Oregon Policy Lab



Data from Amazon Creek and other areas around Eugene indicate that concentrations of zinc in natural waters have been increasing, while concentrations of other pollutants have been decreasing. The causes and extent of elevated zinc levels are unresolved, but a likely source includes zinc-based roof and sidewalk de-mossers, commonly used by homeowners in the area. Work is needed to understand the potential sources of zinc to the environment, determine the extent of zinc contamination within the area, and identify potential strategies for minimizing zinc loading to the environment.This project will be conducted by the Environmental Science department in partnership with the Metro Clean Water Partners, Lane County, and the Oregon Policy Lab, and Soil and Water Lab at the University of Oregon. Research activities will include a literature review, data analysis of existing concentrations, water sampling and other field experiments. A summary of findings will be provided to Metro Clean Water Partners in the form of a written report and an overview presentation.

Sustainable Invention Immersion Week

The University of Oregon Business School conducts an annual Sustainable Invention Immersion Week in which students work in interdisciplinary teams to connect design and innovation to the science of sustainability to invent a consumer product. The 2019 project challenge was to design a new solution to address a need and that also reduces materials problems, using the State of Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality Vision 2050 Materials Management plan as a framework. Participants examined how 'upstream impacts' minimize the environmental footprint of a product. Products must be economically viable, socially acceptable and have a net positive environmental impact when compared to existing products. This is a partnership with Lane County and RAIN Eugene.

Lane County Parks Funding

Policy Lab is working with Lane County Parks to examine funding strategies for deferred maintenance needs totally $20 million.  The county has 69 parks and open spaces covering 4,400 acres. The division does not receive any General Fund support and operates primarily on user fees, registration fees, and special sales taxes (transient lodging and car rental). Graduate students in PPPM 629 (Public Budget Administration) are 1) examining case studies of parks funding in other counties, cities, or park districts; 2) providing suggestions for sustainable long-term maintenance funding for the division. The final product will be a report that summarizes case studies, evaluates three funding packages, and provides a recommendation for a funding strategy that is equitable, neutral, efficient and productive.

Locating potential sites for shelters, navigation center, and/or supportive housing 

Following the release of the Technical Assistance Collaborative (TAC) report Lane County and Eugene officials have been looking for parcels of land in and around Eugene to locate a shelter, temporary shelter, navigation center, and/or permanent supportive housing/low barrier housing. In this project the Policy Lab will engage the students of PPPM 434/534 Urban Geographic Information Systems. This combined course of upper level undergraduates and graduate students will conduct a class project to locate potential locations of a shelter, navigation center, and/or housing. The students will use criteria to identify and map where these parcels of land may exist. 

Peer-to-Peer Support Network Development for People Experiencing Homelessness

In this project the Policy Lab will work with the City of Eugene and the government of Lane County to help provide support to their efforts to aid people experiencing homelessness. The City of Eugene is currently working with people experiencing homelessness on capacity building for these individuals to provide peer support. This project will review and analyze policies/programs that enable effective peer-to-peer support networks generally; assess best practices in peer-to-peer networks for homeless/unsheltered populations specifically; participate in existing peer-to-peer capacity building activities to understand the needs and challenges these individuals are experiencing and provide direct support to peer-to-peer network; and provide recommendations to city and county stakeholders an ideal framework for successful peer-to-peer network development and sustainability. 

Inter-Governmental Compact Models

Natural hazards in Lane County – extreme winter storms, flooding, wildfires, etc. – can cause negative economic, infrastructure, and social impacts that cross jurisdictional and agency boundaries. The predicted Cascadia earthquake threatens significantly greater disruption. It is increasingly clear that reducing risk and recovering from large-scale disasters requires cross-jurisdictional/cross-agency leadership, coordination, and collaboration. These collaborative efforts serve to share information and best practices, link and leverage local hazard mitigation efforts and resources, coordinate risk reduction policy approaches, and engage with state and federal agencies for technical assistance and funding support. This project will seek to review and analyze models that facilitate collaboration across jurisdictions (local, state, federal); assess needs of the Lane County jurisdictions by interviewing public servants and elected leaders across the county; and provide recommendations to stakeholders an ideal framework for a successful collaborative partnership based on the needs of the group.

Cleaner Air Spaces in Lane County
In the face of increasing threats from wildfires, governments are seeking ways in which to aid vulnerable populations during these events. In 2018 the Oregon Policy Lab provided guidance to Lane County on potential policy interventions to aid assisting vulnerable populations during wildfire events. This proposed project builds off of this earlier work, seeking to: review and analyze clean air shelter policies and programs globally; assess best practices in the identification and cataloging of cleaner air spaces; conduct interviews and research to determine the locations of cleaner air spaces in Lane County; catalogue the features of these spaces (size, capacity, security, quality, etc); and provide recommendations to stakeholders an ideal framework for successful communications and policies necessary for effective use of cleaner air spaces during a smoke event.

Open Data in Lane County Government

To take advantage of any possible benefits of data openness, Lane County Government has requested an examination into existing open data policies and their effects on the surrounding community. The research team’s objective was to conduct research into open data policies among comparable governments and observe their strategies to achieve open data, seeking to understand the advantages or disadvantages of open data, assessment of data in Lane County, and any barriers to making data open.

Results of this research provided Lane County with recommendations for the most advantageous types of data to make open to be those which are most frequently requested, behavioral and mental health needs, affordable housing availability, transportation and road usage, and budget information. Researchers recommend that the county cultivate a culture of data sharing and employ an open data portal with consistent formatting of datasets.

Policy Labs Report

The Oregon Policy Lab furthered the research conducted in 2018-2019 developing evaluative frameworks for policy labs. Objectives of the 2018 project were to provide Lane County and the Oregon Policy Lab with recommendations to best fit their partnership agreement. Research methods included interviews and focus groups with OPL’s key stakeholders: PPPM faculty, Lane County management staff, PPPM students, and representatives from other policy labs across the United States.

Recommendations from this research informs the structure and practices of the Oregon Policy Lab housed at the University of Oregon. Use of the framework developed will serve to build a partnership between PPPM and Lane County which is resilient through funding and administrative changes as well as adaptable to include new opportunities as they arise. Finally, these recommendations help ensure a partnership which is firmly rooted in valuing the unique skills and priorities of students, faculty, and government stakeholders.

Relocating Glenwood Transfer Station

This research discusses options for relocating the Glenwood Transfer Station and potential impacts on the using jurisdictions of Lane County, the City of Eugene, and the City of Springfield. A primary concern in relocating the transfer station is tension between distance and convenience that are associated with costs to communities and residents. Researcher’s conducted case study analysis, reviewing cases of communities that have successfully relocated transfer stations to develop recommendations for the Glenwood project.

This research provides siting suggestions for Lane County with options for using one, two, or multiple locations for a new transfer station(s). At the time of the research conclusion, a single location was recommended as the most favorable option for Lane County, although the actual location of the site was not determined by this research. Further recommendations include policy interventions that can streamline community outreach efforts while targeting funding sources for planning and site design.

Policy Interventions for Managing the Risk of Wildfire Smoke for Vulnerable Populations

The School of Planning, Public Policy, and Management produced a guide of known interventions for smoke hazards in response to increasing concerns of wildfire, like smoke and ash risks, in Lane County. This document concludes with a list of helpful guides from other communities that may be adapted to fit Lane County’s needs. Recommended actions to mitigate smoke risk includes: public information campaigns, staying indoors, filtration systems, reducing physical activity, reduce indoor air pollution, use cleaner air shelters, closures, portable air cleaners, respirators, and in some cases, evacuation.

Lane County, Oregon Snowstorm 2019, Emergency Management Case Study

In 2019 a significant snowstorm affected Lane County, impacting several community’s ability to effectively function several days following the storm. Student researchers at the University of Oregon conducted an assessment of Lane County’s emergency management response to this snowstorm through a review of published literature and qualitative data and interviews with impacted communities and decision makers. The results provided Lane County with defined best practices in county level emergency management and public management in responding to this emergency. The team was able to assess what went right, what went wrong, and how to better prepare for future emergencies and disasters. Recommendations include additional trainings and exercises for staff during non-emergency times, updating and ensuring redundancy in communications systems, review data, responses, plans, and practices from past emergencies to assess and update for effectiveness, conduct citizen engagement, promote interagency collaboration, and ensure safety of EOC personnel and families during an event.

Lane County Organizational Resilience

In 2018, the Lane County Board of Commissioners approved a government restructure that transferred authority of County Emergency Management from the Office of the Sheriff to the County Administrator to increase efficiency and better leverage county, state, and federal funding. In conjunction of this reorganization, County Administration has been investigating opportunities to improve county resilience overall. To assess organizational resilience, IPRE proposed research using the resilience framework developed by New Zealand’s Resilient Organizations which posits that resilience is a function of (1) leadership and culture, (2) networks and relationships, and (3) readiness for change. The research team used a resilience assessment survey, stakeholder interviews, and focus groups to evaluate the organizational resilience across the county. They also conducted case studies of other organizations that have integrated resilience into their organizational structure to understand what precipitated the focus on resilience and the approach of these agencies.

Exploring Part-Time Opportunity and Wage Equity in Lane County Employees

Following a labor agreement in 2017, Lane County Government was interested in understanding why employees move from full-time employment to part-time employment and whether employees of different genders or races paid equitably for similar work. University of Oregon researchers analyzed employment data from Lane County, comparing it to other Oregon counties and the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. A survey and interviews were also conducted for this research to understand perspectives of Lane County Employees.

The research team found that 35% of full-time employees would prefer to work part-time, but feel there are barriers to this movement, including loss of benefits, budget constraints, and limited upward mobility for part-time employees. Lane County’s workforce is also shown to pay equitably across races and genders, accounting for union affiliation, job titles, and pay grades, although, researchers discovered barriers to fully assessing equity in Lane County. The county retains limited information about professional or educational experience, and it uses complex employee classification system which impacted the researcher capabilities.