“Frustration & Disbelief”: City Council Refuses to Redirect Funds from EPD Budget. Guest Blog by White Rose Tinted.

by remysaverem

It’s 3 AM in the morning and if anything was going to make me empathize with our city councilors it would be spending nearly seven hours listening through the June 22nd council meeting twice. But any empathy that might have welled up is thoroughly overwhelmed by anger and disgust at the council’s actions, or perhaps more accurately their complete lack of meaningful action in the face of the needs and calls of the community they purport to represent. Of the 62 public comments made during the sections in which discussion of the EPD and budget allocations in fiscal year 2021 was allowed, 56 addressed policing, justice in our community, public safety budgetary concerns, and the hollow lack of efficacy of Eugene’s councilors and executives. Most common were calls to defund or abolish the EPD. Also raised frequently were funding for CAHOOTS and other public safety organizations, the critical need for more and better support for the unhoused in our community, and the frustration and disbelief with the complete lack of action by Eugene’s city council and executives. People spoke about the murders of Eliborio Rodrigues Jr. and Charlie Landeros by the EPD and many other instances of racism and brutality by Eugene police. The demands of the BIPOC Liberation Collective to reallocate all funding intended for the Eugene Police Department, and to set up oversight for all public safety, by a coalition of local people and organizations with the commitment and perspective to hold our city government accountable to standards that reflect the needs and desires of our community. The need for transparency among our public safety institutions and within our city government was raised, along with the ills that have befallen our community due to its current lack. The racism that is not just an unalterable part of our past, but that is built into the very foundations of our public institutions, was called out and excoriated. Three hours of public outcry were given for the will and desire of our community to be voiced. Three hours that fell on disinterested ears.

While the mayor and City Manager raised the ramifications of not passing a budget by June 30th (a full week after the meeting), they had nothing to say about the ramifications of extending our current budget priorities, which have, as the public made clear, failed to meet our communities’ needs or respect our community’s collective humanity. Councilor Zelenka spoke of the need for serious reform but insisted this must be a thoughtful and inclusive process. Pay no mind that after hearing the thoughts of the 56 people who took the time to express their opinion, he had not a single hesitancy worth expressing about voting for the budget as is. Councilor Semple pointed out that our Human Rights and Sustainability Commisions had voiced support for the Black Lives Matter movement, but she had nothing to say about what she was going to do to effectuate the change that movement was advocating for. Councilor Syrett acknowledged the existence of institutional racism in the Eugene police department and city government, but this was not enough to cause her pause in voting to continue providing the financial support needed for them to enact this racist agenda. “We’re tired, get over it,” she said as if her discomfiture in listening to her constituents was equivalent to the brutality and terror her vote to pass the budget was signing off on. A work session was proposed, and the ability to create supplemental budgets was brought up; but the after thought of such things in comparison to the immediate effect of continuing business as is showed, they displayed an unwillingness to suffer the pain of doing the hard work required for change. The lives that will meet with the racism, sexism, transphobia, classism, ableism and so many other blights on our social institutions while the council figures out how to make change in within the bounds of their own comfort are, apparently, simply not worth the disruption of the continuation of our broken system. Councilor Evans acknowledged a lack of diversity in positions of power in Eugene and spoke of being racially profiled himself, but argued that they could not change the budget. He suggested in a later session they could discuss new hiring and training practices to change the police force into a “peace force” as a way of reforming our current system.

After all the comments had come in, Councilor Clark voiced the opinion that he thinks it is “awesome” that people who disagree with him are able to express their view points, before declaring he would be voting to pass the budget. He noted he didn’t hear anyone from Ward Five (which he represents) call in. Apparently police brutality is not an issue he thinks is serious enough to address if he hasn’t heard from the people who voted for him. His smug acceptance of a system that was not going to hold him accountable for betraying the trust of his city will be remembered. Syrett wanted it noted that we are all responsible for the change needed in our community. True as it may be that the work falls to our collective shoulders (particularly in light of the tepid and empty reaction of the city council), it is cynical and craven buck-passing to abdicate her responsibility and the exceptional position for enacting the very change she had said was needed at the very moment she would have been most able to do something meaningful. She didn’t need to “just listen to demands” but needed to speak with other “stakeholders” who had decided they didn’t need to be present to express their views. She didn’t think she was making excuses; she was “being realistic”. It’s clear what the city council considers realistic– and it is a far cry from the voices of the people they chose to ignore tonight. To echo the beautiful graffiti of the streets of Paris in May of ‘68, “Be reasonable, demand the impossible!”

*The above is a Guest Blog by White Rose Tinted. All content was written by and remains the content of White Rose Tinted. No content was edited. The title was added. Light proofreading was engaged (some punctuation was added for ease of reading, and a few words were fixed for syntax). –Assistant Editor #5.*

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