Is It Morning in Lane County?

Bozievich says county looks healthy, new commissioners say it needs to do more

In a room mostly filled with public officials, Lane County government’s makeup shifted with the swearing-in of commissioners Joe Berney and Heather Buch.

Although Buch and Berney represent a change in the board, re-elected commissioner Jay Bozievich said in his “State of the County” address that the county has been making big strides since the first time he was sworn in in 2011 and made a 20 percent budget cut.

Buch said in her inaugural speech that she hopes that more women will get active in politics, a statement that brought out applause from the audience.

“Diversity and inclusivity brings depth to our community and should be reflected among our elected offices. Many times, women need to be asked several times before they run for office. I had to be asked before I’m standing here today,” she said. “To all the fantastic women of Lane County, I ask you to consider running for office.”

Berney’s inaugural speech aligned himself to governing in an inclusive manner — even if it results in suffering the wrath from the powerful few, he said.

His speech brought out a positive response from the crowd — including loud shouts of “yes” from Springfield Councilor Sheri Moore.

Berney’s speech focused on his dedication to improving the live’s of working families in the county.

“Oregon’s wages are lower than the national average. Lane County’s wages are lower than the state average,” he said. “I will work to move money in ways that actually reach pockets of Lane County residents. When I make mistakes, I will err on the side of hard-working families, seniors and those on the margins who suffer silently and without influence. On the side of sustaining our environment so it can sustain us and be enjoyed by future generations.”

He added: “I will err on the side of health and wellbeing for the many over yet greater wealth for the few.”

After he said that, applause exploded in support of Berney’s statements.

“I ran to keep more of our money circulating right here, not on Wall Street or out of state contractors,” he said. “For building up our people and our local business. For a county commitment to clean energy. For robust, diversified economic growth. For more hosing that’s more affordable for more of us.”

Bozievich told a story of a county that has vastly improved since the Great Recession of 2008.

Today, the county has been recognized for being a top-rated healthiest employer, he said. The county’s financial staff relied on input from auditors and bond rating agencies to use one-time revenue to pay off its debt. Now the county has the highest Moody’s bond rating in the county’s history.

Bozievich said the county was once in threat of a financial collapse. Yet, with goals and priorities developed by “community members and outside experts,” he said the county is on track to meet encounter challenges and serve its residents.

He added that the county and the city of Eugene hired outside experts, who then interviewed stakeholders, to provide input on how the county can eradicate homelessness in the area through establishing affordable housing. That way, he said, there won’t be a need for Egan Warming Center.

The county has to address another problem: its ailing courthouse.

The courthouse’s problems were presented in a highly polished video that featured Judge Debra Vogt’s testimony on the state of the courthouse. According to the video, some of the problems of the courthouse include frequent maintenance issues, a building that isn’t accessible for people with special needs and a lack of space for judicial procedures. Raw sewage is one of those recurring maintenance problems, which saturates the courthouse’s office spaces — and even seeps into the evidence room sometimes.

To have a five-minute private session with one’s lawyer also requires shutting down the court for 45 minutes, Vogt added in the video.

Boziviech said that the county contacted national experts, who then talked with community members, to determine how to develop a courthouse that has maximum efficiency.

Tomorrow will be the first Board of Commissioners meeting that will have Berney and Buch in their official roles.

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