April 22, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

Councilor challenges recall statements; EmX opponents cite MovingAhead website

3 min read
Claire Syrett says MovingAhead opponents made false statements in seeking her recall. Recall organizers say they are just quoting from the MovingAhead website.

by John Quetzalcoatl Murray

Eugene City Council President Claire Syrett asks the court to stop her recall election. She claims MovingAhead opponents made false statements. Recall organizers say they’re just quoting from the MovingAhead website.

[00:00:23] The recall focuses on one big issue: Bus rapid transit in MovingAhead, the massive multi-decade multi-million-dollar transportation project.

[00:00:33] MovingAhead considered enhancements to five major transportation corridors, including bus rapid transit—the Emerald Express, or “EmX.”

[00:00:44] After initial success serving the university, two later EmX lines failed to attract the expected numbers of riders.

[00:00:52] MovingAhead also commissioned engineering drawings showing how adjacent properties might be affected by special EmX bus lanes and bus stops.

[00:01:01] Sharing those drawings with business owners, opponents quickly gathered 500 signatures against EmX.

[00:01:09] While Eugene City Councilor Mike Clark confirmed receipt of those signatures, Councilor Syrett would not.

[00:01:16] Opponents quoted her as saying: “I don’t believe I have received one communication from a property owner along River Road who has concerns about this proposal.”

[00:01:26] The City Council went on to designate EmX for River Road as the locally preferred alternative.

[00:01:32] So the same activists went back to the streets and collected more signatures, which she would be less likely to ignore. And she did not ignore them.

[00:01:41] Facing what could be the first city council recall in Eugene history, Councilor Syrett is now trying to stop it on the grounds that recall organizers made four false statements. Here are the first two:

[00:01:55] “Claire Syrett voted to advance the multimillion-dollar MovingAhead project that will remove two lanes for cars on River Road and replace them with dedicated EmX bus lanes.

[00:02:08] “This will leave only one lane for cars in each direction and take substantial private property from businesses and residences, including removal of parking and trees.”

[00:02:21] Speaking for the recall, organizer Meta Maxwell directed the media to the September 2018 Alternatives Analysis. Page 5-12 shows EmX on River Road as having five lanes across–one car lane and one bus lane in each direction, and a center turn lane.

[00:02:41] Page 5-18: EmX on River Road would require 37 partial and three full property acquisitions for a total of about 2.2 acres; it would impact off-street parking for seven properties, drive-throughs at six properties, and could result in displacement of six businesses.

[00:03:00] LTD told the River Road Community Organization that EmX could lead to removal or significant impacts—such as root impacts—for 112 to 132 trees.

[00:03:14] During public comment on Moving Ahead, an independent consultant reported that greenhouse gas emissions created by EmX would never be recovered through ridership. Quote, ‘Regionally every EmX investment package fails to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.’

[00:03:33] The consultant also found that on average for its first 20 years each additional trip by River Road EmX will cost $27.46. He also pointed out that LTDs regular fleet with electric buses cannot be used on EmX routes and the EmX buses need special lanes to handle their weight. Selecting EmX could lock Eugene into fossil fuels for years to come.

[00:04:00] To summarize: Special lanes for diesel buses, no reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, the potential loss of 132 trees, 40 properties affected, displacement of up to six businesses, and a cost of over $27 for every new EmX ride for 20 years.

[00:04:22] Councilor Syrett says the opponent statements are false because no final decision has been made on project specifics. Two other recall statements about traffic congestion and future taxes are also disputed. Recall organizers say they look forward to responding in court.

[00:04:39] Moving Ahead joins two other recent high-profile decisions, Middle Housing and Transit Tomorrow, where citizens said they were bypassed by local agencies. On Middle Housing, an internal city whistleblower said city planning staff deliberately avoided comments from neighborhood staff and neighborhoods.

[00:05:02] According to campaign finance records, each campaign has raised over $10,000. Recall Claire Syrett received its contributions early, mostly from businesses and business owners. Councilor Syrett’s contributions did not start until July 29th and include the Democratic Party of Oregon, Sen. James Manning, Rep. Paul Holvey, Phil Barnhart, city councilors Alan Zelenka and Matt Keating, and Lane County Commissioner candidate Dawn Lesley.

[00:05:33] We’ve asked LTD to respond to the independent consultant’s findings. And we’d like to ask you to join our News Team at KEPW 97.3, KEPW.org, or see our request in the neighborhood time bank.

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