Volunteers are “well on our way” to collecting 10,000 signatures to put an Office of Independent City Auditor on the Eugene ballot next May, according to David Monk, one of the chief petitioners along with Bonny McCornack and George Brown.
The organizing group, City Accountability Committee, needs to collect about 700 valid signatures a week before the deadline of Oct. 12.
Rallies and signature-gathering trainings are already happening, and more are planned. A training for a core group was held Oct. 12 at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees offices downtown. More than a dozen people showed up to learn the rules, get their bright turquoise T-shirts, and gather for a group photo to be posted at cityaccountability.org.
Monk told the group that Eugeneans are responding positively to the petition. Several hundred signatures were collected outside the Oregon Country Fair gates July 5, and petitioners will continue outside Kiva, Sundance, the Eugene Public Library and at public events such as the Whiteaker Block Party.
At the Lane County Fair this week, signature gatherers will work out of the Eugene-Springfield Solidarity Network (ESSN) booth. Petitioners will also be going door-to-door.
At a July 10 rally in support of the petition drive, former city councilor Brown said, “Based on my years of experience on the council, this is the best thing we can do to improve, open up and get real accountability in local government.”
Brown said he has long been frustrated with the lack of transparency in city government. Even council members were often in the dark regarding the inner workings of city management. He said an auditor could look closely at programs such as the Multi-Unit Property Tax Exemption “to determine whether it is producing the results intended,” or examine Eugene’s old urban renewal districts, or the City Hall contracts and “the fees paid to the architects, which are two-and-a-half times what they should have been.”
An auditor would “have the freedom to audit any city program, any vendor, any budget, any department,” Brown said. “And we don’t have that now.” He also supports the auditor’s hotline on which any citizen, vendor or city employee can anonymously report fraud, mismanagement or inefficiencies.
Lonnie Douglas, a self-described Republican and conservative and chair of the ESSN Action Mobilization Committee, organized the July 10 rally in Eugene. “The reason ESSN supports an independent and elected city auditor is because it just makes sense,” he said. “It’s all about transparency and it doesn’t matter if you are on the right or on the left. The idea is to have accountability in the hands of the people.”