June 20, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

Meet the candidate: Stefan Strek

14 min read
Stefan Strek: People who live here are not being valued by the city as they should be. During COVID, the city administration found it acceptable to let hundreds of people live under the bridge downtown, and it was a terrible human rights crisis. And a couple of months ago when the ice storm came through, the city had no action plan. What's going to happen if there's an earthquake?

This is Meet the Candidate on KEPW News. Please tell us about yourself and why you’re running for mayor.

Stefan Strek (Candidate for mayor of Eugene): Number one: Just, absolutely, I love this city. I grew up here and it’s a certain experience to grow with the city and see stores expand and neighborhoods change. And I really want more people to have the best possible experience of what it means to live in Eugene, whether they’re people who are born here, people who have come here from across the country or around the world, I want this to be the best place possible for everybody. And I’ve got a positive vision for that. I want us to have a fully functional 21st-century city.

[00:00:40] And as part of that, I want us to have a bus that goes to and from the airport to downtown. That’s so when people visit or are just getting into town, they’ve got a safe and reliable way to get where they need to go. There’s some reassurance to having a valid, consistent transportation as part of public service.

[00:01:04] I believe that as part of a 21st century city, Eugene really should have a 24-hour library. And that means a nice library that’s taken care of, and can really be like, not just a place to fall back to in times of emergency, but also a real enrichment center where, anytime, people can go and work on projects.

There’s a whole fourth floor which has been used for the city satellite offices, basically, since, for the past 10 years now. The city couldn’t get it together to form a city hall, and so the offices have been essentially vagrant. But the library, there’s no reason that we can’t just have some basic measures in place to keep it a bit safer, significantly safer.

[00:01:55] The library really has so much potential to be a place where, you know, if you’ve got a project to work on, if you’ve got something you’re interested in, if you just need to get out of the house, and there’s so much potential in that fourth story.

[00:02:09] And we’ve already got cards for library usage. There’s no reason we can’t actually have time-restricted access and make sure that behavior is respectable and sociable for everybody and really have a place where, you know, when people think of Eugene, they think of a place where, yeah, you don’t have to wait for tomorrow to live for today.

[00:02:30] If you’ve got something to work on, you’ve got a place to do it. You’ve got some place where you belong and are welcome. And nobody really has to feel alone in this city. And that’s, I think that’s a valuable part of my vision. And I think there’s a lot of people that will agree with that.

[00:02:45] And it’s something that we absolutely can do as a city, it’s not that expensive to just make the space available. And this is something that we can really keep as a cornerstone of 21st century Eugene. And this is something I feel that society has worked for hundreds, thousands of years, to have the library as a real community center and cultural point where everyone feels welcome and accepted and valued. And use it as a resource to make their lives better for the future.

[00:03:18] John Q: What’s the most important issue facing the city this election? How would you address it?

[00:03:26] Stefan Strek (Candidate for mayor of Eugene): The number one most important thing is that the people who live here are not being valued by the city as they should be. It’s a real shame that the City Council rolled back the speaking time at public forums to two and a half minutes instead of three minutes. For such a rationed amount of time that’s available, it really says something about how people and their concerns are not being considered and valued by the current administration.

[00:03:56] That’s absolutely something that I’d reverse and give more people time to really raise these issues. Because when people are so really affected by the mismanagement of the city that they come forth, whether it’s issues about homelessness or housing availability, or just a lack of civic input for neighborhood changes, it’s across the board. There isn’t really a single aspect of city management which has been handled effectively for at least 10 years now.

[00:04:32] And it’s a real shame, because Eugene has so much potential. We really can be a hub city where new established businesses come and bring more jobs and money to town. And using those resources, we can really be a place that’s more fun. We can have things like Eugene Jazz Festival. We can bring back the Eugene Celebration, Eugene Blues Festival, stuff like that.

[00:04:57] I really envision this city as a place that really lives up to its reputation, which is really built on the people who have put so much time and energy and really love into making this a place for families to grow. And that’s something that Eugene shouldn’t leave behind in favor of establishment-oriented politics. I don’t think that’s something that anyone really wants when they put thought into it.

[00:05:27] And we really can have a lot more variety of housing available. It’s middle housing as a concept is very much like promoted, but I’m trying to think of micro-housing, stuff like accessory dwelling units, just a one-unit building that homeowners can put in their backyard or side yard for a friend or family member who needs a place to live, and is based on an affordable rate. People in Eugene have oftentimes pretty large networks and there’s few things that are worse than seeing someone you care about in need and not being able to help them and Eugene needs to make that more accessible.

[00:06:13] I feel that we can really provide a waiver on the fees for senior citizens to build ADUs on their property. And as part of that, we can also have a tax credit for home improvement that seniors need to do to their personal living.

[00:06:27] We’ve got this kind of paradox that’s put in play right now with the local housing market and the free market is not being allowed to function traditionally as it should in Eugene, because tax breaks have been given to major corporations building massive apartment buildings with hundreds of units and rooftop swimming pools and tennis courts, and they’re major investment companies doing all of this tax-free.

[00:06:56] So what that means is that local landlords who have to pay taxes, they’re shouldering an additional part of the tax burden, basically all of it, and they’re also dealing with overdue maintenance and upkeep and repairs. And all of this is getting more expensive with inflation and rising cost of labor to the point where local homeowners are having to put off these often-necessary repairs.

[00:07:25] Then the competitiveness of their properties are going down and they just can’t afford to even consider lowering the rents because their taxes are constantly going up. So it’s a situation where local landlords are really being put out of business. That’s a pretty major part of the population here, especially the long-term established people. And it’s really a reflection of how this city’s administration does not value the people that have put in years, often a lifetime, of hard work and commitment and really love for this city.

[00:08:00] So I know that we can do so much more and really across the board. Just it’s hard to look anywhere in this city and not see real opportunities for making Eugene a place that really shines.

[00:08:13] And it’s really shocking how so much has been allowed to deteriorate for so long. People don’t feel safe going downtown. There are sanitation issues. It feels like being Gordon Ramsey walking into a restaurant and: Disaster, just everywhere you look, there’s chaos that really needs to be attended to. And with a thorough commitment to really valuing people, we can do that.

[00:08:36] John Q: If elected, what would you do differently than your opponents?

[00:08:42] Stefan Strek (Candidate for mayor of Eugene): I’m the only person running for mayor who knows what it’s like to grow up in this city. And I think that really reflects in my vision for the future of this city and what it means to be a 21st century community that’s really at the forefront of world development.

[00:09:02] I know that people need jobs. People need housing. We need to deal with the local drug problems, and there’s a lot of families that are really suffering. One of the first steps we can do is, like I said, the 24-hour bus system. I haven’t heard anyone else propose this, and it’s, I feel, a really 21st century concept. People shouldn’t have to wait for tomorrow to live for today.

[00:09:30] People need to have reliable transportation that gets them through their neighborhood, not just on main arteries. And this is especially important for senior citizens or people with disabilities, which have really been left behind by the current administration. And if we can have a bus that goes reliably to and from the airport, also 24 hours a day, to work with the airline schedules, then people coming here have one less thing to worry about.

[00:09:58] And in a world where there’s so much that people have every right to be concerned about, I think it’s the obligation of government to make people feel as safe and secure as possible in their daily lives and working to really enhance our community. Just a secure system where people can get where they need to go. I don’t think that’s too much to ask for the city spends a lot of money on projects that just fail and don’t go anywhere so we can do better.

[00:10:35] And really, this will help clean up downtown. It’ll help get rid of the sanitation issues from people just using the sidewalk or a storefront as a bathroom. We need toilets that are open year-round in this city, and it needs to be done as a priority, and, managed with a cost-efficient perspective.

[00:10:56] The city made a big deal out of having a bathroom installed at the Park Blocks downtown. And it’s often not usable because it’s just people use it to put just random clothes or garbage and it’s a shame. It’s a waste of money. And it’s something that should be seen as something the city management needs to be held accountable for. That’s a huge waste of money.

[00:11:19] So why are we spending for a bathroom which is rendered useless, because it’s not maintained? It’s a pretty large disparity there. Just the fact that’s being seen as a benchmark for success by some people shows that those people need to be replaced. And I think people are ready for that.

[00:11:37] And if Eugene is seen as a place that’s really cared for and maintained, then that’ll bring in new businesses, that’ll let the businesses that are starting here be successful, that will give more jobs to people who need to get to work, especially after coming out of COVID here. And with so much stress and economic difficulties, it’s a shame that there are senior citizens out there who can’t live on their retirement and are having to go back into the workforce and might not have a car anymore. They might’ve been expecting to just stay in their neighborhood. So we need reliable public transportation so people can get to work and just not be left behind in the economy.

[00:12:20] I think what puts me in a different category is that I’ve got concrete, real solutions. I’m not looking for an advisor to hire a focus group, put together a committee who’s just going to put out a spreadsheet. This is about lived experience in this city, seeing what does work and what doesn’t work, and enhancing the things that work and making the things that don’t work a real priority.

[00:12:46] It doesn’t need to just be all serious business. We can have fun in Eugene too. We can bring back the Eugene Celebration. We can have new community activities, like I said before. I believe we can have stuff like the jazz festival, blues festival, bring more people in for community activities that really enhance everyone’s appreciation and quality of life in the city.

[00:13:10] It’s a shame that so much opportunity has been overlooked for so long because wasted money is bad, but wasted time is so much worse. And there’s been so much time wasted without results. And I can tell it’s got a lot of people down.

[00:13:27] As part of this, we need real accountability. The Steam Plant down by the river was just sold off recently. That deal was done for $1. And I don’t think there’s a single person in this city, who if they owned that property, would have been willing to sell it to anyone for any reason for $1. Because it’s just, unless you’re literally just trying to give it away.

[00:13:51] That’s a bad deal. We’re talking about prime riverfront property which should have been kept on the city’s roster to enhance the lives of everyone who lives here and it was sold off for private development for literally $1. And, if that’s not, that’s like post-Soviet-level negligence, basically. It’s a shame. It’s horrible.

[00:14:14] That could have been used for a facility where people who are experiencing trauma and crisis could go and just get some services, low-barrier access to personal care. There’s so many possibilities, it’s completely unfathomable that it was seen as something that can just be let go, because in these kind of situations, a takeback doesn’t really fly. Once the paper’s signed and the property is given away, it’s gone. And that’s almost an immeasurable loss of something that could have been a really life-enhancing part of this community.

[00:14:52] It could have been a gathering location for people to come by from the river and just, it could have been a whole new park. It could have been a new educational center. It’s just, it’s so much missed opportunity.

[00:15:05] And it really shows an example of how the city’s administration does not value this city or the people who live here, and something needs to be done, a lot needs to be done, to really focus on the people of Eugene, and the people who have chosen to make this place their home, and prioritize that above just the easy way out, basically. And there’s too many decisions happening from the city’s administration that are just the easy way out.

[00:15:37] The current administration, the current mayor, she ran on a platform of being associated with a nonprofit that helps low-income housing, ShelterCare, but I haven’t seen a lot of shelter care provided for people in crisis in town. It’s a shocking, glaring issue that during the COVID crisis, we had literally hundreds of people living in tents under the bridge downtown.

[00:16:03] And the city found that was acceptable for years. And it was a terrible human rights crisis, a horrible human rights crisis that these people were just ignored and pushed out of the way by a city that has so much money and so much capacity to make a difference. And at the end of it, the city needed to spend tons of money to literally scrape away the top 18 inches of soil from that whole park because there was so much needles and broken glass down there that it was a hazmat consideration for everybody.

[00:16:38] This is something that should not and cannot be allowed to happen again under any circumstances. Because if this is the solution, when there’s so many people who are so vulnerable that need help, what’s going to happen if there’s an earthquake, and we’ve got thousands of people in the city who need assistance.

[00:16:59] Is the administration just going to allow families and children to live under the bridge downtown in tents in another emergency situation? Something needs to be done to actually prepare our city for that.

[00:17:13] We need individualized action plans for each neighborhood to make sure that people are safe in disastrous events. And really holistically, the city needs to be examined from a bigger perspective to make sure that our bases are covered for events like this in the future.

[00:17:34] And this is important to me. This is something that I spend a lot of time thinking about and it doesn’t seem to be a priority for the administration at all, because just a couple months ago, we had the ice storm come through, and the city had no action plan.

[00:17:51] And as things go, with the costs of taxes going up and materials and inflation, there’s a lot of people living up in the hills who have damage to their roofs who can’t afford repairs. And summer’s going to be over before people know it, and then it’s going to start raining again, and the city has an obligation to make things as manageable as possible for people in these situations.

[00:18:19] So I want to examine things just really holistically, take real assessment of everything that’s been mismanaged, and going forward, just leave no stone unturned, tackle every single problem and make Eugene the place that everyone wants it to be.

[00:18:36] John Q: Is there anything else you’d like to say to the voters?

[00:18:41] Stefan Strek (Candidate for mayor of Eugene): The website is CelebrateEugene.com. It’s still being rounded off, but donations should be ready for acceptance on the website and put together some meetup times and meet-and-greet days on the calendar that everyone who’s interested can get involved in.

[00:19:02] It’s a real grassroots operation for the future of our city, so anyone who wants to participate is welcome to join. And I really do feel that this is a situation where so many people have expressed really positive interest about a choice that really speaks to the individuality of Eugene and appreciates everybody as a whole.

[00:19:28] And, absolutely, every single time someone reaches out and says that they support this campaign and everything that I’m trying to do to make this city a better place for everybody, it means the world to me. It really keeps me going. And it’s a major victory to raise discussion about social issues and advancement for the future for everybody.

[00:19:55] It’s really encouraging, just the positivity and the variety of people that have really expressed a positive interest in a shared vision for a better future.

Contact Eugene candidate for mayor Stefan Strek at his website, CelebrateEugene.com.

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