June 12, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

City asked to adopt human rights-based investment policy

17 min read
Ralph McDonald: As Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned against the military-industrial complex and an entrenched United States war economy; and transition away from fossil fuels is called for; the Southwest Hills Neighborhood Association board supports a socially responsible investment policy.

As the City Council returns from spring break April 8, public comments call for a socially responsible investment policy.

Dr. Geoffrey Gordon: My name is Dr. Geoffrey Gordon. I wrote the resolution before you, the draft resolution 54XX for short. Resolution 54XX creates a citizen committee to maintain a divestment blacklist for companies that commit or enable human rights violations or contribute to environmental destruction.

[00:00:26] Endorsements for Resolution 54XX as of today include: the Community Alliance of Lane County, Students for Justice in Palestine, Eugene Extinction Rebellion, Planet vs. Pentagon, Springfield Eugene Anti Imperialist Coalition, Healthcare Workers for Palestine, Movement for People’s Democracy, Study for Socialism and Liberation, the Working Committee of Grads for Palestine, and I’m sure more are to come soon.

[00:00:53] I thank you for the cease-fire resolution that was passed in 2023, but Israel has defied the orders to prevent genocide that were made by the International Court of Justice. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories reported that a genocide has been committed in Gaza.

[00:01:13] Israel has committed a litany of historic environmental crimes, which is also being investigated by the United Nations Environment Program. The time has come for the City of Eugene to create a comprehensive human-rights-based investment policy with a clear do-not-buy list for corporate securities and vendors that is maintained by a council of citizens.

[00:01:34] A lack of citizen oversight over our investments invites corruption. The Democratic Party of Lane County 2024 platform calls for a cease-fire and war divestment. The Democratic Party of Oregon officially supports a cease-fire and the unconditional release of all detainees and hostages as of March 2024.

[00:01:50] The Democratic Party of Oregon 2023 platform states all state actors must be held accountable to international humanitarian laws and accepted laws of war. We support active U.S. participation in the International Court of Justice and we oppose the use of artificial intelligence in pre-programmed autonomous weapons in warfare or other conflict situations.

[00:02:10] This applies to Israel and companies that enable its occupation and genocide of Palestine. Make the right choice. Motion to bring the policies and this resolution into city code.

[00:02:22] Ralph McDonald (Southwest Hills Neighborhood Association): My name is Ralph McDonald. I’ve been chair or co-chair of the Southwest Hills Neighborhood Association for 10 years, still on the board.

[00:02:32] I’m speaking tonight on behalf of the SHiNA board: As Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower in his farewell address in 1961 warned against the establishment of a military-industrial complex and an entrenched United States war economy; and whereas transition away from the climate change inherent in the CO2 rise from continued reliance on fossil fuels is called for, and instead, increased investment in clean energy sources is necessitated; therefore the SHiNA board supports the City Council directing the city manager and city attorney to bring back to council for consideration enforceable code language for a socially responsible investment policy.

[00:03:16] Madison Lusk: My name is Madison Lusk. I’m also here on the socially responsible investment committee and a human rights-based investment policy for the city of Eugene. This has come together from a working group of multiple people in organizations across Eugene. This is a resolution that we hope can bring more socially responsible investment to Eugene and specifically divestment from the genocide that’s happening in Palestine.

[00:03:41] I’m grateful for the cease-fire resolution that you all have passed previously in 2023. We hope that this can be a concrete way for our city to stand in solidarity and to choose to make socially responsible decisions about where our funds go. Something that I really would like to highlight about this policy is that it creates a citizen committee to manage a divestment blacklist for companies that we see are funding genocide and funding environmental destruction in Palestine. This can as well be extended beyond the issues in Palestine, but be a opportunity for citizens to have a more direct conversation with you all about where our funds in the city are going preferably towards things that are aligned with our values as a city, and aligned with our values as community members.

[00:04:30] We’ve had people here speaking to you all many times throughout the past six months. We’ve had folks out in the street. And I think that the people are really clear about what we want. The Democratic Party for Lane County has also called for a cease-fire and war divestment. That has also happened similarly in the Democratic Party of Oregon, and we just hope that you continue to support socially responsible investment and that you listen to your community members.

[00:04:54] City of Eugene: Our next speaker is Katie Preston.

[00:04:56] Katie Preston: I’m here also in support of changing how we do investments so that we can not fund corporations that are profiting from violence and genocide in other countries. I think that it’s really devastating to see what’s going on there, and a lot of us have spoken out in so many different ways, writing to our congressmen again and again, and none of this has really panned out so far.

[00:05:24] And we need our city to participate if we’re going to see a change. We can’t just think that this is going to happen from some other entities, some other group. This is our responsibility as members of this community to take the power that we have financially.

[00:05:41] And we know that finances is the biggest thing that makes a change and people actually listen to. So when it comes to putting more dollars into the hands of corporations that are going to keep reaping in money from this genocide, I really hope that we as a city can do the right thing and show our children. So many of us here are parents and you know, they aren’t immune. They hear they know what’s going on. And I think it’s so important for us to lead them and to show them that we actually do care about children in other countries and what’s happening to them, especially when it’s happening on our dime.

[00:06:22] So I hope that you can continue to build that resolution and work towards divesting from corporations that profit from genocide.

[00:06:30] Christa Knittle: Hello. My name is Christa Knittle. Thank you for passing the Gaza cease-fire resolution in 2023. I’m here because Eugene needs a human rights-based investment policy. Billions of dollars are being spent on bombs and missiles which go to Israel. This doesn’t benefit the people of Israel, and worst of all, it’s causing genocide for the Palestinians.

[00:06:57] Portland has passed a comprehensive policy on socially responsible investing. So now it’s time for Eugene to do the same.

[00:07:07] Kyle Purdy: Hello. My name is Kyle Purdy. I’ve been a lifelong resident of Eugene. I’m also here tonight to speak in favor of a human rights-based investment policy. Homelessness was brought up a minute ago, and I think it’s important to note that while house assistance is an issue all around the world, in Gaza, due to the actions of the Israeli and U. S. government, about 1.8 million Palestinians no longer have a home.

[00:07:32] There have been an incredible number of buildings destroyed. They’ve been destroyed with our government’s money and our government’s weapons. We are trying, millions of people across the country are trying, at every level of government, to divest from this genocide, to try to get peace, and I think it’s important that our funding from the city is compatible with our values.

[00:07:55] So I ask that you support that resolution.

[00:07:56] Ashley Wright: I’m Ashley Wright. Been living in Eugene about 22 years. I’m here to talk about the human rights-based investment policy. I’m in support of it.

[00:08:08] We started the meeting by talking about fair housing. In Gaza, the IDF has destroyed at least 60% of housing. Let’s not tie up our investment dollars in that. We also talked about Earth Day. The U.N. has been reporting environmental destruction. We’ve been hearing about the lack of clean water. So this is something we can do from right here in Eugene.

[00:08:31] It can be hard to see all the suffering and say, ‘Oh, what can we do? We’re so far away.’ Well, this is something we can do together. We can act together and have a human rights-based investment policy.

[00:08:43] Scott Fife: My name is Scott Fife. I just want to make sure that the City Council supports investment policies that support human rights. And I’d like to see environmental rights supported as well. And I’d like to see open books across the whole board for every everything that we’re doing.

[00:08:58] You need to sunshine policy on our investments and on the total finance of the city, because we don’t know where you’re putting your money and we’d like to see, you know, we’re giving the money to corporations to build housing that nobody can afford. So I just want to say, that’s what I support.

[00:09:14] Rebecca Amodeo: My name is Rebecca Amodeo, and I came tonight also to endorse the rapid development and implementation of the human rights-based investment that has been referenced by several neighbors here tonight.

[00:09:30] I think my neighbors who have shown up to demonstrate the seriousness of people throughout our city that want to live our values and how we spend our money; values that are expressed in the mayor’s own opening remarks for fair housing. Others tonight have named the connection between the noble goals of our city’s declarations and the actions we’re facilitating through much of our city’s spending at this time.

[00:10:00] I would like to see these tangible steps taken and thank you, neighbors.

[00:10:05] Rudy Preston: My name is Rudy Preston. I’m watching a federal government that ignores us completely. The things that we ask for, the things that we want, we have really no particular choices of someone who’s going to come out and do something that we feel like might actually be good to stop the things going on in Israel and Palestine.

[00:10:24] You had three proclamations that started this meeting, a landback and/or a land proclamation, all those things. Those are just words. They don’t do anything. I mean, they’re nice to say, and I appreciate them, but they’re not action. We need action now. Those people need action now. They’re dying, like, a lot of them, daily, and it is on the dollar of, that I put some money into that, and that hurts, because I didn’t have a choice in that.

[00:10:51] But we do have a choice about the dollars that we have in our pockets here in this town. And we can say, ‘No, we’re not going to support this.’ If this was like 1978 or 1980 and we were talking about South Africa right now, this wouldn’t even be a very difficult decision. We all knew that was bad. And it finally ended.

[00:11:11] And the person that they put in jail, who was the most amazing person, Nelson Mandela, he became their president. So things can change. But it’s going to take us doing it, and it’s a small step, and it’s all we can do from here because we’ve got people at the federal level ignoring us. So let’s take our money and put it where it belongs.

[00:11:30] Social investment is very important.

[00:11:32] Sam Cook: My name is Sam Cook. In 1987, the Oregon State Legislature passed a comprehensive anti-apartheid divestment law targeting the apartheid regime in South Africa. This law was the result of decades of activism from activists in Oregon and around the country. This resulted in a decline in the state portfolio by percentage from 9% to 2% in four years invested in South Africa, when the law was repealed in recognition of the end of apartheid.

[00:12:00] This law combined with a global movement to divest from apartheid South Africa contributed decisively to the end of the horrors of apartheid in that country. The current state and federal legislators have not shown the same degree of moral clarity or courage as those in the 1980s.

[00:12:19] But you council members have the opportunity to do so: To recognize that the ongoing genocide in Gaza is funded by our tax dollars, both federally and locally, and make the active choice to reject the use of our taxes to further the apartheid and war against Palestinians. I strongly encourage the Council to deeply consider the position they’re in, to act within the established tradition of our state, in choosing to reject investment in undemocratic, violent regimes from South Africa to Israel.

[00:12:46] And so it is for these reasons that I ask the City Council to support the motion. To direct the city manager and city attorney to revise our code to reflect our values and in the way our money is invested.

[00:12:58] City of Eugene: Our next speaker this evening is Kaleigh Bronson-Cook.

[00:13:02] Kaleigh Bronson-Cook: My name is Kaleigh. And I’m here tonight because I believe that we as Americans have an obligation not only to demand a permanent cease-fire in Gaza, which I appreciate the Council for already doing, but also to demand that our tax dollars stop being used to fund genocide through mass killing of thousands and thousands of civilians immediately.

[00:13:27] When I last spoke to this Council in support of the cease-fire resolution, the numbers I shared were that over 14,000 Palestinians, 6,000 of which were children, had been killed just since October 7. That’s not including the ongoing genocide that’s been happening for decades. Now, more than 31,000 Palestinians have been killed, including at least 10,000 children, including thousands who are missing, trapped under rubble, or injured.

[00:13:56] The time for divestment is long past and the Palestinian people cannot wait. The time for action is now, as has been said by many supporting the boycott, divestment, and deportation. Sanction movement is how we can do that. You can learn more about this movement at bdsmovement.net. There’s some great information about which companies, specifically both as a city, but also as individual consumers we should be boycotting, divesting from, and sanctioning.

[00:14:23] Some tonight have alluded that this issue isn’t relevant at the city level, and I could not disagree more. My tax dollars that are paid to this city are implicated in mass death and genocide, and I refuse to allow that to continue. This has to stop.

[00:14:41] Dr. Leilani Sabzalian: My name is Dr. Leilani Sabzalian, and I’m here today to urge you to pass the resolution establishing a socially responsible investments committee and a human rights-based investment policy for the city of Eugene. I also want to disagree with the idea that we aren’t connected to what is happening in Palestine.

[00:14:58] I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, ‘all my relations.’ I heard your land acknowledgement. I thank you for that. And ‘all my relations’ is not just a catchy Native slogan that you hear. It describes reality and the intimate and interconnected nature of our universe. And ‘all my relations’ is also prescriptive.

[00:15:16] Once you’re in a relationship, it comes with responsibilities. When you know you’re in a relationship, you have to ask yourself: ‘Am I in good relation?’ So I view the resolution that you all passed in 2014 establishing a policy that the city not directly invest in fossil fuel companies as a resolution intended to hold the city of Eugene accountable for being in good and right relation to land and the various forms of life those lands sustain.

[00:15:42] I see the proposed resolution today as a way of continually asking ourselves: Is our city in good relationship with Palestinians? We’re already in relationship with Palestinians, but right now we’re in relationship with Palestinians through harm, and we support this harm through silence, through our tax dollars, and through our denial of our complicity and our responsibility to stop the harm.

[00:16:02] We can’t change everything, but we can change how we want to be in relation to Palestinians. We can’t do everything, but at the very least we can make a commitment to being transparent about our spending and resolve not to spend funds on corporations that violate Palestinian human rights or that harm Palestinian people.

[00:16:18] I think most people today know in their hearts and minds that our nation is complicit in the genocide of Palestinians, but they lack the moral courage to take a stance. I’m asking you as my elected representatives to be people of conscience in this moment and use your power and platform as city leaders to ensure that our money does not fund genocide. This is one way you can show up and be in good relation in this moment.

[00:16:39] John Monroe: Hello, this is John Monroe. I recognize some of you from a decade ago when I was here frequently for homeless issues, which I guess is still a hot button issue here in Eugene. But tonight I am here speaking on behalf of the social responsible investment policy.

[00:16:56] If you think about it, while it might seem that it’s kind of a jump from that topic to this one, actually, in a lot of ways—so I was thinking about it as folks were speaking back and forth—ind a lot of key ways they’e actually deeply interconnected. They are fundamentally struggles about basic human rights, about people just being able to live their lives, about being able to wake up in the morning, about being able to spend time with their family, about their kids be able to go to school, their Parents able to go to work, and then come back, have dinner together, and go to sleep.

[00:17:28] It was amazing how much resistance there was in Eugene at the time, and apparently still is, to the idea that three percent of our population that is not living inside of a house should not get that. And it’s very surprising for me to hear so many Americans that don’t believe the people of Palestine deserve that either.

[00:17:45] And in both cases, there’s quite a bit of stereotypes, ignorance, outright bigotry, whether it’s the belief that people that don’t live in houses are all criminals, and somehow those that do live in houses are not, or that all Palestinians are terrorists, and somehow the people we’re sending money to are the most moral army in the world.

[00:18:03] And at the end, the real disgusting part for me, is that in every single case, there’s always someone behind the scenes making a dollar off of it. The people that were maintaining the cruel, inhuman, and sometimes outright sadistic policies against the homeless in this city were the highest members of the Chamber of Commerce who did not want to lose their nice windowfront business access.

[00:18:28] And right now, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and so many others are making huge amounts of profits off of the weapons that our government is selling to the Israel occupation. And yes, it’s disgusting and disheartening that my tax dollars are going towards that. But even worse, by investing in these companies, this city is making a profit off of that genocide.

[00:18:49] This city is making profit off of that pain. This city is making profit off of that terror.

[00:18:56] Todd Boyle: Todd Boyle, I was born in 1952, that was during the Korean War, and I was subjected to the McCarthy era, and as a result, I think I became oppositional.

[00:19:05] That’s probably the or one of the origins of my oppositionality. I was in the first Earth Day march. I protested Vietnam. I’ve been protesting wars my whole life. And this is a historic time. We’re actually living in a moment now that’s comparable to about only three or four moments that I can recall in my lifetime.

[00:19:21] The evil that’s being perpetrated on the people of Gaza right now is totally off the scale. And the United States is unique, and we’re living in a groupthink bubble where the United States is like the only country that’s opposing the resolutions of the United Nations and keeps shipping hundreds of billions of dollars of bombs to Israel, to kill innocent people.

[00:19:42] Okay, so is there a solution to the problem in Israel? Maybe not. Maybe there’s going to be a historical moment where Israel passes into history and gives equal rights to the Palestinian people as they do to the white people from Europe and Russia that live there. I mean, there could be worse things, you know, than the end of the State of Israel.

[00:20:01] There really actually could be. And it isn’t something that should be unthinkable. You know why it’s unthinkable? Because we’re living in a groupthink. We’re reinforcing and we’re kind of going along with this thing. We don’t have to go along with this. Enough already, all right? How many hundred years does this have to go on?

[00:20:17] Let’s just stop it. Stop funding Israel. You know, this thing about not investing, this isn’t going to change anything. I’ve been through this over and over again. We don’t have billions of dollars that we’re investing in Chase Manhattan Bank or something. That isn’t the way it is. We probably have negative balances.

[00:20:33] I mean, come on, we don’t have any power with this money. What we have power is you, as an individual, you say: ‘Enough, enough. I’m not doing this anymore.’ Pick up the phone and call Ron Wyden and (Sen. Jeff) Merkley and all these guys. Call them up. And Val Hoyle. And say, look, this is wrong, but it’s making us sick. It’s making us sick in our heart.

[00:20:56] We don’t want to be part of this. This is Eugene, you know?

[00:21:00] Lori Harmon: My name is Lori Harmon, and like so many people have said tonight, I think, the issue here is just really clear that we need a human rights-based investment policy, that we need to not be investing in companies that are profiting from genocide. And so, I ask you to please consider that resolution.

[00:21:19] City of Eugene: Our next speaker is Eric Howanietz.

[00:21:25] Eric Howanietz: As an American of privilege, I’ve studied political science and international relations for 25 years, but one of the greatest insights I’ve always depended on is: If South Africa says it’s apartheid and genocide, take their word for it. This isn’t like it was 20 years ago when I worked in Palestine with South Africans and international activists cataloging the crimes of the occupation.

[00:21:56] All of you can see what’s going on in Palestine. A sea change needs to occur in American policy and this council needs to represent what we all know to be one of the more radical cities in America. It’s your privilege to represent the people of a city so ready to be on the right side of history, so ready to break the mold.

[00:22:25] The resolution before you tonight has been served to you on a silver platter. It’s boilerplated from a similar resolution approved in Portland. We ask that you vote on this for the city manager to use this as a guiding document moving forward. Movement organizers are happy to meet with you and work effectively in collaboration with the city attorney and the city manager to implement policy according to this resolution.

[00:22:55] This movement isn’t going anywhere. We are here tonight to see change happen.

[00:23:02] Felicia Figueroa Carnine: Hi, my name is Felicia Figueroa Carnine. I too am here in support of Resolution 54. (Singing) Mm. We breathe together, we breathe together, we breathe together, stop the occupation. We breathe together, we breathe together, we breathe together, stop the occupation. We march, we march, we march together, we march together, we march together, stop the occupation. We grieve, we grieve, we grieve together, we grieve together, we grieve together, stop the occupation. We strike, we strike, we strike together, we strike together, we strike together, stop the occupation. Cease fire, cease fire, cease fire, cease fire, stop the occupation. We breathe, we breathe, we breathe together, we breathe together, we breathe together, stop the occupation, free Palestine, free Palestine, free Palestine, free Palestine, Stop the occupation, cease fire, cease fire, cease fire, cease fire, stop the occupation.

[00:25:19] John Q: On April 8, public calls for the city to adopt a socially responsible investment policy, and to create a citizens’ committee identifying companies involved in human rights violations and environmental destruction.

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