Q&A with Eugene’s next Mayor
During Oregon’s primary elections on May 17, Eugene chose its next mayor, Lucy Vinis, by a landslide. The Emerald sat down with future Mayor Vinis to talk about her background and plans for Eugene before her term begins in January of next year.
Why did you decide to run for mayor?
Well, a lot of my friends are very politically minded, and we all try to keep up with local government and issues. They kept on telling me that I should think about running, so I decided that I would talk with some people and just see if this was something I could even do. I decided that once I hit some resistance I would stop. If I went to someone and they told me that it wasn’t a good idea, then I would just accept that and it wouldn’t be a big deal. But I never really got that resistance. People were all very supportive of the idea. So I just kept on going.
You’ve been billed as a progressive candidate. How did you come by that kind of platform, and what does it mean to you?
In the early stages of my campaign, I canvassed a lot of homes and talked to Eugene residents. And I found that a lot of the issues that kept coming up were things that I had a background in and an interest in. Homelessness is a big one, and I think I’m the only candidate who has real experience with that, having worked for ShelterCare [as development director]. Land use and space was another. I have a lot of experience as a private consultant on agricultural issues and resource allocation. How do we continue to grow and thrive while containing our urban sprawl? I focused my platform on making strides in these areas. Being progressive to me means listening to what people are concerned with and thinking about the future. Coming up with long-term goals and solutions to those concerns.
The mayor often serves a tie-breaking role in city council votes. How will you utilize that responsibility in policymaking?
As a mayor, you always hope to break as few ties as possible. I would hope that the city council will be clear in their decisions and that it will be very obvious what the people want. In that way, my vote won’t be as polarizing. I don’t anticipate that that will be the case in all the issues that will be put forth, but I will look to have open and clear communication with the councilors, and them with their precincts, so that we have a full understanding of what needs to be done.
How do you, as mayor, plan to foster a relationship with the university community, and how would you go about tackling the issues and problems that are inherent in a college town?
The first thing I would say to college students is that what happens in local government is of immediate importance to students. Our decisions, around student housing and protection for residents [and] around transportation, have a direct impact on the quality of your life in this city. I encourage students to be involved and pay attention. At the same time, you as students have a tremendous impact on the quality of life for longtime residents. Again, with housing and development, there has been a lot of conversation around making more room downtown. There is always going to need to be cooperation between the university community and the established residence because it’s all part of one community – our community. And while there may be inherent problems and tensions, the university is a tremendous resource for our city. It’s a massive employer and the research it leads helps our economy and profile. We also benefit a lot from the tourism at football games and other events that put us in the national spotlight. I will always try to focus on that balance between the needs of local residents and the needs of the university and its population. There is a lot of cooperation already between the UO leadership and local government, so I think really it’s just about continuing to do the same good work.