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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


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.


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