Editor’s note: This past week, local government representatives traveled to Salem to attend, “City Day at the Capitol.” Highlights included presentations from the League of Oregon Cities government relations team on legislative priorities, and briefings from Oregon’s new governor and legislative leadership about their priorities for the 2023 session. Members of the Springfield and Cottage Grove city council attended to advocate for local interests at the state level.
On January 17, the Oregon State Legislative 2023 session began. During the next six months, thousands of bills will be drafted, sent to committees, redrafted, voted on, and, for some, made into law.
I recently joined hundreds of other mayors, city councilors, and city employees at the League of Oregon City’s “City Day at the Capitol.” The day kicks off Springfield’s participation in the legislative session and our advocacy for Springfield at the state level. State funding provides needed and essential resources for the Springfield community. Our efforts to lobby at the state and national levels has, over the past 10 years, provided more than $25 million dollars of critical funding support for a variety of local needs.
For Springfield, City Day at the Capitol started with Mayor Beatty (Beaverton), Mayor Vinis (Eugene), and I providing testimony on a bill and issues related to funding tax assessment across the state. We then went to the Salem Convention Center to hear from the Governor, the Speaker of the House, the Senate President, and other key legislators on their goals and priorities for the upcoming session. Some of these priorities, like the Governor’s Homeless Emergency Declaration, have already started to make headlines across Oregon.
Lobbying is a series of targeted meetings throughout the day where we engage our representatives on challenges we feel need their attention. For Springfield, one of our larger challenges, which will require state and federal funding assistance, is our 42nd Street Levee alongside the McKenzie River. The 42nd Street Levee was built more than 50 years ago, and the river has slowly eroded away sections of the levee. Both the levee and the road require modernization and repair. During City Day at the Capitol, I outlined the importance of the levee, how it protects a large area of Springfield, and what we need from the state.
A vital element of our participation in the legislative session is learning what our local representative’s priorities are, what they want to focus on, and how the City of Springfield can participate. These meetings are often no more than 30 minutes and require us to focus on key topics and quickly work out next steps.
City Day is also an opportunity to meet with local elected leaders from across Oregon. These conversations, while less formal than lobbying meetings, are still beneficial. It allows mayors and councilors the opportunity to problem solve and brainstorm solutions to our shared priorities.
Lobbying efforts like these play an important part in the relationship between the City of Springfield, the State of Oregon, and the federal government. In March, I will join a group of elected leaders from the City of Eugene, Lane County, Lane Transit District, Willamalane Park and Recreation District, and Springfield Public School District for our annual federal lobbying visit. Known as United Front, the visit allows us to work together and form regional priorities for our federal legislators. This regional focus ensures we are not competing for the same pots of funding and instead are working together to bring hundreds of millions of federal dollars into our region. As the Mayor of Springfield, it is my responsibly to serve and advocate for Springfield. Forming strong relationships with our representatives allows me to better explain our needs at the state and federal levels and ensure Springfield’s priorities are their priorities.
Sean VanGordon is the mayor of Springfield. He wrote this for The Chronicle.