A busy night at the Newport City Council. A “way full” agenda. The council started out talking about the quality of taxi cab service in the Newport area. There are two full time (24/7) taxi companies in Newport and there’s word that another cab company would like to get in on the action. The council commented that there are times when there isn’t enough business for both cab companies to stay that busy. So after a lot tossing ideas around, the council decided to stay with the way things are – two full cab companies will be IT for the foreseeable future.
City Manager Spencer Nebel then launched an overview of how Newport should BEGIN to tackle its homeless dilemma. Without going in too much detail, Nebel said the city is trying to coordinate an approach with the Lincoln County Commission so each can put up some money for a non-governmental-organization, like a non-profit, to begin the beginning of a solution. That would includes placing portable toilets around the area. Grace Wins has already launched that effort but the number of portable toilets currently can’t keep up with demand on a 24 hour basis and for wide swaths of the county. Nebel says a non-profit needs to be created to co-ordinate not only toilets but places for the homeless to “car camp.” Certain city laws also have to change and the police department will have to properly enforce the changes.
The second level of assistance involves the homeless to help clean up litter and trash, and maybe make a few bucks doing it. Putting garbage in actual garbage cans.
The third level of assistance includes construction of more rest rooms. A prohibition on camping inside rest rooms. Enlisting help from the faith based community. More permanent overnight shelters. Health care and eventually affordable housing. There was also talk of devoting a small portion of new construction excise taxes toward affordable housing projects. All of these and more options are apparently being practiced fairly efficiently in the Eugene area, according to Nebel.
There was also discussion about a “needle exchange” program to help cut down on the spread of dangerous diseases and/or infections that occur when addicts share needles.
Nebel reiterated that government cannot provide local groups and non-profits with all the money they need so the community, along with applications for grants must be part of the mix.
How all this comes together was described as a “natural flow” based on city and community support – including contributions from Newport City Hall, Lincoln County Commission and the faith-based community. A good portion of it is yet to be detailed. Nebel told the council he expects this new approach should be well underway over the next two to three months. The apartment/condo construction industry is also likely get their collective shoulder tapped on.
City Councilor David Allen also strongly urged the council to become familiar with how such efforts are playing out across the state – especially in the Portland area. He said the Oregon League of Cities has been analyzing the homeless and affordable housing crises for quite a while.
The city council then turned its attention to build up the city’s collective embrace of its Sister City program with Monbetsu Japan. The council agreed they need to get a little closer to equalling Monbetsu’s outreach to Newport – including those who live just outside the city limits and more middle school students.
Then talk turned to working closely with ODOT and Hancock Forestry in providing a 30′ tall tree to be placed in front of city hall this holiday season along with lights along Highway 101. They even talked about adorning the Newport Bridge with holiday lights but hopes were somewhat dashed when it was said that ODOT isn’t in the holiday light business on the bridge.
And finally, it was announced that there will be a meeting of Newport area residents at Newport City Hall – the event called “Hate has no place here.” It’s an effort to create solidarity against hate crimes like what took place at a rest room at Agate Beach recently when a man pummeled a transgender female that broke a jaw, cracked a skull and generally made a mess of the victim. The assailant was later arrested and locked up in the county jail. He’ll appear in court this week.