Eugene City Council Decides on Camping Exemption…Sort Of

The City Council Chamber was packed out the door on Monday evening as supporters (and a few opponents) of Occupy Eugene turned out to discuss the planned vote on whether to extend OE’s camping ban exemption.  Because of the limited time, and due to the large numbers of respondents, Mayor Piercy decided to limit each respondent’s time to 2 minutes rather than the usual 3 so that the most voices could be heard.

After lengthy discussion, in a surprise 7-1 decision, the Eugene City Council agreed to postpone judgement on whether to extend the exemption on camping within city limits that has been offered to Occupy Eugene in Washington Jefferson Park, set to expire on December 15.  All the members apart from Councilman Mike Clark (Ward 5) voted to:

  1. Delay the final vote until December 14 (Wednesday).
  2. Send City Manager Jon Ruiz to the OE site to discuss with representative of OE concerning the conditions of the motion to be taken up on December 14.
  3. Contingent on whether a general agreement on the outline of the plan to be put before the City Council, Manager Ruiz will make a recommendation to the Council about whether or not he considers the plan to be likely to succeed in good faith.

The motion in question is still in flux, but it represents a “modified option 3” from City Manager Ruiz’s presentation to the City Council at Monday’s workgroup session, which lays out:

  1. A 45-day timeline for the establishment of a task force for transition to “alternate services” (other, existing human services providers);
  2. Recruitment of a local human services provider (likely Saint Vincent de Paul, who have expressed support in this role) to offer coordination support and oversight of a transition away from exclusively camp-provided services;
  3. Regular updates to the City Council or City Manager on the progress of these initiatives.

On Wednesday, if Manager Ruiz finds that OE is supportive of this plan of action, he will recommend that it be adopted by the City Council and it will be put to a vote.  The timeline for the transition could be in flux, as could a number of other elements of the plan, which was adjusted and adopted  in an impromptu manner during the City Council session tonight when no second could be found for Councilwoman Betty Taylor’s (Ward 2) motion to extend the exemption unconditionally until May 15, 2012.

Several main concerns were raised by council members during the meeting.  Councilman Pat Farr (Ward 6) reiterated his ongoing concern for health and safety issues and suggested that these were his primary points of opposition to extending the exemption.  He has pledged to visit the camp to see whether these issues are being addressed in advance of Wednesday’s meeting.  Councilman Mike Clark indicated his largely unwavering opposition to the plan primarily on financial grounds, and asked Manager Ruiz to provide an estimate of how many OE supporters would be likely to resist “decampment” if the extension vote does not go in OE’s favor on Wednesday.

Please note: Since the motion was developed during the meeting, no full text of it is currently available, and the minutes for City Council meetings are only available through October 31 at present.  We will provide the full text of the motion once we have it.