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Event offers chance to think outside the box.

Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By Aria Seligmann For The Register-Guard

It's been a year since Mayor Kitty Piercy took office. While Piercy has tried to follow up on her promise to be a "mayor for all Eugene," arguments over hospital locations and the West Eugene Parkway have brought out the worst in many on both sides of the fence.

A recurring theme over the past year has been how to achieve a strong, yet sustainable, economy. Piercy has followed the outline of her Sustainable Business Initiative, which she rolled out during her campaign. Task force meetings have been held each month since September, bringing together folks from diverse business backgrounds, both conservative and liberal.

Piercy has tried to strike a balanced tone, listening to varying viewpoints and leaving it up to the invited players to create innovative proposals for sustainable development, and to consider the "triple bottom line" impact - economic, social and environmental - any plans will have.

It's too early to know the outcome. All Eugene residents are being asked to complete an online survey and to offer their views of the economic, social and environmental directions their town should take. Such input is critical if, indeed, we are to achieve more equity in decision-making, allowing each citizen to feel ownership and inclusion in the planning process.

Piercy's moderate stances on issues such as the West Eugene enterprise zone have cost her points with some of her supporters. At the same time, she is being insulted and attacked by those with interests in industrial-commercial development through wetlands for her decision to stick to her campaign promise and demand an alternative to the West Eugene Parkway.

Some city councilors labeled "progressive" are at odds with each other over entanglements such as siting a hospital. Others labeled "conservative" are festering about the introduction of updated facts on the parkway.

This political labeling is unproductive. When we allow categorical labeling, we narrow the realm of possibilities and dismiss the productive problem-solving that can occur when a community works together for the greater good.

The mayor has shown herself capable of moving facilely between polarized stances and has avoided aligning herself with myopic viewpoints. To her credit, she has set in motion many new and meaningful opportunities for members of the public to increase their civic involvement.

While the Eugene City Council may be mired in disagreements that stretch out the process and prevent effective work from getting done, citizens are at work in the trenches, continuing to push the envelope toward even greater sustainability in terms of land use and local planning.

At this year's Citizens State of the City Address, members of the community will outline their visions of the direction they think Eugene should go.

Many of the observations and recommendations from past Citizens State of the City addresses have become major themes and strategies in city planning. The Sustainability Task Force, reconsideration of the parkway, green building and attention to issues of race and poverty are just a few of these.

The address is more than a critique of the past year. The independence of the event makes it possible for speakers to make farsighted recommendations free from political pressures and the constraints of elected office. Thinking beyond the West Eugene Parkway and parkway alternatives, Citizens State of the City presenters this year will encourage even broader solutions.

Beyond arguing over which is a better parkway to build, why not consider options for more fuel-efficient mass transit? Rather than arguing over whether land should be used for big-box stores or new housing developments, let's ask ourselves if that land can be used to grow enough food to feed the local population.

These are just a few ways local citizens are thinking outside the box. To add more energy to the mix, we need to include more youth in the dialogue, for that also breeds a sustainable base of forward-thinking people.

And these future-minded people believe in working cooperatively. It's time to move beyond labels and name-calling, roll up our sleeves and work together to weed out fiction from fact on the issues that face us, and plant seeds that will sustain us long into the future.

Aria Seligmann is the Citizens State of the City coordinator. The fifth annual Citizens State of the City Address will be held at noon Monday at the Eugene Public Library, 100 W. 10th Ave. The event is sponsored by Citizens for Public Accountability and Friends of Eugene. It is cosponsored by Women's Action for New Directions, the Community Alliance of Lane County, the Eugene-Springfield Solidarity Network and Helios Resource Network.
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Title Annotation:Commentary
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jan 6, 2006
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