Downtown residents assure that things are improving

 Local residents and workers of downtown have seen the light at the end of the tunnel

Tiffany Cortez has worked at the Horsehead for seven years

By Nikki Wyatt

The biggest issues most people think Downtown Eugene faces may not be as prominent as previously thought.

Some of the most talked about worries of the area relate to crime and failing businesses. But as local people who live and work downtown say, things are getting better.

“Once in a while we have unruly people, but it’s very unusual,” says Marilynn Larson, a volunteer at the Public Library. Having been in the area for years, she remembers what it was like during the 1980’s when downtown was lined with little shops.

While she admits downtown had its bad stretch, she insists things are looking up. She has high hopes for the Lane Community College’s new building, going up just across from the library. The building will feature classrooms and a residential area for LCC students.

Larson is excited to have a bigger student population downtown. “I’m hoping that the new Lane building [being built across the street] will enliven the area somewhat.”

As far as safety goes, Ruth Murphy, who works at the Downtown Athletic Club thinks the homeless population is a crime risk.

“If you go to certain areas at night it’s really not safe,” said Murphy, who is also a resident of downtown Eugene. “I don’t like to walk alone.”

Tiffany Cortez, a bartender at the Horsehead bar, disagrees. She warns that it’s not always the homeless who cause problems. “I’d say the younger kids that pretend they’re homeless and probably live in the South Hills,” she said. “They have cell phones and laptops and are begging for money.”

Four years ago, Cortez was mugged by two men while walking by Obama’s campaign office with her fiancé. Her fiancé was knocked down and she lost $300 when her purse was stolen. “When I called the police, they said ‘we have real emergencies to deal with, so call us tomorrow’,” she says.

She contacted Mayor Kitty Piercy and insists that Piercy did everything she could to solve the case. “The mayoral candidates have always been really good about getting back to me,” she says. She appreciates the work the political figures of downtown are doing to combat crime and economic downturn.

Larson looks on the positive side. She doesn’t ever feel threatened. “Once in awhile we have some unruly people, especially in the winter when they come in to get warm,” she said, “but generally not that much. Our security guard deals with whatever there is. It’s unusual.”

Larson also acknowledges that things have gone downhill in downtwon.  But she believes that things are on the upswing. She says with a laugh, “I think the biggest issue is parking.”

Marilynn Larson has lived in Eugene since the 1980’s.

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