It’s been more than 2 1/2 years since the Roseburg City Council settled on a set of goals it wanted to pursue, and on Tuesday, the council met to hammer out its priorities for the next two years.
But if that meeting was any indication, it may be a while before the council can agree on those goals, and longer yet before any are actually achieved.
Four goals that were adopted by the council in 2017 were reworded and carried over as goals for the next two years. They are:
- Develop and implement policies to enhance housing opportunities.
- Implement transportation funding policies to meet identified community needs.
- Enhance community livability and public safety.
- Take a proactive role in economic development and community revitalization.
Two new goals were added to the list:
- Update and implement the city’s emergency preparedness plan.
- Explore strategies to lessen the impact of homelessness on the community.
The council then spent the remainder of the hour-and-a-half meeting discussing, sometimes heatedly, that final goal. Much of that back-and-forth centered on the nuances of homelessness, including what to actually call it and whether a goal should be to “lessen” its impact on the community or “address” it.
Most of the council agreed that homelessness was the most urgent problem facing the city.
“I think it’s critical that one of our goals focus on the homeless,” Councilor Brian Prawitz said. “I want to be proactive.”
Councilor Tom Ryan said homelessness is the issue he hears about most often from constituents.
“We aren’t going to be able to solve it because no one else has, but how can we lessen the impact in Roseburg?” he said.
There was some discussion on what to call homelessness, with Roseburg Police Department Chief Gary Klopfenstein suggesting the more appropriate term might be “unhoused.”
The contrarian voice was Councilor Ashley Hicks, who took exception to the entire notion of homelessness. Many of those who are described as homeless are doing drugs, committing acts of vandalism, and in general wreaking havoc on the community, she said.
“I think the whole ‘homeless’ thing is a buzzword, and it’s not helpful,” Hicks said. “These people are committing criminal acts. You see their names in the police logs over and over. They’re not homeless, not all of them. They’re criminals.”
Hicks also said that instead of focusing on those people committing crimes, the city should deal with more pressing issues such as the housing shortage, economic development and addressing infrastructure needs, like laying down more sidewalks.
“Dabbling in homelessness is not our business,” she said.
Councilors agreed they needed more time to settle on a list of goals. They will send their goals to City Manager Nikki Messenger, who will compile the suggestions and then present them at a future council meeting for discussion.