June 20, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

Meet the candidate: Barbie Walker (2024)

13 min read
Barbie Walker on the Eugene City Council's 2023 attempt to ban natural gas in most new homes: "There’s no incentives yet. Our grid cannot handle it. We all saw recently with the ice storms what would happen if it was all electrical: People would have died."

John Q: This is Meet the Candidate, on KEPW News. Please tell us about yourself and why you’re running for city council.

Barbie Walker (Candidate for Eugene City Council, Ward 7): I’ve been in Eugene over 25 years. I went to the University of Oregon, the first of my family to put myself through college, work-study and working. I studied biology and chemistry and then from there I went and worked in the medical field, in the labs and with patients and doctors. And from there I rooted myself in the small business community. And I’ve been doing that now for over 10 years.

[00:00:35] And so, during my time here in Eugene, I’ve met a multitude of different people, whether it’s from the University, to working in the medical field, to owning small businesses, then to doing my volunteerism.

[00:00:50] I started with the Junior League of Eugene, volunteering for at-risk youth and homeless youth back in, must have been 2012, I think, maybe ‘13. And that really fulfilled me. It fulfilled me giving back to the community. It fulfilled my want to research of: Why do we have this unhoused population of our youth? What is going on with housing and addiction and business prosperity and jobs, all of it combined, the science aspect of drug addiction, treatment, recovery, and prosperity amongst businesses.

[00:01:28] And so you start joining different boards, naturally. So I joined the University District Business Association Board, and I got to know people such as Chief (Matthew) Carmichael when he was U of O PD chief, because this was in the University District businesses. I got to know people from PeaceHealth, people from the University, of Government Affairs, in public relations.

[00:01:50] I got to know (Eugene Police) Chief (Chris) Skinner. And then you find where there’s a need and you start giving back to that need. And so I honed in on small businesses within the University District in the West U and then our at-risk youth and homeless youth and started volunteering with the school district.

[00:02:10] And we found that there are a group of at-risk kids, homeless kids, unaccompanied minors, McKinney-Vento that needed an ID card, and what they needed that for was to get their GED. So I developed that program with some people of 4J School District, and some other small businesses contributed and larger businesses in the sound community, people like myself.

[00:02:32] And then once we did some measurable progress after about three or five years and got the logistics dialed in and we said, ‘Well, now that these kids have these IDs and they got their GED, now they need a place of employment. Well, being a restaurant business owner, that usually can be someone’s first job. I can open that door.’

[00:02:51] And I decided, ‘Well, here’s again where I can give back, and here’s again where we can develop upon community.’ And we decided to open some doors and with other business owners, whether it’s a hostess or a busser or a dishwasher, whatever it may be in, whatever business you run, I’m just reflecting on the restaurant business, and we created the Opportunity Workforce Pathways. And these things are still going on, for 10 years.

[00:03:19] And I shortly then became the VP of community enrichment for Junior League. And it just seems like these little monumental moments in my life have brought me to where I am today running for city council. And there’s a lot more that I’ve done with different community members, and it just shows that I have the work ethic, the grit, the ability to shift, to commit to community; to do the research it takes to really know how to make measurable movements, which will reflect on policymaking at the city council level.

[00:03:59] And when I moved into Ward 7, there was a recall going on that I heard of because the people of Ward 7—River Road, Santa Clara, Whiteaker, Trainsong, and a little bit of Bethel—were saying that they weren’t heard by city council.

[00:04:13] They didn’t see measurable movements. And there were things happening policy-wise that they didn’t agree with. And they felt betrayed that when they would bring something to council via email or in person, it fell on deaf ears. It wasn’t heard.

[00:04:29] It wasn’t acted upon. And I decided at that time, I’m going to throw my hat in the ring here. I talked to people that I know, different councilors, different community members, I’d already worked with Jon Ruiz, who is the retired city manager, on things like the 15th Night and the ID program, Determination of Homelessness ID card that was passed, House Bill 2402 (2017), so said: Let’s do this. Let’s throw my hat in the ring. I think this is what Eugene needs.

[00:04:55] We’ll do the research. We’ll listen. We’ll bring their voice to the table. We’ll be present and I know the hard work. And it just seems like a good fit to have that dynamic on council. It’s time that we have representation for the unrepresented and small businesses alike, the businesses we love that create economic prosperity, good jobs in our town, for us, the people of Eugene.

[00:05:25] And we can get there. And now that we’re in election year and the special election is done with, I think we get people to turn out and tune in to what’s being presented in front of them, that this is a great opportunity to have some movement, measurable movement, that I’m their candidate. We can have some great mobility, measurable progress for Eugene.

[00:05:46] John Q: What’s the biggest issue facing Ward 7 this election? How would you address it?

[00:05:54] Barbie Walker: Number one for Ward 7 is homelessness, safety, housing, economic prosperity, equitability for people in residential and commercial policymaking in Ward 7.

[00:06:09] Ward 7 covers Santa Clara to the Whiteaker to River Road to Trainsong to a little bit of Bethel and those are all very different wants and needs and demographics. It’s a huge smorgasbord also of city and county. And you can live in the city and your neighbor next door can be county. So, very much different wants and needs and the number one that I hear is the public safety be addressed and supporting our small businesses.

[00:06:39] So, we’ll start with that. I know there’s great movements happening for Measure 110 in Salem with our community leaders, like Chief Skinner, the Chamber, that’s happening. And Measure 110, while it’s well-intended, it didn’t have the logistics and the format to actually treat the drug addiction recovery part of it.

[00:07:04] And we all know that you cannot citation someone out of addiction and the inhumanity of that. We also know that in Ward 7, we cannot inhumanely keep people in their addiction by over-enabling. There’s open drug use, the crime that goes with that, and it’s at a tipping point. The businesses are leaving and what we don’t want to see is empty warehouses, empty businesses, while the policymaking in the town next to us is for the economic prosperity of all and supports public policy that has outcomes for keeping our businesses here.

[00:07:48] So we have our little climate-friendly equitable communities where we can walk to work and live in the same area, housing’s affordable, the crime is down. And so, what I look to do is be that champion for continuing to amend Measure 110 and talking openly with the players at the state level, and then how we’re going to interpret that at the local level when we go line item for line item, so that we have a follow-through and the recovery treatment and what that means locally and where that funding comes from.

[00:08:23] And I watch what Lane County ‘All In’ is doing. And I watch the different programs funding is going towards, whether it’s ShelterCare, Looking Glass or Saint Vincent, and those organizations that are utilizing the funding they get in a measurable, prosperous way, and then looking at the different budgets that aren’t letting things come to fruition to help our first responders, to help our safety, which in turn help our residents, which keeps our businesses here, so people aren’t moving out and we keep our Eugene uniquely Eugene.

Don’t over-policy, but do policy that makes sense with the budget we have.

[00:09:04] And as being a business owner, I reflect on how being a councilor would also work the same way. The business owner, you have to have a budget, you have to be able to pivot. You have to respond to people’s requests and needs. There have to be action plans, foresight. And then even when you have all that planned out, you have to know that there could be a wrench kind of thrown in life or your policy and how you adjust to that.

[00:09:32] And so with Measure 110 and the safety, I start with that. That’s the first, then that pivots to housing. So with policymaking, we have to look at incentivizing people to want to build here. With the housing shortage, we have to look at why there’s a shortage. Why is it unfriendly for builders to build here?

[00:09:55] Is it SDCs (system development charges) are too high and changing commercial to residential or residential to commercial, what’s the blockage for our builders, where they’re wanting to move out of town?

[00:10:05] Is it over-policymaking on the private sector—from things like no vote on a (natural) gas ban—where the people have said time and time again, they would like to vote on whether or not something as huge for them in residential and commercial and builders and landlords and renters—a (natural) gas ban—would cost to them; how unequitable that is; how actually climate-unfriendly, that is? And people want transparency about: What does that mean to them, the builders, the renters, the homeowners, that in half a generation, you will have to revert not just new builds in residential or new builds in commercial.  When they say ‘Phase One,’ that means there’s three phases, but also the builds that are already here in residential and commercial to all electrified.

[00:10:56] And what that means is a huge swing for people to be able to afford that. There’s no incentives yet. Our grid cannot handle it. We all saw recently with the ice storms what would happen if it was all electrical: People would have died.

[00:11:14] We have councilors to this day that are very pro-electrification. And as we head toward climate resilience, I understand the path they want to go down, but they’re lacking the science background or the time to research to really know how that would affect the underserved basically of Ward 7 and unrepresented.

[00:11:35] The Ward 7 councilor, my opponent, made a motion to bring back the ban to the table in June for council. It is coming back in June, not too long from now, and we still don’t have a plan for this climate resilience. It all sounds good to say, ‘We want to care for our climate and our town and our city for the next generation,’ but without incentives for weatherization or solar or window, or even looking at hydroelectric. And really: Where does our grid fit into moving all of this in one generation?

[00:12:10] And who would be the underserved and underrepresented in this? It’s Ward 7.

[00:12:15] Other wards that I have lived in (I’ve lived in nearly every ward in Eugene) might be able to afford that switch, might be able to just immediately go buy a Tesla, get a Tesla battery for their home, put on some solar panels, go electric with their water heaters and their furnaces and their stoves, and then again we look at the grid. Where is this coming from? Are we buying it from out of state?

[00:12:38] And so, when we look at the housing, it’s a huge picture of what are the road barriers and blockages, the who, what, whens, wheres, whys, what’s the collateral damage that’s going to occur to, to once again, the people being unrepresented. It’s not that we don’t want climate resilience. We have to be thoughtful and pragmatic about it and not jump into things that will really cause a lot of harm to the citizens, especially Ward 7.

[00:13:05] John Q: If elected, what would you do differently than your opponent, who at the time of this interview, is Lyndsie Leech.

[00:13:14] Barbie Walker: Lyndsie is from the Midwest, lived in Eugene maybe three years; in Ward 7, maybe a year and a half, two (years).

[00:13:21] I’m Pacific Northwest, been here for 25 years. I’ve lived in nearly every ward and I was around when Jim Torrey was the mayor. I’ve had my finger on the pulse for quite some time now. I know the history. And much like I would talk to my constituents, who have been here longer than me, 30-40 years— some of them had families homesteading here—I am uniquely Eugene, and I don’t have agendas.

[00:13:45] I am not your quintessential politician looking to go to Salem like some other councilors. I’m not just working in the nonprofit sector, which we see a lot of councilors in that seat.

[00:14:04] I see it time and time again on council. We have councilors that are clearly partisan, either right or left, you know, the 5-3 vote and the people of Eugene are getting really tired of not only seeing it at a national level, then it trickles down to state and now we’re seeing it at a local level. And all that does is cause collateral damage to the people that council’s supposed to be representing.

[00:14:30] That does no good in a nonpartisan position. And if you look at who some of my endorsements are: I have union, I have first responders, I have councilors, I’ve got friends and family and business owners all over the spectrum—whether it’s LGBTQIA, whether it’s small businesses. And you look at my opponent, it’s once again the classic, just go one way, and we’re all very exhausted with the partisanship, and we just don’t need to see it here in Eugene. It gets us nowhere, and it’s time for that change.

[00:15:08] This is running a city. This is people’s lives. This is policymaking. This is showing up at places before you have to be asked to show up. This is helping fix things in a measurable way—budgeting for a city, much like you budget for a business. I’m not here to just simply spend people’s money. I’m here to really fine-comb budgets and business and people and make measurable movements.

[00:15:32] What differentiates me is, I’ve already done that in this town. The ID program is huge. We had that passed in the House. The DMV has now made a form, ‘Determination of Homelessness,’ so you can get your ID, you can get a job, you can be a citizen here, registered and ready to work, and then creating work opportunities.

[00:15:54] The other thing that differentiates me is some of the endorsements. The first responders have come out and endorsed me. I find out what their concerns are, whether it was the transportation on River Road that was going to take away some of their vital lanes when it’s already densely populated; their need for budgeting accordingly when they need something like another ambulance, or they need more boots on the ground. They want to have policy made.

[00:16:23] And when we lost our hospital in the University District, I believe I was one of the first to say, ‘If we don’t have a main hospital in Eugene, we then need satellite emergency rooms around town.’ And I don’t think Lyndsie and I see eye-to-eye on that.

[00:16:40] Let’s support our first responders. Let’s be in touch with them because who knows better than what entails their own jobs than the people that work in it every day, that work with the unhoused and the behavioral health aspect of it, and what they actually need.

[00:16:56] And I talked about transportation a little bit. My opponent was all for putting in the EmX. That’s not smart budgeting. We shouldn’t have more, bigger, longer buses going the same route. We need, especially ADA and elderly people, we need to have stops where they can just go a block away and it can be covered in a seat—we need shorter buses going to more stops that people frequent that they need. I want to do more alternative transportation, but we need to be smart and thorough. And are we actually meeting the needs of people that will be the ridership?

[00:17:38] John Q: Is there anything else you’d like to say to the voters? And how can people get involved in your campaign?

[00:17:46] Barbie Walker: I want the voters to know that I’m not there to change Eugene or change places like the Whiteaker that are very unique and do so much for their little community.

[00:17:55] I’m really there to sustain it. We need some progress, and anybody can find my stances on my website, BarbieWalker.com, there’s email there, which is barbiewalker3@gmail.com, and then there’s a phone number listed as well, and I will call you back. I will meet you in person. The website has a quick link to donate, too. Any amount is very much appreciated and welcomed.

The election is May 21 and I’m asking you to please support me and vote for me, Barbie Walker, Ward 7, Eugene City Council, May 21.

[00:18:37] John Q: Ward 7 candidate Barbie Walker. You can contact her through her website at BarbieWalker.com

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