By Joshua Skov and Emily Semple
Many Eugene Weekly readers will remember that the two of us were opponents last year in the most contested City Council race in Eugene’s recent history. Now we’re coming together today on a common cause: We urge Eugene voters to get out and vote for Measure 20-275 on the Nov. 7 ballot.
This street repair bond measure is about more than just potholes. Yes, the money will allow us to responsibly maintain our local streets. But it also provides increased funding for bicycle and pedestrian improvements, puts us in a position to take real action on climate change and pushes for safer streets for all users.
When we campaigned last year for the Ward 1 council seat, we heard from many people that they cared about street repair. Over the past nine years, the city of Eugene has reduced a backlog of potholed, crumbling streets with two successful bond measures. This bond will continue that important work, keeping the same tax rate in place to do more of the same important work.
We also heard that people want accountable government spending, and this measure delivers that as well.
As a spending measure, this bond is exactly what we should all hope for. First, it clearly identifies where the money will go. There is a project list determined by careful deliberations of city staff and the citizen Street Repair Review Panel.
Second, there is accountability in the spending. An independent external auditor certifies that the money is spent as voters intend, and the citizens on the review panel track the expenditures over time.
Third, this measure is the most cost-effective way to take care of these needs. With smart ongoing maintenance, we avoid having to pay far more in the future to rebuild badly degraded streets.
Finally, many Ward 1 residents share our passion for addressing climate change. One important thing we need to do is make walking, biking, and riding the bus easier and safer options. As candidates, we both stood for strong action on climate change, both pledging to support improvements to our walking and bicycling infrastructure, and to improve safety for all users of our streets. This bond measure will take important steps in this direction and support future steps.
We have stood up for you on these issues before. As members of the city’s Budget Committee, the two of us, Semple and Skov, were the only votes against last spring’s update in the Capital Improvement Program. Why? Because the plan — which includes many good and necessary investments in roads, the airport, our wastewater treatment plant and more — simply failed to embody recent policy goals around climate change and transportation safety.
Some observers who share those types of concerns have questioned this bond measure as well, saying that it simply subsidizes the use of cars. While many street investments do that, we believe this is the right measure at this time for Eugene.
First, our streets are not just for cars. People in bicycles and buses also want streets to be in good condition, and we all benefit from freight. This is about good management of our shared assets.
Second, this street repair bond measure, compared to the last one voters passed, doubles the amount of money dedicated entirely to pedestrian and bicycle projects. Even this modest funding, about 10 percent of the total bond, is unprecedented. We believe it represents an important step in turning our infrastructure away from total dependence on the automobile. And since this dedicated money is often matched by state and federal grants, it will go a long way. In short, it will be a key source of funding specifically earmarked for bicycle and pedestrian improvements.
All that said, we want voters to keep an eye on these issues. We ask you to approve this measure because it advances our shared aspirations for our transportation system. We envision a city of walkable and bikeable neighborhoods, a great transit system, streets that are safe for everyone, especially the most vulnerable users — and people who are healthier and happier because of how they get around.
We both strongly believe that making “alternative” transportation safer and more convenient is good for public health, for the environment, and for connecting us to each other. And yes, we want streets that are in good condition that work for cars as well. This bond measure is one step toward this vision.
Will this measure get us all the way to that perfect transportation system? Absolutely not. But without it, we will struggle to fund basic street fixes, and we will have almost no money for the kinds of important changes we want to see in our transportation system.
We ask you to join us in voting yes for Measure 20-275 — and also that you remain engaged to support meaningful action on climate, transportation safety, our bike and pedestrian network, and transit.
Emily Semple is the city councilor for Eugene’s Ward 1, which encompasses much of south Eugene and most of downtown. As a councilor, she sits on the City of Eugene Budget Committee. Joshua Skov is the board president of Better Eugene-Springfield Transportation (BEST) and a citizen member of the Eugene Budget Committee.