May 22, 2024

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‘Missed opportunity’ as mayor, city manager skip out on neighborhood summit

6 min read

At the Neighborhood Leaders Council meeting June 28, a recap of this month’s neighborhood summit.

[00:00:08] Jackson Kellogg (NLC co-chair): It was great. It was great to see everyone, to see people in person who’ve, you know, we’d just seen each other on Zoom and, yeah, it was just wonderful.

[00:00:19] Jon Belcher (River Road): I thought that the meeting was useful. I wish it had been better prepared with involvement of neighborhoods and perhaps that would solve some of the concerns that people had, but I was glad I was there.

[00:00:34] Dennis Hebert (Southeast): Well, I sure wish that (City Manager) Sarah Medary would’ve taken some questions. Because one of my questions of her is: What does she see the neighborhood associations’ role is dealing with the city and city staff, as opposed to us being told by city staff, ‘This is going to happen.’

Why doesn’t city staff come to the neighborhood associations first, get our input, then perhaps develop something, so at least we could feel like we had some say in some of the processes? That’s something I’d really like to hear her answer on. So that was my only thing. I thought we were going to have a little Q&A with her, but it didn’t happen.

[00:01:19] Pam Wooddell (Friendly Area): I appreciated the summit and enjoyed hearing what all the neighborhoods were doing. It was great to rub elbows with other neighborhood associations. But I agree with Dennis that I was sort of prepared to try to bridge some of the alienation between some of the top folks in the city and the neighborhoods.

[00:01:38] I was hoping for that. I was a little disappointed the mayor didn’t even pop by and that Sarah didn’t stay for the whole time / stay a little longer.

[00:01:48] Carolyn Jacobs (South University): I wish there were more people there. It didn’t seem like a really very big turnout, and then since for any of you who thought SUNA (South University Neighborhood Association) was a little discombobulated or something, we didn’t know we were going to speak. We weren’t told we were invited to speak. So we were really caught off guard.

[00:02:10] Jackson Kellogg (Cal Young): Yeah. Thank you. I wasn’t aware of the speech either and so I didn’t come prepared to talk and I might have been prepared.

[00:02:21] Rene Kane (Jefferson Westside): I really enjoyed it. It was so nice to see everybody in person and I was really thrilled with what everyone is doing, that we heard from.

[00:02:31] But it wasn’t a summit. And to me, a summit is: You get people together, you deal with substantive issues, you discuss, you take positions, you hash over things.

[00:02:47] And I really was disappointed that (City Manager) Sarah Medary didn’t stick around and I understand she might have had a scheduling issue. But what a missed opportunity for us and for her to not hear from us after so long of COVID distancing.

[00:03:07] And I really enjoyed seeing everybody, like I said, but I think it was a real missed opportunity to deal with some pretty gnarly stuff that’s been happening for the last few months.

[00:03:24] Robert Brack (City of Eugene): Thank y’all for sharing those about the summit. Things did change with some of the planning as it was getting closer, basically, a lot of associations saying that they weren’t comfortable participating in person and being there.

[00:03:37] And so we had the hybrid option and so it shifted to more of a celebration of everything, and we tried to make that clear in the announcements and apologize for those miscommunications, but it was great to see and hear from several neighbor associations about everyone’s work over the past couple of years. Y’all do a lot and it was good for you all to hear from other groups doing that work.

[00:04:04] Fabio Andrade (City of Eugene): I hope it becomes an annual event that we can plan and know it’s happening every summer and we can engage more people in planning it. This one was kind of last-minute and the mayor had a commitment. Sarah could not stay the whole day. But our hope was to get more members of the leadership team in the City of Eugene to be in attendance and also some elected officials. So just know that we plan to have a bigger event next year and keep doing it every year after.

[00:04:32] Robert Brack (City of Eugene): Just an update on my role. As you all know, I’ve been Acting In Capacity, and it was a temporary assignment for one year. And another opportunity in the city opened and I applied for that and accepted a role as the Training and Development Manager for the City of Eugene. And so that position starts July 5th. And so it’s pretty much next week.

[00:04:54] I’ve really appreciated this past year working with all of you and getting to know neighborhoods. I did not have a whole lot of experience with neighborhoods before this position. And I’m glad that I took this opportunity to do that and get to know more people in my community. And then also get to know all of the crazy, awesome volunteer work that you all do. So I just want to, again, just express my gratitude to you all and to Fabio for his support to do this job.

[00:05:21] Jackson Kellogg (Cal Young): Great. Thank you so much, Robert, for your service to the City of Eugene and Eugene neighborhoods. I know personally I really enjoyed working with you and just wish you all the best of luck in your new role.

[00:05:33] Pam Wooddell (Friendly): Well, Robert, we’ll miss you, but it sounds like you’re going to something else that’s cool. Anyway, thanks for being there for the last year.

[00:05:43] Tai Pruce-Zimmerman (Bethel): I just wanted to say congratulations, Robert. It’s going to be a shame to not have you here anymore. I have really appreciated working with you over the past year, so, real happy to have had you here. Wish we could keep you, but sounds like you got a great opportunity. So I just wanted to say good for you.

[00:06:02] Robert Brack: Thanks. Appreciate it.

[00:06:04] Rene Kane: I just want to make a point and this is more for staff (Fabio, since we’re losing Robert), that the NLC might not be formally recognized like neighborhood associations are, but the NLC is made up of active, formally-recognized neighborhood associations. And I’ve seen staff over the years dismiss it like, ‘Oh, that’s just the NLC, they’re just an ad hoc group.’ What that fails to recognize is the power that each of those neighborhood association reps brings and who’s standing behind them— their boards, their members. So to dismiss the NLC, I think, is wrong and really does a disservice both to city staff and to neighborhood associations.

[00:06:56] Jackson Kellogg: Yeah, thank you, Rene, I appreciate that sentiment. You know, people vote in the elections and this is really democracy at its finest. It’s like a low-barrier way you can get in and participate. So this is what we need, this kind of institution. So thank you for saying that.

[00:07:10] John Q: Congratulations and all the best to Robert Brack in his new position. To learn how to get involved in your neighborhood, see the City of Eugene website.

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