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Seventh Ward candidates differ on natural gas ordinance

Barbie Walker and Lyndsie Leech sit next to each other on chairs. Leech is holding a microphone.
Chris Lehman
Barbie Walker (left) and Lyndsie Leech (right) spoke at the Eugene City Club on March 24, 2023. The two are candidates for Eugene's 7th Ward.

Two of the candidates for Eugene’s Seventh Ward city council seat disagree on whether voters should have the chance to decide the fate of the city’s new natural gas ordinance.

The measure would ban fossil-fuel hook-ups in new low-rise residential buildings.

Eugene’s City Council passed it in February. But a signature-gathering effort that was overwhelmingly funded by NW Natural has succeeded in forcing a vote on the ordinance later this year.

Lyndsie Leech, the current council member in Ward 7, voted to approve the ordinance directly. She defended that decision during a March 24 forum at the Eugene City Club, noting that the ordinance had been the subject of public hearings.

"I firmly believe that the council's job is to enact code, and specifically building code," she said. "That is why I thought it was under the purview of the council to make that decision."

Another candidate, Barbie Walker, said council should have referred the question to the ballot in the first place.

"I do agree that there is climate change that is happening, and we need to be present and cognizant about tackling that," she said. "I also believe (that) we need to give the people the right to vote, especially when they're talking so strong about an energy source being banned."

A third candidate, Janet Ayres, chose not to attend the City Club forum.

Leech was appointed to the council seat in December after the incumbent, Claire Syrett, was ousted in a recall. The winner of the May 16 election will be sworn in July 1 and will serve the remainder of Syrett's term, which lasts until Jan. 2025.

According to state campaign finance records, with $20,000 in contributions to date, Leech has raised more than twice as much as Walker. Ayres has not reported any significant fundraising totals.

Chris Lehman has been reporting on Oregon issues since 2006. He joined the KLCC news department in December, 2018 and became News Director in March, 2023. Chris was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism. His public broadcasting career includes stops in Louisiana and Illinois. Chris has filed for national programs including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”
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