vote; it still needs approval from a second committee before it could be voted on by the full House. 

Legislative analysts haven’t yet calculated the potential costs to the state in missing tax revenue. But Rep. Maxine Dexter, D-Portland, said Tuesday that it would cost Oregon more to build affordable homes than encourage people to rent out rooms. 

“At this moment in time, we have a housing crisis,” Dexter said. “We’re seeing a lot of folks implementing or using the homeshare option, and I think a lot of those folks are low-income. The tax impact or the revenue impact is always going to be a concern, but the building of new housing for those individuals would be a greater cost to the state.” 

Rep. Jami Cate, R-Lebanon, was the only committee member to vote against the bill. She said she was concerned that it lacks clarity and could result in people abusing the law, such as homeowners claiming they’re  renting to family members just to get a tax break. 

As written, the bill doesn’t preclude parents charging their adult children rent, for instance. Proponents contend that that’s a selling point: Adult children living at their parents’ homes won’t take up an apartment needed by someone else. Oregon is now short roughly 110,000 houses or apartment units. 

People would only qualify for the tax break if they rented a room to the same person for at least three consecutive months and charged less than $1,000 per month in rent. 

About 1.5 million owner-occupied Oregon homes have at least one vacant bedroom, according to Home Share Oregon, a Portland-based nonprofit that encourages sharing homes and helps connect people who want to rent rooms with people with extra rooms. The organization describes home-sharing as a way to provide shelter for thousands of people while helping owners, particularly older adults, afford their mortgage payments. 

The organization’s executive director, Tess Fields, told lawmakers during a committee hearing in January that about 800 homeowners and 3,000 renters have signed up to participate in the program since it launched a year ago. 

The bill’s supporters include groups that work with older adults, such as AARP and Meals on Wheels People. Representatives from those organizations described it as a way to help older people afford to remain in their communities and reduce negative effects of isolation. 

It’s also supported by America’s Service Commissions, the organization that runs the Americorps program and stations volunteers in Oregon and other states for year-long terms. Close to two-thirds of the Americorps volunteers in Oregon in 2021 struggled to find safe, affordable housing, America’s Service Commissions CEO Kaira Esgate told lawmakers in a letter. 

But tenant advocates are skeptical, noting that people who rent rooms have fewer rights under Oregon law than those who rent full homes or apartments. A 2019 law prohibits landlords from evicting tenants without cause after the first year of residency, except in limited circumstances such as a building being uninhabitable. That law doesn’t apply when landlords rent rooms in their homes. 

A Portland ordinance that requires landlords to pay some tenant moving expenses if they change lease terms, raise rent by 10% or more or don’t renew a lease also doesn’t apply in cases where the tenant lives with the landlord.

Alli Sayre, the organizing coordinator for Portland Tenants United, told committee members that the bill is a handout to rich homeowners that leaves renters without housing stability. 

“I have lived with my landlord before,” Sayre said. “It is like living with your parents. It is not a long-term housing situation for most people. In exchange for the inconvenience, the tenant ostensibly gets cheaper rent.”

Sayre added that landlords already can deduct their mortgage interest payments from their state taxes – that deduction cost the state close to $1.1 billion in the current two-year budget cycle. There’s no similar tax break for renters, though a trio of Republican senators introduced a bill to allow renters to deduct up to $5,000 from their taxable income when filing state taxes. That bill hasn’t been scheduled for a committee hearing. 

“It is completely nonsensical to allow a landlord who is already using the rental income to pay their mortgage, from which they can deduct mortgage interest, to double dip by claiming a second deduction on the income itself,” Sayre said. 

House Majority Leader Julie Fahey, who voted for the measure on Tuesday, said she was conflicted about the vote. If the goal is to reward people who are already renting out rooms, it accomplishes that, she said. “But if the goal is to result in more people renting out a room, I’m not sure that this is the right tool for that,” Fahey said.

Mid Oregon Free Days Return to the High Desert Museum in February

BEND, OR — For the first time since winter 2020, Free Family Saturdays return to the High Desert Museum. On Saturday, February 11 and 25, visitors will get free admission to the Museum. 

“After three years, we are excited to throw open our doors for Free Family Saturdays,” said Museum Executive Director Dana Whitelaw, Ph.D. “They have always been highly popular and it’s an amazing day for witnessing the Museum’s educational mission in action.”

Along with free admission, visitors can enjoy a special Daily Schedule filled with numerous interpretive talks. Every hour from 11:00 am – 3:00 pm, there will be a Bird of Prey Encounter in the Bird of Prey Center pavilion. Visitors can meet a nonreleasable raptor in the Museum’s care and learn about their unique adaptations. Visitors can also experience nature encounters in Classroom A throughout the day. 

Visitors on Free Family Saturdays will be able to experience the Museum’s new exhibition, Creations of Spirit. Native artists commissioned for this original exhibition created artwork to be used in Native communities before arriving at the Museum. It includes acclaimed artists Joe Feddersen (Colville), Kelli Palmer (Wasco, Warm Springs) and H’Klumaiyat Roberta Joy Kirk (Wasco, Warm Springs, Diné). Creations of Spirit is a one-of-a-kind, celebratory experience featuring the stories of living works of art. highdesertmuseum.org/creations-of-spirit

Other temporary exhibitions include the original effort, Under the Snow. The exhibit, offered in English and Spanish, reveals the hidden world beneath the snow, called the subnivium. In this environment, animals create a matrix of tunnels to survive the winter’s frigid temperatures and hide from the predators that lurk above. The exhibit is filled with animations of animals and immerses the visitor in the winter landscape. Learn more at highdesertmuseum.org/under-the-snow.

And In the Arena: Photographs from America’s Only Touring Black Rodeo, will be open through June 25. Through the lens of San Francisco Bay area photographer Gabriela Hasbun, the exhibit documents the exhilarating atmosphere of the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo—the only touring Black rodeo in the country—and the showstopping style and skill of the Black cowboys and cowgirls who compete in it year after year. Learn more at highdesertmuseum.org/in-the-arena.

Winter hours are daily from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm. Learn more about all the Museum’s permanent and temporary exhibits at highdesertmuseum.org/exhibitions.

Free Family Saturdays are made possible by Mid Oregon Credit Union.

ABOUT THE MUSEUM: The HIGH DESERT MUSEUM opened in Bend, Oregon in 1982. It brings together wildlife, cultures, art, history and the natural world to convey the wonder of North America’s High Desert. The Museum is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, is a Smithsonian Affiliate, was the 2019 recipient of the Western Museums Association’s Charles Redd Award for Exhibition Excellence and was a 2021 recipient of the National Medal for Museum and Library Service. To learn more, visit highdesertmuseum.org and follow us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

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