May 22, 2024

Whole Community News

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Candidates challenge Jefferson Westside to welcome renters, young parents

9 min read
Young parents and renters challenge the Jefferson Westside board to create a more accessible neighborhood association.

Incumbent board members faced a strong slate of challengers in Jefferson Westside, as young parents and renters turned out in strength and over 200 voted in the April 11 elections. Nominated to return as neighborhood chair, Ted Coopman:

[00:00:13] Ted Coopman (JWN chair): I’ll start off by saying welcome to the April general meeting for Jefferson Westside Neighbors, our yearly election for the executive board.

[00:00:23] So, I’m going to ask for your patience and perseverance. This is new for us on a variety of levels as far as the hybrid format and as well as having contested seats. So please be patient.

[00:00:37] John Q: With seven positions to be elected, neighbors packed the meeting to nominate six candidates from the floor. Each received from 75 to 98 votes and one broke through to win. Here’s a summary of their remarks and answers to questions.

[00:00:51] Jesselyn Perkins (JWN for Everyone): Hi everyone. My name is Jesselyn Perkins. I am a JWN member. I was born and raised in Oregon, Eugene Springfield area. I would say the biggest thing that I’m excited to bring to this neighborhood is to just build on what’s already clear efforts to engage the community and get people connected with one another so that people in the neighborhood—us, together—feel empowered and facilitated to make the change happen that we want, that we can work together, just expanding on those efforts, getting us connected to one another.

[00:01:23] Like, we are the ones that can do it, that can help each other, that can build infrastructure, that can build relationships and that’s what I want to do.

[00:01:31] The first thing that I would do is find out who has felt disenfranchised. A lot of the conversations we’ve had have been around conducting surveys, finding more ways to engage, developing committees, giving people from all different arrays and sectors an opportunity to even weigh in and let us know what’s been neglected, what has felt disenfranchising. So step number one is to ask—to find out.

[00:01:57] And then step number two would be to find collaborative solutions to work together. I mean, my answer to everything is going to be to work together. It’s to find out what creative ideas we all have and how we can work together towards those solutions.

[00:02:11] Aya Cockram (JWN for Everyone): Hello everyone. My name is Aya Cockram and I was born and raised in South Eugene. I am now working from home and raising my daughter in Jefferson Westside and I am a member of the ‘JWN for Everyone’ slate.

[00:02:23] As a Eugene native, former renter, recent homeowner in JWN and a young mother, I understand this community and I’m deeply invested in keeping the neighborhood a great place to live while consistently improving it for the benefit of the whole community.

[00:02:36] Jefferson Westside is a wonderful community at the heart of this city, this association has done so much to make the neighborhood what it is, but when I look at the board, I don’t see myself: A young mother, working mother.

[00:02:47] If elected, I would strive to make meetings accessible to young families and those who have restrictive schedules. My daughter is two and I, you know, for some folks it may not feel as restrictive. I put my daughter down every night. She doesn’t go to sleep without me, and I just haven’t been able to attend the meetings because of the timing, unfortunately.

That would be something I’d be very excited to work on, on the board. I think that the timing can be really restrictive to families, especially, like, a young mom. I just haven’t been willing to keep my daughter up late and but would really love to be more involved in the community.

[00:03:20] It is part of our slate to try and be inclusive to the whole community. That’s no comment on the current Jefferson Westside board. I do feel that it has been difficult for myself personally to access the board, and I’ve heard that from some other folks’ families as well as some folks who have felt it difficult to engage. And I would be interested, as Jesselyn said, with hearing out what those issues are and finding any ways we can to navigate around them.

[00:03:46] Matie Trewe (JWN for Everyone): My name is Matie Trewe. My Jefferson Westside neighborhood experience has been more organizing my neighbors, getting to know my neighbors, helping them out, organizing block parties with the actual people who I live near. I would like to organize the people who I live slightly farther from, if you are interested in meeting other people and in moving outside your group.

[00:04:08] We are a neighborhood that’s 76% renters. Our largest demographic group is people in their 20s. I think we need to learn more about our actual neighbors, and that’s where I would focus my outreach on learning about the people in this community, what they really need, as opposed to a self-selected group that happens to be free on Tuesday nights.

[00:04:27] Anya Dobrowolski (JWN for Everyone): My name’s Anya Dobrowolski. I have lived in Eugene for 17 years. Volunteerism has been a major part of what I’ve been doing in Eugene for the last 17 years. If anybody here has borrowed tools from the Toolbox Project, I founded it. Volunteered about 20 to 40 hours a week, getting it going for about five years.

[00:04:46] I volunteer from time to time with Friends of Trees. I was on the Friendly Area Neighbors board for two years. I served on the City of Eugene’s Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee. I have volunteered at the dog park. I used to be a host for a Little Free Pantry. And I have been an organizer with Stop The Sweeps for the last three years, helping unsheltered people to recover food, tents, and other survival supplies when they get taken from them.

[00:05:12] Before I started gardening for work, I was a professional project manager, researcher for community engagement projects, mostly parks master planning and design.

[00:05:21] Jacob Trewe (JWN for Everyone): I’ll nominate myself. My name is Jacob Trewe. I grew up in rural Alaska and for a while when I was a kid, we didn’t have permanent housing. Before I was born, my dad spent some time in jail. Eventually we moved to North Eugene, and I went to North Eugene High School.

[00:05:33] Graduated from the U of O with an accounting degree. I’m the first person in my family to go to college. I’m an accountant. I’ve worked for public accounting firms, the offices of Inspector General for the United States Treasury Department, and the Federal Housing Finance Agency out in DC. I’ve been the treasurer for Hands and Voices of Oregon, a parent of deaf kids advocacy and support group.

[00:05:51] I’m the treasurer for Spring Creek PTO. UO student workers. That’ll be a 3,000-worker-strong union that started right here in the community. And the Eugene Springfield DSA (Democratic Socialists of America). I’m also involved with the Healthcare for All Oregon, Lane County chapter. They meet right here and do hybrid meetings. I’ve been helping them set that up for the last nine months or so.

[00:06:10] That’s why I got involved with JWN again. I saw a need that wasn’t being filled in the community and stepped up.

[00:06:15] When it came to hybrid access, the first meeting that I came to, I basically had to twist their arms for them to be able to agree to it, ‘cause they determined that it wasn’t a priority. When I was talking to ’em previously about how we needed better access for working families, they told me it wasn’t a priority. So I’m like, all right, I guess I have to step up.

[00:06:31] We decided to go for the route of canvassing our neighbors directly, due to the controversial nature of the current executive board. Folks on our slate have heard from many committee members who have either:

  1. Given up on engaging with the JWN board,
  2. Not felt heard by the JWN board, or
  3. Have been burnt out by the current structure.

As membership is the final authority for this neighborhood organization, we elected to go straight to you.

[00:06:53] Kelly Peterson (JWN for Everyone): Hello. My name is Kelly Peterson and we own a house near Monroe Park. As for myself, I have a background in research. I have a heavy interest in doing research and data. I currently work in healthcare.

[00:07:08] And so that work involves me doing a lot of collaborative work working across obviously different professions and so I certainly know a thing or two about finding common ground finding places where we can agree on things and where we can take action and move forward.

[00:07:22] When I first moved to this neighborhood—this is the first house I’ve ever owned—and I knew that I would be involved in this neighborhood. And like others have echoed on the slate, it is a challenge for me. I do have a young child. I do work all day. So yeah, Tuesday nights are tough. It’s a tough push. So I would say that yes, in the past that’s been a reason that I have not been around.

[00:07:42] I see Jefferson Westside Neighborhood opening its arms, maybe embracing some other perspectives because we have these problems that digging our heels into the dirt just isn’t going to solve them. So that’s what I see. I see a more open, inclusive neighborhood, maybe getting out of our comfort zones a little bit, maybe opening our ears a little bit to see like, okay, maybe this other person might have an idea that I haven’t really thought of. And giving some things a shot so we can address some of our bigger challenges.

[00:08:12] Ted Coopman (JWN chair): So let’s go ahead and get into At Large Position 5. The JWN Nominating Committee has nominated Penny Melquist for this position.

[00:08:23] Penny Melquist (Nominated by JWN committee): So I’m Penny Melquist. I’ve lived in JWN for about 20 years. I grew up here, went to the University of Oregon. I’ve been a scientist for most of my life.

[00:08:32] I suffer a lot of the same challenges that you guys have all mentioned. It’s important to have representation from everybody, right? So I want to change some things—and I’ve talked to Ted about this—it’s streamlining, making things more accessible, making it efficient, using social media channels, having it be hybrid. Jacob, I appreciate all the work that you do because a lot of the meetings are hybrid for me.

[00:08:54] There are obviously issues with a lot of problems with the board that we need to talk about it. And we need to have an actionable plan of what we’re going to do about it. Because a lot of people, a lot of people just talk, but we need to have action and actually make things better and not just have a conversation.

[00:09:12] John Q: Penny Melquist took questions from the audience.

[00:09:15] JWN meeting attendee: What’s the plan for getting Paul Conte, who does not live in Eugene anymore, out of so heavily influencing the board?

[00:09:23] Penny Melquist (Nominated by JWN committee): I need to get educated on that. I do know that’s a sensitive issue, but I want to be honest with you that I need more information. As a scientist, I approach things very factually and I try to have less emotion. I do a lot of mediating in my job. I always have.

[00:09:38] Let’s have a conversation about it. What are the problems? And let’s look at what we can do about it. If he’s not in the neighborhood, then there should be minimal influence.

[00:09:47] John Q: The Zoom chat feature was used for online voting and supported a lively running commentary.

[00:09:52] JWN meeting attendee: Go to Sun River! Go back to Sun River, Paul!

[00:09:55] Ted Coopman (JWN chair): For the record, Paul Conte owns property in Jefferson Westside and resides here part-time.

[00:10:02] John Q: Some attendees expressed disappointment at falling just short in the elections.

[00:10:06] JWN meeting attendee: Well, the olds prevail.

[00:10:09] Ted Coopman  (JWN chair): That’s ageist and incredibly rude…

[00:10:15] We have the result for At Large Position 2 which is Anya Deb—(I’m) definitely going to have to work on that, Anya. Debroowsky, Debraski, uh, Dobro-wolski, Dobro-volski, -volski! Dobrowolski. Anya is elected to At-Large Position 2.

[00:10:38] John Q: Later in the meeting, Anya withdrew.

[00:10:40] Anya Dobrowolski (JWN for Everyone): I withdraw my—I withdraw.

[00:10:42] Ted Coopman (JWN chair): Okay. Don’t know how to quite deal with that…

[00:10:45] Anya Dobrowolski (JWN for Everyone): I’m actually withdrawing. If I’m being really honest, I’ve had incredibly negative interactions with Ted (Coopman) over the years. Some have been really helpful, but there have been some that have been really, really negative. And with Paul (Conte), he’s doxxed me on Nextdoor and I honestly cannot imagine spending hours of every month interacting with these folks. Like, there are so many other places to organize in our community!

[00:11:08] John Q: Residents challenge the Jefferson Westside board to create a more accessible neighborhood organization.

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