Potential Candidates for Field Questions from Eugene’s Empty Council Seat at Forum

Two Eugene residents made known their interest in taking the seat of former Ward 7 councilwoman Claire Syrett at a community forum Wednesday night in the city’s Whiteaker neighborhood.

The two potential candidates are Dan Isaacson and Joel Iboa, who live in the River Road and Whiteaker neighborhoods respectively. The forum was held in the Alluvium Church and consisted of questions on topics including tenant protections, climate change inequality, homelessness and concerns over the recall election that recently removed Syrett from his position.

The result of the recall election was certified on October 3, showing 3,928 votes cast with 2,329 in favor of recalling Syrett and 1,599 against. The community forum was organized by the Eugene Tenant Alliance and other community partner groups.

The event was paired with a poll of Ward 7 residents to let the city know who they want to replace Syrett in the interim period ahead of the May election. It was a small turnout of 32 responses. The result was in favor of Isaacson, with 59.4% of the vote for him, 37.5% for Iboa and 3.1% for Tim Lewis, who did not participate in the forum.

The Eugene City Council gets the final vote on the new interim councilor in December, following a nomination process. Wednesday’s poll was intended to give Ward 7 residents a recommendation of who they wanted councilors to vote for. The interim councilor would serve from December until July, when the permanent councilor would take the seat after the May election.

Related:Eugene City Council will appoint an interim councilor for Ward 7. Here’s how to apply

Iboa, the executive director of the Oregon Just Transition Alliance, said he thought one of the problems with the recall election was that too few people were informed and aware of it before the vote.

“If this were another situation where a recall effort is happening in our city, I suspect people in this neighborhood would be much more ready and much more tuned in to say, ‘You know what? ? It’s not OK,” Iboa told the audience in person via a Zoom call while on a work trip to Texas.

About 30 people attended the event in person, with a smaller number monitoring Zoom. Ballots were received in person and online.

Iboa grew up in the Whiteaker neighborhood. He is the first in his family to graduate from college and attend the University of Oregon. His parents immigrated from Mexico. Part of Iboa’s job includes serving as the coalition director for the immigrant rights organization Causa Oregon. There, he helped build a coalition of statewide organizations focused on advocating against anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim policies and measures under President Donald Trump’s administration. He has served as chair of the Governor’s Environmental Justice Task Force since 2017.

Isaacson owns Fillmore Wholesale, a packaging company in the Whiteaker, and is the president of the Lane County National Alliance on Mental Illness, as well as co-chair of the advocacy group Suicide Prevention Coalition of Lane County. Isaacson lives in River Road with his girlfriend and son, who is in primary school. He is chairman of the Eugene Planning Commission.

A similarity between Iboa’s and Isaacson’s comments was a desire to have better communication between residents and municipal officials in Ward 7. The Ward consists of parts of River Road, Whiteaker, Trainsong and Central -town. Isaacson said if chosen to replace Syrett, he would hold office hours once a week.

“I’ll pick a spot in the Whiteaker or a spot in the River Road, call it ‘Wednesday Noon,’ and anybody can come in and have conversations with me about whatever they want,” Isaacson said.

In their opening statements, Iboa said he was considering applying for Syrett’s spot because others had “voluntarily told him” and thought he would be a good replacement. Other members of the local environmental justice community encouraged him and led him to his current position as director of the Oregon Just Transition Alliance, which helps communities address issues of “environmental racism, change climate and economic exploitation”.

“Everything I’ve done so far is because my community asked me to step in and I have to,” Iboa said.

The need for better services to address mental illness, addictions and housing for people was another focus of the questions posed to the two potential candidates.

Dr. Eli Varedas, Steward of Alluvium, asked the two candidates what they are currently doing to feed and help the homeless in the community.

Isaacson said he tries to stay active in his River Road community by finding homes and jobs for people and has done this for four people he employs at his business in Whiteaker and for whom he had found permanent accommodation.

“At River Road, it was about preparing for disasters and strengthening our neighborhood associations, but there’s a huge amount of work that neighborhoods do differently from each other that we can learn from,” Isaacson said. .

Iboa responded by mentioning his past work with the city’s Human Rights Commission and taking the time each year to distribute blankets and food to the homeless people of Whiteaker.

“I did my best to make sure the Human Rights Commission was pushing to make homelessness more manageable for the city,” he said.

After finishing as the favorite in the poll, Isaacson said Thursday he didn’t know yet whether he would submit a nomination. He cited the existing commitments he has with volunteer work and his family as reasons he is undecided.

“I want to serve, and I believe I can contribute to the collective conversation, but there is an impact that I want to understand and accept before I commit,” he said in a Facebook post.

More information and PDF applications for the open councilor position are online at eugene-or.gov/537/Mayor-and-City-Council. The completed application must be received by the City Manager’s office by 5:00 p.m. on November 9. Candidates must reside in Ward 7, be a legal voter under state laws and constitution, and have resided in the city for at least one year before taking office.

Contact reporter Louis Krauss at [email protected], call 541-521-2498 or follow him on Twitter @louiskraussnews.