June 22, 2024

Whole Community News

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Jesse Maldonado named to budget committee after councilors clash over ‘voting privately’

5 min read
Jesse Maldonado, elected at age 18 to the city council in Lewiston, Idaho, was appointed June 12 to fill an unexpired term on Eugene's budget committee.

Jesse Maldonado was appointed to the city’s budget committee, as Councilor Matt Keating upbraided another councilor during the voting June 12. Former Ward 7 candidate Janet Ayres also criticized a city councilor in public comments.

Our story starts May 23, as applicants for Eugene’s boards and commissions met with the City Council.

[00:00:19] City of Eugene: Next we’ll hear from Jesse Maldonado.

[00:00:22] Jesse Maldonado: Good evening. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be here tonight. My name is Jesse Maldonado. I’m 29 days away from graduating with my public administration degree from U of O, but who’s counting?

[00:00:33] I’ve been a resident of Eugene since the fall of 2021. I now live in Councilman Keating’s Ward 2. I’m very glad to call Eugene my new home. Before I moved here, I grew up in Idaho, which is really where I found my passion for public service, especially for local government.

[00:00:47] With an absolutely atrocious haircut and this baby face I’m still trying to maintain today, I ran for (Lewiston) city council at the age of 18 and became the youngest councilman ever elected in Idaho.

[00:00:56] During my time on council (was) really where I discovered my love and frankly, nerdiness, for budgeting in municipal governments. I don’t think there’s a more tangible form of government than municipal government and city government.

[00:01:08] Decisions that you all make, the decisions that the Citizens Budget Committee makes have an incredible impact on the daily lives of our neighbors, and the community at whole. And frankly, that’s why I decided to apply for the Citizens Budget Committee here in Eugene.

[00:01:21] Having worked through four budget cycles as a city councilor, I understand the pulling forces that you all face when it comes time to budgeting.

[00:01:28] It’s not easy. Not everybody leaves happy. There’s tough decisions that need to be made, but ensuring that the essential services and the needs and priorities of the community are met at the same time is a juggling act that you are all familiar with. I’m intimately familiar with as well.

[00:01:43] My approach to budgeting has always been working from the bottom up, not the top down. Listening to staff, listening to the community members, understanding the needs of local businesses. Coming to work sessions and meetings with an understanding of what the community is prioritizing, not just for this budget cycle, but the future.

[00:01:59] The unpredictability of the economy that we all have become intimately aware of in the last three years has only heightened, I think, the importance of being responsible with taxpayer dollars and ensuring that the city can still operate and provide the services on which citizens rely. It couldn’t be more important not only to prepare ourselves for the opportunities and challenges of today, but also to keep our sights set on what the future holds and understand that budgeting is more than just one cycle at a time.

[00:02:25] So thankfully, we have strategic plans, talented staff, an engaged community willing to help in these conversations and decisions.

[00:02:34] So it would truly be an honor to put my work that I’ve done and my background as an elected official, my education, my passion for public service to join the Citizens Budget Committee, and I would be humbled to have your support. Thank you.

[00:02:48] City of Eugene: Thank you, Jesse.

[00:02:50] John Q: The city council voted for the appointed positions on June 12.

[00:02:56] Council President Randy Groves: Move to appoint Jesse Maldonado to the budget committee for an unexpired term, beginning July 1, 2023, and ending on June 30, 2024. (Second.)

[00:03:09] Councilor Mike Clark: I move to substitute…for Jesse Maldonado.

[00:03:14] Councilor Matt Keating: Just, a point of information, how many of the votes or the motions in front of us today, are those all the top vote getters? Councilor Groves.

[00:03:24] Council President Randy Groves: Yes.

[00:03:25] Councilor Matt Keating: Do we have a way to indicate how many votes these particular folks received—

[00:03:32] Councilor Mike Clark: Point of order? This is the only time we’re voting. We did nominations as part of our process, but those are not formal votes.

[00:03:41] Councilor Matt Keating: They’re nominations. I get that. I see the packet where it indicates the nominations. And I’ve gone through this before, Mayor, that I find it, with all due respect, Councilor Clark, when someone doesn’t participate in the nominating process—I see Councilor Groves, Councilor Semple, Councilor Yeh, Councilor Evans, myself, Councilor Zelenka, and Councilor Leech—when someone doesn’t participate in the process and then floats a motion to substitute, it flies in the face of why we do this entire process.

[00:04:21] We vote or nominate who should come and address us publicly; we go through the packet and indicate our preferred choices; and then get to the table with those who’ve earned the most amount of nomination, nominated votes are floated; we get a vote to substitute. I find that wholly inappropriate.

[00:04:51] Councilor Mike Clark: In response to my friend Councilor Keating, I would say this illustrates the reason I protested years and years ago the process that we follow for nominations and committee votes, and boards and commissions. And it’s because (unless I misunderstood, so forgive me), you seem to be infusing an idea into the informal nominating process we have, that somehow those votes carried some authority or weight.

[00:05:19] When this process was put into place, it was assured to all of us that that was strictly advisory as to where your colleagues were, and it might be a helpful process to make the process of the actual vote, at the table right now, the one that counts, easier. I contend that our process is wrong, that us voting can have the color of authority, as my colleague suggests, and that it’s being done with a radical lack of transparency.

[00:05:53] It’s voting privately where only we know, and not in public, and I think it’s a mistake. And at our next process session, I will bring this up, but I hope we’ll revisit this process and correct it so that we’re doing something that’s considerably more transparent and open and public.

[00:06:09] John Q: Ward 7 candidate Janet Ayres also had sharp words for a city councilor.

[00:06:14] Janet Ayres: As a candidate for Ward 7, I’d like to first thank (City Recorder) Katie LaSala for her professionalism. It was my first campaign run. I ran it on a grassroots budget. I didn’t have tens of thousands of dollars, nor did I want it. And I garnered about 20% of the vote on a grassroots campaign of which I can be very proud of. So thank you Katie, for your professionalism and ability to help me throughout that process.

[00:06:49] I’d also like to encourage council members not to engage during ward campaigns. You are each distinctly separate. Ward 7 was for the Ward 7 constituents, and I did not appreciate a council member lodging a very public display of her disagreement with me at my campaign. So I hope that my bringing this topic up will kind of educate council members not to taint their council seat with behaviors that, with someone that’s running a first-time campaign, that tainted their public persona.

[00:07:33] John Q: Criticism for council members and private votes, as volunteers step forward to serve on the city’s advisory boards and commissions.

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