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Piercy's priority: jobs.

Byline: Edward Russo The Register-Guard

Kitty Piercy on Wednesday kicked off her second term as Eugene mayor, naming job creation as the city's priority for the year.

During her fifth State of the City address, Piercy said Eugene should seek federal economic stimulus money to create local jobs.

"That is our first order of business," Piercy said before an audience that filled the lobby of the Hult Center for Performing Arts.

President-elect Barack Obama has indicated that he wants to get an economic stimulus package through Congress quickly to help the nation's ailing economy, she said.

Eugene has more than $200 million "ready to go" construction, street repair, alternative energy, parks, trails, water reuse and pollution control projects, she said.

"We expect these projects, if funded, could create 4,404 well-paying jobs by the end of next year, with an emphasis on green industry," Piercy said.

Eugene officials should maximize the potential share of federal money by coordinating their funding request with Lane County and other local governments, utilities, business leaders and legislators, she said.

Also, city officials should collaborate with regional government and business leaders on other economic development ideas, she said. Those include the need to help existing local businesses "survive these difficult economic times," Piercy said.

To do that, Piercy said she has spoken with other councilors and the city manager to begin talks with regional government officials, business leaders and others.

"That is our second order of business," she said.

The city should develop a "progressive economic plan," starting with an economic summit early this year involving regional government and business leaders and others.

"We cannot wait for what will be allotted," Piercy said, referring to the federal economic stimulus money. "We must go after what we want for our communities: more jobs that pay well, decrease our impact on climate change and finite resources, and take full advantage of the changing world economic opportunities."

Lane County Board Chairman Pete Sorenson, who attended Eugene's event, said county commissioners also have made economic development a priority and have already discussed an economic conference involving leaders from Eugene, Springfield and other cities. "We are working on the summit and on ideas to get people employed," he said.

Piercy won re-election in November, defeating former Mayor Jim Torrey by 1,638 votes. Before she gave her speech, Piercy was sworn into office for a second, four-year term by City Recorder Mary Feldman. Also taking the oath of office were re-elected city councilors Andrea Ortiz, Chris Pryor, Betty Taylor and newly elected Councilor George Brown.

Piercy made sustainability, or environmentally friendly businesses and practices, the cornerstone of her first term. The city made progress by creating the city's Sustainability Commission and adopting its recommendation for city government, including the goal of making city operations carbon neutral by 2020, she said.

Piercy touted other city accomplishments, including last year's successful Olympic Track and Field Trials, voter approval of the $35.9 million street repair bond measure, and a charter amendment that solidifies the city's commitment to the police auditor and Civilian Review Board.

But Piercy acknowledged setbacks last year, and that problems persist.

Eugene has yet to secure a new full-service hospital to fill the void left by the opening of Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend in Springfield, she said.

But she thanked the group of local doctors who opened an urgent care on East 13th Avenue.

WestTown on Eighth opened last year, bringing new residents and businesses downtown. Yet Piercy said too much of the city center "remained underutilized and uninviting."

The county's financial problems have led to a shortage of beds in the Lane County Jail and the early release of prisoners, she said.

Again, Piercy called for collaboration with Lane County to restructure the public safety system.

"We cannot have this revolving door in our jail and a court system that cannot do its job," she said.

Alternative state of city/county

Activists will present a Citizens State of the City and County

Purpose: To present "policies, priorities and visions to address converging economic, energy and ecological crises."

When: Noon on Monday

Where: Harris Hall, Lane County Public Service Building, 125 E. Eighth Ave.

Speakers: Aleta Miller, Environmental Center of Sustainability, food security; Mark Robinowitz, transportation; Robert Emmons, LandWatch Lane County, land use; Samantha Chirillo, Cascadia Ecosystem Advocates, forest preservation; Jan Spencer, suburban permaculture project
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Title Annotation:City/Region
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jan 8, 2009
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