Roseburg City Council candidates offered their solutions for homelessness, their stances on the library district ballot measure and ideas for bolstering economic development in Roseburg during a candidates forum with The News-Review editorial board on Tuesday.
Only wards 3 and 4 have contested races this election. In Ward 3, Juliet Palenshus is running against Brian Prawitz. Palenshus works with Umpqua Community Veg Education Group while Prawitz is the owner of BP Media Solutions, a marketing and public relations firm.
Todd Boyd, Ashley Hicks, and incumbent Lew Marks are facing each other for the open seat in Ward 4. Hicks did not attend Tuesday’s meeting, but her emailed responses are included below. Boyd is the manager of Brown Shoe Fit in Roseburg, Hicks is the owner of Jackson Street Coffee and Marks is retired.
PRAWITZ is against funding the library through a taxing district because he is against new taxes for property owners and businesses. He said the council will have to find alternative funding streams for supporting the library. He does not know what those streams will look like until after the election.
PALENSHUS supports finding the Douglas County Library system through a library taxing district because she sees it as a long-term, stable funding solution. She would like to wait for the measure’s outcome to analyze potential revenue streams that could help support the district.
HICKS supports funding the library through a taxing district.
“We have a responsibility to keep it open, and free for the general public use,” she wrote. “I will do everything I can in the elected position to keep our library open to the public.”
MARKS is against funding the library through a taxing district. The library could cut back on some of its funding, he said, and could be privatized. He does not know what revenue stream could fund the district if it passes. He would prefer having the city manager, Lance Colley, deal with that issue.
“It’s a little egotistical to say that we run the city as a councilor,” he said. “I just say Lance, where do you want to cut? That’s his job.”
BOYD supports funding the library through a taxing district. He agreed with Marks in that the library budget could be scaled back, but the taxing district would be a steady revenue stream to keep it going.
“It’s the only way I could see providing some sort of consistent financing for it,” he said.
PALENSHUS would like to unify the efforts of local programs working to alleviate homelessness in the Roseburg area, including Feed the Burg, Second Chance Village, Homeless Solutions and the Homeless Transitions Actions Group, also known as HTAG.
“This is something that’s going on around the country, and I don’t think it’s going to go away,” she said. “It’s going to take a multifaceted approach.”
PRAWITZ would like to restrict the availability of certain items, like cheap alcohol, at markets. He said these “nuisance products” are oftentimes cheaper than water, and feed into the alcoholism that pervades people who are homeless.
“Within the power of the city council, I would try to find ways to remove those items from those markets,” he said.
MARKS would like to tackle the “bottom element” of the homeless population, which he said includes “druggers and alcoholics.” He also proposed medicating the mentally ill, as well as looking into supporting a “drunk tank,” also known as a sobering facility. Finally, he suggested moving some of the homeless population elsewhere.
“The main problem we got is to move those people,” he said. “They don’t respond to anything except a gentle force. You have to move them.”
BOYD would like to focus on finding housing for homeless people first, but he does not know how that model could pan out.
“As far as eliminating the homeless population in downtown, and what that is going to entail for us and is it affordable, I really don’t know,” he said.
HICKS would like to support a larger location for the Roseburg Rescue Mission. She would like to see better street lighting at night, which she said will help with “some criminal activities in the evening hours.” Finally, she would like to ban single malt beer beverages, as well as the sale of alcohol before 10 a.m. She would like to see stricter requirements enforced by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.
Other focus points
PRAWITZ wants to focus on economic development to provide more family-wage jobs. Specifically, he wants to focus on developing downtown and retaining Roseburg’s current businesses.
PALENSHUS wants to focus on the overall health of the community. She wants to see health ratings improve, and said that the economy plays a big part in that. Finally, she wants to focus on improving Roseburg’s tourism industry.
BOYD wants to focus on downtown revitalization, particularly at the waterfront. He would like to encourage businesses to improve their storefronts to better the overall aesthetics of Roseburg.
HICKS said her highest priority will be building at least two public restrooms located in locations with high foot traffic downtown. She also wants to improve sidewalk infrastructure and park equipment.
MARKS wants to focus on economic development by attracting new industries to Roseburg. He sees the city’s economic development commission as a way to do that. Finally, he wants to continue to support the Roseburg Senior Center.