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Eugene Weekly : News : 12.24.08




Tribute to Bonny

Retiring councilor gets a rousing send-off

by Ted Taylor

Most elected officials get some kind of recognition upon leaving office, but retiring Eugene City Councilor Bonny Bettman’s private party Dec. 11 drew about 100 friends, colleagues and family members, big tables of donated food and wine, live music and a long string of speakers.

Bonny Bettman poses for photos with her mother, Shirley Ross, daughter Amanda and friend Kevin McCornack

The outspoken advocate for accountability and transparency in local government is stepping down after eight years of what she calls “civic aversion therapy,” and she’s not sure what she’s going to do next, other than take six months off. She voiced her appreciation for all those who supported her. “That served as an antidote to the kind of dirty, vicious politics that goes on at City Hall,” she said. 

The praise for Bettman’s work and character was effusive. “If some people are threatened by a woman who is strong, intelligent and not afraid to ask the hard questions, then Bonny Bettman, you are a triple threat,” said attorney Ilona Koleszar.

Ron Chase, executive director of Sponsors, served as master of ceremonies at the packed event at Tsunami Books. Chase praised Bettman’s leadership over the past eight years. 

“Bonny has always been way out front,” he said. “She is dedicated, hard working, well prepared, and most importantly to me, values driven. I never cease to be amazed at her diligence and how completely she throws herself into the details of an issue.”

Chase said Bettman has been effective at driving public policy. “A lot of the good things that have happened in this city over the past eight years are directly the result of Bonny’s hard work,” he said. He cited her “willingness to put up with the abuse and keep going.”

Community activist Charles Dalton lauded Bettman for her strong role in pushing for independent review of complaints against police “for all the best reasons: equal protection under the law.” Dalton said Eugeneans want review not only because of the Lara/Magaña police sex scandals, but also because of racial profiling by Eugene police and other issues.

Dalton praised Bettman’s commitment to justice, saying, “You have to have courage to publicly challenge the most heavily armed organization in Lane County.”

Bettman’s daughter Amanda described her mom as an unconventional hero, but a hero just the same: “I think it’s quite heroic to spend years getting nasty things written about you in the paper and spending days on end reading huge, boring-looking packets and spending years working on something you believe in.” 

County Commissioner Pete Sorenson said Bettman has been very pragmatic in her politics, avoiding “impossible” goals. “She has been meticulous about how her time’s been spent, and the things we are proudest of her are actually accomplished,” he said. “Those accomplishments are many and her efforts, particularly on our Citizen Review Board, are historic. There are things that will be in our city charter for years and years to come. This is a remarkable woman who has contributed in enormous ways to our community.”

Author and scientist Mary O’Brien said she admired Bettman’s “unparalled” attention to documents that come before the council, committees and commissions Bettman has served on. “She finds things in those documents. She finds bad intentions, bad policies, and Bonny figures out what should be good policy, what is protective of our community, what is democratic.”

Taking Bettman’s seat on the council will be Kiva owner George Brown. “It would be impossible to replace Bonny and I’m the first one who realizes that,” Brown said. He said he and his wife began paying attention to city politics about two and a half years ago. “It was immediately apparent that one person on the council was always prepared, knew the material deeply. One person always found the fatal flaw in every document. One person was able to, if not kill those flaws outright, at least move to mitigate their effect on the public. One person always had the public interest at heart, and of course that’s Bonny. Indeed the bar has been set very high, and I’m going to do my best. You’ve inspired a lot of people in this town, including me and my wife.” 

 Bettman said she has a lot of confidence in Brown. “I think he’s very humble and very modest,” she said. “He’s very smart and is going to be a quick study.”