When I visited the Occupy Eugene camp located between 6th and 7th Avenues and Washington and Jefferson Streets in Eugene yesterday a reporter asked me, “You have been to the listening sessions, visited the camp and spent a lot of time on this. Why?”
I didn’t have to think twice before I answered. I will be making an important decision regarding the encampment and how the City of Eugene will use general fund dollars that are scarce. Limited dollars that are in demand for a wide variety of services from police and fire to support of existing local social service agencies as well as maintenance of the city’s capital assets such as roads, buildings, traffic signals, bike paths, etc and paying the wages and benefits of the City staff.
This decision does not come lightly. I told the reporter that in order to make an informed decision I needed to personally visit the site and meet one on one and in groups with the occupants as well as the Police Chief, social service providers and the general observing public. This took time and effort. I visited Occupy Portland, visited the sites in Eugene, at the downtown park blocks, Alton Baker Park and its current location. I met in a listening circle and in my office with occupiers. I spoke with groups and individuals at length in the camps. I spoke with leaders of local service agencies. And I observed. For many hours.
From the beginning I had concerns. From the beginning I spoke of the committee I chaired on homelessness and youth and the services it leveraged. From the beginning I believed and stated that concentrating people, for whatever cause, in an area that is not suitable for extended overnight stay would never work.
Yesterday during my visit to the camp I specifically wanted to ascertain that large quantities of waste water were not entering our rivers and streams unprocessed. That concern was alleviated in that the waste water is captured in the kitchen area and hauled away by a sanitary service provider. It did not alleviate my concern that the food processing equipment and the utensils and plates used for serving the food were able to be maintained in a consistently sanitary manner. The camp kitchen is using, by their service staff’s estimate given to me yesterday, around 125 gallons every two days. That’s not nearly enough clean or soapy or chlorinated or hot water to guarantee sanitary service to standard that could guarantee no contamination or food poisoning.
My concerns that I stated in October have not been satisfied. I must repeat my message to the people occupying the park land between 6th and 7th Avenues and Washington and Jefferson Streets in Eugene:
My message to the campers: You must recognize that you have gone beyond the bounds of tolerance. You cannot control the messages that are being given both in your name and about your movement. You are endangering the people of Eugene. It is time to break camp and find other ways to make your protests that don’t harm people or our city.