Eugene City Councilor Matt Keating was accused late last year of racist, repugnant behavior. Before council leaves for summer break, we asked: Did Councilor Keating ever apologize? On July 11:
[00:00:15] Councilor Greg Evans (July 11, 2023): We met and we talked and, I said, you know, ‘You realize what you did was just out of bounds and wrong.’ And so he admitted it and, you know, he apologized to me.
[00:00:38] Councilor Greg Evans (Dec. 14, 2022): And Mayor, I’d like to speak to this. (Please.) And I beg your indulgence because I may run over my three minutes to do this, but very slightly. I want to point out a couple of things. I think that Lyndsie (Leech) did a very good job in her interview. I was impressed with her. I am not impressed with the backroom dealings and the backroom politics that, I don’t know about the rest of you, that I’ve been personally subjected to in this process.
[00:01:13] So I want people to know, and everybody in Eugene to know, that I am not controlled by influence and votes or influence from people out of Portland. I will not be controlled by that. I will not be intimidated by people who call me up the night before this vote with veiled threats. I’m going to vote in the best interest, what I think right now, is of this community and this council.
[00:01:44] Whereas I do have some reservations about Lyndsie’s candidacy, I think for the six-month period of this interim between now and the election in May, and then taking office on July 1, that she would be a more-than-competent candidate to hold the position. But I am not going to be influenced by racial politics played by certain people at this table, okay?
[00:02:22] 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, and I am going to make my vote based upon what I think is right for this city at this time. But I will tell you this, I won’t put up with those shenanigans anymore.
[00:02:53] 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.
[00:03:28] So, just so you know, I’m putting you on notice.
[00:03:34] John Q: Later, he would identify Ward 2’s Matt Keating as the offensive councilor and share what happened during appointment of Lyndsie Leech as interim councilor for Ward 7. In January:
[00:03:46] Councilor Greg Evans (Jan. 15, 2023): Councilor Keating had a preferred candidate. Dan Isaacson was his preferred candidate. And then you know, I got a phone call. This was a few days before the Monday meeting and the phone call was from an old colleague, an old friend of mine, Dr. Rosa Colquitt from Portland. Dr. Colquitt has worked for Oregon Health Sciences. She has a PhD. Been an activist in a Democratic party both locally in Portland and statewide across the state of Oregon. And she had been and continues to be a candidate to be chair of the Oregon Democratic Party.
[00:04:29] She called me and told me that Councilor Keating had called her and asked her to call me to influence my vote for Dan Isaacson. She told me (A) she didn’t feel comfortable with that, but (B) she was calling me to let me know the tone and tenor of that conversation. 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.
[00:05:12] But you go outside of the community, you contact an old friend of mine who also happens to be Black and wanting her to use her leverage with me, or her influence with me, as two Black people, to influence my vote. She found that to be totally inappropriate.
[00:05:42] And as we had continued to talk, we said, ‘Well, this is a pretty racist move.’ You know, ‘This is not, this is not okay.’ I mean, even if he had 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. First of all, people who live in Portland shouldn’t have any interest in what’s going on at the Eugene City Council.
[00:06:14] Secondly, because you reached out to an old African American friend of mine that you wanted her to try to twist my arm to vote for your candidate? You know, I’m not going to do that. Not, no, no, no. That doesn’t work with me.
[00:06:35] In addition to that, Rosa went on to tell me about other things that Councilor Keating had been up to in the Democratic Party, including blocking her or thwarting her attempt to become elected chairman of the party this year in 2023. And then she went on to tell me about some of the shenanigans that Councilor Keating was up to and felt it was highly inappropriate for him to wrangle votes in Lane County against her candidacy.
[00:07:13] Okay. So you claim to be a progressive but you can’t support an African American woman who you invited to be your keynote speaker at the Lane County Democratic Party Dinner? (He didn’t even pay her gas money, okay, to come down here. All right? Period. She just volunteered, paid out of her own pocket, came down and did that.) And you can’t support her for chair of the party? All right, well, there you go.
[00:07:46] John Q: Dr. Rosa Colquitt spoke with us in January but asked that we wait before publishing. After speaking with Councilor Evans this week, we checked in with her and she was willing to go on the record. Speaking about Matt Keating earlier this year:
[00:08:01] Dr. Rosa Colquitt (Jan. 15, 2023): He’s really gutsy to call me and ask me to lobby for a candidate on his behalf when we had talked about my candidacy for state party chair, and he outright told me that he would not vote for me. He might vote for me sometime way into the future, but he wouldn’t vote for me in this campaign. And I was thinking, this is really ironic, to ask for my help and at the same time to dismiss my candidacy was just the height, to me, the height of arrogance and white privilege.
[00:08:40] I don’t know what’s going on with him. But that generally is how he operates, to wield power that I don’t think that he actually has within the party. But he’s willing to step on people to get wherever he wants to get, I can tell you that much, because I’ve observed it. I think it’s a fair assessment. I’ve observed him over four years. And he can be very demeaning and he can also be very dismissive of other people. Certainly, at least it seems to me, he can be very dismissive of women and people of color.
[00:09:16] John Q: She said he’s overstayed his welcome as a national delegate.
[00:09:21] Dr. Rosa Colquitt (Jan. 15, 2023): Matt is completing, at the end of ’25, he will have completed his second term as a DNC delegate. And one of the things that he doesn’t appreciate about me is I think that people should have the professionalism and be of an equitable mind, show the equity that we say we have as a value in the Democratic Party, not to hoard power and to get into a position and to simply stay there.
[00:09:53] Because it is difficult to overcome incumbency. But Matt wants to run for a third term as a DNC delegate, which would give him a sum total of 12 years in that position. But the longer he stays in it, the more difficult it becomes to get him out of it.
[00:10:11] And a lot of people, simply, they won’t run against an incumbent because they figure they don’t have a chance. And so there’s a level of intimidation for some people when you’re trying to take on an incumbent, and that is a fact that Matt is well, well aware of.
[00:10:29] He feels he’s welcome as long as people continue to vote for him. And we’ve got these people that won’t vacate these positions. The DNC rep does not come with a salary, but it comes with a lot of compensation in the fact that in a 12-month term, there are four quarterly meetings, which means you get four paid trips out of the state, and in a two-year term, you get eight (trips).
[00:10:59] And when a person stays in a position for four years, that is a lot of free travel, often to very exotic places to comport with the high-level folks. I don’t know how many pictures I’ve seen of Matt with President Biden and President Obama and Vice President Harris. I mean, he really, he plays it to the hilt, and I think others should have the opportunities to do that.
[00:11:26] One of the things I want to do as a chair is to do some auditing because I think that there’s a phenomenal amount of money that’s being spent on this travel to these meetings four times a year. And it’s just unfair for a person to hold that eight years and then 12 years and not to grow a leadership bench in the state, and for others to be so intimidated that they don’t see those opportunities. It is really difficult to overcome incumbency.
[00:11:56] John Q: Can Councilor Matt Keating get back on track?
[00:12:00] Dr. Rosa Colquitt (Jan. 15, 2023): I don’t know, it depends on, it might take quite a bit of a personality change, or that someone brings him down to earth with respect to the privilege that he really doesn’t have, and I think that would be a hard sell for Matt Keating to recognize that, you know, he’s on par with the rest of humankind. I don’t mean to be too hyperbolic, but he is—he displays a lot of arrogance and he can be very dismissive of people without even thinking about it…
[00:12:37] He’s as arrogant as they come. Not just the words he uses, but his physical demeanor and his words, his speech, his tone, it’s really, really difficult to watch the behavior.
[00:12:50] What I continually hear is that he would like to have access to a congressional seat.
[00:12:56] He’s managed to achieve a lot for someone without even an associate degree. But his behavior and his attitude certainly does not endear him to me. And I don’t know how other people see that when you’re having a conversation with a person and you’re totally dismissive of that person. It’s like, I was shaking my head when I hung up the phone.
[00:13:20] John Q: This week, reporting that Matt Keating apologized, Councilor Evans said he’s happy to move on.
[00:13:25] Councilor Greg Evans (July 11, 2023): He apologized to me. I said, you know, ‘We just need to move on from here, as we got other issues to work on.’ And we’ve got bigger issues to work on, and as you probably saw from last night’s council meeting, we had to reverse course on the electrification ordinance and shut that down. And now it looks like we’re going to be looking at going back to what I think we should have been talking about all along, and that is decarbonization strategies, and we need to look at all of it. And we need to be able to align—just like what Councilor (Alan) Zelenka has been saying all along is—we need to align our efforts with the state and the federal government.
[00:14:15] John Q: Even though cities demonstrated a need for direct aid, the governor decided to send all homelessness funding through the counties.
[00:14:24] Councilor Greg Evans (July 11, 2023): Look, I was president of the League of Oregon Cities four years ago. I’ve been fighting this battle for years, you know, and the governor made promises that she couldn’t keep during her campaign.
[00:14:37] So I’ll give you one example, and stuff isn’t final yet, but she made promises to invest in CTE education, and more money was going to come to the community colleges, because industry needed to turn out trained workers quicker, faster, and more of them because we’re losing expertise all over the place.
[00:15:01] We’ve got mechanics and other technicians that are retiring and we don’t have another cadre of young people coming up to fill those positions. So, that was one of her promises to do that. And, because she and the Democratic leadership couldn’t manage the legislature, all of this stuff got pushed back or got gutted when the Republicans walked out.
[00:15:29] The mayor was nice about, you know, not really rubbing the governor’s nose in it. But the truth of the matter is that the legislature and the governor have not done us a whole lot of major favors in terms of the cities across the state that are taking the brunt of homelessness and housing unaffordability. And we don’t have any way out of it. We’re not going to get subsidies for housing from the government. It doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.
[00:16:06] The whole Clear Lake project for us here locally, we’re not getting the money at this point to finance or fund the development of the infrastructure out there and, even if we do get it, it’s going to take between 10 and 20 years to be able to make those investments, and we have to pour more money into it and we’re going to need to be able to partner with private investors as well as the state and other entities in order to create the infrastructure that is necessary.
[00:16:41] We were talking about making small, symbolic gestures like electrification in this community that in new buildings is not going to move the needle. We need big stuff to move the needle and the only way that we’re going to move that is being able to bring people together, not pitting people against each other over natural gas and all this other stuff, because that’s not getting us anywhere.
[00:17:12] John Q: Councilor Greg Evans and Dr. Rosa Colquitt, speaking frankly about white privilege and racist behavior on the Eugene City Council.
[00:17:20] Although he has declined multiple invitations over the last seven months, including this week, we invite Councilor Keating to join the discussion of racism in Eugene.
Dr. Rosa Colquitt feared retaliation from Matt Keating and asked that her Jan. 15, 2023 interview be embargoed for 60 days. Matt Keating was subsequently employed by the legislature, so following the Society of Professional Journalists’ guidance to “Minimize harm,” we continued the embargo through the close of the legislative session.