PENDLETON — The Pendleton City Council is making some changes to its goals for the first time in four years, but tackling homelessness in the city won’t be one of them.
The council met for a workshop on Tuesday, April 27, to discuss the results of a community survey that gauged what issues residents wanted the city to prioritize.
In an interview after the meeting, Mayor John Turner said he was happy to see that 480 residents responded to the survey, a clear jump from the last time they solicited input on council goals in 2016 and only received about 250 responses.
Respondents were shown a list of goals and asked to rate them on a scale from “extremely valuable” to “not at all valuable.”
The results were mixed, but a few trends rose to the forefront. The goals that received the highest ratings were housing, public safety, infrastructure, economic development and communication between the city and the community. At the opposite end of the scale were building a sports complex, historical preservation and tourism.
Turner said the council filtered out public safety because, like public works, the city would always prioritize it regardless of what the council goals were.
The council decided to retain infrastructure, economic development and housing from their previous set of goals while dropping land development. Turner said there’s been enough progress at the Pendleton airport and the unmanned aerial systems range that he’s comfortable with it falling off the list. It will be replaced by the city-community communications goal.
Although it wasn’t listed as a goal that could be voted on, plenty of respondents in the comment section used their space to talk about Pendleton’s unhoused population.
While some encouraged the city to invest in homeless services, many just used the opportunity to disparage the unhoused, while suggesting the city either relocate the homeless or take some sort of law enforcement action against them.
“Our quaint little community is being overrun with the homeless and the drug addicts that are unwilling to provide anything positive to the community,” one commenter wrote.
Turner said homelessness is an issue that no community in America has solved yet, so the council doesn’t want to invest taxpayer money into it, deferring to nonprofits like the Community Action Program of East Central Oregon. He added that larger communities like Portland and Seattle have invested resources into homeless services, but their problems have worsened.
“How can you make it a goal if you’re never going to solve it?” he said.
Turner said the council will formally adopt its new goals at its next meeting on Tuesday, May 4. From there, the council will break up into committees to discuss how to measure progress on each of the goals.