Eugene Weekly : Viewpoint : 10.23.08

A Crucial Decision
Difficult times call for careful choice in mayor race
by Amy Pincus Merwin

The soul of Eugene is at stake.

Each day it becomes more obvious that the world and every main street is in crisis whether it is from the economic meltdown (which is a massive transfer of money from the public sector to the greedy, private sector), global warming, resource peaking and depletion, species extinction, loss of civil liberties, toxic tipping point, and overall fear and ensuing chaos. In these desperate times who we want to be Eugene’s mayor is a crucial decision. 

We know both mayoral candidates and their priorities and policies are well known. 

Jim Torrey has a history of focusing on sprawl and development, supporting the business community without limits often to the long-term detriment of Eugene and Eugeneans, irrationally using the police to justify his own actions and priorities, and using as his modus operandi for being Eugene’s mayor the unrealistic and intolerable idyll of 1950s paternalistic control. 

Specific examples are:

• Torrey’s never-ending lust for the WEP, which if built would enrich his cronies.

• Torrey’s negotiations which netted Hyundai/Hynix tax breaks and ultimately the company’s present “cut and run” tactics, which means Eugene will not receive the long-term benefit from those tax breaks

• Torrey’s actual behavior on June 1, 1997: While non-violent treesitters were protesting the cutting of very stately and old maple trees to make way for development, their genitals were being pepper-sprayed by EPD. Then-Mayor Torrey sat safely in his car around the corner and sent his wife to witness and report to him about what was happening.

• Torrey’s current and unfounded attacks on Mayor Piercy about her “disrespect of the police,” when in fact during Torrey’s tenure as mayor the city of Eugene paid out about $3 million in lawsuits compared to about $190,000 during Mayor Piercy’s tenure. The obvious conclusion is that during Torrey’s tenure some EPD officers and in general EPD oversight was out of control and Eugeneans have paid sorely for that level of management. Conversely, during Mayor Piercy’s tenure, the establishment of our Civilian Review Board (CRB) and police auditor have created the oversight that if allowed to operate as designed does assert the overview to keep us all safe and have a respectful and well-respected police force. 

Piercy’s well-known focuses are: 

• Working with and listening to all sectors in our community and bringing together people from diverse backgrounds and priorities to work on common goals and objectives.

• Creating opportunities for sustainable and green businesses and jobs.

• Gearing development in Eugene towards infill and affordable housing rather than using up scarce and precious farmland for more suburban sprawl.

• Mutually supporting and respecting EPD, the police auditor and the CRB.

• Protecting our wetlands and headwaters.

• Taking care of our commonwealth such as our local environment, and revitalizing downtown, roads and other infrastructures, including finding workable solutions to Eugene’s increasing traffic issues.

• Planning for community food safety.

• Addressing homelessness and disaffected youth.

• Understanding the powerful and political machinations in Washington, D.C., and throughout the world and how those affect Eugene now and will affect us in the future; and uniquely preparing Eugene to face the future rather than acting as if outdated values and processes of paternalism will “save us.”

• Fostering working relationships with the key people I believe will be leading our nation.

Another way to assess Eugene’s mayoral choice is to “follow the money” and contributors to each campaign to understand which candidate is responsive to a few or the many. Specifically, the majority of Torrey’s more than $454,000 in contributions are large donations from timber companies, developers, land speculators and construction companies. On the other hand, Piercy’s contributors are from more than 2,400 people like you and me totaling about $318,000. 

The choice of which future Eugene you want to live in is in all of our hands. But like I tell my kids, make every choice today as if you are having a conversation with yourself in the future because in fact you are.

Amy Pincus Merwin is a Eugene media producer and activist.