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Emboldened activists roll up their sleeves.

Byline: Edward Russo The Register-Guard

Eugene's activists, enthused about changes at City Hall, said they still need plenty of help to accomplish their goals on the environment, growth, labor and other topics.

In their fourth annual Citizens State of the City address, speakers promoted ideas for environmentally friendly business practices, compact urban development, improved worker pay and law enforcement oversight, among other things.

With Mayor Kitty Piercy and two new city councilors taking office last week, the activists told more than 100 people gathered downtown at the Eugene Public Library that they are hopeful their ideas will find more success at City Hall than they did under the previously business-leaning mayor and council.

But they also said they will need energetic, grass-roots support to get their ideas passed into laws and policies.

"We can't just put the entire burden on our new progressive City Council and our new mayor to make the changes that we know will make Eugene a sustainable, neighborhood-oriented community that respects human rights," said Hope Marston of the Lane County Bill of Rights Defense Committee.

"It's up to us to guarantee our rights to a liveable city that protects all of its residents."

Other initiatives endorsed by speakers included:

An external review board to weigh complaints against police officers.

A City Council-hired auditor to check the performance of city departments.

Better city collaboration with neighborhood groups on development issues.

Lending a hand to a possible national drive to unionize Wal-Mart workers.

A city ordinance that would mandate minimum pay levels for city employees and firms that do business with the city.

In addition, Marston's group plans to ask the City Council this year to pass an ordinance that would make it illegal for city employees to cooperate with federal officials in detaining people who are not charged with a crime, which can be done under the federal USA Patriot Act.

Through the urging of citizens, Eugene's City Council in 2002 passed a resolution condemning the Patriot Act. At the time, it was the 15th city in the nation to do so.

Now, Marston said, the city should follow that resolution with the stronger, proposed ordinance.

The Citizens State of the City address originally was created as a counterpoint to former Mayor Jim Torrey's State of the City addresses, in which the mayor outlined his goals for the year.

"Four years of a developer-directed council majority have pushed Eugene, Ore., to the brink of crisis," said Kevin Matthews, president of Friends of Eugene, a 150-member, land use watchdog group.

Among other things, Mat- thews said, he is concerned about the city's plans to put streets and a hospital near the Willamette River, and possible expansions of the urban growth boundary.

Piercy may be mayor, Matthews said, but people who care about the environment must remain active.

"Contrary forces of often distantly driven real estate speculation and deeply rooted local privilege are busily jockeying for angles of counterattack," he said.

"How should we respond at this historical tipping point? In essence, our continuing mission is to bring sustainability home to earth right here in our Eugene."
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Title Annotation:General News; Even with a progressive Eugene council, they say changes will be hard fought
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jan 11, 2005
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