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January 16, 2020: Community Gardens in Springfield

Gardening in an urban environment has often presented a challenge. Particularly in dense environments, there simply isn’t enough space. Community Gardens have developed in the Springfield /Eugene area to address that need. The need is particularly acute for immigrant families, many of whom have a long history and cultural tradition of growing their own food. Marissa Zarate, the Executive Director of Huerto de la Familia, described how her organization is answering that need for immigrant families, particularly Latino families.

The organization began with one garden in the Whitaker neighborhood of Eugene, and has now expanded to seven locations, including one in Springfield at Gamebird Park in conjunction with Willamalane Park and Recreation District. The Gardens are closed between December and April, but the organization now offers, in addition to plots to families, business programming and education, leadership training, food preservation and networking opportunities.

The program complements the City of Eugene Community Garden program, which sponsors several gardens in the City. Ms. Zarate said that the $1=00 fee for the Eugene Gardens is a challenge particularly for immigrant families. Springfield does not have a city-sponsored garden program, although Ms. Zarate she does understand a community group is planning to open a garden near the Willamalane Splash! Facility. Huerto de la Familia is now exploring a potential garden in Cottage Grove.

Each garden offers several 15×15 plots. The gardens are generally fenced and have a locked tool shed for tools that may be used by all the gardeners. Water is available. Territorial Seeds donates large amounts of seed for the gardeners and Dow to Earth donates fertilizer. Several farms in the area also donate starts for use in the garden.

The organization is always on the lookout for additional spaces to locate a garden, because there are wait lists for each of the existing gardens. They prefer to work with local agencies, because those agencies generally have the facilities and equipment to supply water and limited maintenance of the common areas of the gardens.

Perhaps lesser know is the breadth of the organization’s offerings beyond garden plots. They offer a wide range of training to help gardeners transition into additional opportunities, things as far ranging as food businesses and photography and including training and support to create and open businesses. They are now expanding to create a wellness center. Although the focus is on Spanish speaking gardeners, they have participants from all over the world


February 6: Timber in Our Community

Springfield is now the fifth largest city in Oregon outside of the Portland Metro area. While the image of Springfield as a small timber town is rapidly fading in the rear-view mirror of history, timber remains an important part of the local economy and local image. The City Club program on February 6 will give two leaders of that industry an opportunity to explain the continuing importance of timber and of the companies that produce it.

Steve Swanson is the Chief Executive Officer of the Swanson Group. His Springfield mill, which was completely rebuilt after being destroyed by fire only a few years ago. John Murphy is the President of Murphy Plywood. The companies are nationally recognized in the plywood and veneer markets and vigorous participants in the activities of the local community.

John Murphy is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Murphy Company, a third-generation family owned and managed wood products manufacturer with six locations located in Oregon and Washington.

John was born and raised in Portland, OR, and graduated from Jesuit High School.  Later he attended Santa Clara University, and the University of Oregon, where he studied business and marketing before beginning his career with the Murphy Company.  During his career, he has worked in all areas of the company including logging, veneer peeling, plywood manufacturing, and engineered wood operations.

Steve Swanson is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Swanson Group — a family owned company started in 1951 as Superior Lumber Co.  Mr. Swanson’s career with Swanson group began in 1977, when he started working as an Accounting Manager for Superior Lumber Co.  In 1982, Mr. Swanson assumed the position of Assistant General Manager of Superior Lumber, and then assumed the role of General Manager in 1989.   In 2001, Mr. Swanson became President and Chief Executive Officer of Swanson Group.

Under Mr. Swanson’s leadership, Superior Lumber/Swanson Group underwent substantial growth, increasing its workforce from 90 to approximately 750 employees, with the operations arm including three manufacturing locations in Oregon.   Swanson Group also started its aviation division in 1995 under Mr. Swanson’s leadership — Swanson Group Aviation.  Today, Swanson Group Aviation includes a fleet of 2 helicopters utilized for any task that requires lifting heavy loads at high altitudes.


February 20: A Track in Glenwood?

For some time, the future of Glenwood, particularly the vacant land along the riverfront, has been a hot development topic in Springfield. Most recently a proposal has surfaced to construct an indoor track facility, one that would apparently complement the reconstructed Hayward Field and offer to make “Track Town USA” the home for both world class outdoor and indoor events.

On February 20, Board members of the Springfield Community Development Corporation, Kari Westlund of Travel Lane County and Greg James of the Willamalane Park and Recreation District will discuss a proposal for an indoor track facility in Glenwood. The facility would feature an indoor 200-meter banked hydraulic track that would accommodate indoor track meets as well as serve as a training facility.

The track could be flattened to provide space for volleyball, gymnastics, martial arts, basketball, weightlifting and other indoor sports and community gathering and event space.

The Springfield Community Development Corporation is a non-profit organization created to determine  an owner/operator model for, and raise funds to construct, the structure.


January 9: Legislative Preview


The 2020 session of the Legislative Assembly will open on February 4. City Club members got a preview of the “short session” from three local legislators: Democrats Senator Lee Beyer and Representative John Lively, each representing Springfield Districts, and Republican Cedric Hayden, representing a district that includes southern Lane and parts of Douglas County. Their consensus: low expectations and modest goals, with the prospect of a recurring controversy over climate legislation.

Asked about what would success in the session look like, the legislators agreed that making some budget adjustments, including fixing some issues with the Corporate Activity Tax “CAT” enacted last session, dealing with the $1.2 billion judgment awarded to counties in a lawsuit challenging state forest management and then setting the stage for subjects to be addressed in the 2021 session was about the best that could be hoped for.

Legislative leadership and the Governor agree that dealing with climate issues, by looking at another version of the cap and trade legislation that brought the legislature to its knees are high on their agenda, but the panel agreed that that would be particularly difficult, given there is no agreement among legislators on a solution. As Representative Lively put it: if a bill isn’t right at the beginning of the session, it won’t make it out of the legislature.

By the Constitution, the session is limited to 35 days (with the possibility of an extension of a very few days), and the legislative calendar requires that bills introduced get through their first committee within one week, an almost impossible task if there are an amendments. In response to a question, Representative Hayden supported the ide of doing away with the short session, which he described as a mad dash to get nothing done.

The panel agreed that one issue that called out for work was gaining ground on community mental health issues. They pointed out that almost half of the people confined in state hospitals were sent there by the courts to determine if they were fit to stand trial for a crime. While it costs $1,400 a day to house these people, they get little other than custodial care. Mental health professionals, and legislators, agree that the services they need, services that would help them reconnect with their communities, are best delivered in a community setting, not in the state system.  The challenge is that not only is there inadequate funding for community mental health programs, but there is widespread opposition any time a proposal is made to site a facility in a neighborhood.

Budgetary issues the session will focus on include adjustments to the CAT designed to address unintended impacts, particularly on agriculture, as well as the $1.2 billion judgment awarded to counties. It is possible that the legislature will sidestep that issue, since the judgment will be appealed and there are discussions underway on some sort of settlement. If the legislature does need to address the judgement, the panel pointed out the irony that the only source of funds to pay the judgment would be other funds that typically go to the counties. They would end up taking the money out of one pocket to put it in another.

The cap and trade proposal offered last year is what lead to walkout by Senate Republicans. Although there are discussions on modifications to that proposal, there appears to be no consensus yet. Could this lead to another walkout, the panel was asked. While no one was willing to suggest that might happen, Rep. Hayden said that the existence of a supermajority in both houses left the Republicans with few options to oppose a program with which they disagreed. He noted that the Republicans felt that Democrats weren’t interested in listening to them because they had a super-majority. To some extent, Sen. Beyer agreed, noting that Democrats had walked out in 2001. “You have to use the tools available to you,” he said.

Health care is another issue where partisan differences may stand in the way of action. In recent years the percentage of Oregonians who have access to insurance has declined by 3-4 percent from the 96 percent level. While there is bi-partisan agreement that the goal is “universal healthcare,” they do not agree on the definition. On one hand it could be viewed as a “Medicare for all” approach while other legislators, like representative Hayden, believe that while all Oregonians should have insurance access for healthcare, that it should be a mix of public and private systems.


October 17

Todd Hamilton, newly appointed Superintendent of the Springfield School District will give us his view of the upcoming school year. Mr. Hamilton has supported a number of community partnerships aimed at addressing the social, emotional and learning needs of students. This intentional partnership with community organizations is something that Hamilton appreciates about Springfield and will continue to build upon moving forward.

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