June 22, 2024

Whole Community News

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Greg Evans: Matt Keating is not up to the task

12 min read
As one neighborhood calls for a full accounting, Eugene City Councilor Greg Evans identifies the councilor he called out at the Dec. 14 council meeting for ‘racist and repugnant’ behavior.

Greg Evans on Sunday named City Councilor Matt Keating as the source of veiled threats and ‘racist and repugnant’ behavior.

[00:00:07] After a Eugene neighborhood organization asked for a full accounting of what happened behind the scenes, Councilor Evans shared his experience in a Zoom call over the MLK holiday weekend.

[00:00:19] Councilor Greg Evans: Yeah, I talked to a few people that I know over there, in the Southeast Neighbors, and I told ’em exactly what happened and, you know, they’re like, ‘Well, would you come to a meeting?’ And I say, ‘Yeah, I’m more than happy to come to a meeting. I’m not shy about sharing the situation at all.’ I think it’s important that people know what their elected officials are willing to do, to achieve their own aims.

[00:00:44] So, we were charged by city charter with appointing a replacement for Councilor Claire Syrett in Ward 7, who had been recalled in September. As we got closer to the deadline—which is a 90-day deadline according to the charter, we were pushing up against it in the middle of December—I believe it was Dec. 14 was the technical deadline for that.

[00:01:11] And we had had something like a dozen applicants. We interviewed five or six applicants for the position after we had sorted through the other applicants. And we got down to basically a split between council on who we wanted to appoint.

[00:01:30] It was myself, Councilor (Randy) Groves, and Councilor (Mike) Clark on one side of the divide.

[00:01:36] And then Councilor (Alan) Zelenka, Councilor (Matt) Keating and Councilor (Jennifer) Yeh on the other side of the divide. And then Councilor (Emily) Semple decided to inject another candidate in the discussion who had not made the cut for the interviews. And so she wanted to bring that applicant back up, which is perfectly her right to do.

[00:02:02] So we went through on Monday, I think it was the 12th, we went through several rounds of votes. And we were deadlocked. We couldn’t get to four (votes). We had seven councilors left; we needed four votes to move any applicant forward, and we couldn’t get to four votes. So prior to that, one councilor—Councilor Keating—had a preferred candidate.

[00:02:26] Dan Isaacson was his preferred candidate. And I was not impressed with Mr. Isaacson, his application, nor some of the things that based on my research that I had discovered that did not enamor me to his candidacy. And so I basically said, ‘Okay, I’m moving in this particular direction.’ Other councilors moved in a different direction.

[00:02:52] And then I got a phone call from an old colleague, an old friend of mine that Councilor Keating had called and asked to call me to influence my vote for Dan Isaacson, but was calling me to let me know the tone and tenor of that conversation.

[00:03:13] At that point, I got increasingly angry because as I had been called by various people—people in Ward 7, people across the city of Eugene—about this appointment, in my role at that point as council president. I’m fine with that, I’m fine with whoever you lobby. But you go outside of the community, you contact an old friend of mine who also happens to be Black and wanting to use influence with me as to Black people to influence my vote: Totally inappropriate. And as we had continued to talk, we said, ‘Well, you know, this is a pretty racist move. You know, this is not okay.’

[00:04:03] I mean, even if they’d called a white person and they’d said it, trying to influence me from outside of this community is not something that I was going to bow to, or bend to, in no way, shape or form.

[00:04:16] First of all, people who live in Portland shouldn’t have any interest in what’s going on at the Eugene City Council.

[00:04:23] Secondly, because you reached out to an old African-American friend of mine that you wanted to try to twist my arm to vote for your candidate, I’m not going to do that. Not—no, no, no. That doesn’t work with me.

[00:04:41] You know, I said, ‘I’m just not going to play this game.’ And the more and more I thought about it, the more and more I said, ‘Okay. I’ve been called by all kinds of people.’ Paul Conte, you know, various people that are involved in Eugene politics, whether they live here or not. Some of ’em don’t really live here, but that’s another story.

[00:05:01] I just kind of said, ‘Okay, I hear you, hear what you’re saying. But I will make up my mind in terms of who I will support and how we will move forward with this process.’

[00:05:12] By the time we got to the table on Monday, I was steaming. By Wednesday I was even more hot. And that’s when I said. You know what? I’m just going to pull covers off of this, and I’m just going to put it on the table and tell people, you know, look, I’m not going to necessarily name names, but I’m going to tell folks what happened and what went on in this process.

[00:05:35] John Q: Without naming him at the Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022 meeting, Councilor Evans put Matt Keating on notice.

[00:05:41] Councilor Greg Evans: I reject, resent that repugnant behavior on the part of a certain councilor, and I will not, and I repeat, I will not, you know, take this lightly…It’s racist, it’s repugnant.

[00:06:02] John Q: Over a month later, Councilor Keating has still not discussed the matter.

[00:06:08] Councilor Greg Evans: I also have been called by other ‘progressives,’ whose names I will not reveal at this point, but who had threatened to recall me if I wasn’t going to support Councilor Keating’s candidate. And I said, ‘Well, fine. You want to recall me? Go ahead and try.’ But I’ll put my track record up against his any day of the week.

[00:06:37] And if you know me or you know my history in this community, I’ve been involved in political and civic and other affairs in Eugene for the better part of 35 years, okay? Going all the way back to the late ’80s. I was involved in the revival of NAACP here. I served as state president of the NAACP in the early ’90s.

[00:07:01] I have served on the Planning Commission. I served on the Sister City Commission. I served on the Fair Board. I was chair of the Fair Board twice.

[00:07:11] I served on the Lane Transit (District) board of directors, was appointed by Governor Kulongoski two times. And I was served as vice-president, president of that body. I was also involved in APTA, which is the American Public Transportation Association. In 2012, I was awarded a Transit Board Member of the Year – North America.

[00:07:34] Okay? I did my job. I, I chaired the West Eugene EmX project, all the way up until the time that I got appointed to council in 2013. I’ve been on city council for 10 years. I’ve been vice-president of council, president of council, and then just lately for the second time was president of council, as a result of the recall of Claire Syrett. So I paid my dues.

[00:08:03] I’ve done the work. I have multiple awards. I have awards I can’t even put on my wall, I’ve got so many of them. I served as vice-chair and chair of the National League of Cities, TIS Committee (Transportation Infrastructure Services Committee). I served as a transportation chair for the League of Oregon Cities, and then I moved up the League of Oregon Cities ladder from treasurer to vice-president to president in 2019. I was the first African-American president of that body in its 94-year history.

[00:08:38] And then I went on to move forward with—and successfully completed—a DEI effort , Diversity, Equity and Inclusion effort) at the League of Oregon Cities that is still in place to this day. There is a People of Color Caucus, there is a Women’s Caucus, and now evolving and emerging is an LGBTQ Caucus. I have my hands in all of that. So I think my track record is pretty solid.

[00:09:11] John Q: He said he has never before experienced this type of over-political aggression from any colleague, at any level of service.

[00:09:20] Councilor Greg Evans: You know, there’s always been dust-ups between councilors over issues. That happens. That’s part of the deal. But never have I seen the partisan wrangling that Councilor Keating has brought to the table. We are not Democrats or Republicans when we walk into that room. We are servants for the people in the city of Eugene.

[00:09:42] I don’t put my Democrat hat on. I’ve been all over the board over the years. I was a Democrat, I was a Republican. I was an Independent, now I’m currently identified as a Democrat and have been for the last 15 years.

[00:09:56] One of the reasons why I went to the Republican Party was ‘cause the way I was treated in the Democratic Party here in Eugene. But then I couldn’t deal with the Republican philosophy, so I moved back to the Democratic Party.

[00:10:07] So I’ve dealt with people all across the board. And one of the reasons why I’ve been successful in my career in these various venues is because I have not played partisan political games. I work with Republicans and Independents just like I work with Democrats.

[00:10:25] And the Republicans that I’ve worked with are the ones who promoted me and helped me become president of League of Oregon Cities. That includes the mayor of Hillsboro, Steve Callaway, who is now the current president of the League of Oregon Cities. I put him there. He helped put me there. Same thing with former Mayor George Endicott of Redmond. I helped him out and helped his wife out. I’ve helped a lot of them out, as well as other Democrats.

[00:10:58] That’s, I think, the way that you govern. That’s how I was raised by the people who taught me how this works. You know, my godfather was Carl Stokes, who was mayor of Cleveland, the first African-American mayor of a major American city.

[00:11:14] And Carl Stokes cut the deal to create the 21st Congressional District in Ohio, which his brother Lou Stokes served in for over two decades. He cut it with Jim Rhodes, a Republican governor, the guy who sent the National Guard in to Kent State. Yeah, that Jim Rhodes. Oh, and by the way, Jim Rhodes was reelected after Kent State too, so that’s a whole ‘nother story.

[00:11:43] John Q: Carl later became the first Black anchorman in New York City. Lou won the landmark Supreme Court case, Terry v Ohio, where he represented the state of Ohio. Lou Stokes’s brother Carl’s godson:

[00:11:57] Councilor Greg Evans: So back to the situation at hand. I just basically took my three minutes and I outed him. You know, I put it on the table. I said, ‘Look, what this councilor did was repugnant, it stunk. It’s racist that you go to my Black friends to influence a Black city councilor for his vote and trying to gain and curry influence outside of the city of Eugene and Lane County for this particular office and position.’

[00:12:30] I think that Councilor Keating sees himself as a kingmaker or a queenmaker, however you want to look at that situation. And at the end of the day as we continued to be deadlocked in our vote up until almost the end, that’s when I said, ‘Okay, let’s do this.’ I’m going to go back to my notes and I’m going to look at who I thought gave the best presentation out of all of the candidates, regardless of political stripes or, which way they leaned on one issue or another issue, or whatever the case may be.

[00:13:11] And at that point I said, ‘Lyndsie Leech should be our candidate.’ And I got Councilor Groves to go along with me. It ended up being a 5-2 vote, and Lyndsie Leech was appointed city councilor. I think it was the right choice and the right move.

[00:13:28] And I lived in Ward 7, okay? I lived in Ward 7 for six years, back in the late ’80s and early ’90s, so I know that area. I know it well. My ex-wife was on the Whiteaker Community Council Board of Directors, my kids grew up over there, I coached soccer, basketball, football, baseball over there.

[00:13:51] And then when my kids were going to South Eugene schools, Eastside (Elementary), Roosevelt (Middle School) and then South Eugene (High School), I coached. I coached all the sports almost year-round over there. When they were in third and fifth grade, and then sixth and eighth grade, I coached ’em all the way up through there.

[00:14:10] I have more of a relationship with South Eugene than Councilor Keating does. I didn’t carpetbag into that ward. He lived in Ward 8 before he ran. He moved to Ward 2 because he knew that he couldn’t beat Randy Groves for that seat in Ward 8, after Chris Pryor announced that he would retire. And then he moved into Ward 2 because Betty Taylor decided she was going to retire, and (Matt Keating) positioned himself to win that seat.

[00:14:43] And then of course our continuing situation, which was that I did not feel, and still do not feel that Councilor Keating is up to the task of being the leader of city council at this time, until he learns his lesson. And I told the mayor that. I told her I was not going to put his name forward in nomination and I did not. And the rest of my council colleagues basically agreed with me and voted 8-0, including Councilor Keating himself, to elect Councilor Groves to be our city council president this year.

[00:15:25] Did we pass him over? Yes, we did. He was the city council vice-president. He is still the city council vice-president. And if he could figure it out, not to bring his partisan political gamesmanship to the table, he might be council president next year. But I couldn’t support him in leadership.

[00:15:48] And if you go back and you look at his history on the LCC (Lane Community College) Board of Directors, he was never voted as president of that body either in eight years.

[00:16:01] See , this is something that is habitual for him. His gross ambition to move to the next office and the next level and to be seen as some kind of progressive superhero, is more than off-putting.

[00:16:22] John Q: We asked if Councilor Keating reached out at all over the break, to try and restore a working relationship.

[00:16:30] Councilor Greg Evans: It didn’t happen. I didn’t receive a call from Councilor Keating during that time. But he did approach me about 10 minutes before the State of the City address. And I told him, ‘Not here, and not now. This isn’t the place, nor the time.’ You know?

[00:16:48] But I am going to talk to him, probably sometime this week or next week and sit down with him and have coffee. And then I’m just going to lay it out to him again: This is not the way that you behave at the council table.

[00:17:03] If you go back and you look at some council meetings that we’ve had, Councilor Keating’s grandstanding behavior, it’s just totally out-of-place in a body like the Eugene City Council. Not like it’s not going to happen—some people do take the opportunity to grandstand and show off for cameras and the public.

[00:17:26] But you know, I learned a long time ago, that’s not the way you get things done. You might look good on TV or in the newspaper, but at the end of the day:  Not really.

[00:17:41] John Q: We asked how Councilor Keating might salvage his political career.

[00:17:46] Councilor Greg Evans: Well, you know, from my perspective, I think you start out with an apology.

[00:17:53] John Q: Councilor Greg Evans identifies Matt Keating as the councilor he called out for ‘racist and repugnant’ behavior at the Dec. 14 council meeting.

[00:18:02] Greg is offering to meet with Southeast Neighbors and answer any questions they may have about the person representing them in Ward 2.

[00:18:09] We’ve asked Councilor Keating about Councilor Evans’s remarks since mid-December.

[00:18:18] Councilor Keating has remained silent, even during the January Southeast Neighbors meeting as the board voted to request a full accounting.

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