Making a Connection

Eugene City Council candidate wants to address disconnection and using Airbnb

Kate Davidson

When Kate Davidson decided to run for the Eugene City Council, she made her campaign slogan “I want to hear from you.” As Davidson goes door to door campaigning in the south hills neighborhood, she says she means it.

Davidson has filed to run for Ward 2, which covers Amazon and the south hills area. Betty Taylor has held the council seat for six terms and has not announced whether she is running, or if she is endorsing anyone. Taylor is known for liberal views that largely reflect the south Eugene makeup of Ward 2. Davidson says her desire is to increase civic engagement and to find creative solutions to citywide issues.

The candidate is a Eugene resident of 30 years and has lived in Ward 2 for more than half that time. She’s never gone into politics or run a campaign, but Davidson holds a master’s degree in public policy and management from the University of Oregon. She ran a professional consultancy for more than 10 years and developed an outreach mentorship plan for Sponsors Inc. Davidson is also an elected chair in the Lane County Southeast Neighborhood Association.

One of the issues Davidson wants to tackle is the city’s communication with and responsiveness to citizens. Sometimes, she says, the city has a tendency to funnel information up the system and things get left out on the community level, but that it’s important for local voices to be heard. An example of this, Davidson says, is with the communication about the 2017 report from Boston’s Technical Assistance Collaborative — known as the TAC report — which outlined ways for the city to address homelessness.

“The regular person doesn’t know,” she says. “So how do we take this information that we have and trickle it down to the neighborhoods so people are aware there is a solution to the problem, and that the solution has been adopted?”

The importance of communication translates to other issues as well, Davidson says, such as climate change. She explains that the City Council is essentially one level above the neighborhood.

“We could utilize the neighborhood’s email distribution lists and write a report every week,” Davidson says. “As a city councilor, I’d want to make sure the people in my ward have that information, or maybe a climate change challenge.”

Davidson says she believes that the neighborhood level is where good, sound public policy is developed.

“I want to really support neighborhoods and communities coming together. How do we build community? How do we give people a sense of belonging?”

She is also interested in thinking of creative solutions for citywide issues. One idea is to use the city’s transient room taxes that come from Airbnb to support housing. Right now, Davidson says, the tax goes toward tourism activities. She would like to see that money go towards other platforms.

“It’s a tool that can be used. We have a lot of people coming to Eugene for a lot of different reasons.”

Those tax receipts could help create affordable housing. Davidson says it’s important to hang onto a market that could offer those types of solutions. Airbnb, she adds, like most things should be regulated, but it also shouldn’t be overlooked as a potential solution. 

Airbnb is also something that would benefit the city when the World Athletic Championships come to Eugene in 2021, she says.

“The world is changing. Hospitality is changing and people have to do it differently now. It’s really astounding and beautiful in my opinion. The fact that people open their homes to strangers on a regular basis,” Davidson says.

Davidson also cautions the city not to throw all its time, resources and energy into the 2021 event at the expense of people without homes. Instead, she says, there should be a commitment to make sure everyone gets sheltered. When the city listens to its people, they can solve the bigger problems.

“How do we foster that connection in our city?” Davidson says. “I think Eugene does a pretty good job, and we can always do better.”

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