Love Your Neighborhood as You Love Your Ducks by Pat Farr

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

There were a couple of pretty big wins in Eugene yesterday.

The first was witnessed by 58,000 or so live and in person plus millions more on TV.  That win was the Oregon Ducks over Stanford 52-31 at Autzen Stadium.  It will definitely echo around here and across America for at least a week and most likely clear into January of next year.

The second big win happened earlier in the day, in front of a live audience of perhaps 120 folks.  It didn’t get any press, but I’m predicting it will echo around our community for lots and lots of years to come.  It’s likely that nobody as close as on the other side of I-5 noticed it happened.  That win was the 2010 Neighborhood Summit at South Eugene High School.

Which one do you think sounds more exciting?  Let me guess:  it didn’t happen in the cafeteria on 19th Street, did it?  But in a few weeks when most of our attention will be focused on Ducks and Beavers and not Stanford, groundwork will be done that will be noticed for a long time beyond that.

Michael Kinnison, head of Eugene’s Neighborhood Services, and his staff put together a truly remarkable event that featured the  neighborhood group representatives from around the city.  The result was a concentration of ideas and method sharing that will help improve how we live in Eugene at the very basic level:  the street where you live.

I left the meeting (on my way to the football game) with a head full of new (and some old) ideas about the importance of neighborhood involvement in shaping the city.

One quote, by Denise-Christine from Active Bethel Citizens summed up the current level of involvement and what is the greatest area of opportunity for the future.  She said, “Anybody who’s doing anything ends up doing everything.”  And it’s true.  The small number of people who get involved (small by comparison to the number of people who live here) end up with all of the assignments from park improvement to neighborhood safety to attracting elected officials’ and city staff’s attention to (you name it).

So the most important thought I left with, and I expect most others left with also, is how do we get people interested in issues and ideas affecting where they live?

A few of the many ideas that surfaced:

A volunteer service bank to provide help to your neighbors in areas such as small plumbing repairs, computer savvy, hauling, etc.  People using their skills to help others who don’t have the skills.

Center activity on food issues (everybody is interested in this) such as neighborhood gardens, food access, fresh produce etc.

Learn from what’s been successful in other neighborhood groups and employ help from topic experts in such areas as citizen involvement with government, access to Neighborhood Matching Grants for projects, etc.

I hope more people find a way to get involved at this “grass roots” level.  It can be done:  on Saturday a man was at the Summit (I’m sorry I didn’t catch his name) with his four kids, all wearing bike helmets, getting involved.  If he can do it, I’m fairly certain I can.  And maybe with the proper encouragement others can, too.

And so, Saturday October 2nd 2010 ended up looking pretty good for the Ducks football team and for neighborhoods in Eugene.

Thanks to the City Councilors who attended:  George Brown, Andrea Ortiz, Alan Zelenka, Betty Taylor, to Mayor Kitty Piercy, to volunteer panelists Shawn Boles, Juan Carlos Valle, Paul Conte and Deborah Healy, to emcee Jerry Finigan and to the involved people from all around the community who skipped ESPN Game Day and spent their morning and early afternoon making a lasting difference.

And once again, good job Michael Kinnison, for bringing it together.