The Keizer City Council convened to talk about its goals for the long-term and immediate future at a work session Monday, Jan. 11.
Community engagement on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), expanding the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB), emergency preparedness and housing disparity were some of the topics discussed.
Taking the next steps on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion – after the recent adoption of a city values statement – was one of the first issues discussed. Mayor Cathy Clark requested that councilors Roland Herrera, Elizabeth Smith and Laura Reid form a workgroup to plan for additional youth involvement, updating the city mission statement and planning for multicultural events once the pandemic is contained.
Herrera said he’s gotten a handful of inquiries from city councilors in other communities interested in adopting values resolutions similar to Keizer’s.
“I have [some residents] that call and ask if we really mean it [the values statement,” Herrera said. “We have to follow through because it matters what we say, but they watch what we do.”
Herrera, a longtime mentor at Kennedy Elementary School, has invited mentees as well as spotlight students from CTEC to talk at council meetings in the past to encourage more involvement.
Clark said making a plan was the first step in developing an action plan that the city can follow through on.
The city is in the midst of an update to its housing land needs, which led to a discussion of expanding the city’s Urban Growth Boundary (UGB).
The discussion led to several questions from Councilor Ross Day, who specializes in land use law as an attorney.
“If we decided to go the route of expanding the UGB, would the costs be shared by our neighbor to the south?” Day asked. Keizer shares its UGB with Salem.
“Salem has made the determination that they are not looking for expansion. There is capacity within the UGB for the projected growth. If we decide to go in that direction, we’re really in uncharted territory.,” said Shane Witham, interim director of the city planning department.
City Manager Chris Eppley said the process of separating the UGB would be a significant investment of time and money.
“We also have a deficit of industrial land. How will that play into our application to expand UGB?” Day asked.
Witham said a study determined Keizer had a deficit of industrial land, but that it was based on aspirational goals. State land use officials have since determined such studies aren’t valid, he added.
While councilors made updates to the city’s emergency preparedness program two years ago, the pandemic has tested the plan in ways not even addressed in the document. In addition to pandemic impacts, the city network was hacked and data held for ransom.
“I think we severely tested our plan this year. I know we need to get that updated,” said Eppley.
Keizer Public Works Director Bill Lawyer said it was something that needed to be done, but he was uncertain how to go about it.
“It’s a comprehensive effort that will take months and months of dedicated work,” Lawyer said.
Eppley said the council needed to make a determination as to how much the city could realistically take on.
“There is also a question about who is best to handle a catastrophic emergency. We need to decide what our actual capacity is,” Eppley said.
Clark said the lessons of the past year should be captured in the plan as soon as possible.
Clark assigned councilors Smith, Kyle Juran and herself to a subgroup looking at options to reduce barriers to home ownership.
“It’s important to me personally and it’s important to Keizer as a welcoming city. It needs a place where people can buy a home and it’s something I’m asking for as part of our goals,” Clark said.
Clark is a longtime member of the regional homelessness initiative, Juran is owner of remodeling business and Smith is a mortgage broker.
“This is something I have noticed with employees. Most of the entry level carpenters I have hired make just above minimum wage and have no expectation of ever owning a house. It’s very achievable, they just need to change their mindset, focus and make it a goal,” Juran said.
Reid responded saying that code and policy barriers need to be part of the discussion.
“It’s complicated, but it’s important to include both sides of that question,” Reid said.
Eppley will prepare formal goals and bring them to the council for adoption in the near future.
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