Newport City Council – From goals to to trails, affordable housing to saying Newport Police are not an arm of Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Newport City Councilors had a big fat agenda Monday night. Lots of ground to cover, so let’s get to it.
City Council Goals (Vision 2040 not part of this)
The council held a public hearing on what Newport citizens think of the council’s goals for the next fiscal year which begins July 1st.
Topping the list is for the city to hire a first-ever Library Security Guard which will be “well trained” in keeping the peace and decorum at the Newport Public Library. He or she will be well trained to be very diplomatic and compassionate, but when appropriate to be stern and calling for Newport Police back-up when necessary. Occasionally the library gets some interesting characters wandering about. Another top priority is the hiring a city fire department fire prevention officer.
Second tier priorities were reactivating the county-wide drug team and purchasing open space lands for the city.
Third tier priorities included repurposing modular houses for transition employee housing, replacing the city library’s heating and air conditioning system, replacing the library van, demolishing the old sewer plant building and determining a permanent home for the Newport Farmers Market.
Fourth tier priorities include exploring the costs to extend the city’s sewer and water supply lines to the Newport Airport, purchasing a K-9 police vehicle, including Visual Arts Center and Performing Arts Center murals and public art on the next wayfinding sign. Continuing – create Facebook and Twitter capabilities, expand the city’s relationship with the Coast Guard, strengthen city code enforcement, beef up the street paving fund and finally retrofit valves on city water tanks.
No one from the public spoke up about these priorities and so the council will vote on them at the next city council meeting. None of them have anything to do with the recent launch of Vision 2040 – a community wide visioning process about how Newport should look and feel like by the year 2040.
A new hiking and biking trail at Big Creek Reservoir
The council listened to a mountain biking group that wants to build a hiking and biking trail network on city-owned property surrounding the Big Creek Reservoir. The new trail system is the brain child of the Corvallis Chapter of the National Mountain Bicycling Association which would blaze the trails using its volunteers and be maintained by trail users, a model which has worked well on the Wilder property in South Beach. The city council thought it would be a great thing to have in that part of the city and gave the idea its blessing to have the group come up with the plan. They added that the project sounds like good a tourist draw as well.
Still grappling with how to provide affordable housing in Lincoln County
The Newport City Council went round and round among themselves about how they would like to partner with Lincoln City and Lincoln County on acquiring fixer-upper homes for conversion to affordable housing. The council and Lincoln County Land Trust officials circled the wagons several times trying to come up with a funding plan to build a new home in Lincoln City while acquiring two already built homes in Newport. The council decided that it was not quite ready to ink the deal unless monies being put up by Newport was matched with more money from the Lincoln County Commission. Land Trust Trustee and County Commissioner Bill Hall said he’d go back and ask his colleagues on the commission if they could bring more money to the table.
So affordable housing is still struggling to be born – even if it’s just three houses. There was also mentioned a move to get Oregon State University to chip in money for affordable housing for what will be a growing student population at the university’s facilities at South Beach – for students and faculty – thereby freeing up more housing for families struggling to find a decent place to live.
Newport Police are NOT the immigration police
And finally the council agreed that the Newport Police Department is not an arm of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. City Manager Spencer Nebel and City Attorney Steve Rich told the council that under state law, Oregon city and county law enforcement agencies are not to act as the first line of defense against illegal aliens. Nebel said if local law enforcement arrests an illegal alien in connection with a crime, and the crime is adjudicated or the arrestee is released on bond, it’s up to ICE to be at the jailhouse doors to re-arrest the alien and take them into custody. Most states have this provision – drawing a bright line between federal and local law enforcement duties. States like Oregon are called Sanctuary States that are more tolerant of illegal aliens since many of them are fleeing oppressive government regimes or threats against their lives or extreme poverty.
The Trump administration has threatened to cut off federal grants and other benefits to Sanctuary States that don’t act closely with ICE. Local law enforcement say they’re extremely busy as it is performing normal law enforcement in their home towns without trying to help ICE deport millions of illegal aliens. The say local police just don’t have the manpower to do both, even if their city councils, county commissioners and state lawmakers would let them.