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Eugene & Springfield: Night & Day, But Which is Which?

January 11th, 2008 by dk

Published Friday, Jan. 11, 2008 in The Register-Guard.

Taken together, Eugene and Springfield comprise the second largest metropolitan area between San Francisco and Seattle. Split them apart and half a dozen other cities can stake that claim. Civic pride for each community relies in part on its neighbor. So when Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy and Springfield Mayor Sid Leiken this week offered their state of the city addresses, I took them as two halves of the whole.

Julie Daniel also attended both. As Executive Director of BRING Recycling, she oversaw the organization’s move from Eugene to its new Springfield location in 2007. I asked her how the two presentations compared. “Night and day,” she said. But which is night and which is day? “That’s a good question,” she said. And we left it at that.

So it goes for Eugene and Springfield, endlessly contrasted and hopelessly connected.

Springfield’s audience was less diverse, since an 11 AM start time suits mostly those who wear suits. Mayor Leiken did have his school-age sons in the audience. For that he apologized to Springfield School District Superintendent Nancy Golden, who was in the audience.

Eugene set its stage in the lobby of the Hult Center Monday evening. The time and place are chosen by the mayor so as many people as possible can come — and then come and go as they please. Springfield’s Wildish Theatre is a point of pride. As stagecraft, it presented a topdown affair.

Eugene had musicians set up off to the side, the mayor and councilors seated in the center, and food afterwards in multiple locations behind the audience. Springfield had everything happen in a single spot, front and center. Eugene used nine microphones, by my count; Springfield used one. Except for a few short remarks from Springfield City Attorney Joe Leahy, accepting the 2008 Lyle Hatfield Good Governance Award, the only voice you heard from Springfield was the mayor’s.

The program given to each Springfield attendee featured the likeness of Leiken on the front and back. Six colors of the same portrait, drawn by a student at the nearby Arts and Academic Academy. It cost the city $130 at Kinko’s to print 300 color programs.

Eugene offered each person arriving at the Hult Center at 24-page glossy-covered “annual report” for the city of Eugene. The city of Eugene printed 750 of these reports for about $2900. They use them throughout the year for employees, visitors, and sister city delegations.

Both events started with music, showcasing talented high schoolers. Eugene featured the Tonn Nua Celtic Band, which somehow combined celtic balladry with bluegrass verve. Springfield went with a stationary version of Springfield High School’s marching band.

The music set the tone for each. Springfield sees itself as on the march, directed and disciplined. They have the trust of their citizens, as recent votes have shown, and they believe they are well positioned to meet the changes ahead. Eugene’s song is richer, maybe sadder, featuring more voices. The mayor invited all the councilors to speak if they wished. Bonny Bettman took the opportunity to present what she called “a minority report,” lest anyone think Eugene might be unified even for an hour.

Awards and accolades consumed nearly an hour on Monday before Eugene City Council President Andrea Ortiz introduced Mayor Piercy. On Wednesday. the lights dimmed and Mayor Leiken walked to the podium and introduced himself.

I have a favorite moment from each program, though I’m sure neither moment should be taken to mean anything at all. Eugene provided sign interpretation for the entire program and it was a joy to watch 61-year-old Linda Collins signing Ari Lesser’s angry hip-hop lyrics about global warming and our “dimwit” president’s inaction. Across the river two days later, Springfield Mayor Leiken stumbled rarely with his prepared text, so I noticed when he said, “compri-, compo-, compromise — that’s a hard word for me.”

Mayor Piercy was interrupted by spontaneous applause 34 times, as if Eugeneans insist on being heard, even during a speech. The Springfield audience applauded three times — each time on cue — but smiled throughout, showing warm respect for their leader.

Each city finished with light refreshments. Eugene set their spreads in three round displays for access from all points. Springfielders naturally formed a single file line. Two cities; two styles.

So which is night and which is day? Depending on where you start, you’ll always have to pass through one to get to the other.


Don Kahle ( is a past president of the City Club of Eugene and has been involved civic affairs throughout the region for the past decade. Readers can review and comment on past and future columns, right here.

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