by John Quetzalcoatl Murray
Ten candidates applied to succeed Ward 7 Councilor Claire Syrett, who was recalled from office in a special election Sept. 6.
The Eugene City Council plans to interview and appoint the interim councilor in December. The appointee will serve until the winner of the May 2023 election takes office in July 2023.
As part of the initial application process, candidates were asked to identify the top three issues facing the residents of Ward 7. Collectively, their top choices were as follows:
- Homelessness / housing
- Public safety
Here are the applicants’ individual responses to that question, in last-name order:
The following are all interrelated:
- Household financial well-being. Secure jobs, adequate income, housing costs, medical costs, and general inflation are in some form and at some level of significant concern to many Ward 7 residents.
- Public Safety. Improving public safety of residents and businesses is an issue in many areas, as well. This includes not only major crimes, like burglary, but also property damage and illegal behavior that seriously degrades residents’ enjoyment of their neighborhoods.
- Housing and Homelessness. Housing that’s affordable to very low-income households, and the needs and impacts of unhoused people are important across much of Ward 7.
- FEMA fraud
- Homeless impacts / prevention
- Housing Units
- Moving Ahead
- Neighborhood concerns and quality of life. This comprises public safety, a sense of community, having good neighbors, and balancing competing interests. I feel I am quite aware of the issues in this district, such as through participating in RRCO meetings on issues like the noise/vibration pollution from Zip-O-Laminators. I heard much testimony on how this issue physically rattled residents and prevented their healthy rest; this only shows the immediacy and tangibility of these issues in Ward 7.
- Economic viability. This includes housing affordability, a shortage of good jobs (especially for those without training or a 4-year degree), wages lagging further behind inflation, and failing to be viewed as a desirable place to visit and promote commerce. This is another area that my keen eye on the issues of the north and west Eugene would be helpful, especially because Ward 7 shares a border with so many wards! Councilor Syrett was neighbors and worked quite effectively with her neighbors: Councilors Evans, Groves, Semple, Clark, and even Zelenka and Yeh, because of the unusual shape of the ward. I believe in the Bethel Area Plan and share Lin Woodrich’s view that it is overdue. I understand the long-standing relationship with Ward 5 just across the river, because I have lived through that relationship for almost my whole life. I believe in Ward 7 having its fair share and I believe I know how to build the kind of relationships that will increase the esteem, livability, affordability and prosperity of this wonderful area.
- Government relations and the increasingly tenuous spirit of democracy in today’s Ward 7. As someone who comes from the River Road / Santa Clara community and ran for municipal office, I can tell you that there remains a deep sense of confusion about the ward map, and feelings of being left out of the city. I believe the highly decentralized geography of Ward 7 made my community especially vulnerable during the well-funded recall effort. I am an outspoken individual and I am unafraid to speak truth to power. As a member of the Eugene City Council, I will work every single day to make sure the wide-ranging concerns within my district are heard and responded to within the City of Eugene.
…What the citizens of Ward 7 think the most important issues are depends greatly on where they live. I saw and heard about yellow street lights instead of brighter white LEDs in the Whiteaker, potholes and Safe Sleep Sites in Trainsong, beautification and landscaping needed in Emerald Park off River Road, glass that cuts bike commuters’ tires on Irving Road, and missing stop and speed signs in Santa Clara. People expressed concerns about growth and its stress on our infrastructure and angst over annexation. Of course, issues of
- crime, and
were top-of-mind in most of the conversations I had. And I believe they are the overall three issues that will define our attention on council…
The three most important issues facing the residents of Ward 7 are affordable housing, family-centered services and policies, and the public domain (transit, walkability, green spaces).
- Affordable housing must be at the forefront of our work. Every year more people move into the Eugene area and buy and rent homes than homes are built to accommodate them. It was estimated that 60 households would be displaced per year. Homes are being converted to vacation rentals and investment companies have bought up houses and made them unaffordable for many. Houselessness has increased and this strains our entire system. But this is not just a problem for ourunhoused population, it is a problem for all working families that are struggling to afford housing.
- Family-centered services: families with children make up a large part of our population. Yet, not enough is done to help them succeed and raise a healthy generation. Quality affordable day-care and pre-school is hard to find and expensive. Policies around parental leave and workplace protections are lacking. Mental health of our children is getting significantly worse and not enough is being done about it – with the suicide rate of adolescents doubling in the past year, we must focus on the health and wellbeing of all, but particularly our families.
- Public Spaces – we must hear the voices of the people on transit options while doing what is best for the livability for everyone in the places we live, work, and play. If options are proposed, education and transparent information must be the core tenets of how we operate.
- Lack of planning for growth
- Community input re: planning
- Getting more resources into housing and feeding our community members. Going along with this is
- Resources and mediation for houses folks who are frustrated with the cities response (or perceive lack of response).
- More human-focused transit design. Every intersection is a crosswalk in Eugene, and we need to make our city’s infrastructure reflect that. More walkable cities are better for peoples’ physical health (exercise and reducing pollution), mental health (interaction with others and being more connected to place) and community health. The fact that this recall was supposedly about the EmX shows that there is a lot of disinformation and weaponizing of class issues.
- The need for New Housing. The Apartments being built. Congestion towards current longtime residences.
- The homeless
- Public access to Mental Health
The website Ward7NeighborsUnited.org is circulating a petition asking that the City Council: mail notice of the forthcoming appointment to all Ward 7 residents; share all communications regarding the appointment in a timely manner; base the appointment solely on who would best represent Ward 7; and give preference to comments and recommendations from Ward 7 residents.
The Eugene Tenants Alliance hosted a forum in which Ward 7 renters and attendees posed questions for the candidates.
Former Ward 7 Councilor Claire Syrett awaits a possible hearing in Lane County Circuit Court to determine whether she sued recall organizers as part of a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP). As of midday Thursday, Case Number 22CV27863 remained open.