Think Out Loud

Candidates for Eugene’s open mayoral seat address crime, environmental protection, homelessness and housing

By Allison Frost (OPB)
April 17, 2024 12:51 a.m. Updated: April 17, 2024 10:34 p.m.

Broadcast: Wednesday, April 17

Candidates for the mayor of Eugene speak at City Club of Eugene on March 15, 2024. From left Kaarin Knudson, Shanaé Joyce-Stringer, and Stefan Strek.

Candidates for the mayor of Eugene speak at City Club of Eugene on March 15, 2024. From left Kaarin Knudson, Shanaé Joyce-Stringer, and Stefan Strek.

Courtesy KLCC/Rachael McDonald


Oregon’s second-largest city has an open seat for mayor. Incumbent Eugene mayor Lucy Vinis announced last year she would not be seeking a third term of office, and she promptly endorsed architect and housing expert Kaarin Knudsen, the first to declare her candidacy. Educator Shanaè Joyce-Stringer joined the race later, as well as Stefan Strek, who does not appear to have a campaign website but was included in a recent mayoral candidate forum hosted by the Eugene City Club. KLCC’s Rebecca Hansen-White moderated that event and has been covering the race. She joins us with more about the candidates and the most pressing issues the city is facing.

The following transcript was created by a computer and edited by a volunteer:

Dave Miller: From the Gert Boyle Studio at OPB, this is Think Out Loud. I’m Dave Miller. Oregon’s second largest city has an open seat for mayor. Incumbent Lucy Vinis announced last year she would not be seeking a third term in office. She promptly endorsed the architect Kaarin Knudsen. Educator Shanaè Joyce-Stringer joined the race a little bit later, as well as Stefan Strek, who doesn’t appear to have a campaign website but was included in a recent candidate forum hosted by the Eugene City Club. KLCC’s Rebecca Hansen-White has been covering the race and moderated that event, and she joins us now. Rebecca, welcome.

Rebecca Hansen-White: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Miller: Before we get into the race that is the future, I just want to stick with the past for a second. Can you tell us just a little bit about Lucy Vinis, the two term mayor who decided not to run for a third term?

Hansen-White: Yeah. So Lucy Vinis is very popular. She beat out four candidates to win in 2016. And when she ran for re-election in 2020, she got 68% of the vote. She has a pretty good record of things that I think Eugene residents are pretty proud of. The rental protections that we have in Eugene, she was a part of getting those passed. We have community safety officers, which are basically unarmed police officers to respond to things – that’s happened under Lucy Vinis. So she’s had a lot of things that I think Eugene residents really appreciated. So I think her word carries a lot in this community.

Miller: Did she say why she wasn’t running again?

Hansen-White: When she announced that she wasn’t going to run and she was supporting Kaarin, she said it was time to make space for new leaders and new voices, and give other people opportunities to make a difference here. So I think that she was ready to take a step back after also being mayor during the pandemic, and give someone else an opportunity.

Miller: So let’s turn to these candidates. Kaarin Knudsen declared first. Who is she?

Hansen-White: So Kaarin is a really well known person in this community. She is an architect, and she also was a former UO student athlete, cross country, she’s a runner. She’s got those UO connections, as well as the housing and architecture connections. She started a nonprofit, Better Housing Together. And so she’s also the former president of the City Club, which is a civic organization that puts on all of these community events. So a lot of people know who she is, and have a connection to her through her nonprofit housing work, through maybe UO, or this other organizing community activities that she’s done. So she’s a pretty well known person in this community.

Miller: As I mentioned, you recently moderated a debate with the candidates. Here is Knudsen talking about her top priority.

Kaarin Knudsen [recording]: Eugene’s mayor has a unique set of responsibilities. And a big part of that responsibility is helping our community to walk into its future, and leading with values and vision for our future. When I talk with people all around this community, there is no question that addressing our housing and homelessness crisis is the number one concern. It’s the number one issue on people’s minds. And I’m absolutely committed through all of 2024 and beginning on January of 2025 to working to announce new housing initiatives, to put new programs in place, to develop stronger partnerships with our county and state partners, because that is how we address the structural crisis that is presented through our housing. It’s how we help people who are homeless. It’s how we build a stronger foundation for every individual and family that has chosen to make this place their home and wants to grow their dreams here. And it will absolutely be my focus in this work.

The mayor is a part of the conversation in everything that the city does. The mayor builds bridges. The mayor helps us to step forward with confidence and with compassion. And I am absolutely committed to doing that work, beginning with housing.

Miller: So that’s Kaarin Knudsen. Who is Shanaè Joyce-Stringer?

Hansen-White: So Shanaè is an educator. She’s a little bit of a newcomer to Eugene, she moved here during the pandemic. And her background is in working in public schools as a classroom teacher, doing after school programs. She owns her own business as well, a coaching business, she’s done event planning. She’s really jumped in, there’s all these committees that advise and support the city and community groups. She’s one of those faces that since she moved here three years ago, she has joined a lot of those organizations. She hasn’t been here as long as Kaarin, but I think she’s been pretty involved as soon as she got here.

Miller: How has she made her case to voters?

Hansen-White: When you meet her, I think one of the things that she really tries to emphasize is that she has a lot in common with a lot of the voters and people in our community. Shanaè is a renter, and I think that’s a significant part of the way that she looks at what she might do as mayor, is really being a representative for the people who can’t go to city hall all the time, the homeowners. She’s also a Woman of Color, and is very focused on just hearing the full range of voices at city hall, and true inclusivity, versus, I’m not saying that what Eugene right now is doing is lip service, but I feel like a lot of local governments say “we want to hear from everyone,” but doesn’t really do the work to make that happen. And so I think that’s one of the things that she’s hoping to change.

Miller: Let’s have a listen to part of what she said at that forum.

Shanaè Joyce-Stringer [Recording]: I’ve had the pleasure and privilege to serve in a variety of capacities within this community. I have seen the richness and diversity that our community has to offer, which is why I want to ensure that every voice is heard, and that every resident is represented in our local governance. Whether you live in the heart of downtown or the outskirts of our city, I want you to know that if you are a working parent, a business owner, even a student, whether you’re experiencing homelessness, or a renter just like me, your concerns definitely matter to me. As future mayor, I want to ensure that we bridge divides, foster unity, as well as create opportunities for everyone to thrive.


Eugenians, it’s important to know that I see you, I hear you, and that I am you. And together, we can move Eugene forward.

Miller: So I want to turn to homelessness and crime. Homelessness is something that we heard Knudsen said she was going to focus on. Have these two leading candidates distinguished themselves policy-wise in terms of their approach to homeless services, or their approach to crime?

Hansen-White: I would say in a lot of ways, they are kind of hitting the same beats. “We want to talk about root causes, and the root cause in a lot of ways is lack of affordability.” But two areas I’ve seen some differences is Kaarin has said “I’m already doing the work with this nonprofit and the housing advocacy,” and that she was already at city hall pretty often to talk about housing. And so with Kaarin as mayor, she argues that she would just continue the work that she’s already doing in a little bit of a different capacity, and so is better equipped to do this work. Policy-wise, I haven’t seen huge differences, but I think that Kaarin might be a little bit more knowledgeable with her background in architecture and housing.

The other difference I’ve seen that’s pretty specific is when we talk about public safety, Shanaè really wants to see more community policing. And specifically she said “I want to see patrol officers not just being in their patrol cars all the time. I want to see them out in neighborhoods, getting to know the community, and really trying to understand the community that they serve.” And I think that’s something that she really would like to see is more of a community policing model.

Miller: One issue that Knudsen and Joyce-Stringer don’t seem to agree on is a new stadium for the Eugene Emeralds, the popular AAA baseball team in town. What are their positions?

Hansen-White: We had a forum, that City Club forum. When I asked each of them about it, I would say, Shanaè Joy Stringer is one of the people that’s been willing to publicly question this stadium, and whether public money is the right choice for a minor league baseball team’s new stadium, when there’s all these other issues the city is really struggling with, like a budget deficit, and the health care issues that we have in this community. And from Kaarin Knudsen, she has not really been willing to take a position on that except that people should go out and vote and make their opinions known. When I’ve asked her about it, she has not taken a position on whether we should or we should not as a city be financially supporting a new minor league baseball stadium.

Miller: One of the issues that we talked about in this show not too long ago is PeaceHealth closing its downtown Eugene Hospital. What role might the mayor play in terms of addressing the gap that’s left?

Hansen-White: So there are two ways that a mayor of a city like Eugene can get involved and potentially help out. One of them is, now that the only emergency room is in Springfield it takes a little bit longer for our emergency responders to transport people to the hospital, and that means that they might be able to get to fewer calls, that’s quite a bit more of a burden on our emergency services. So finding ways to boost resources, potentially get more people, station them differently. That’s a way that the mayor can directly address that lack of services that we now have in Eugene, because we don’t have a hospital in the city anymore.

The other area that the mayor could potentially address this lack of an emergency room here is in their role as sort of a spokesperson and a partnership builder for our city. They’re in a position to potentially work with the county, work with private organizations, help recruit another healthcare provider. And so really, in that spokesperson role I think is the other way that they might be able to address this lack of healthcare in our community.

Miller: How are these two front runners getting their messages out to voters?

Hansen-White: They’ve been out in the community quite a bit. They’re both doing community forums. I know that they’re knocking on doors. I know that they both also visited homeless services and shelters in our community as well. They are both trying to, where they can, meet people where they’re at face to face and try to get to know them.

Miller: As I noted, the Eugene City Club forum did include another candidate, Stefan Strek. What issues is he focusing on?

Hansen-White: So Stefan Strek is an artist. The main issues when I’ve talked to him is he’s said a 24-hour library and public restrooms around Eugene for everyone, but also for people experiencing homelessness – they should all have access to restrooms – and more bus services. [These were] the main three things that I’ve heard him talking about at community events.

Miller: Is Strek considered a serious candidate?

Hansen-White: He has not filed with ORESTAR, which I think is maybe a signal there. He doesn’t have a current website right now. And I think the other thing people might want to know is he’s filed to run for office four or five times So he has appeared on quite a few ballots already, and not made it past the primary. So I would say I don’t think that he’s a super serious candidate, and maybe has what he needs to prevail against Kaarin or Shanaè.

Miller: ORESTAR that you mentioned, that’s the financial reporting system for political candidates.

So one final note before we let you go, there was another candidate in the race until he suddenly dropped out a few months ago. Who is Douglas Barr, and why did he drop out?

Hansen-White: So Douglas Barr is a longtime community person. And why he dropped out is the Daily Emerald, our local University of Oregon student newspaper, did a deep dive on his background, and found out that in the eighties he had actually been involved in a hate crime in San Francisco. It led to someone dying, this group of young men killed this gay activist in San Francisco. He was not charged with murder, he was charged with assault.

And after that came out, and a lot of people in the community were very upset when they heard about that, he withdrew his candidacy and he decided not to appear on the ballot.

Miller: Rebecca, thanks very much.

Hansen-White: Thank you.

Miller: Rebecca Hansen-White is a reporter for KLCC

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