June 12, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

Critics rip city officials on homelessness, tax breaks, budget

7 min read
Scott Fife: I have to wonder about the intelligence or gullibility of the City Council, because (the developers) said it ‘wouldn't pencil out.’ Wouldn't pencil out in this hot real estate market? Is that the magic words, you get people to vote for this thing?

John Q: Public comment is sharply critical of city officials, as Eugene gives tax breaks to housing developers and adds assistant city managers while facing cuts to the library and homeless services. On April 22:

Rich Locke: My name is Rich Locke, business owner and president of the Eugene Business Alliance. What I want to talk about is the crossing there at Danebo and down by Roosevelt there on the railroad tracks. It just keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger and the garbage is more immense on both sides of the road. And you know, I did check with the railroad, and they say they are very firm on trespassers and those campers are not trespassing on private property, that I’ve talked to the owners, they are not, they are complaining and they’re not getting any action.

But that I did find in the code there, Code 4.808, Criminal Trespass in the First Degree: ‘(1) A person commits a crime of criminal trespass in the first degree if the person…(d) enters or remains unlawfully upon railroad yards, tracks, bridges, or rights of way.’ Why are we not policing this? We’re just moving these railroad crossing encampments that our city is allowing to happen from one place—

[00:01:26] Last few weeks ago it was down off of 5th Street there by the RV place and it’s been on every intersection out in West Eugene. Why are we continuously driving these undesirable folks towards our most vulnerable neighborhoods? Do they not have rights? Do they not fall under equity of safety? I mean, we’re talking about 97% of Eugene are reasonably good people. And we seem to, as a group here, drive those unwanted people towards the people who have the least amount of money, and it’s our most diverse neighborhoods there is.

[00:02:09] So I would like to challenge this group to start laying a little bit more onto our nonprofit providers…

[00:02:20] City of Eugene: Our next speaker this evening is Scott Fife.

[00:02:22] Scott Fife: Yeah, this Earth Day…I just wanted to say on this Earth Day that the Eugene city is subsidizing concrete production. Concrete production is the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases behind the United States and China. And I’ve heard from my Councilor Emily Semple that, ‘You know, well, we need housing.’ And I’ve just thought of some other ideas, like, in some places they’re taking buildings, we have tons of unoccupied buildings downtown office, buildings. And I just looked online today to see how much the Eugene Hostel costs. It’s $70 a night.

[00:02:54] Now each one of these floors and these buildings downtown, they have a women’s bathroom and they have a man’s bathroom. One could stay as a bathroom and one could be converted into a shower and a kitchen.

[00:03:07] And I’m also wondering about this whole Atkins Dame development that’s on the riverfront. I see there’s going to be seven stories, 237 market-rate apartments. And I don’t think that Atkins Dame was being honest when they presented this. I went to some of their presentations and they didn’t say anything about wanting corporate welfare.

And I’m wondering, you know, you’re going to make these things this high now. Are we going to be able to see the river from Skinner Butte? Because it looks like we might not be able to. Did anyone look at that and find out if that was the truth?

[00:03:38] You know, and I have to wonder about intelligence or gullibility of the City Council, because they said it ‘wouldn’t pencil out.’ Wouldn’t pencil out in this hot real estate market? I can hardly believe this. But that was the same excuse that, you know, when they built the one on 16th Ave. and Obie’s things, he said it wouldn’t pencil out. Is that the magic words, you get people to vote for this thing?

[00:04:00] Seems to be. Anyway, I see that you’re giving $25 million to market-rate apartments and only $5 million to affordable apartments. Now I know that you have the ability to change that around.

[00:04:14] And here’s another thing: Whole Foods, they wanted to come in here, you know, over 15 years ago, and they wanted to get subsidized to come in here and people said no. But guess what? They came anyway…

[00:04:26] Charlie Rojas: Charlie Rojas. April 4, Eugene issued a report of a city budget crisis, meaning a deficit of at least $11 to $15 million. Not mentioned was budget reserves are significantly below 4%, another hallmark of a failing municipality. Did it not occur to the council nor the city manager shutting down nearly the entire economy for two years, giving away tens of millions in tax breaks and subsidies for real estate development, as well as the existence of approximately 200 nonprofits in Lane County and Eugene, none of which pay taxes, would cause a revenue shortfall?

[00:04:57] Did it not occur to you all of that would demand a much higher degree of vigilance to the city and of the staff and city manager? Did any of you request the city manager or staff to give you a report of Eugene’s financial status? Apparently not.

[00:05:12] Most importantly: Did anyone from the city approach you prior to April 4 and warn you Eugene was in financial distress? I’m pretty sure they did. So why didn’t you all make us aware of what was taking place?

[00:05:23] If you knew this long before April 4, why did you, Lyndsie Leech, continue flacking a downtown redevelopment project requiring tens of millions in taxpayer subsidies? The only conclusion is you did not want your constituents to realize the policies most of you rubber-stamped have been abject failures.

[00:05:41] Your most important job is not the passage of unconstitutional gas bans, a middle housing amendment so poorly crafted the Oregon Court of Appeals threw it out, nor having your city-chartered River Road and Santa Clara community organizations hector or lecture us about white supremacy and institutional racism.

[00:05:57] Your only job was a proper oversight of your constituents’ resources in order not to have budget deficits nor depleted reserves. None of you, including the city manager nor staff, can be trusted. Why should anyone believe the deficit is not worse than 11 to $15 million?

[00:06:14] What’s needed is a performance audit. Some of you are going to argue we don’t have the money to have an analysis of your failures. Well, I suggest that we start at the top and ask: Why does the city manager need two or three assistants?

[00:06:28] Parenthetically, since I live in River Road, your plan for River Road is obsolete and worthless. If you don’t have enough money to fund core services, what good are your plans at all?

[00:06:40] Stefan Strek: My name is Stefan Strek and I’ve lived in Eugene for 25 years and I’m happy to speak out and support the less fortunate today. I understand there’s been a lot of of skimper-scampering about the budget and well over $15 million might sound like a lot of a deficit, but the budget’s $800 million. So it’s kind of shocking that that’s not enough money to get everything covered. And suggestions are being made for cuts that are pretty inexcusable. I am shocked and appalled and horrified that there hasn’t been more pushback on the proposal to slash $400,000 from the library’s budget.

[00:07:23] There are hard times for everybody. We’re in a recession, but cutting library funding during a recession is like cutting hospital funding during a plague. It’s inexcusable and it’s irresponsible and it robs those who are most at risk and will suffer the most, some lost opportunities to better themselves and better our society.

[00:07:45] There are too many parents who are going to skip dinner tonight because that’s the only way they can afford to send their kids to school with lunch in the morning. These are the same people who can’t afford to just go out and buy new books. These are the same people who need the library so that they can have some benefit from the society that they’re paying taxes into and that money has been disgustingly mismanaged.

[00:08:12] I was absolutely aghast to hear that it has been proposed to put an additional $1.4 million to the city manager’s office so that she doesn’t have to refill her own coffee. That’s a lot of money. And if that money is being proposed that way, it doesn’t seem reasonable to cut that from the budget for the library. Now I’ve got a lot more to say but I would just like to say that Einstein said: The one thing you absolutely need to know is the location of the library.

[00:08:46] John Q: The city council and city manager hear increasingly sharp criticism of their approach to homelessness, neighborhoods, housing development, and the budget.

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