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Eugene City Council Approves FY21 Budget, Leaves EPD Funding Untouched

City of Eugene


Eugene City Councilors unanimously voted (8-0) to adopt the City Budget without any amendments Monday night. Councilors made the decision after facing heavy criticism from speakers who demanded the city reallocate police funds to other services. 


Lasting more than three and a half hours, councilors heard from dozens of commenters during the public forum and during designated and undesignated public hearing portions of the meeting.

Some speakers wanted councilors to defund the Eugene Police Department by at least 30 percent, while others called for slashingall funding from the General Fund earmarked for the department, which is close to $60 million. Both groups demanded officials increase support for services like CAHOOTS and other agencies and services. The total budget for the General Fund is $222,885,009.


Miriam Valentine, a commenter, urged councilors to defund and demilitarize EPD, and instead work on reparations for at-risk groups. 

“The only thing that holds Eugene together are the organizations, and hardworking people in those organizations, such as Whitebird, Daisy C.H.A.I.N, NAACP, and so many more,” Valentine said, “the people working in the frontlines of social services are tired from picking up the slack from those of you in legislative positions avoiding your responsibility.”

Supporters of redirecting funds also asked the city to center Black and Indigenous community needs and voices. Speakers aligned with the BIPOC (Black and Indigenous People of Color) Liberation Collective stated other demands at the meeting including delaying the allocation of close to $24 million in funds from the Community Safety Payroll Tax and ensuring CAHOOTS staff are compensated at least $20 an hour.

“Choosing to recreate this budget immediately would be hard and unprecedented and uncomfortable, and I recognize that, and I want to challenge you to consider how uncomfortable the people in your community are all the time,” Sarah Astra, a commenter, said. Astra asked “who is being kept safe” before listing marginalized communities.  

Early on in the meeting, City Manager Sarah Medary said the city would have “no legal expenditure option” if they did not pass a budget before June 30.

“We wouldn’t be able to spend any money as of July 1st, including making our payroll, making bond payments, paying suppliers and contractors, we also wouldn’t be able to collect taxes,” she said.

The looming deadline sparked outcry from several speakers who suggested councilors had the power to amend the budget Monday night, or call an emergency session before June 30. Criticism aimed at officials was prevalent throughout the night.

Speakers suggested councilors were being hypocritical by stating “Black Lives Matter,” at the beginning of the meeting without taking action on defunding the police. 

“I’m asking each of you, don’t be that person who stands in vocal solidarity with this movement and then fail to actually act. You all have power right now that we don’t and you have the responsibility to listen to these people calling in tonight and to act on what they’re demanding and that is defunding EPD,” said commenter Alex Farrington.

A letter signed by Mayor Lucy Vinis and six of the eight councilors was released Monday morning with a statement on addressing racial injustice toward Black people and other communities of color. Councilors Mike Clark and Betty Taylor did not sign the letter. KVAL reports all councilors were given the opportunity to sign the document.

Speakers in support of defunding EPD also took digs at councilors for not remaining on camera throughout the virtual meeting. They specifically called out councilors Alan Zelenka and Clark, though Clark stated later that he was listening. Many speakers also noted city officials looked visibly tired and distracted.

“I will say about the comments about us looking tired, yeah we’re tired,” said Councilor Claire Syrett in her response at the end of the public hearing. “We’re human beings, our faces are in these stupid little boxes for three hours, so yeah we’re tired get over it.”

Syrett said she recognized institutions, including police departments, were constructed with inherent bias in them and acknowledged the need to remove them. But she said it’s not possible to do this in a matter of days. She added in order to make change they can’t “just listen to demands,” officials need to engage with the community, consult stakeholders, service providers, and Lane County.

”That is not something we can do tonight, no matter how committed we are to making change. Many of you who spoke tonight will see this as just making excuses, I actually see it as being realistic about what it’s going to take to achieve the results you all claim you want to see.”

Syrett said she’s willing to reprogram revenue to start rebalancing spending priorities towards other services for early intervention and reducing poverty. She said the city has the opportunity to reallocate other unexpected funds like revenue from the Marijuana Tax.

“It may not be the revolutionary action that many of you are seeking for us to take tonight, but it is a path forward that you can hold us accountable to undertaking going forward,” she said.

Councilor Mike Clark was the only other official to comment at the end of the public hearing. He said he’s supportive of the ability for people to voice concerns to their representatives. He also noted that no one from Ward 5 gave a comment, and this played a role in his vote to approve the budget.

“I get to represent people who may have a different point of view, and I hope all of us understand that people of goodwill who have different points of view can come together and talk about it and make decisions peacefully, and I hope that’s what we continue to do,” he said.

While the budget has been approved, City Manager Sarah Medary suggested revisiting a related discussion by holding a special work session on July 20. She said councilors will have the opportunity then to consider amending supplemental budgets.


Copyright 2020 KLCC 


Melorie Begay is a multimedia journalist for KLCC News. She was the Inaugural KLCC Public Radio Foundation Journalism Fellow. She has a bachelors in Multimedia Journalism from the University of New Mexico. She previously interned at KUNM public radio in Albuquerque, NM and served as a fellow for the online news publication New Mexico In Depth.
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