2001 State of the County Address
Delivered by Commissioner Anna Morrison

Chair, Lane County Board of Commissioners, 2001-2002

Harris Hall

Lane County Courthouse, Eugene Oregon
January 2, 2002

 

 

Thanks for joining me today on this historic occasion…wrapping up a year long commemoration of Lane County's 150th birthday. This year has given us an opportunity to reflect on a special Lane County spirit as we remember the past and make plans for the future.  The Lane County spirit came with the original settlers who created Lane County and it is a spirit that is alive and well today…a spirit of cooperation, compassion, creativity, common sense and commitment.

 

Just think of the courage, careful planning, stamina and hard work required to endure the trip to Lane County.  Once they arrived, the pioneer spirit carried them through hard, daily life experiences. They had to practice self-reliance while working together inter-dependently.

 

We carry that spirit with us every day in Lane County and I am so proud to be part of a nation that has pulled together in unimaginable ways this year.  I would like to take a moment for us to join together now to pay respect to those who lost their lives on September 11.

 

 ((Pause))

 

Now's the time to remember our past…To remember where we've been… and who we are… as a nation…and as Lane County.

 

Much of who we are depends on individual effort. So let's remember people who have worked hard and sacrificed to make our lives better. Real honor lies in rising to the challenges that our world presents. Many people have given and are still giving, with a pioneering spirit, a spirit of cooperation, compassion, creativity, common sense and commitment to make this county and this nation better. We don't forget them. We gain strength from their accomplishments and lessons learned during the last century and a half.

 

In addition to remembering, it's appropriate to look toward the future. We should be confident that we can make Lane County a place where everyone can find hope for the future. The residents of Lane County are what makes it work.  Our Lane County government is proud to be partners with Lane County residents as we embark on a journey of another 150 years.

 

So how has Lane County changed over the years?  We've grown….except for one geographical shrinking act!    When Lane County was formed by the Oregon Territorial Legislature (on January 28, 1851), it extended eastward to the Rocky Mountains and southward to the California border. Today Lane County serves a more specific geographic area of 4,620 square miles. It's largely the size the Connecticut. And we're serving more people. In 1851, Lane County's entire county government consisted of three commissioners, a county judge, an assessor, a treasurer, and a sheriff. Now we are serving more than 325,900 citizens with an employee base of 1,600. The county operates within a $405 million budget.

 

Lane County 2001 provided services to those who needed tools and services to improve their lives.  There are more than 14 divisions maintaining public safety, public works, human services, elections, and community resources. Most people don't realize the extent to which the county government serves its citizens: 

           

(LIST)

Public health, vital records, children and family welfare, animal welfare, building and environmental health, elections, police services, child advocacy, victims assistance, juvenile justice, district attorney/courts, child support services, search and rescue, parks,  land management, road construction and maintenance, waste management, fairgrounds. And, finally, assessment and taxation.

 

We all cringe when property tax time comes! But, we are working hard to make these dollars work hard for the hard working tax payers of Lane County.  Our property tax dollars go to our local schools, cities, ambulance, libraries, parks, water, fire districts, and county services. It might surprise you that when you pay your taxes, of each dollar, only 9.8 cents goes to the county. Almost 50 cents goes to schools, 33 cents to cities, and 9 cents to other districts.

 

Just like the pioneers had a vision, I am proud to have been part of implementing a new vision for Lane County in the form of our Strategic Plan.  This plan is a complete roadmap to direct the county's financial and program choices.  It will help us stay on the road that best serves citizens. This plan had extensive citizen input through the Future Focus Task Force, staff and board to ensure that our pioneering spirit stays intact.  The attitude of our Strategic Plan is that there are no prizes for predicting rain. Prizes are only given for building arks. Our Strategic Plan may be made of paper, but it is really an ark.  Those words…on that paper… translate into tangible action. What we'll see as a result of this plan is higher performance. In plain words, that means that people in our community will have more effective and efficient services.  A PIONEERING SPIRIT OF COMMON SENSE THAT COMES WITH PLANNING.

 

I am so proud that last year Lane County and its congressional delegation helped secure some important resources for the county. The pioneers came to Oregon and Lane County because of our natural resources and the significant economic base they provide.  We were short sighted in locking up those resources and not managing them in the 1980s.  Many counties can depend almost exclusively on property taxes to help supply funding for public services and programs. However, Lane County is comprised of 54 percent federal lands. When the timber industry was going strong, there was enough timber receipt money coming in to pay for many public services. That came to a halt in the 1980s… and people suffered.  And what unnecessary suffering the county endured. But because we operate in reality and we take action when needed, we worked together and got the resources back to our community where they belong.

 

Our congressional delegation, commissioners, and county were instrumental in helping pass the federal payments to counties legislation in 2000. In 2001, we began to build with the knowledge that we had some stable resources.  The county's general fund is now stable. Vital county services are on better financial footing. We have stable resources available for roads, bridges and schools and other services and programs. 

 

Resource Advisory Committees will choose restoration and recreation projects.  Some of the federal timber money has helped reestablish the Forest Work Camp program. Service capacity has been increased four-fold from 30 to 120 beds. The burden on our jail system is eased while low-risk inmates are given a positive, life-building alternative.

 

Search and Rescue service in remote areas has been revitalized with an infusion of staff and supplies…faster and more intensive response to reports of missing persons can result in saving lives. There is also renewed law enforcement presence in the rural areas with the addition of a designated patrol. Forests and dunes recreational areas also have patrol services covered by these resources. 

 

The federal funding is not a cure-all, however the county moved into a period of relative stability during 2001. The federal money was a win for everyone in this county.  AN EXCITING EXAMPLE OF WHAT CAN HAPPEN WITH THE PIONEERING SPIRIT OF CREATIVITY IN ADDRESSING OUR CHALLENGES.

 

We always win when we work together. Last year, the county began work with local cities to help consolidate and combine public safety functions and reduce costs. The tangible result of the Public Safety Coordinating Committee is an instructive assessment of potential ways these government entities can work as a team to serve the community's public safety needs.

 

Our communities also have important transportation needs. In fact, transportation is a key to local quality of life. Anyone who has to travel to and from work or school (or travel from Florence to Eugene regularly like I do) understands the value of a modern transportation system. This year, the Board of County Commissioners was pleased to approve TransPlan. TransPlan will guide our regional transportation system and development in the Eugene-Springfield metropolitan area through the Year 2015, making improvements that smooth out the bumps in our local travel.  A PIONEERING SPIRIT OF COOPERATION MAKES SERVICES LIKE TRANSPORTATION MORE EFFICIENT.

 

Locally, as well as nationally, the economy got tighter in 2001. The economic woes come as bad news, but we are thankful that the Lane Workforce Partnership's service was there to help as layoffs in the local job market took center stage. The Workforce Partnership will continue to be there.  I would also like to recognize the large and small businesses in Lane County and their hardworking employees for the contribution that they continue to make to our Lane County economy.  When our businesses, suffer, all of Lane County suffers.   A PIONEERING SPIRIT OF COMMITMENT TO OUR COUNTY KEEPS OUR ECONOMY GOING EVEN IN TOUGH TIMES.

 

Last year, we also took a big step closer to realizing a 10-year goal of providing comprehensive services to at-risk youth. The John Serbu Youth Campus must house an education component. Education helps interrupt the cycle of crime by giving youths successful, more positive options for their future. 

 

This education component will be made possible when the National Guard Armory relocates to another site. Our education services will move into the vacated building, which is immediately adjacent to the Serbu Campus.

 

This last year, Oregon's congressional delegation was successful in advocating for federal funding to build an armory at a new site. Congress responded to our advocacy with $8.3 million for the new Armory. We are now that much closer to delivering education for at-risk youth on site. A PIONEERING SPIRIT OF COMPASSION FOR OUR KIDS.

 

Lane County's legislative delegation also helped create a Disaster Recovery Fund for Oregon. Senate Bill 63 allows for $2.5 million from Oregon Economic and Community Development Special Public Works Fund to go to disaster areas within Oregon, matching federal funds. Efforts to bolster community Mental Health funding resulted in a $7.5 million statewide enhancement package with help from our state senators and representatives. Of concern is the current state budget crisis that could put these dollars in jeopardy.

 

Lane County government moved closer last year toward delivering services and transactions to citizens via Internet technology. We found multiple ways to better communicate and to serve the public. Now citizens can access a total of 55 services on the Internet. And, this number grows every time we add another department to the county's newly designed format. The strongest indication of the site's usefulness is the incredible jump in hits each time a new function or service is added. One great example is the response when Animal Regulation added photos of animals available for adoption. "Hits" went from 351 to 2,525 per week. 

 

The pioneering spirit of common sense, creativity, cooperation, commitment and compassion are woven through all of these accomplishments and I have been proud to work side by side with my fellow commissioners and hard working employees of Lane County as board chair to ensure that this spirit is carried on for another 150 years.

 

When the pioneers came here, they didn’t look at how they could create the best government services and how to find more money for doing more.  They figured out how to survive with what they had and that was with courage, careful planning, stamina and hard work.  They were self-reliant but learned that they could be more efficient when they were interdependent.  Creating a government was a tool that they used to create an effective system of interdependence.

 

Lane County residents today are in the heart of an economic recession and just like the pioneers of the past, they too are focused on survival.  They are working hard making ends meet each month, determining priorities in their family budgets. And, businesses are trying to find ways to keep more families employed.  We will be successful in pulling out of this recession and making Lane County a place people want to live and grow for another 150 years if we remember that we are an important tool in protecting people’s being self-reliance and the benefits that they can glean from it.

 

It is the people who comprise Lane County government and the citizens of Lane County who are important.  Not the government itself.  I am proud to be a pioneer with you as we embark on our next journey-another great 150 years for Lane County.