This is my sixth and final State of the City. If you have not heard, I will not be running for Mayor in the November 2022 election but have announced my intention to run for a state office.
Because of this, tonight I want to reflect back on the years since I began serving on the City Council in 2009. A lot has changed. The City has changed. Issues have changed. And over those years I have changed.
I want to take this moment to thank everyone that has worked with me over the last decade. I thank you for your patience in me and for your trust that you put in me. I want to thank all those that shared their insights and knowledge with me. I did not change on my own, you all helped me.
I have made many new friends and learned valuable skills as I have worked with people from throughout the community. Many of the friends I have made are from different walks of life, political parties or philosophies. I may not share the same opinions or views – but they are still my friends. Their views and opinions have helped make me more accepting, more respectful and more understanding of the needs of the community.
I can honestly say the last nearly 12 years has increased my overwhelming pride in this great community. It has truly been a pleasure getting to work with so many people including the members of this Council and previous Councilors. We may not always agree or have the same ideas but we respect each other’s views. We have had the opportunity to make some really tough decisions and we have many more tough decisions to make. But collectively we have made those decisions with the best interest of the community at heart.
Tonight I want to express my thanks to some that have helped me perform my responsibilities as a City Councilor and Mayor.
I grew up on Dugan Lane just south of town, our driveway was long and went past the neighbor’s house. I would ride my dirt bike up and down the driveway for hours. In 1976 new neighbors moved in and had to put up with an annoying teenager ride past their house. Once I got a driver’s license I had several vehicles going through high school, each one had a loud stereo, a very loud stereo. I graduated high school with their oldest daughter that I have remained friends with since we were in school. After I was elected to my first term as Mayor we were talking and Pam said when I used to go past their house with my stereo full blast her parents would say, “There goes your future Mayor”. I would like to publicly apologize to Pete and Angie Lightcap for being such an annoying neighbor and also thank them for believing in my potential over forty years ago. It’s my pleasure to give Pete and Angie Lightcap the Mayoral Certificate of Appreciation.
For business I would like to recognize Weyerhaeuser Lumber Company, not only has Weyerhaeuser provided me with a better than average income for the last 33 years, they have also been great steward of the community participating in local events, providing grants to non-profits, scholarships to high school students, and donating lumber to Habitat for Humanity and other non-profits addressing our much needed housing crisis. And most recently allowing the City to store bridge beams on their plantsite. But for me, shortly after being elected as Mayor, Brent Czaban, the plant manager directed his lead team to allow me to be flexible with my schedule so I could take care of Mayor business when necessary during work hours, whether meeting, ribbon cuttings, luncheons or even BBQing for PeaceHealth Staff. This support took a lot of pressure off me being able to focus on both my work as well as my elected position without worrying about the conflicting schedule. Weyerhaeuser is a direct reflection of making Cottage Grove a better community.
I would also like to recognize the Woodard Foundation and Kris Woodard. Back in April of 202, the foundation had the foresight to know what an impact the pandemic was going to have on non-profits. The donated $100,000 to the Cottage Grove Community Foundation to distribute with $90,000 for specific non profits and the remaining $10,000 to discretion of the foundation. This is a true example of supporting the community you live in and it’s a great example of why Cottage Grove is such a strong community.
There have been many others that have contributed to helping me serve this community – so many that we’d be here all night if I read the list. Thank you to all those that have made this experience in service worthwhile and fulfilling.
Typically, in my State of the City, this is where I would I share a list of the accomplishments performed by our fine City Staff or the challenges the City has faced during the last year. We have quite a list from the year. We completed many projects that will have a major impact on the community for years to come. Projects such as the Safe Routes to Schools where we completed over a mile of road improvements and 2 miles of new sidewalks to provide a safe way for students to get to school at the Middle School. Or the completion of the effluent storage pond at the Wastewater Treatment Plant that helps to provide a sustainable and innovative approach to irrigating public spaces while also reducing the community’s impact on the water quality of the Willamette River. Or the renovation of the Community Center/Library and the re-opening of the Library with full hours and staff last week. Or I could describe the challenges that the City faced this last year – such as staffing and material shortages – that also were faced by our local businesses and industries, but even short staffed police calls for service were handled, roads were plowed and permits for construction were processed.
But tonight I want to spend most of my time telling experiences that have demonstrated what is being called “civic charity”. Currently there is a shortage of “civic charity”. Throughout our nation there has grown an overwhelming movement of polarization, contention and contempt. So much so that former examples of true bipartisan statesmanship have all but disappeared. Not too long ago this community benefited from true bipartisan efforts from our Oregon congressional delegation when Senators Wyden, Smith and Congressman DeFazio worked together and even brought other leaders from throughout the country to resolve our Hospital crisis. And they had it solved in a matter of weeks, rather than months or years that any kind of action takes now.
That same type of polarization, contention and contempt which has become commonplace at the federal or state level is beginning to rear its ugly head in communities around the state.
Former federal Judge Thomas Griffith commented that our country and constitution is “built for vigorous disagreement. But it cannot withstand contempt.” He went on to explain that people “think so ill of each other that they don’t trust each other all.” He went on to describe the contempt as a hatred or distrust, even a desire to destroy people and their beliefs rather than to spend the effort to understand and find common ground to achieve the shared goals of the community.
Tonight I want to share stories from the past year that show that civic charity still exists in our community.
During a recent Clinic at the Community Center a young man came in wet, cold and visibly shaken and distraught. People attending the Clinic came up to a staff member asking if they could get the young man something to eat, another person offered to give him the coat they were wearing. Someone then called a church to see if they could pick up some warm clothes and shoes. The young man was able to get rest, take a shower, change into dry clothing and enjoy a plate of warm food.
I received the report from a friend in the community who had a frightening and dangerous situation occur across the street from their home. The mother and child that lived across the street came to their house for help because of a family crisis. After solving the language barrier by calling another member of the community, the friend called the police for assistance. The police quickly arrived but their presence created anxiety with the mother and child. The young boy began to cry and feared for his safety and the safety of his family. My friend witnessed our officers put their sincere and complete attention at calming the nerves and comforting the mother and child. Once nerves were calmed, and comfort was given, the officers focused on resolving the crisis. Mother and son were placed in safety. My friend was impressed and touched by the sincerity and professionalism that the officers demonstrated as they addressed the needs of the individual first, then worked to resolve the crisis.
Another example, that may to some appear mundane or expected, is a result of the City’s installation of the new advanced water meters but it demonstrates the desire to improve service in the community. Our utility staff reached out to a customer to make them aware of a flow of over 300 gallons every hour at their home. The customer was in his car traveling north but promptly turned around to return to the house. Upon arrival home they found an upstairs toilet that had been flushed by a house guest was continually running at full flow. Using the new meter information our staff has also been able to assist a customer who called very concerned about her high monthly billing statement and significant increase in water usage. Staff reviewed the meter information and was able to identify that the irrigation system that was supposed to only come on early in the morning was also coming on late in the evening. It is exciting to see staff eagerly use the new tools provided to them to find ways to help members of the community.
Another story is about a 57 year old woman I’ll call Hope. Hope has been living unsheltered for 8 years in Cottage Grove. She started coming to use the Mobile Shower that is operating through a partnership between the City and Community
Sharing. She then offered to volunteer at the mobile showers each week. During a conversation with staff, Hope mentioned she needed counseling and stated most unsheltered people do. A staff member called a local counselor and asked if she could take on a new client. Hope has been seeing the counselor every week for the last few months. Hope has applied for and now works as one of the staff through Community Sharing to operate the Warming Shelters and has been working every night they’ve been open. By working with Hope, staff has had an opportunity to listen and begin to understand, in a small way, what life is like for those that are unsheltered in the community. Hope’s success continues, she has signed up with Carry it Forward and completed the front door assessment which allows people to get on a housing list. She is looking for permanent housing and working to improve her life. Hope has expressed her appreciation for being able to take a shower weekly and takes pride in her volunteer work helping to run the Mobile Shower and working at the Warming Shelter.
Coming to the City Council at the next Council meeting will be an action item to create a special line item in the Special Trusts Fund to accept and expend funds donated as a result of efforts by Bruce Kelsh of the Presbyterian Church’s Earth and Social Justice Committee and the Ministerial Association. The funds are to be used by Police Officers while, in the line of duty, come across someone that is in need of some small act of kindness. The funds can be used by the officers at their discretion to address an immediate need.
Finally I want to recognize the efforts of those who spent hours discussing, planning and preparing to bring back events and activities that make Cottage Grove such a great place to live. I am not sure everyone understands the depth of discussions held and the opinions shared just to prepare for the events we had this year. Each of those involved demonstrated in the discussions civic charity as they considered the fears and concerns of everyone and put together plans to successfully hold safe and fun events. We saw record attendance at the Eugene Symphony and Concerts in the Park. Bohemia Mining Days adapted and even brought us an exciting new event with the ore cart races. The Halloween Howl moved and became the Halloween Hootinanny in Bohemia Park. The Downtown Christmas also adjusted and created a Christmas Kickoff in the park that saw more involvement from members of the community than ever.
As we face challenges in the coming year and in years to come I am optimistic that the members of this community can continue to increase their civic charity. The stories I have shared are just a tiny glimpse of the civic charity that exists in Cottage Grove. Let’s not lose sight of that civic charity in our community. No matter the challenges or issues, we will be able to always treat each other as friends. That when the heat of the vigorous debate and discussion ends, we will all leave that on the table and remain friends.
I wish to close with the words form Abraham Lincoln’s First Inaugural address made nearly 161 years ago on March 4, 1861 that still ring true today;
“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained - it must not break our bonds of affection.”
As Mayor of the City of Cottage Grove I express my sincere appreciation to everyone in the community for their individual efforts to make the community a better place to live for every person. It will only be together as friends that we will be able to address the challenges that face this community. Thank you for letting me serve this community as a Councilor and as Mayor. It has truly been an honor and privilege. Thank you.