January 26, 2023

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Eugene City Council picks up right where it left off: Divided and angry

4 min read
The Eugene City Council picks up right where it left off in 2022, with a bitterly divided council and allegations of racist and repugnant behavior by a councilor.

The Eugene City Council parted for the holidays last year with these words:

[00:00:06] Council President Greg Evans: Don’t call my friends in Portland because they’re Black and you think that they have influence over me. I reject, resent that repugnant behavior on the part of a certain councilor… I won’t put up with those shenanigans anymore, and I will not, and I repeat, I will not take this lightly and the next time this comes up, I have no problem in naming names and calling people out behind this. It’s racist, it’s repugnant, and it’s against everything in my 62 years on this planet that I have worked for, I have stood for in terms of civil rights, civil liberties, and diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.

[00:01:01] Mayor Lucy Vinis: I am disturbed that there is such a feeling of anger and frustration among council over this and I’m glad that we have a vacation for everyone to calm down and relax and have a little time.

[00:01:16] John Q: The time away did not resolve the conflict. In their first business of the new year:

[00:01:22] Mayor Lucy Vinis: We are ready for our first item of business as the beginning of the new year, a new season for council leadership. And so this is our moment to elect city council officers for 2023, and I turn to the Council President Greg Evans to make a motion.

[00:01:38] Councilor Greg Evans: Move to elect Randy Groves as president of the city council for 2023.

[00:01:44] Mayor Lucy Vinis: Emily—Councilor Semple, sorry.

[00:01:47] Councilor Emily Semple: I want to speak to this. It’s very irregular. We have a regular order after every break. We rearrange where we sit, and it follows a regular order for who’s president and vice-president. When I was elected president, people congratulated me and I had to explain it was a formality and the order was already set.

[00:02:14] The next president normally would be Councilor Keating. And I guess because of some non-council business that I do not know any details of—it’s not open or transparent because I don’t think it’s our business. Maybe it is. So I feel that this substitution of the normal order is an attempted public humiliation and condemnation due to personal anger and hurt.

[00:02:44] We also already have a divided council and if we’re going to come and work together, I think this is the wrong approach. With no disrespect to Councilor Groves, I move to substitute Councilor Keating for council president.

[00:03:02] Councilor Jennifer Yeh: Second.

[00:03:03] Mayor Lucy Vinis: Okay. (Mayor?) Yes.

[00:03:06] Councilor Matt Keating: I would like to formally withdraw my nomination. (Okay.) And I thank Councilor Semple for her words, and want to make clear to this council that 2023 is a very busy year for me. I work in Salem. I spent eight hours today on swearing-in day, working alongside Sen. James Manning, plus a 2.5-hour commute, the last half hour of which was participating in our work session telephonically. I welcome the nomination of Councilor Groves and proudly second it.

[00:03:51] And I ask council to unanimously support it, not because it’s irregular, but because I think there’s an opportunity for this council to have a strong leadership team in Councilor Groves, and hopefully if council agrees, myself continuing, continuing to serve as your council vice president. I have the time and energy to do that and also be a helpful, guiding hand in whatever Councilor Groves and the mayor need in a leadership capacity.

[00:04:21] Just balancing my professional life and personal life, Mayor, if I may: Becca and I are getting married in seven months. Seven short months. So 2023 is a big year for me, and I strongly support the nomination of my friend and colleague, Councilor Groves, and I look forward to continuing to serve as this body’s vice-president.

[00:04:50] John Q: Randy Groves for president and Matt Keating for vice-president.

[00:04:55] Mayor Lucy Vinis: Okay. All in favor? Please raise your hands. 5, 6, 7, 8. Thank you very much. Okay. Thank you. Congratulations. Congratulations. Thank you. And thank you for your service Councilor Evans. Councilor Evans stepped in—into the breach for several months, and we appreciate that very much.

[00:05:18] Council President Randy Groves: I too want to lend my voice to thanking Councilor Evans for stepping up at a critical time, when we lost our president. And I think he’s done a great job. I certainly enjoy serving with him on IGR (Intergovernmental Relations Committee) and have always valued the service he provides, watching him for many years from the staff side. So I just wanted to say that and wish everybody a Happy New Year and look forward to a robust 2023.

[00:05:47] John Q: The council picks up where it left off in 2022. Councilor Semple is first to ask whether they should take up the allegations: Racist and repugnant behavior from the unnamed councilor.

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