July 22, 2024

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Matt Keating: I may be the fossil fuel industry’s least favorite councilor

8 min read
Matt Keating at the City Club March 29: "We're in a housing crisis. We're combating the climate crisis. And I'm proud to be, quite possibly, the fossil fuel industry's least favorite city councilor. I wear that as a badge of honor."

City Club interviewed all the candidates for Eugene City Council wards 1 and 2. For your convenience, we’re highlighting each candidate individually, and this edition features Matt Keating.

Rachael McDonald (KLCC, moderator): I’m Rachael McDonald with KLCC. We’ll start with two minutes for opening statements. And when you begin your opening statement, please say your name and the seat you’re running for. And then, the first question will come from an AARP representative.

Matt Keating (Candidate, Ward 2): Hello, I’m South Eugene City Councilor Matt Keating. I, when I’m not serving on Council, I serve as chief of staff to Sen. James Manning in the capital; I am the City of Eugene’s liaison to the Lane Regional Air Protection Agency; and I’m the past chair of the Human Services Commission.

[00:00:45] I’m running for reelection because I love Eugene. And I love making a difference, as I did for two terms as an LCC board member, helping save the early childhood education program, saving the welding program, saving theater arts. Because fundamentally, we are better humans when we embrace the arts. I’m also a KLCC board member, a foundation board member, and as I see Dana (Fleming), I’m a Eugene Public Library Foundation emeritus board member, I’ve got to get that in. So I love the library as well.

[00:01:16] Eliza (Kashinsky)‘s right. We’re in a housing crisis. We’re combating the climate crisis. And I’m proud to be, quite possibly, the fossil fuel industry’s least favorite city councilor. I wear that as a badge of honor.

[00:01:28] It is an honor to serve South Eugene. It’s an honor to work hand-in-glove with law enforcement and our first responders who have endorsed my campaign. We stood together, banded together to ban fireworks. We helped prevent the closure of a fire station.

[00:01:43] And we helped save Greenhill Humane Society’s funding stream from a severe eight percent cut last budget session. It’s an honor to serve you, South Eugene, and I look forward to four more years as your city councilor. Thank you.

[00:01:56] Rachael McDonald (KLCC, moderator): Now I’d like to invite Gwen Burkard with the AARP to come on up here and give the first question.

[00:02:02] Gwen Burkard (AARP): Almost 40% of Eugene residents are older than 50. That’s according to the latest census. By 2034, there will be more adults 65 and older in Eugene than children under 18. How will you work to ensure that Eugene is prepared for these changing demographics of our community, addressing the needs of older adults and people with disabilities, while also engaging older adults who bring important resources to the table?

[00:02:32] Matt Keating (Candidate, Ward 2): Gwen, thank you for the question on behalf of AARP. In addition to the rising amount of seniors in our community, more than 50% are renters. I’m proud to have supported a whole suite of renters’ rights. We’re in an affordable housing crunch, a crisis. So we need more housing at all income levels. Affordable, federally subsidized housing, missing middle housing, co-op housing, housing that will allow for seniors to scale down and stay in our community. I proudly supported reducing the barriers for ADUs, the building of mother-in-law cottages throughout our community.

[00:03:05] But we need to build responsibly. And we need to build up, not out, fundamentally protect our urban growth boundary, protect our forests to the south, our farmlands to the north, and build up, preferably, along transportation lines, so our seniors can stay in this community that we all love and cherish.

[00:03:23] Rachael McDonald (KLCC, moderator): Our city has gone through several rough budget years and has had to cut back some services such as programs at the library. It’s likely that if you’re elected, you’ll face similar challenges. What’s your approach and philosophy for budgeting during hard times? Matt, you’re next.

[00:03:38] Matt Keating (Candidate, Ward 2): Thank you. I pride myself in being among some of the most accessible public servants in the state in that I make my voter, I make my cell phone available in the voters pamphlet. I make my cell phone available on all my business cards, my walk literature, on my website.

[00:03:55] I have an open-door policy. So if, if I want to hear from you at 541 515 3819, I want, I want to hear from you, and when I, when I meet with, with folks who are supporting the campaign, AFSCME, educators, firefighters, carpenters, we have that open dialogue at all levels of government, within the municipal, municipal apparatus, folks know that they can reach right out directly on the phone call or text away. Or you can email, of course, and go to MattKeating.org, but 541-515-3819. It’s about listening and it’s about being present and, yeah, there are tough choices ahead. But having that open dialogue and having that open door policy is paramount. Thank you.

[00:04:51] Rachael McDonald (KLCC, moderator): So next question, Matt, you’ll be the first one to answer. Do you support the measure to approve a bond for a proposed Ems stadium complex at the Lane County Fairgrounds? Why or why not?

[00:05:01] Matt Keating (Candidate, Ward 2): Yeah, I support sending the ballot measure to the voters so Eugene residents can decide on May 21. Full disclosure: I love the Ems. I am a guest announcer for the Ems periodically. But this is such a significant investment, and a reimagining of the fairgrounds that would provide for a multiuse facility, emergency respite, emergency disaster, emergency training, and a whole host of community events, possibly concerts, so I’m open to the idea.

[00:05:42] Mind you, there are state dollars that could match if all, all the dollars match up. And ultimately, this May, in 53 short days (50 by the time you’re listening to this Monday night on KLCC), voters will decide. And so, an issue of this magnitude, I find it the responsible thing to do, because it is a new revenue stream, to allow for Eugene voters to up or down, say yes or no.

[00:06:08] Rachael McDonald (KLCC, moderator): Next question: If you’re elected as a Eugene city councilor, how will you ensure that people of all age groups, marginalized voices, and other impacted communities are included in decisions that are likely going to affect them?

[00:06:23] Matt Keating (Candidate, Ward 2): Show up. Listen. Learn. There was an untenable situation last summer at the library. There were campsites aplenty, essentially blocking access to the library. And it was my engagement with our neighborhood associations, with library staff, with law enforcement that led me to a pragmatic, swift action to advance an ordinance to ban camping within 1,000 feet of the library or any school in Eugene.

[00:06:54] While at the same time, in my role as Human Services chair at the time, saving the funding for Community Supported Shelters, so our unhoused population can get access to the housing support services they so desperately need. I couldn’t have done that alone. But I did that because I listened and I learned and pivoted and took action.

[00:07:15] Whether that’s at TransPonder at a pride event, whether it’s at United Way, whether it’s with Community Supported Shelters, whether it’s with the diverse array of voices in our community: Show up, listen, learn.

[00:07:31] Rachael McDonald (KLCC, moderator): Next question. According to the assessor’s office, the median market value for a home in the city of Eugene is now more than $480,000. High housing costs have priced many current Eugene residents out of the market. As a city councilor, what can you do to help make housing more affordable and accessible for residents?

[00:07:54] Matt Keating (Candidate, Ward 2): In the summer of 2021, we advanced accessory dwelling unit (ADU) reform, essentially allowing for folks a little more creativity to build responsibly in their own backyard to keep families together.

[00:08:08] Yes, this may be the most pro-housing city council in the history of the city of Eugene: Housing developments on the riverfront, housing development at 1059 Willamette. That is more affordable housing, more federally-subsidized housing. Then it is market rate housing, it’s like 60 to 40 percent, and we’re partnering with Hope and Safety Alliance, formerly Women’s Space.

[00:08:28] So ten of those units are going to directly help those who are in, who are transitioning from a disastrous situation at home. Yes, we need housing. Yes, we need to build up responsibly. Along transportation routes. And yes, we need to fundamentally protect our urban growth boundary, our natural areas to the south, our forests, our wooded areas to the south, and our farmlands to the north.

[00:08:56] We can build up responsibly, Eugene. It’s time to grow up. It’s time to build up.

[00:09:01] Rachael McDonald (KLCC, moderator): According to the most recent annual point-in-time count, there are roughly 3,000 people experiencing homelessness in Lane County alone. What is the current gap in the way our region responds to homelessness? And as a city councilor, how would you address it? Matt?

[00:09:17] Matt Keating (Candidate, Ward 2): Eugene’s safe sleep sites program, and in particular, the Nightingale Rest Stop on 34th and Hilyard in South Eugene, is a model that should be repurposed, replicated throughout our community. Nightingale boasts a 70% rehousing rate to get folks on a pathway to more permanent supportive housing. I applaud that.

[00:09:37] Unfortunately, the state and the feds’ definitions when it comes to emergency housing fall short of the Conestoga huts that Nightingale and other safe sleep sites erect.

[00:09:49] So we need to work with our state partners and our federal partners. I have those relationships. I’m endorsed by former Congressman Peter DeFazio, Congresswoman Val Hoyle, state Sen. Floyd Prozanski, state Sen. James Manning, Rep., former Rep. Phil Barnhart, Rep. Paul Holvey, and our Lane County Commissioners Heather Buck and Laurie Trieger, and former Commissioner Pete Sorensen.

[00:10:11] I have the relationships to help move the needle, to help change the definition of emergency housing and ensure that Eugene and Lane County gets the funds that we so desperately need to expand our safe sleep site rest stop program.

[00:10:23] Rachael McDonald (KLCC, moderator): Well, believe it or not, we have come to the end of our time. So we have one minute each for closing statements.

[00:10:31] Matt Keating (Candidate, Ward 2): At MattKeating.org, you’ll see a breadth of support from across the community because I have a track record, four years on City Council, eight years as a Lane Community College Board of Education member, getting results, keeping tuition affordable, protecting programs that are vital to our community, and as your city councilor, yeah, I’ve made some, I’ve ruffled some feathers.

[00:10:57] As mentioned earlier, I may be the fossil fuel industry’s least favorite city councilor. We have to decarbonize. We have to advance electrification for the future of our planet. We have to invest in housing at all income levels—affordable housing, missing middle housing, co-op housing. We have to solve the homeless crisis at all levels of government.

[00:11:18] I have the energy, the commitment, the experience, and the relationships. And I love South Eugene. Neighbors, I love it so much. I’m asking for your support, but also I feel a little—I lost my wedding ring last night, walking my dog. If you see a wedding ring on East 39th Avenue, I hope I find it. I want to say thank you to my wife, Becca, for being here. Thank you to my in-laws and thank you to all our supporters and thank you KLCC for rebroadcasting and City Club for hosting. I’m Matt Keating and I’d be honored to earn your support for reelection.

Ward 2 candidate for the Eugene City Council, Matt Keating, at the City Club March 29. The event was moderated by KLCC’s Rachael McDonald.

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