Business owner Barbie Walker is running for Eugene City Council in the May 16 special election against Lyndsie Leech, who currently holds the interim seat, and Janet Ayres. The winner of the election will serve out the remaining two years of Claire Syrett’s term.
In an interview with Eugene Weekly, Walker says she disagrees with how the council is run and that it should let residents vote on big policy issues. She also says it’s time to consider cutting the city’s budget while also supporting Eugene Police Department’s calls for more police officers, though she doesn’t have any suggestions of which services and programs to slash to make that possible.
“When the people of Ward 7 did the monumental recall, that’s never been done in Eugene, I think they made their voice clear that the way City Council is going, they’re not approving of,” Walker says, referencing the September 2022 recall election that ousted Syrett.
Walker says Ward 7, which consists of the Santa Clara, River Road, Trainsong and Whiteaker areas, has many underrepresented voices, and to not include them in the governing process is disheartening. She says voters should have a chance to weigh in on issues, such as regulating the use of natural gas in new residential buildings.
“Do we as citizens want to vote on everything? No, we don’t,” Walker says. “But when it’s clear that we have an invested interest to vote, that’s empowering.”
Walker provides a vague line of which issues voters should decide. If it’s a topic that people have spoken out about and have educated opinions on, that should be considered for an election, she says. For example, the 2019 public safety payroll tax, whose majority revenue went to fund Eugene police officers, affected her employees, so she says it should have gone to the ballot. But whether Eugene should move into the former EWEB headquarters was OK for the council to decide, she says.
In discussing the city budget, Walker says it’s time to address it as if Eugene were a business or a household — a common conservative narrative. “Work within our means, like people are asked to,” she says. “The city needs to do that, too, because we can’t continue to raise taxes on people.”
Walker says the city should put its “wants and needs” on a whiteboard and find places to trim the fat. She doesn’t have suggestions for which services to cut, but says that the city should continue to support White Bird and CAHOOTS, while also increasing the police force.
Walker moved to Eugene in 1999 from Corvallis to attend the University of Oregon. She co-owns Webfoot Bar and Grill and Pint Pot Public House with her husband, Justin Walker. She had applied to be interim Ward 7 councilor, but did not receive enough support from Eugene City Council in the several voting rounds it held in December 2022. Although the council position is a nonpartisan office, Walker says that she grew up as a Democrat, became a Republican, and that she’s accepted that Libertarian fits her political perspective best.
According to OreStar, the state’s campaign finance transparency website, Walker has raised $8,235. Her notable contributions are $2,000 from Divine and Hammer, LLC, $1,000 from Thorin Management real estate company and $500 each from Meta Maxwell and Mark Osterloh.
Maxwell and Osterloh were two of the leading participants in the campaign to recall Syrett. But Walker denies having a similar platform to the campaign that was rooted in Syrett’s involvement in the Lane Transit District and Eugene City Council’s exploratory plan MovingAhead.
“If they want to contribute to me, just like Syrett wants to contribute to Lyndsie Leech, or whoever, because they believe in something I’m saying or the direction I’m going for council in the city,” Walker says.