LANE COUNTY

LISTENING TOUR

July 28, 2007

10:00 a.m.

Florence Events Center

715 Quince Street, Florence

APPROVED 9/12/2007

 

Present: Amber Fossen, Bill Fleenor, Bobby Green, Sr., Jennifer Inman, Peter Sorenson, Faye Stewart, Bill Van Vactor and Melissa Zimmer, Recording Secretary.  Bill Dwyer was excused.

 

Skip Stit, Senior Veteran Vice Commander, expressed the importance of the veterans’ organizations.  He said he was at the last meeting in Lane County, getting funds available to service all of the veterans with claim work that is needed.  He indicated whenever they have meetings with the veterans, they are always at the bottom of the list.  He commented that animals cannot speak for themselves but when some veterans come back, they can’t speak for themselves either.  He said without the Lane County office to file claims for the veterans, he didn’t know where the people would go. 

 

Fleenor commented the County just signed a contract with the state to continue funding Veterans’ Services.

 

Cliff Harvey, Florence, suggested the Board challenge the electorate to come up with a better plan.  He suggested each Board member form a five member committee from people living in  different districts who voted against the income tax measure to come up with something they believe would work  He said there would be 25 people who voted against the income tax but were interested in coming up with a workable solution.  He volunteered to chair the five person committee.  He thought there would be five committees of five members each appointed by the commissioner of that district.  Each person would be given a task to review all the budget items that Lane County is responsible for and prioritize those items from top to bottom.  He said they would recommend ways to provide funding for those items recommended for reduction or elimination.  He added that each committee of five members would have assistance from the County to explain the current budget, who gets what and why, what is mandated by the law and what is requested by unelected bureaucrats and decide based on that information where the priorities are with the committee members.  He said they would then hold a public forum in the district to get input from citizens in their district.  He indicated the committee should sit down and decide among themselves what their needs are and prioritize the needs.  He added once those five committees have finished their work, the five chairs of those committees would then become another committee of their own and meld together all of the suggestions that the original five came up with in the beginning.  He said they would then submit their final report to the Board for their review and acceptance.

 

Jerry Rust, Mapleton, said they could either raise revenues or cut expenditures to balance the budget.  He said because the way the budget was handled last year, they are in a cut mode.  He thought the public wanted to see some cuts before they think about new revenue.  He suggested cutting back executive and management salaries.  He said they have had the same problem in Lane County before.  He thought where possible, going to a four-day week.  He said the employees would still maintain their benefits but they would be making a smaller paycheck. He said they have to get out of the O & C Association because they don’t need the expenditure or they don’t need to participate with the counties who want to cut the rest of the old growth that provides for clean water, fish and habitat.  He noted that Lane County is broke and the money from the Secure Rural Schools Act should have been set aside.  He agreed with a mid-course correction.  He recommended at the jail and the juvenile justice center they should charge $5 to $10 per client, making the parents of juveniles pay for their children. He recommended bargaining with the unions in the open so they could all see what was said.  He thought two commissioners should be eliminated, going back to a three member elected at-large board. He suggested restoring the enterprise funds to support the parks and fairgrounds.  He thought there should be an adoption of a pet food tax to support animal control. He didn’t want the fairgrounds to be moved.  He added he wanted a bond measure for the fairgrounds.

 

The questions were: 

What brought you here instead of somewhere else this morning.

Of the information they took in about how the County is doing and where they are at, what has real meaning about the position of the County now?

What has surprised you and what has challenged you?

How do you get people to get involved?

What matters to you?

What principles, values or strategies should guide our county officials as they shape the County’s budget now and into the future?

 

Fleenor said the first question about what brought people to the meeting was they wanted to get information about what the County does and to learn more about County government.  He heard communication was essential as well as communication with the elected officials and among one another.  He said they want to support this type of listening tour and want to see more.  He said they want the citizens to be part of a solution.  He said there was interest for Health and Human Services, air quality, Meals on Wheels, public safety and Veteran’s affairs.  With regard to the second question, he said the County had downsized where many people have adapted to the reduced services in West Lane County.  He said they are seeing less of a presence of County services in the urban growth boundaries.  He heard they should run the County more like a business, with more honest and open government.  He said they need education on what Lane County does.  He indicated there was a suggestion to publish a Lane County user friendly budget.  With regard to the question on what matters most, he indicated they stated public safety and public health was their main concern.  He heard there is ill trust and there needs to be a need for community outreach.  He said they talked about how they get together people who are energized and want to talk. 

 

Stewart’s table said they came today to see what people had to say.  He said they wanted to show their support for the veterans.  He said they suggested charging for services in the jail and in the juvenile system.  He indicated they were interested in the pet food tax and there was a reoccurring theme about Veteran's Services and its importance.  He said the second question stated they supported the five member committee.  He noted they discussed West Lane County getting the short end of funding. He said they were concerned about the priority list the County put forward and the budget process putting LCARA above Veteran’s Services.  He indicated there was discussion about taxes and no one supported an income tax as a solution.  He said they thought an entertainment tax could bring in more revenue.  Some people said they didn’t mind paying taxes but they must see the benefits.  He said user fees were more acceptable than a plain tax.  He heard they need to do a better job getting out information.  He added they discussed more patrols and more of a police presence in responding to calls. 

 

Green said they discussed Veteran’s Services.  His table thought the Veteran’s Services should be doing more and the County shouldn’t be in that business.  He indicated the state and federal government has outreach programs and they should be doing that. He said improving communication in the Veteran’s Services office was discussed.  He noted an issue was being more cost effective in having a work crew working on the roads and working with the City of Florence to combine services. He said there was concern about timber revenue and how the revenue should be related to the land.  He said there was discussion on transient room tax.  He said there was a recommendation for having a surcharge to event planners to put on their events.

 

Randy Smith, Sheriff’s Office, stated some people were concerned about annexation.  He said with the question on what matters, a sales tax was discussed.  He said they discussed people who were in Florence for two and three months at a time getting the same amount of services as everyone else. He said they discussed increasing logging in the area to raise money.  He noted there was a suggestion to be proactive in changing legislation around property taxes.  He said the priorities they want to see is to make sure money is going to where it is supposed to go.  He added there was a question about duplication of services that could help save costs and increase services.  He said they wanted to see the County prioritize the services that the citizens want and to make sure they are funded.  He noted there were concerns about having more law enforcement in Florence and charging people if they are in the jail.  He said Highway 126 is a priority and they wanted to make it a safer road.  He said they also want to see more bus services.

 

Van Vactor indicated the reason people came out was to support Fleenor.  He said they discussed scaling back and cutting County services before they restore anything. With regard to the second question, he said Lane County should be spending money but connecting it with services.  He noted there was a discussion about federal lands and the County not allowing the government to sell the O & C lands but careful harvesting of those lands would be okay.  He said the citizens of Florence feel they don’t get a lot of Lane County services and they feel forgotten.  With regard to question 3, he said they want the commissioners to know they have trouble balancing their budget like Lane County so Lane County should know that a lot of people live on fixed incomes and it is harder with constant rising costs. He said they recommended the Board not spend all of the federal money coming to Lane County.  He stated they said the County should decide what type of business it is in.  He said a recommendation was to apply the principle “A stitch in time saves nine,” as prevention early is better than expensive services in the future.  He indicated his table said they were willing to help Lane County and put in their own personal time in improving ways for volunteers to help.

 

Sorenson indicated there was a concern about what percentage of  the Sheriff’s Office comes to West Lane County.  He said there was concern about coastal and ocean issues.  He said people were concerned about the extent of crime to the point where the people are forming private militias. He said they were concerned because 30 to 40 children per day are homeless in Florence.  He added there were concerns about how water was used and the cleanliness of water.  He said there were ideas to combine garbage with sewage sludge and creating jobs to help people rehabilitate themselves.  He said there was concern about efficiency in government.  He added there were concerns about livability including what the County could do to protect the Florence area from becoming ugly, stopping sprawl from special interest groups.  He said the festival economy was discussed in getting more events and events that pay for themselves.  He indicated there was a need for more public transportation, bringing seniors back and forth from Florence to Eugene and involving seniors in volunteering with jobs that have been cut.  With regard to guiding principles, he said there were recommendations of sustainability, efficiency, having dedicated revenue for services and elimination of duplication of services.  He indicated there were public health concerns.  He said to get volunteers involved they have to be motivated, skilled and guided into the volunteer activity.  With regard to overall concerns, he said they need to have a participatory government and have the citizens of Lane County own the problems of Lane County.

 

Greta Utecht, Human Resources, said the issues bringing people today was not getting enough representation and cooperation with the small jurisdiction.  She said understanding the source of the problem and the interplay between different governmental agencies was another problem.  She indicated there were annexation concerns and how the land use code impacts what can happen between small cities on the coast. She noted there was concern about land use enforcement and lack thereof.  She said there was lack of Sheriff’s Office protection and how the budget is prioritized.  She said there is a perception that the County resources are misused.  She indicated the question was brought up about how they make the distinction between the money that have strings attached and the discretionary money. She noted there was a lack of understanding when the County was spending money on a road and there is not enough Sheriff's Office protection. With regard to being challenged, she said they had a discussion about tax rates and how property taxes go to County government versus other taxing jurisdictions and how big a piece Lane County has in all of it.  She also said the discussion about volunteers came up, as well as prevention.  She said they discussed more fees to be used for specific users.  She indicated there was appreciation for this type of exercise and it is a good venue to explain complicated issues.

 

George Goldstein, Roads Advisory Committee, indicated there were discussions about Highway 126 road issues. He said there were concerns about poorly planned and uncontrolled development.  He said there was concern about the County not enforcing regulations and not having enough oversight over permitting.  He indicated people were concerned they were not being heard.  He said they want the Board to reprioritize things.  He said there was a general consensus that things might be better off if the Sheriff’s Department came under the County Commissioners and was appointed instead of being elected.  He indicated they wanted to see revenue of management for best management practices.  He added they wanted more accountability and visibility and possibly have an efficiency expert come in.  He said there should be an audit so they can see where the money is going. He said they want to know why the County is not facing up to the loss of O & C funds.  He stated they wanted to see what a non-operating budget is.  He said they want Lane County’s website to be more user friendly with an automated helpline and better search engine.  He said they want to see a responsive newsletter to see the feedback on all of the issues.  He added there were concerns about hidden taxes and wants the County to earn their constituent’s trust.

 

Howard Shapiro, Planning Commission, indicated his table discussed a sales tax to supplement property tax.  He said they discussed whether they should tax non-residents for using the services by just passing through.  He said they discussed a rebate for residents. He said a question came up about whether taxes have been reduced since the city annexed and if some services were discontinued.  He noted there are retired people in Florence and they can’t take advantage of the services they pay for in Eugene.  He said there was a question about development north of the city on Highway 101.  He noted transportation and bus service was brought up.  He said they discussed cancer patients taking the open seats on the bus going into Eugene. They were in favor of keeping the Veterans Administration funds.  He said they want fair taxation that brings in sufficient revenue for the long term.

 

Dianne Burch, Assistant to Bill Fleenor, said her table discussed water concerns.  She said they discussed regressive taxes versus progressive taxes.   She said they talked about funding for the peer court system.  She stated they discussed a safety net and transportation.  She said they also discussed the leveling of services in the funding situation.  She said there was a suggestion about SDC’s and imposing a two percent tax on SDC’s throughout the County.

 

Jackie Mikalonis, Sheriff’s Office, indicated at her table people had lived in Florence between one and twelve years.  She said they were concerned about the County’s situation and public affairs.  She stated what surprised them about the issues that were brought up was that only 8 percent of revenue in Lane County comes from taxes. She said a question was what role the Commissioners had for economic development.  She said they discussed transportation and strategies including looking at revenues that were not disproportionate to low income people, a County restaurant tax and issues dealing with communication. She said they discussed the access of information and what kind of strategies there are to get information out.  They believed the elected officials should look into strategies with economics and should get a handle on what the trends are now and what demographics and economics are impacting their area and then review strategies.

 

Cindy Cable, Judge, said her table came today because they wanted to be responsible citizens.  She said they had a positive focus and it was encouraging instead of critical.  She said they were concerned about property taxes. He said the concern is there doesn’t seem to be a priority in Lane County government to assess the values in a timely, accurate rate so the tax burden is fair.  She said people in the community who had recently purchased a home might have timely taxes but people who have owned property for many years haven’t been brought up to date.  She said they said it would be money well spent.  She indicated there was a general concern that Florence and all rural communities are orphaned from Lane County in the service area.  She added that services had been cut to the people who need it most and pay for it, like the people in the urban areas.  She stated there were suggestions to use e-mails for communication in the future and to maintain strong efforts with state and federal government. She also said they hoped Lane County would do a better job informing the people about public safety and services to seniors.

 

Adjourned at 12:15 p.m.

 

 

Melissa Zimmer

Recording Secretary