Mayor of Eugene : ‘Open your Eyes’ Rock Star

When my agenda written to have meeting with Eugene’s mayor, I just act as another usual meeting. On the second the meeting run, I just realized that it was such a huge surprise and unbelievable session for me as well. I previously think that I only join with planning team who set the meeting with Mayor to update work stuff. However, the fact is, Mayor Vinis only allocated time to speak and heard about me. (oh my gosh!) And the planning team, also City Manager who joined in the room, were just role as spectators. Frankly, I shocked, but my shocked-ness did not have any certain place to come up, because, I should rushly cover my nervous to not mess up those platinum experience.

On the day I had chance met with Mayor Lucy Vinis (Eugene’s Mayor), I asked how Eugene could have a historically strong vision about sustainability, while in Indonesia (as I experienced), we have a big challenge on advocating city leader or local government to value sustainability development approach. Mayor Vinis only admits that (consciously or not) she had been burden with former mayor who set up a high bar and huge leap (also turning point) on Eugene’s sustainability implementation.

 

Time went by, the meeting was so much fun, in casual and relax ambiance that I could ask anything. It was so cool to have mayor that open to have any discussion. Mayor Vinis is a very humble, modest, kind person who very enthusiast on welcoming me, as well. In Indonesia, it such hard opportunity to meet the mayor (unless, you’ve already have close connection with right-hand mayor person, knowing him/her in person, under table relation, or intercepted in any occasion that mayor stand in) and just having casual discussion with his/her in a small meeting room, without any bureaucratic complement.

Terrifically, Mayor Vinis was came into our office (her excuse was that she had marathon meeting in my office placement), while in Indonesia, meeting with Mayor mostly in mayor exclusive building or any fancy (or exclusive) sets up.

I asked lot of things to the mayor; how she work with high demanding community who always give criticize on what government do without having understanding first, how to persuade people who do not believe on sustainability things that you’d already valued the most.

She points that the importance of having vision on leadership that see anything in the bigger picture so that people opinion cannot easily interfere anything you do.

She helped me to have a model, so that people could sure that what you believe is not just idea, but already show the good impact.

She also shares some problems that I face (in Indonesia) on put sustainability on the top priority is difficult, while in the same time we should address other demanding, yet basic problem like poverty, homeless, proving jobs, and other economic and social issue. Eugene city official is still struggling to meet the balance on the Triple Bottom Line, as well.

“When we talk about sustainability, we are not just talking about whether we have enough open space –of course-, we also talking about whether people are able to have healthy lives. We called Triple Bottom Line. We talked about social equity which access to jobs opportunity, environmental component, and economic sustainability, so that they built each other. How do you create jobs, ensure people earn a living that they need, how do you create adequate housing so people have healthier and safer live and they children could go to school, and doing what they need to do. The environmental is just part of that overall package, how people can live if the air is not clean.”

 

Mayor Vinis shows me, the way to ensure people on sustainability is to change the argument -change the conversation- is not whether we plan tree, but how people have healthy live. Because make sense that people already know that instinctively that it is nice to walk in the sunny day, see flower and trees, even we could not go anywhere far though. And to ensure people, you should know who you talking to. For each person, the way you talk might be different.

 

Did not want my curiosity noise remained, I peak the session with the question about, why she interested in run to be mayor. Any people in those room laugh and never expect my question, but Mayor Vinis shares a mindful answer on me. That it is not her plan at all, because previously, she did on different thing. When the former mayor governed in such a long term, people talk about who had gonna replaced her, and many people asked her whether she could consider. Otherwise, she thought that only crazy person who said think that she could do it. However, she agreed to explore and start to make sense on it.

From that question, revealed the amazing thing, that democratic party of Oregon provide ‘school’ to any mayor candidate, executive, city official or legislative position about sustainability. From her volunteerly (yet, paid) joined those 7-month training program, we could see how Mayor Vinis valued the sustainability issue.

The ultimate statement from Mayor Vinis about her run is,

“You might be don’t know what happen in your life. Just preparing yourself for life. I even don’t know, whether it’s the right place for me or not. It just happens.

Keep on your eyes open for life, for the next thing. If you just keep doing, with eye-closed, you just do not know.“

[Left to Right] Eric Brown ( Metro and Community Planning, Planning Division), Robin Hostick (Planning Director, Planning Division), Lucy Vinis (Mayor of Eugene), me, Jon Ruiz (Eugene’s City Manager)

Reminishing my rock song anthem when I was in the high school, by Alter Bridge titled “Open Your Eyes” :

Its hard to walk this path alone
Hard to know which way to go
Will I ever save this day?
Will they ever change?

 

Niken Prawestiti (Indonesia) nikpraw.comis a Social-Environment Enthusiast, Sustainaibility Placemaker, Indonesian Green City Program Associate. Currently, developing urban community network which bound environmental, social, and cultural community concern over Indonesian’s cities to take action on achieving sustainable city in fornusa.id. Also, growing “Ayo ke Taman” (Indonesian expression on ”Let’s go to Park”) as a platform for raising awareness about the existence of open urban public space.

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