Thomas Hiura, 28

Application information

1275-1/2 W. 5th Ave.
Whiteaker Community Organization
Lived in Ward 7 for 20+ years, non-consecutively due to homelessness/housing instability
Lived in Eugene for 22+ years
Occupations: Dish Machine Operator at McMenamin’s North Bank; Story Collector for Springfield History Museum’s upcoming ILLUMINATION exhibit on Asian-American stories; Full-time graduate student.

Occupational background:
Annual Giving Coordinator – United Way of Lane County (Springfield, OR)
Guest Services Representative – Valley River Inn
Enumerator – U.S. Census Bureau (Eugene, OR)
Social Studies Educator – High School of Economics & Finance (New York, NY)
College Guidance Counselor & Resident Mentor – Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America (Princeton, NJ)
Head Counselor – Rotary Youth Leadership Academy (Dorena, OR)

Educational background:
Graduated NEHS in 2012 and would be a voice for Ward 7 youth who know the experiences and challenges of growing up in north Eugene.
Bachelor of Arts in American Studies – Carleton College (Northfield, MN)
Higher Education Leadership MSEd candidate – Southern Oregon U (Online)
Gates Scholar with full PhD funding in education at institution of choice.
Certificate in Music Industry Studies – NYU Tisch (New York, NY)

Prior governmental experience: |
City of Eugene Community Development Block Grant Committee
Whilamut Natural Area Citizen Planning Committee
City of Eugene Human Rights Commission
Springfield History Museum ILLUMINATION 2022-23 Leadership Team
Legislative Intern – Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon
Legislative Intern – Oregon League of Conservation Voters
Interviewed many local elected leaders and candidates as well as musicians/artists on my podcast,Broken Class with Thomas Hiura.

1. How would you describe Ward 7 in terms of physical, social and demographic characteristics? I cannot generalize much about what an average Ward 7 resident is like, because there is no such thing. There is a spirited population of younger Eugeneans, as some of Eugene’s premier educational institutions are either within the district (North Eugene HS, the 4J building) or a literal stone’s throw away (Marist HS). There are many elderly community members, both living in retirement communities and living amongst the abundant beauty within the ward’s residential neighborhoods.
There is an extremely wide range of commerce, from the vibrant restaurants and breweries of Blair Boulevard to the natural resource mills and hardware storefronts closer to Highway 99. While several of central & downtown Eugene’s arts and cultural hubs are on vibrant display in the ward (such as the Whiteaker Community Market), I have always viewed the River Road and Santa Clara communities as being an effective bridge from Eugene into many rural communities, such as Junction City, Monroe, Harrisburg, Cheshire, and many parts of unincorporated Lane County who might feel they live in a liminal space.
In any case, this ward is directly where we moved to from Japan when I was almost 2. It’s where I grew up, it’s the part of Eugene I know best, it’s where I am proud to live today, and where I am proud to have kept long-standing friendships alive across political and imagined lines of separation.
2. What are your unique qualification for representing Ward 7? I am sure this ward will provide many distinctly qualified candidates, so I will lead with the fact that Iwas the first runner-up for Mayor in May 2020. Most of that campaign was created and executed while I was homeless in my car, both before and during the Covid-19 pandemic. I created a website and wrote 64 policy goals in 8 categories, created daily multimedia content, and ran my campaign without any donations (no expenses except for inclusion in the two voter pamphlets). Even though Iwas homeless, I was still employed, so I know what that experience is like in Eugene.
I was the youngest candidate but earned almost 5000 votes in a 7-candidate primary.
Furthermore, LGBTQ visibility and dignity are under attack. I am proudly bisexual and non-binary, and because I am friendly to all and I lead with love, I believe my participation in Council might open some minds to the idea that not everyone with an expansive view of their own gender identity is scary, unhinged, or dangerous.
3. What are the three most important issues facing the residents of Ward 7?
Ward 7’s new councilor must hit the ground running. In only a brief window of time before the seat must be won through hard-fought election, it is essential that its occupant can immediately make substantive contributions to Eugene. I believe that focusing on these three issues would empower the appointee to build a communicative, fair and inclusive relationship with their constituents:
1) Neighborhood concerns and quality of life.
This comprises public safety, a sense of community, having good neighbors, and balancing competing interests. I feel I am quite aware of the issues in this district, such as through participating in RRCO meetings on issues like the noise/vibration pollution from Zip-O-Laminators. I heard much testimony on how this issue physically rattled residents and prevented their healthy rest; this only shows the immediacy and tangibility of these issues in Ward 7.
2) Economic viability.
This includes housing affordability, a shortage of good jobs (especially for those without training or a 4-year degree), wages lagging further behind inflation, and failing to be viewed as a desirable place to visit and promote commerce. This is another area that my keen eye on the issues of the north and west Eugene would be helpful, especially because Ward 7 shares a border with so many wards! Councilor Syrett was neighbors and worked quite effectively with her neighbors: Councilors Evans, Groves, Semple, Clark, and even Zelenka and Yeh, because of the unusual shape of the ward. I believe in the Bethel Area Plan and share Lin Woodrich’s view that it is overdue. I understand the long-standing relationship with Ward 5 just across the river, because I have lived through that relationship for almost my whole life. I believe in Ward 7 having its fair share and I believe I know how to build the kind of relationships that will increase the esteem, livability, affordability and prosperity of this wonderful area.
3) Government relations and the increasingly tenuous spirit of democracy in today’s Ward 7.
As someone who comes from the River Rd/Santa Clara community and ran for municipal office, Ican tell you that there remains a deep sense of confusion about the ward map, and feelings of being left out of the city. I believe the highly decentralized geography of Ward 7 made my community especially vulnerable during the well-funded recall effort. I am an outspoken individual and I am unafraid to speak truth to power. As a member of the Eugene City Council, I will work every single day to make sure the wide-ranging concerns within my district are heard and responded to within the City of Eugene.
4. What do you see as the most pressing need for the Eugene community and what would be your top priority a City Councilor?
I think there are too many of us in Eugene who perceive an adversarial relationship between public safety and human rights. The amount of violent crime and street harassment we have in Eugene may very well be moving from unacceptable to unimaginable. This is not an easy trend to reverse, but I want to be a part of the solution to make this city safe for everyone.
We need to continue to identify and optimize every solution that contributes to the wide-ranging fabric of public safety. I agree with comments I’ve heard at Council, such as by Councilor Zelenka, that Eugene’s Civilian Review Board and overall approach to police accountability is one of the best in the nation. We can be proud of this fact and simultaneously acknowledge how rapidly people are feeling less safe throughout Eugene.
In January of this year, my appreciation for Chief Skinner’s leadership continued to increase after the WOW Hall shooting that I witnessed. Even though some of the 11 news interviews led to as omewhat adversarial framing between he and I (based on whether or not anyone had provided audio/video of the incident), I was really glad to build the beginnings of a relationship with him. I appreciate City Manager Medary for helping facilitate this positive contact.
5. Describe your experience working with a diversity of perspective and opinion.
The first organization I ever co-founded was the NEHS Social Justice Club in Ward 7, in 2008. These kinds of initiatives are my life’s work; I mentioned in my Human Rights Commission that in 2016, I mentored a caseload of 50 talented low-income LEDA Scholars from around the nation. 49 were students of color, and all 50 of my mentees gained admission to one of Barron’s “most selective “colleges. I will always swell with pride at their ongoing success.
While I appreciate the inclusion of a question like this, I feel that I have addressed the question throughout the application, rather than in one standalone question. This is the holistic approach I try to take when working to make our surroundings more equitable.
6. How would you work to effectively convey your viewpoint and make decisions as a City Councilor? The theme of this ward is finding common ground and common sense solutions. I am extremely committed to that concept, and also to bringing in my connections with demographic groups who feel unheard.
It seems that we are reminded with increasing frequency that Eugeneans are divided, and that these divisions are leading to increasing threats of violence and a lack of safety in public. Take, for example, the awful example that recently occurred at Dizzy Dean’s Donuts in Ward 8. I don’t want small businesses – which have weathered so many storms in recent years – to take on increasing burdens from people living on their storefronts. I also am appalled at what this particular businessowner chose to do. We have to move forward with urgency without devolving into an us vs. the mmentality.
I actually believe my skills in this area and ability to balance competing interests might surprise every one of my fellow Councilors if I am appointed. Before my father passed away from Covid-19last year, my experiences with domestic violence and mental crises in my home equipped me to understand how to mediate and lower the temperature. I am extremely responsive and communicative and can ensure that all voices are heard while proceeding immediately toward accountability and intervention when urgency is required.
7. Describe your experience in the formation or implementation of public policy and regulations. It took a few failed attempts before I was able to be appointed to any boards, commissions, or committees within the City of Eugene. Since being appointed last year to the CDBG Block Grant Committee, I was able to chair one of our three meetings: the final one, which finalized our recommendation to Council. Through the Whilamut CPC, I have been an effective contributor to discussions about the proposed UO land swap, as well as spending time alongside Vicky Mello to monitor and write reports on behavior in the WNA during UO home football games. I am very proud to work alongside a talented and diverse Human Rights Commission which will continue to play an active and responsive role in Eugene city government.
After watching 25 year-old Maxwell Alejandro Frost win election to one of Florida’s congressional seats, I feel emboldened in my opinion that public policy at the student government level is no less meaningful than anywhere else. To that end, I was the first Carleton College student in decades to be elected to the CSA (Carleton Student Association) Senate in all four years of my enrollment. I also served on the Budget Committee, and these experiences meant I was extremely knowledgeable about best practices and precedent in the allocation of $3.2 million dollars to student organizations across four years. The best part of this? Getting students THEIR money! They paid for it, and they deserve to utilize it.
One of my proudest accomplishments was when we passed a Medical Amnesty Policy for students calling for emergency services. This policy literally saved lives, as students previously lived in fear of calling 911 or campus security if any student’s health crisis involved underage drinking or illegal substances. I also feel that I have understood public safety policy at the enforcement level, whether it be through weekend rounds as a Resident Assistant, or regularly escorting unauthorized guests off of hotel property at Valley River Inn and Graduate Eugene.
People who are writing public policy should know how it effects all stakeholders, including at the ground level. I believe my perspective as a working-class, LGBT (bisexual & non-binary), formerly homeless, autistic Eugenean of color makes me pretty capable of understanding a wide range of perspectives on city code.
And finally, in 2012 and 2013 I was the youngest intern in each of the legislative teams I served through Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon and Oregon League of Conservation Voters. We made thousands of phone calls to bring constituents all around the state to our lobby day events in Salem. It was there that I met and lobbied then-State Representative Val Hoyle. I’d like to thank you for considering my application, which I will conclude with my honest thoughts on something our Congresswoman-elect said in 2016.
In an Emerge Oregon video from September of that year, Hoyle was asked why she first ran for office. She said, “I believe that we should have legislatures, and city councils, and representation that looks like the people that we represent. And right now, that isn’t the case.”
I share this long overdue vision for the City of Eugene. At a Jennifer Yeh campaign event in May, Councilor Evans mentioned to me that he has no intention of running again in 2026. Frankly, I believe council should look more like Eugene looks. I am sure that I am not the only candidate who can bring various forms of diversity to the table. Understanding both the history of the Eugene City Council and the electoral barriers that marginalized Eugeneans face, I believe Council can reflect Eugene’s stated values in one of three ways:
1) Believe in the inclusion of diverse voices and make an appointment reflecting this belief.
2) Believe in the inclusion of diverse voices, but not enough to make an appointment that noticeably reflects this belief.
3) Deny that such inclusion should weigh into this decision.