September 29, 2022

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Council, public share thoughts on recall election

6 min read
Eugene City Council hears public comment for the first time since the recall election.

The Eugene City Council held its first meetings since a recall election for its council president. With roughly 60 percent of ward seven voters favoring the recall, the council and the public shared their thoughts.

[00:00:13] Councilor Claire Syrett: I just want to address that there has been a recall election in process. That election has not been certified yet. It will be certified by Oct. 3. There is also a court process moving forward related to the recall. Until either one of those processes reaches its final stage, I will remain in my role as the ward seven city councilor and council president, and intend to continue to fulfill the duties of these roles until or unless my status on this council changes.

[00:00:49] Patti Swinehart: If the recall goes through, who gets to decide who replaces the councilperson? And will you allow the constituents of ward seven to have an input? And the third thing I’m saying is asking you: Is the city council of Eugene a nonpartisan position, because in the recall what our neighbors started to realize it is not. Because we all got mailers—-many of us—supported by the Democratic Party. So do we get a say?

[00:01:27] Legal Counsel: Certainly, I can speak real briefly. Any time there is a vacancy on council, it is not —whether it be through resignation or through recall or otherwise, and the charter’s very clear on the process.

[00:01:38] If there ever becomes a vacancy, the council has within 90 days to fill that vacancy. And then if that vacancy occurred more than 100 days before the May election, then there will be a regular election for that position to fill out the unfilled term and the person would take office on July 1st. So it starts with a council appointment and then, just an election for that position.

[00:02:07] Thomas Newman: Cars— so many people forget about how many car-related accidents, the fires that, you know, climate change is happening. And we, we might not even be here, the human civilization might just end in 100 years, or even sooner than that. Look at the fires. They’re just going to get worse and worse every year. This is screwing us. There is no future for this city, for just human life, if we don’t plan ahead. Young people are feeling so desperate.

[00:02:36] We need to just have non-car-related systems of transportation and to be able to get places without a car. You know, cars—they rip up the pavement, they destroy the climate. There’s nothing good. We should focus on bikes and other forms of transportation that aren’t as destructive as the car. It’s just ridiculous.

[00:02:59] We have to be the change. We have to be the future.

[00:03:03] And then, really sad, my girlfriend lives in River Road. She’s disabled. She can’t drive a car. What about that? What about people with disabilities and stuff? It’s just totally messed up. I just can’t believe what’s happening. Eugene has always been a progressive center and a leader in Oregon and we’ve got to do better.

[00:03:27] Chuck Areford: Chuck Areford, ward eight. I appreciate this opportunity to address you all. It has been a while and a lot has happened. This council and the city of Eugene have been attacked by a recall vote sponsored by right-wing extremists aimed at one of our most progressive city councilors, Claire Syrett.

[00:03:46] Their website makes it clear that this recall group is anti-government and opposes the entire city council. They abused our recall system, which is an attack on democracy, and our system of government.

[00:03:58] They use the big lie that Councilor Syrett is somehow corrupt without presenting a shred of evidence. They mischaracterized her vote on EmX, a vote where she was joined by five other city councilors.

[00:04:13] Again, this is a well-orchestrated top-down coup from the right, with nothing grassroots about it, similar to the anti-EmX effort in West Eugene many years ago. How many traffic lanes were lost along West 11th to EmX? Zero. One of the hallmarks of extreme right is climate change denial and Councilor Syrett is a climate champion.

[00:04:34] While our beautiful old growth forests are burning, when ash floats in the air of Eugene, keeping us indoors, when the residents of Oakridge were forced to flee their homes, when Europe and the U.S. suffer from repeated record breaking heat waves, when Lakes Mead, Powell, and the Great Salt Lake are drying up, when increasing numbers of climatologists are saying it’s now too late to prevent climate catastrophe, catastrophe that will likely result in the collapse of civilization and the deaths of billions of people;

[00:05:04] When the tragedy of mankind is writ large in our sky with smoke orange sunrises and sunsets, for people to put their time and effort into recalling Councilor Syrett, someone who is working hard to address climate collapse and who did absolutely nothing wrong, is both shameful and morally reprehensible.

[00:05:25] There is a lawsuit pending. And if it fails, I trust Mayor Vinis and our city council to choose a replacement for Councilor Syrett who has a similar work ethic and similar values, to demonstrate to these extremists that they gained absolutely nothing.

[00:05:40] Richard Locke: I just want to say, in no way is what I’m going to talk about a reply to the legal proceedings that are coming. It’s more of a question. And what I’d like to ask first is: What benefits does filing legal action against citizens by city officials do? What does it do?

It intimidates citizens from voicing concerns about any issue, really. It minimizes the citizens’ contribution to any issues. It disrespects citizens that have a differing opinion than city officials. It alienates the mayor, council and staff from constituents.

[00:06:23] In other words, what you’re saying is: ‘Shut up or else.’ And that’s the message that you all are giving to the voting constituents of this city.

[00:06:36] Councilor Matt Keating: One of our speakers tonight talked about accountability. That accountability piece is laid out very clearly at sos.Oregon.gov, that indicates factual information provided in the public officer’s statement must be true. Supplying false information may result in a conviction of a felony with a fine of up to $125,000 and or prison sentence of up to five years.

[00:07:01] My interpretation, mayor: That ward seven voters were sold a bill of goods in regards to MovingAhead, and EmX used as a wedge issue, a punitive wedge issue.

[00:07:13] Councilor Syrett is studious, tentative, empathetic. And I share Thomas Newman of Ward Two and Chuck Areford’s enthusiastic championing of Councilor Syrett’s service, which rises above—rises to the point to be the best among us.

[00:07:34] There’s no impropriety, mayor, no malfeasance, no articulable reason. So, if you want to talk about accountability, folks, read the Oregon state constitution. It makes it very clear that the statements to recall a sitting city councilor, duly elected, elected official must be true. And supplying false information comes with consequences.

[00:08:00] I won’t get into the legal piece beyond that, mayor, other than reading verbatim what’s in the Oregon state constitution and sos.oregon.gov, but I find it disturbing.

[00:08:11] I find it disturbing that someone who served with such dignity and such attention to detail and caring over a decade was treated so unfairly, based on what I interpret and what I hope the court interprets as baseless lies. I thank you for your service, Councilor Syrett. You are to be commended.

[00:08:36] John Q: Eugene City Council hears public comment for the first time since the recall election.

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