Field of Schemes

Ted Coopman Represents Himself, Not Ward 1 

By Heather Marek, Anya Dobrowolski, and Christine Beneda

Ward 1 needs a city councilor who will put the community first. Despite Ted Coopman’s short time in Eugene, his outsized influence over the Jefferson Westside Neighborhood (JWN) has allowed us to witness his brand of leadership firsthand. Coopman moved to Eugene in 2016 and soon became chair of the neighborhood association. Today, as he runs for one of the most powerful positions in local government, it is crucial that voters understand how he has abused his power in that position to promote his personal agenda and self-interests.

Many will be surprised to learn that, last year, before the Oregon Legislature, Coopman claimed to speak on behalf of the entire JWN to express “enthusiastic support” for constructing the Ems stadium at the Fairgrounds. This was his own personal support. However, it was offered in his official capacity as “elected Chair” on official JWN letterhead. 

Coopman’s testimony before the Oregon Legislature was particularly stunning given the Ems stadium has been a significant source of controversy for the neighborhood. Residents have expressed deep concerns, including the more than $100 million in public subsidies proposed to benefit Elmore Companies, an out-of-state for-profit corporate conglomerate that owns, among other things, mining and timber companies, and that is free to pack up and leave anytime. Among other concerns are the impacts of traffic, noise/light pollution, and crime on the thousands of surrounding homes (with games, concerts, and other events projected for 100+ days per year); the environmental impacts on wildlife in the Amazon Creek, home to great blue heron, river otters, beaver and turtles; and the privatization and demolition of community spaces. 

A 2022 survey showed 65 percent of neighbors adjacent to the Fairgrounds opposed the proposal, with only 8 percent in favor. A 2023 survey found two-thirds of JWN respondents in opposition. Despite the national attention, no systematic outreach to the neighborhood has occurred. Many neighbors have received little to no information. The New York Times and The Register Guard report that the JWN board — a group of just seven people, including Coopman and his wife — already voted to support the stadium, but the JWN website assures us otherwise. The webpage states, in boldface, “The JWN Executive Board has not voted to support an Ems sports facility.” Coopman’s March 2024 newsletter says that JWN will merely “continue to help facilitate the public process.”

Why would Coopman lobby for a project that so many residents oppose without consulting most (if any) residents? And why conceal that support? One clue may be found in Coopman’s financial relationship with Allan Benavides, the general manager of the Emeralds. Notably, Benavides has donated thousands of dollars to support Coopman’s policy agenda. Benavides is tied for largest donor to Coopman’s City Council race (as of the time of writing). Benavides has also, on behalf of the Ems, donated $1,500 in support of Coopman’s pet project to make the JWN a so-called “historic district” (a desperate effort to prevent the development of inclusionary housing, which Coopman’s litigation ultimately failed to stop). That donation amounts to more than all the other GoFundMe donors combined. Given Benavides lives in neither JWN nor Ward 1, his generosity may raise a few eyebrows. 

Because we are not mind readers, we cannot say with absolute certainty whether Coopman’s advocacy is motivated by personal enrichment or simple paternalism — a sense that he knows better than his neighbors. In the end, it makes little difference: Coopman has deprived JWN residents of a meaningful voice in one of the most consequential development projects that the neighborhood has seen in decades, and which will have impacts reverberating throughout Ward 1 for decades to come. If elected to City Council, he will exert his will over not only his constituents but the entire city. 

Some may try to reframe this discussion to make it about whether or not you like baseball. But that’s what pitchers call “spin.” Let’s keep our eye on the ball: The real question here is whether Coopman will represent his constituents — not himself, out-of-state mining and logging barons, or the $3.6 billion San Francisco Giants (Ems affiliate). This election is fundamentally about whether it will be special interests or the community that has a seat at City Council. A vote against Ted Coopman is a vote for democracy.

Heather Marek, Anya Dobrowolski  and Christine Beneda are longtime Eugene residents, and have resided in the Jefferson Westside Neighborhood (JWN)  for 14, 10 and 42 years, respectively.