November 29, 2022

Whole Community News

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Councilors raise questions after Syrett recall

6 min read
Eugene city councilors raise new questions after Claire Syrett's recall.

New questions from city council after the historic recall of Council President Claire Syrett. At a work session Oct. 19, a suggestion that she should have shared more with the rest of the council before CFEC (Climate Friendly and Equitable Communities) rules were adopted in July.

[00:00:20] Councilor Mike Clark: I’m still pretty cranky about the fact that we didn’t get a full presentation to council on CFEC until after rulemaking was done. Where was that decision made not to involve the full council on that issue as it went through rulemaking?

[00:00:39] I personally got calls from other elected officials from other cities on that a month, two months in advance, but I was undereducated about everything it implied. And I suppose I relied on, we would go through a work session and briefing on that prior to any sort of city direction being established about what we wanted to do in response to the effort statewide.

[00:01:04] John Q: He suggested that Councilor Syrett’s actions prevented him from effectively representing his ward.

[00:01:11] Councilor Mike Clark: I sometimes hold, as a representative of a chunk of people, a different view than the majority on council, and I want to be effective in advocating for those constituents. That’s my job. And I want to be able to do so in a way where I have better information about efforts like that than may be standard city policy, ‘cause I may disagree with it.

[00:01:33] And I’m searching for ways to plug into our process to be better informed about those efforts so that I could take that effort on my own if I wanted to.

[00:01:45] John Q: He asked if it would be legal for him to lobby for his own constituents.

[00:01:50] Councilor Mike Clark: ‘Cause I don’t want to break the rules, but I think the majority makes decisions I disagree with at times, and I want to be more effective at other levels advocating for those. So that’s why I ask.

[00:02:02] City Attorney Kathryn Brotherton: Councilor Clark, your operating agreement, Section 9.02, has a paragraph about state and federal lobbying… It’s very specifically addressed in your operating agreements. Overall it is: Council has a stated desire to have a single voice, but if there’s a dissenting voice, you need to identify that it is a dissenting voice.

[00:02:24] Councilor Mike Clark: I’m hopeful that after the election cycle this year, we can see more lobbying at multiple levels of government and see some different results.

[00:02:35] John Q: For example, the city should actively seek funding for Measure 110.

[00:02:40] Councilor Mike Clark: One of my sentiments about IGR (Intergovernmental Relations Committee) is, it’s always reactive. We’re always reacting to what someone proposed at the legislative level, rather than working with our local legislators—more than staff does ordinarily—to try and create things that we’d like to see get through the legislature and be helpful. I’d like to see us do more of that.

[00:03:02] There’s very few things—and I’m sure a couple other councilors agree with me—there’s very few things needed locally more than an enhancement to mental health care and drug treatment. And the money’s flowing through, it’s already been passed, it’s just that they’re not sure who’s qualified to do those services and who should get paid to do it. And I think that’s something we need to focus in on and do a better job advocating for.

[00:03:31] Councilor Alan Zelenka: I can’t think of more things that would be more important than what’s going on in the legislature, especially during those five months that they’re in session and our response to spending too much time on it was to overreact and swing the pendulum to almost spending no time on it. In fact, it was erased from the agenda on the council.

And CFEC is a great example that Mike brought up. I completely felt like the council was out of the loop on that. IGR was in, but the council wasn’t.

[00:04:01] We should look at having a regular council agenda item being on the council meetings, what’s going on in the legislature, and have that discussion at the whole council, so we can have another opportunity…

[00:04:13] Having it be as a regular item, I know it takes time, but the pendulum swing from some too much time to zero time doesn’t work for me. I don’t think it works for several other councilors…

[00:04:24] I totally agree with what Mike said about Measure 110 and all the issues. I didn’t vote for that. I think it’s been a disaster rolling it out, and it’s starting to impact what’s happening on our streets and we’re seeing it.

[00:04:38] Councilor Randy Groves: I support what I’m hearing, particularly from Councilors Clark and Zelenka about wanting information to come back to the full council more frequently. I don’t think we need to load it up excessively, but I just think that touchpoint is really important as we are pushing things that really affect our community and how we are able to operate as a city. So I’m very much in support of that.

[00:05:01] I would also be in support of adding in Ballot Measure 110. In my opinion, we basically have received all the points of failure that are involved in 110, and we didn’t get any of the benefits, i.e. the 15 treatment centers. Does anyone know where any of these are? It’s because they don’t exist.

[00:05:21] And so I do think we need to revisit that in bringing this back to a point of reasonable progress. You know, whether it’s taking it back out to the voters, whether it’s trying to see what we can do to get the treatment piece, because the treatment piece is not happening. And that’s a big part of our problem with what’s going on, on the street, and some of the things that we are trying to wrestle with right now.

[00:05:45] So I do think we need that front and center and I think that that’s every bit as important as some of these other pieces on here.

[00:05:54] Councilor Matt Keating: The mayor and I were at two separate events over the weekend in which we heard from constituents, concern over the abuse of the recall lever, but I’m surprised this issue—especially considering the former chair of IGR was unfortunately recalled—I’m surprised the issue hasn’t rose to— well, maybe it has — there has been a conversation at IGR, but I’m surprised that type of election reform hasn’t arisen to a priority when I keep hearing time and again, that there needs to be a legislative fix revolving around recalls.

[00:06:43] Ethan Nelson (Intergovernmental Relations): Councilor Keating, as we’ve discussed in the past within the IGR committee, the IGR committee is not making new policy. It is clarifying and advocating and advancing adopted city policy. And so if the city council were to take action on any item that is not articulated currently, then we could be taking action.

So the item that you brought on up is one that I would, if it came up in an IGR committee meeting, I would say, it’s something to bring to the full council table and put onto the agenda for a full council discussion and then getting policy direction from full council.

[00:07:18] John Q: With one last suggestion for the council, Mike Clark.

[00:07:22] Councilor Mike Clark: We’ve just seen a poll that says the majority of people who live here think the city is heading in the wrong direction. I can barely think of anything that needs more revision and time talking about it than our city policy.

[00:07:35] John Q: Eugene city council members recommend changes after the recall of Claire Syrett.

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