Editor’s Note: The Lane County Commissioner seat representing Springfield is held by incumbent Joe Berney and is contested by David Loveall. Read Loveall’s candidate bio and column here … Read Berney’s candidate bio and column here.
The Chronicle: In terms of affordable inventory, mental health support and job support, what strategies will you employ to address issues that the unhoused population faces?
Berney: Though often related, each has its own challenges. The county funds workforce, housing and mental health services countywide, including heroic work with non-profits like Catholic Community Services, Relief Nursery and The Arc in Springfield. We built over 70 units of subsidized housing for Springfield families; another 150 units are committed for Glenwood, and over 1,000 families here currently receive vouchers to keep them housed and landlords whole. Crisis intervention services such as CAHOOTS and wrap-around services are essential and we are developing more county-wide, including right here in our home town.
Loveall: I believe the “housing first model” only isolates the problem instead of addressing its root causes. The “wellness first, housing earned” model has been tested and put forth as a workable solution which addresses the vital aspect that solving the problem happens when both sides have “skin in the game.”
Chronicle: What is your strategy for breaking down barriers of low inventory and lack of affordability for current and future residents?
Berney: Besides more rentals, we also need a new generation of affordable starter homes for young families to invest in our community and the American Dream through home ownership. Seniors should be able to stay in their own homes as long as they choose. The City’s recent rezoning of land to provide greater options for development can help both demographics. I have county staff working on a way to provide financing at no cost to builders, land zoned with smaller lots and down payment assistance. We must incentivize the private sector to join us in this effort.
Loveall: There are many factors to our housing crisis. The county should offer more flexibility and affordability for builders, so they can provide more affordable homes. We need to look at zoning and code barriers, identify ways the county can help with creative financing models. Most of all, we need our building department to say “yes!” instead of “no!”
Chronicle: How do you see policing evolving in the Springfield PD and Lane County Sheriff’s Office?
Berney: I worked to fund 12 additional county sheriff’s deputies and heavily invested in public safety without raising a penny in new taxes. It can be done. I support the direction of Springfield and its police department, where one of my sons worked until recently. Chief Andrew Shearer is committed to positive changes through recruitment, community outreach and treating all residents with dignity and respect.
Loveall: Getting ourselves back into money-generating enterprises that bring dollars into the budget is far better than taxing those who work to support those who refuse. We’re currently 48 sheriff’s positions behind, crime is at an all-time high, and lax drug laws have added to the problem. We need to fully fund our jail and our policing forces.
Chronicle: How does Springfield grow its business community beyond its downtown?
Berney: By revitalizing community business hubs and repurposing empty buildings like the empty Izzy’s Pizza building off Mohawk or the old Safeway complex in Thurston. Providing MUPTE-like tax relief for small, locally-owned businesses. And being smarter about attracting development in Glenwood – which I am working on with councilor Steve Moe – to create a secure source of revenue to the city through housing, business development and recreational activities by the river.
Loveall: The threat of government shut-downs has gutted the spirit of “dynamism,” the very entrepreneur spirit which innovates and finds solutions to impossible problems. Springfield is 80% small business. Growing beyond downtown will require direct involvement with the county addressing its System Development Fees as an investment in future tax base and incentive for people to engage in startups.
Chronicle: What are the key education issues within the Springfield Public Schools that you would prioritize, and why?
Berney: Years ago I brought $4 million of smart school-to-work investments into the county, and was also the workforce adviser for the Lane ESD Board. Readily available apprentice programs, from high school into multiple fields, would help keep school relevant, engaging and purposeful for many students. The development of our human resource base must match where jobs are and what they are projected to be.
Loveall: The county commissioners don’t have a direct influence in the public education system. However, my opinion is to encourage schools to educate our children in vital aspects of foundational education, life skills and require challenging graduation requirements that would properly prepare a diploma graduate to enter into adulthood prepared and confident.
– Compiled by Erin Tierney