By Chelsea Bishop
Kayla, Susie and I arrive at the Friendly Area Neighbors (FAN) meeting half an hour early, hoping to catch someone to interview before the meeting commences. No such luck – after sitting in the dark in front of the locked Washington Park Cottage for about 25 minutes, someone opens the doors and we file in after him.
I’d never been to a neighborhood meeting before, but the room is smaller than I’d expected, and filled with much less people. For the first part of the meeting, eight people are in attendance and sit around a collection of pushed-together tables. Everyone seems well-acquainted and comfortable with one another.
We introduce ourselves, somewhat awkwardly as we are obviously the only college students in the room, and Amy Henne, the FAN secretary and treasurer, tells us that unfortunately no one has time to be interviewed tonight but welcomes us to sit and observe the meeting. I hear someone say, “Let’s see if they can stay awake!” a comment met by good-natured laughter from the group. After we sign in as guests on an informal piece of paper at about 7:05 PM, the meeting starts.
A main topic of discussion is the cost of last month’s newsletter, which goes out to 3,500 households and was apparently a bit pricier than anticipated. There had been a miscommunication and Andrew Fisher, the newsletter editor, was under the impression that printing the newsletter on different paper wouldn’t cost much more than usual. Fisher says, “We perhaps don’t want to do that again.” Of this misfortune, Henne says, “Bad things happen to good people!”
Carlos Barrera, FAN co-chair, says the Neighborhood Leader’s Council advocates that unused city property should be used for community gardens. He says that two people on the city council are in favor of this, and six people from the University of Oregon had mentioned that student volunteers were available for anything from one-day to year-long projects. “We could have someone at our picnics sign people in or throw litter in the trash,” Barrera says.
At 7:20, two more people enter the building, a man and a woman.
It turns out that the woman, Joyce Berman, is at the meeting to give a presentation on behalf of Save Civic Stadium, a grassroots organization dedicated to the purpose of preserving Eugene’s historic baseball park, which is in danger of being demolished and possibly replaced by residential housing. Berman says she got involved with the organization because a lot of people love the stadium and it’s a great community asset. “We’re at a really critical point,” Berman says, “4J [Eugene’s school district] just had their board meeting.” Apparently during 4J’s February 17th meeting they’ll be deciding whether to remove historic designation from the stadium, which would allow them to then change the zoning on the building and sell the land. Berman is hoping that FAN will get involved by lobbying school board and maybe even testifying at the February 17th meeting. She’s pleased when Barrera volunteers to testify.
Discussion of Civic Stadium goes on for a long time, along with some more talk of the newsletter.
Overall, I thought it was a good decision for our group to attend this meeting, as it offered us a glimpse into some of the inner workings of the Friendly neighborhood that we can’t really get from wandering around grocery stores…although that is fun!