Guest Opinion: Councilor can save the cost of a recall election by resigning4 min read
by Meta Maxwell
The Eugene Weekly reported Aug. 2 that Claire Syrett called the Recall Claire Syrett campaign “a misuse of a tool that is meant for dereliction of duty, guilty of crime or committing unethical practices. ‘I don’t think those things apply to me,’ she says.”
Claire Syrett’s dereliction of duty and unethical practices as city council president and Ward 7 councilor have been on full display.
On Feb. 28, 2022, Councilor Syrett said, “I don’t believe I have received one communication from property owners along River Road who has concerns about this proposal.”
Councilor Syrett lied.
She was referring to the MovingAhead and EmX infrastructure plan for River Road that will necessitate removal of two lanes for cars, cutting down 132 established trees, elimination of parking from businesses, taking of private property from homeowners, replacing existing buses that run near-empty with 60-foot non-electric buses that cannot be re-routed, and construction of miles of CO2-emitting concrete.
In addition to emails from Councilor Syrett’s Ward 7 constituents (that I have copies of), Councilor Syrett received over 150 petitions against the project signed by people in and near her ward including numerous people living and working on River Road.
On February 23, I personally delivered copies of 464 petitions with a cover letter for each councilor and the mayor to the City Manager’s office, objecting to the MovingAhead project and signed mostly by people living, working, and owning residences, businesses and properties directly on all five MovingAhead corridors: River Road, Highway 99, Coburg Road, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, and 30th Avenue.
I have not received a response from Councilor Syrett to these petitions, and none of the people who signed them has indicated her personally reaching out to them or otherwise expressing concern.
Furthermore, despite the overwhelming objections to the MovingAhead plans, on March 14, at a City Council Work Session, Councilor Syrett moved to approve the MovingAhead Locally Preferred Alternatives—“EmX” for River Road and “Enhanced Corridor” for the other corridors.
Minutes of the work session note that Councilor Syrett “expressed excitement for presented alternatives and work ahead; noted there will be much more refinement/scrutiny of this plan over time, but priorities must first be set; addressed input from constituents regarding EmX service area; stated she has not been contacted by any property or business owner along River Road who opposed the plan.”
The vote passed 6-1, with Councilor Mike Clark opposed, and Councilor Evans absent. At best, Syrett’s discussion was deceptive, at worst, an outright lie and coverup. Her apparent reason was to move the project forward in hopes of procuring state, federal and local funding for a project for which no need has been documented, and that many citizens strongly oppose.
The detailed plans for the “Locally Preferred Alternatives” were completed in 2017 by CH2M Hill at a cost of $1.5 million.
Despite all of the public engagement that the MovingAhead Management Team has claimed and that the City Council has echoed, the city has not sent out notice of the CH2M Hill plans to those property owners, residents and businesses that would be most affected, nor has the city notified the public at large of the existence of the detailed plans, and no modifications to the plans have been made to date. Therefore, no public engagement has been incorporated in the plans. Note: Public Engagement is a requirement for procuring state and federal funds that the MovingAhead team wants.
Syrett asks people to trust that the individuals involved with the MovingAhead project will at a later date make changes to the plans to address the public’s concerns. This is foolhardy at best, and at worst an effort to push through something she knows people don’t need, don’t want, and cannot afford.
The ethical choice for President and Councilor Syrett would have been to set aside the vote for “Locally Preferred Alternatives” until the council had proof that the public, and those individuals and businesses on the corridors who would be most affected, were fully apprised of the MovingAhead plans and that their input was reflected in the proposals being put forth.
Councilor Syrett continues to engage in a dereliction of duty by failing to ensure that the key stakeholders on the corridors, and the public at large, are fully aware of the MovingAhead plans, that they have an opportunity to provide input, and that the plans are modified before further actions are taken.
The next steps, completing environmental studies and seeking millions of dollars in funding, require plans — those plans need to be transparent, properly vetted, and put to a vote by the community before they proceed.
Councilor Syrett’s dereliction of duty and unethical actions have facilitated the advancement of the MovingAhead boondoggle that will benefit only the bus manufacturers and road construction companies, and add funds for administrative costs to the coffers of Lane Transit District.
As the campaign to Recall Claire Syrett has gotten louder, I have heard from landlords, tenants, and residents throughout Ward 7 and other parts of the city who share their experiences with Councilor Syrett and the Eugene City Council that echo my experience and observations. With respect to addressing crime in the community, affordable housing, property rights, landlord-tenant rights, and protection of the environment, they say Councilor Syrett, as president of the city council, does not insist on:
- Needs and problems being clearly identified, based on verified data and facts; not emotions
- Transparency on issues being considered, including early and direct notification of stakeholders
- Public engagement on issues; real two-way communication and collaboration with stakeholders
- Large, consequential decisions being put to a vote.
Clearly, the city council and Ward 7 residents need new leadership and representation. For these reasons, I urge Councilor Syrett to resign and save the city and her constituents the effort and cost of a recall election.
Meta Maxwell is an organizer with the Recall Claire Syrett campaign.