June 20, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

Public comments: heartfelt thanks, Little Flubbers, water, waterways, and the future

9 min read
Stefan Strek: "I really hope that more people can take the opportunity and the little bit of courage that it takes to have responsibility for another living thing and go to one of our fantastic shelters and adopt an animal—a cat, a dog, something alternative—and really just make the most of the holiday season."

At the city council Nov. 13, public comments express heartfelt thanks, mark the passing of a cool cat named Little Flubbers, and share thoughts about water, waterways, and the environment.

City of Eugene: Our next speaker is Gerry Meenaghan.

Gerry Meenaghan: My name is Gerry Meenaghan. I’m here this evening to share a timely story with elements of both Halloween and Thanksgiving.

[00:00:19] Just over one year ago in late October 2022, the well-maintained property across from my home was sold. Within two months, that property transformed to a blight of illegal camping, drug use and trafficking, on-street vehicle maintenance, illegal human waste disposal, backyard barrel burning, 24-hour noise and light pollution, and numerous other code violations.

[00:00:40] Neighbors were scared to walk the sidewalks of their street and understandably concerned about the long-term livability of the neighborhood. Drivers passing through the neighborhood would stop their vehicles in the middle of the street and gawk at the horrendous transformation this property went through in just a couple of short months.

[00:00:55] Drug seekers and traffickers were common visitors to the house and property. Our street simply was not safe. During this period, my neighbors and I lost a lot of sleep, were constantly preoccupied, and felt unsafe in our own homes. Luckily, we banded together in an attempt to seek help. From January to April 2023, my neighbors and I made over 70 separate complaints, code violations, parking violations, and suspected criminal activity to authorities.

[00:01:19] And earning my profound gratitude, the city of Eugene responded. The city’s code compliance office patiently and methodically addressed each of the many code violations, ultimately fining the owner and tenant significant sums.

[00:01:32] To address the numerous illegal parking issues, the parking services team dispatched parking officers from the downtown core to my neighborhood. Our neighborhood association and City Councilor Keating also lent a hand to address this issue, allowing me to meet with city public safety staff and advocating to the chief of police. And finally the Street Crimes Unit of the Eugene Police Department provided regular communication with neighbors, support, encouragement, and vigilance over the neighborhood.

[00:01:55] In conclusion, I would like to publicly and wholeheartedly thank the following City of Eugene employees: James Stock and Ken Green of the City Code Compliance Department, Wendy Hood and her team at Parking Services, Joe Kidd, and especially Officer Jeremy Green of the EPD Street Crimes Unit.

[00:02:10] After a long-suffering eviction process over the summer and remodeling of the trashed property and home in question, the property sold last week. The property is back to its charming pre-October, 2022 state, and the home is now owner-occupied. Thank you for listening, and I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving holiday.

[00:02:25] City of Eugene: Our next speaker is Stefan Strek.

[00:02:27] Stefan Strek: I just like to speak some kind words in memory of one of my cats that passed away a couple months ago. He was a really cool cat. It’s been a big eight years since I met Little Flubbers.

[00:02:42] I still remember, it was just like yesterday. I moved into my house in South University and while we were waiting for the carpets to dry, these two little cats were hanging out on the porch that had been left behind by the track team that had been living there before me, and my roommate was really excited, super excited, and I told her, ‘Just don’t pet those cats.’

[00:03:03] She was like, ‘Oh, I just met the friendliest cat ever.’ And I said, ‘Don’t do it. It’s a trap. Do not pet that cat. You pet that cat, he will never leave.’ And he didn’t. Days and weeks went by and the little guy was as inconspicuous as an FBI surveillance van on the corner. I’d just peek out the window: Is he still there? Yep, cat’s still there.

[00:03:26] So then about this time of year, started getting cold and raining, little cat would sit out there, soaking wet in the rain, meowing on the front porch, and I folded. I said, ‘All right, he can come in the living room. It’s as far as he goes.’

[00:03:40] And one thing led to another. Eventually I woke up and the cat snuck his way under the covers and just popped his little head out…

[00:03:48] It was a really excellent run, and they absolutely changed my life for the better in so many ways that I could not imagine through the years. Always held the fort down when I went on vacation. And really cheered up a lot of people in the neighborhood. There were so many times I’d look out the window and see another person, some girl just stretched out on the sidewalk, just petting the cat for an hour at a time…

[00:04:12] I really hope that more people can take the opportunity and the little bit of courage that it takes to have responsibility for another living thing and go to one of our fantastic shelters and adopt an animal—a cat, a dog, something alternative—and really just make the most of the holiday season. And really take it close to heart that you can want the world to be a better place and don’t let that stop you from making the world as great as it can be.

[00:04:46] We all do our best and thank you so much. Rest in peace, Little Flubbers. Amazing little dude. And I’ll always remember him. Little Flubbers. He was a really, really cool cat. Thank you so much.

[00:04:58] City of Eugene: Our next speaker is Charlie Rojas.

[00:05:01] Charlie Rojas: Charlie Rojas, Ward 7. Last month, EWEB engaged in a PR blitz regarding increasing water rates, prompted by a need for infrastructure investment.

[00:05:09] This comes in the wake of Oregon Court of Appeals reversing or remanding Eugene’s middle housing amendment, in which the court stated neither you nor Eugene’s staff properly planned for increased need for infrastructure.

[00:05:19] Are you going to address this issue? Have you consulted with EWEB regarding any plans for possible massive increase in water bills?

[00:05:26] Why do I say massive? Because of what is occurring in California, specifically Orange County, where several cities went along with the state’s dense housing mandates also without proper budgeting for increased need for sewer pipes, nor waste treatment.

[00:05:38] Many residents are seeing their water bills explode at a time of increasing poverty and decreasing property values. I’m citing from an independent investigative journal, The Voice of OC, edited by Norberto Santana, Jr. It’s an outstanding example of enterprise reporting (almost as good as Eugene and Lane County’s Whole Community News).

[00:05:56] In a June 6, 2023, Voice of OC report: The city San Juan Capistrano proposed a 1200% water bill increase to be levied against businesses in that city. San Juan Capistrano is building California-mandated state housing, and it appears they failed to budget increased water and sewage infrastructure.

[00:06:15] In an October 30th 2023 Voice of OC report: Some South Orange County residents are realizing their water bills are going to at least double, again because the political administrative apparatuses failed to do their jobs and did not accomplish basic infrastructure planning for their dense housing schemes and are now forcing residents to endure massive tax or rate hikes.

[00:06:35] Not all Orange County cities are going along with being forced to build apartments in which they receive no financial help from either the city, from the state of California or the federal government.

[00:06:44] Huntington Beach has said no in large measure because it would be a massive financial burden for the residents. As it is, Huntington Beach has periodic raw sewage overflows and heavy rains that follow their beaches and turn parts of their ocean into an open sewer. They’ve got an ocean. We’ve got a river.

[00:07:01] They have seen the future of what dense housing will do for cities: One that burdens the poorest of their residents, many of them people of color and the elderly living on a fixed income. Given the levels of hand-waving, smoke-blowing virtue invocation that this city council and elements of the city bureaucracy have engaged in the last few years, you should be demanding EWEB refrain from instituting water bill increases that would impact people who you claim are important to you.

[00:07:25] When are we going to see you do that? Maybe in two weeks, I hope.

[00:07:28] City of Eugene: Our next speaker is Richard Locke.

[00:07:31] Richard Locke: My name is Richard Locke. I am a business owner and a founder of the Eugene Business Alliance. I’d like to talk tonight about Code 4.815, and I’ll start with (2)(e).

[00:07:46] ‘State and federal laws require the city to protect and improve the physical integrity of the water quality of the Willamette River, including all tributaries to the river. All city waterways are tributaries to the Willamette River. Establishing campsites near a waterway in an area not intended for that use degrades the waterways, physical integrity and water quality and when contaminants from campsites enter the waterway poses immediate risk to public health and safety.’

[00:08:18] John Q: Number (3) states: ‘No person shall camp in or upon the following publicly owned property:’

[00:08:24] Richard Locke: And (3)(f) says, ‘For the Willamette River and all other open waterways, property located within 100 feet of the top high bank; and property within five feet of ditches, wetlands and vegetative stormwater quality facilities.’

[00:08:41] We passed an ordinance here this year, and we have neglected this portion of it. I look around town here and I see that, you know, we don’t have camps around the schools anymore. We don’t have all the places that we said, but we’re covered up in all around our waterways.

[00:09:01] So I’m talking here-and-now environmental responsibility. And it appears that this city management doesn’t have any. We’re being covered up out in West Eugene and Ward 8, Councilor Groves, along the Amazon canal.

[00:09:20] Now, Mayor, you come out here and you make a statement to the Kalapuya. Bet you in 1840, they would be appalled at how you’re treating it.

[00:09:28] John Q: Audience members responded with loud acclaim and applause, which was stopped by Mayor Lucy Vinis, reminding—

[00:09:35] Mayor Lucy Vinis: —the audience that you are not to applaud. This is quiet and you can use silent support, but no shouting. No applauding. Thank you very much. I just asked you to respect that rule. Thank you. Yep, and we have some rules around it.

[00:09:50] City of Eugene: Our next speaker is Debbie McGee.

[00:09:53] Debbie McGee: I’m Debbie McGee. I want to congratulate Councilor Leech. We need your leadership in Eugene and appreciation to the Ward 7 voters. I appreciate you listening to all of us tonight.

[00:10:03] I’m here as usual to speak about the overarching issues that are heating up our tissues: the climate catastrophe. We are speeding toward a 10,000-foot cliff drop-off. The consequences that result as our biological life-support system—our habitat—collapses are not consequences that we should leave to our children. It’s not fair. So we have to change. If we want a different future, we have to change.

[00:10:29] Species extinction, deaths from air pollution, fights over water beginning, weather weirding all over the world destroying life and communities: We know what the solutions are.

[00:10:40] Clean energy, electrify everything, active transportation, end fossil fuels, leave old and mature trees in the ground, protect wilderness and watersheds, un-dam the rivers, reduce, reduce, reduce consumption of everything. And fairly distribute resources necessary to make a dignified life for everyone. Share stuff.

[00:11:01] Change in the right direction our codes for parking to influence the convenience of driving cars to encourage public and active transportation.

[00:11:10] Change in the right direction is to not continue the infrastructure of burning dangerous climate and human harming fossil fuels when we need to stop burning fossil fuels. So no more gas stations.

[00:11:23] In September, there was a climate march in New York City. It featured the leadership of BIPOC communities and of youth. We know it’s important to listen to the youth, and I want to share the chorus from a high school band. It was three kids.

[00:11:37] ‘We want you to panic. We want you to act. You’ve stolen our future, and we want it back. Of course we’re angry. Of course we’re sad. You’ve stolen our future, and we want it back. We want you to panic. We want you to act.’

[00:11:52] For the sake of our kids’ future, let’s act like the emergency that it really is and let’s slow down the heating and prevent more destruction of our shared habitat.

[00:12:02] John Q: Covering our local watersheds, local boards and commissions, our neighborhoods and nonprofits, preparedness and public comment, this is KEPW 97.3 Whole Community News.

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