Eugene Weekly : Viewpoint : 5.20.10

By Joy Marshall and Craig Willis

Everyone agrees that Eugene’s downtown needs a boost.  Often times, that’s where the agreement ends.

Happily, there is now broad public support for four smart projects downtown, and the Eugene City Council is about to take action to deliver real results — creating jobs, improving education and training opportunities and filling the downtown pit across from the library.  

This proposal is for four specific projects: Lane Community College Downtown Center, the VA clinic, public safety downtown and improvements to keep the Farmers Market in our city core. 

This will be a huge benefit to downtown, bringing people, activity and life to our city.  

We could start on these projects immediately, but for the concerns of some about the source of funding — urban renewal dollars. In this case, city leaders have spent three years listening to the community about needed tighter restrictions and the proposal reflects that. There are clear restrictions: Monies don’t flow if projects don’t happen. A citizen oversight committee will make sure the money goes to the four promised projects. Faster phase-out of the funding source will have the Urban Renewal District sunset six years sooner than if council did not pass this plan.  

The concerns have been addressed. 

And let’s get clear on this once and for all: this plan does not take money from local schools. In reality, local schools will lose money if we DON’T use this tool, as property tax compression will cost the 4J school district alone the equivalent of several teachers each year.

The proposal represents a long process to seek a fair solution that everyone in our community should get behind. 

We trust that Lane Community College President Mary Spilde — a nationally recognized education leader and chair of the American Association of Community Colleges — can deliver on LCC’s proposal.  But we all need to support LCC to ensure this project is completed. 

What are the consequences of delay?  At best, loss of a building season, increased construction costs, preventing creating hundreds of family wage jobs, failing to meet public safety needs and the potential loss of federal dollars. At worst, the entire project falls through and leaves downtown in the “pits.” 

It’s time to take action and do the right thing for our community. It’s time to fill the pit. It’s time that we step up to meet the need for the services that Lane Community College provides. It’s time that we have a downtown that our community can feel safe in and be proud of.

As a passionate education advocate and the owner of an arts-related business downtown, we believe we must move quickly to ensure that the downtown projects become a reality now.

We look forward to seeing the City Council doing the job we elected them to do, by making important decisions to improve Eugene. Then we look forward to watching as the entire community rallies behind them, saying yes to Lane Community College and an active, safe, vibrant downtown.

 Joy Marshall is a public schools advocate who works for Stand for Children. The opinions expressed are her own. Craig Willis is the artistic director at the Lord Leebrick Theater Company in Downtown Eugene.