Downtown Eugene

Thursday, February 16, 2006


Public expenditure, as proposed by city staff, never addresses public issues. This is true until the public reacts. The public is not reacting these days, which makes city staff pretty happy.

Look at the proposed expenditures: parking garages, consolidation of property by the wealthy, new highways & overpasses, handouts to a private hospital, building a new city hall, building a new police station, handouts to a private national food chain, the building of another sports stadium, etc.

Ask anyone, and they'll give you a list of the real problems in their lives. And the above list addresses none of them:

1. Work; meaningful work; work that makes them feel free and fulfilled; work that ties you to, and benefits, your local community.

2. Health: affordibility of regular & emergency care. A better integration of healthcare into everyday life. A respect and regular evaluation of many different approaches to health.

3. Food & water: good quality local foods, produced by local small farmers, in direct connection to the community, which does not damage the ecology, which doesn't involve the use of chemicals, and which respects the land and the people involved.

4. Shelter: affordable, ownable, beautiful, sensible housing which helps us in pursuing our dreams, by providing workspace, integrating well with nature, and being part of a walkable neighborhood with character and amenities.

5. Happiness & community: a range of different activities, available everywhere, which bring people in touch with each other, for conversation, activity, shared creation, and mutual support. A community that moves away from fear, and towards goodwill.

6. A government that works towards providing these for everyone.

These are restated basic human rights, not far from Artcle 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, one of the most important, and most ignored, documents of the UN, adopted in 1948. It is ignored by the United States, on a national & international scale, and within the United States, by most local governments.

Anyone reading of these rights, can begin to think of how they can be implemented, on a local level. It's not that hard.

1. Promote the coming together of local expertise in a variety of areas, with the goal of creating work from within, resolving local problems in a natural, incremental manner. Create centers and organizations around ...

2. ... healthcare -- locally-built clinics & hospitals, production of herbal and western medicines, broadening participation and availability and affordability of healthcare.

3. ... food & water -- support local small organic farms, promote them, subsidize their distribution systems, etc.

4. ... shelter -- centers for plumbing, carpentry, metalwork, and the building of homes, civic amenities, parks & gardens & farms, mixed-use environments, financing, etc.

5. ... community -- places where people can go in an evening and take pleasure in working and creating with new people.

To those of us who've been involved in initiating projects like this, the solutions seems quite straightforward. But we don't seem to be able to maintain the attention of City Staff in terms of funding such publicly-minded projects. And we won't, unless the public is more fully involved. To resolve this problem, we need to:

1. Create an inspiring repository of "alternatives" that work. The books A Pattern Language and the Encyclopedia of Social Inventions, and the magazines Rain and the Whole Earth Review, among many others, were attempts to create such repositories, to act as catalysts for making the world a better place. This is the vision: the alternative to the current power-led approach to spending public capital.

2. Initiate a movement within the population, to take control of the pocketbook, and make democratic decisions to build and fund wonderful projects that address fundamental issues.