Yesterday, the Register-Guard enthusiastically endorsed Juan Carlos Valle for Eugene City Council, as they had before in the primary. Here is the editorial in its entirety:
ENDORSEMENT: Eugene Ward 2: Valle
Challenger brings a fresh perspective
Betty Taylor has beaten tough opponents before to hold on to her Ward 2 position on the Eugene City Council. In seeking a fifth term, however, she faces a different kind of challenger — a candidate who promises not only a more open and flexible style of representation, but also one whose compelling life story gives him an unmatched breadth of perspective on life in Eugene. Ward 2 voters should elect Juan Carlos Valle on Nov. 6.
Valle, 43, came to Eugene from Mexico City in 1989 with nothing. He scrambled his way to a college degree and a job with the Social Security Administration. He had a lot of help from employers, mentors, teachers and non-profit organizations — “This community literally picked me up from the streets,” Valle says. He began repaying the debt as soon as he was able.
Valle was once a client of the Centro Latino Americano; later he became its president. Once he was a homeless person facing police harassment; later he became chairman of the Eugene Police Commission. Once a consumer of many social services, he became a leader of many local organizations that provide them. “What a country,” Valle marvels.
Seeing the workings of Eugene’s public services from both the bottom and the top has given Valle a nuanced understanding of the capacity and limitations of local government. It’s important for a city councilor to support a strong social safety net, social justice and a clean environment, but Valle says those goals must be a part of a larger agenda that includes economic development, housing and transportation. And in pursuit of that agenda, Valle says it’s vital to respect the views of others and find ways to work with them.
That’s the biggest difference between Valle and Taylor. Taylor, an 86-year-old retired teacher, is a woman of incorruptible conviction. As a councilor she has cast reliably progressive votes, particularly on matters relating to the environment and civil rights. She’s willing to stand for what she believes in, even if it means she sometimes stands alone.
These qualities account for Taylor’s record of electoral success. She is the senior member of the Eugene City Council, and her 16-year tenure is unmatched in local government except by Lane County Commissioner Peter Sorenson, another fixture in south Eugene’s progressive firmament.
But there’s a downside to Taylor’s strength of conviction. Firmness is a virtue unless it hardens into rigidity. A willingness to stand alone is admirable unless it forfeits opportunities to persuade. A refusal to compromise can be principled unless it results in the abandonment of productive partial solutions. Valle shares many of Taylor’s liberal opinions, but would be far more willing than she has been to work with others to translate his views into policies, to build coalitions, and to look for the kernel of truth that may lie at the heart of opposing ideas.
There are substantive differences. Taylor opposes the Capstone student housing development in downtown Eugene, period. Valle supports it, believing it will help revitalize downtown and eventually add to the property tax rolls. Taylor also believes the council should grant or deny property-tax abatements for such developments on a case-by-case basis. Valle believes the council should set the rules for tax abatements and grant them to those who qualify. Valle’s position is better for downtown, and is more likely to ensure fairness in decisions on tax breaks.
On most issues, however, the differences are more subtle. Taylor opposes the Downtown Public Safety Zone as an affront to civil liberties, full stop. Valle agrees that downtown Eugene should be open to everyone, worries that the safety zone’s rules can be abused by police, and believes the zone should have a sunset date. But he sees the zone as a useful temporary tool that can encourage people to live and invest in the downtown area, ultimately creating an environment where the safety zone is no longer needed.
Both Taylor and Valle support the Lane Transit District’s west Eugene extension of the EmX service, though Taylor’s support came late and Valle’s came early. Valle has spent time speaking with opponents of the project, and acknowledges the legitimacy of their concerns. But he sees the EmX extension as a civil rights issue: In 20 years, low-income people in west Eugene will need the mobility and access that only a strong public transit system can provide.
Taylor deserves the city’s appreciation for providing an example of principled leadership. Valle would provide equally principled representation, with the added effectiveness that flexibility and open-mindedness would bring. Ward 2 voters should elect Juan Carlos Valle.