July 22, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

NLC considers asking City not to split neighborhoods in ward redistricting

5 min read
Some NLC leaders don't want to split up neighborhoods during 2021 city ward redistricting.

Some NLC leaders don't want to split up neighborhoods during 2021 city ward redistricting.

With a new census, all political boundaries are up for change, including City ward boundaries. At the June Neighborhood Leaders Council (NLC) meeting, Carolyn Jacobs spoke to Ian Winbrock.

Carolyn Jacobs: [00:00:12] Ian.  I know you are very rah-rah city staff, but I do want to point out to everyone that there are staff who are looking to redraw our ward boundaries to split neighborhoods. And this is a little bit scary, can be not a good thing, or it could be a good thing, I guess it depends on your point of view. But there are staff who are making a push to split neighborhoods when they redesign the boundaries. And we haven’t talked about that. This is staff doing something that I think has the potential to affect lots of neighborhoods.

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John Q: [00:00:49] Following up on comments circulated by Ted Coopman: Harry Sanger, from River Road.

Harry Sanger: [00:00:55] I did some research and I looked at the survey that he had quoted, and  I do find it troublesome that they ask these questions in a survey and 80% of the respondents said “Keeping neighborhood associations together” is the number one concern, and they said, “Yeah, we’ll think about it.” But even more concerning is that when they asked how much of a gap to have, do we have 3% or do we have 5% on either side with 5% being the standard, 50% of the respondents said 5% and about 30% said 3%. And they said, “Okay, we’ll make it 3% or we’ll keep it at 3%.” Making it 5% allows you to keep all the neighborhood associations together.

John Q: [00:01:35] The NLC directed Harry to draft a letter, urging City Council not to split up neighborhoods. Each neighborhood association can choose whether to sign the letter. Ian Winbrock, from the Whiteaker.

Ian Winbrock: [00:01:48] I liked that I’m “rah-rah city staff”. Cause I could give you the city staff member who would feel the complete opposite. I’m a former city staff member. And so  I think that gives me a place of empathy. That’s fairly, maybe, unique amongst a lot of different groups, but it also makes me call to question the actions and impetus of  city staff members here. Because a lot of them, frankly, just don’t know how to do their jobs, right? They grew up in a culture in which they never had any policy leadership from City Council members. And they had persons within the organization rise up to levels of middle management and higher management, when there wasn’t real leadership that kind of fostered the development of a culture in which there was genuine collaboration.

So I see the systemic failures,  but don’t hold a lot of  lower level staff members accountable for that culture..   When they reinforce it, I call them out on it privately and sometimes publicly, but also some city council members do too. Um, I’ve seen (Councilor Claire) Syrett do it in a meeting.

And nobody’s perfect. But yeah, at the same time, yeah. I think that we need to call out city staff when they make boo-boos. And at the same time really hold our elected leaders as well as  our staff leaders accountable for the cultural failures of city government, cause I’ve seen it work super well. Super well, and seeing community-based organizations really contribute to some pretty impactful programs and policy.

So yeah, I would say that let’s trust but verify when working with city staff. And, and yeah, I don’t think that there’s a smoking room full of cigar chomping city staff as a former cigar chomping, smoky room dwelling, city staff member. I know what that feels and looks like, but yeah, I think that for the most part, you know, there’s a very small group of city staff members that work effectively together.

And I think you give too much credit to the city of Eugene. It’s mostly just horrifically dysfunctional. The executive team, especially, is actually just so torn apart, they advance very few policy or program actions together. It’s mostly a lot of people kind of just afraid to do their job. Right. And so they’re not even jockeying for position. They’re kind of just stuck and frozen in time.

And, like I’ve said, the city is begrudgingly accepting that neighborhood associations themselves do a lot more and have the capacity to do a lot more than the city gives them credit or resources to be able to do. And the NLC is an organization with a lot of capacity, as well as the ability to be able to work with partners to be able to make things happen. And I think Cal Young doing a vaccine clinic is a perfect example of that. You know, it was a connection fostered through NLC, and now they’re hosting a clinic in July.

John Q: [00:04:40] Jon Belcher, from River Road, thanked Ian for his service as the council co-chair.

Jon Belcher: [00:04:46] If we have raised in stature with the city, a large degree of that is because of the yeoman work that you have done with Whiteaker, Ian.  So, you’re leaving us in great stead by your actions, both with the NLC and with your neighborhood. So thank you for that.

Ian Winbrock: [00:05:04] Thanks, Jon. I think when I lose the chairship of the WCC in April of next year, I think you’re going to see that not everyone agrees with my leadership style and, uh, yeah, I think there’s a lot of city staff, like I was telling Carolyn before, that silently curse my name, but I really appreciate that vote of confidence.

And it’s been in large part because of the inspiration that I’ve drawn from y’all. You know, I’m very new to Eugene and very new to neighborhood associations, but there’s a tremendous potential here, a potential that I’ve seen brought to life during some super, super challenging times. And I think the way that we’ve all stepped up individually and collectively is impossible to ignore. You can pretend like it doesn’t exist, but, when neighborhood associations are hosting vaccine clinics, when neighborhood associations are making hand sanitizer, when neighborhood associations are putting out food boxes, so folks can eat, yeah.  It’s almost impossible to ignore.   

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