In the mid-eighties, a group of Eugeneans met to discuss avenues of citizen diplomacy with people living in the Soviet Union. Working with Sister Cities, International, the local Soviet Project evolved into the Eugene-Irkutsk Sister City Committee by 1987.
Called the "Paris of Siberia", Irkutsk, a city of 700,000, is located in southeastern Siberia near Lake Baikal, the world's largest freshwater lake. This year marks the 340th anniversary of the founding of Irkutsk, an old commercial center between East and West. Like Western Oregon, the Irkutsk Region is part of the "taiga", a large forested area spanning Siberia and part of European Russia. Nestled in the wealth of vast timber resource is "soft gold", particularly sable. Rich mineral resources contribute to the industrial development of Irkutsk, which is also a center of higher learning. Forests, mountains and rivers surround Irkutsk and Eugene, providing a variety of similar work and leisure opportunities.
After Mayor Yuri Shkuropat and Mayor Brian Obie jointly signed a Protocol in 1988, the following exchange programs were coordinated or facilitated by members of our committee: high school Russian students, maternal-infant care, scientists, youth art, hiking, photography, chamber music, theater, municipal training, humanitarian assistance, choir, business, Rotary, land use planning. Recently, three Irkutsk educators and three Irkutsk youth participated in our "Crest to Coast" project, studying the relationship of mountain, wetlands and coastal ecosystems in Oregon.
A Brief History
The Kalapuya Indians were the first people to live in the Willamette Valley. Archeological evidence indicates that the Kalapuya occupied the area for several centuries.
A hunting and gathering people, the Kalapuya frequently burned the grasses of the valley to clear brush and provide a better habitat for the game and vegetation they depended on for food. By the time the first white settlers arrived, the valley was an open grassy prairie with isolated white oaks and other trees.
The first cabin in what is now known as Eugene was erected in 1846 by Eugene Franklin Skinner. It served as a general trading post and was authorized as a post office in 1850. This was the first official recognition of the community.
Eugene City was platted and recorded in 1852 by Skinner and Judge David Risdon. However, the site had its disadvantages. After heavy winter rains it became a quagmire and earned the nickname "Skinner's Mud Hole." A revised town plat was made on higher ground in 1853.
Settlers and industry arrived simultaneously. A millrace was dug in the channel of an old slough and a flour mill and a woolen mill used its water for power. Saw mills were also established along the banks of the Willamette River. By 1858, there were between 500 and 600 inhabitants in Eugene City. According to one account, the residents were served by nine dry goods stores, two book stores, a drug store, a bakery, a restaurant, two hotels, two saloons, two printing offices, three doctors, four lawyers, four clergy, one newspaper and an assortment of blacksmiths, cabinet makers, painters, and other tradespeople.
Eugene City was incorporated in 1862. Two years later, the community adopted a charter and a new name - City of Eugene. The first election for a city council was held in 1865. The council or Board of Trustees as it was called then, consisted of a president, recorder, treasurer, street commissioner, marshal and six trustees.
The first telegraph reached Eugene from Portland in 1864 and the city became a stagecoach stop in 1865 when the Territorial Road reached Eugene.
Transportation took a great leap forward in 1871. The Oregon-California Railway (now Southern Pacific) was completed to Eugene in that year and the whole town turned out to celebrate.
Basic Facts About Eugene
Home to more than 140,000 people, Eugene is Oregon's second largest city. It covers approximately 41.5 square miles, with the Willamette River running through the heart of the city and the McKenzie River joining the Willamette to the north of town. The elevation is 426 above sea level and the city's topography features Skinner Butte to the north of downtown and the south, the landmark Spencer Butte, now a 310-acre city park.
Eugene's climate, with an average temperature of 53 degrees, is one of the city's attractive features. Mild winters, long growing seasons, and few drastic weather changes are characteristic. Normal annual rainfall is 43 inches which falls mostly between September and June. Eugene is positioned at latitude 44° 7' N, longitude 123° 13' W.
Eugene has a high percentage of professionals including doctors, lawyers, architects, and educators. One third of the city's population has completed four or more years of college. Eugene is home to the University of Oregon ,Northwest Christian College ,Lane Community College and Eugene Bible College.
Eugene's Form of Government
In 1944, the citizens of Eugene adopted the council/manager form of government. In this form of government, the City Council develops legislation and policies to direct the city, but hires a professional manager (the City Manager) to oversee City of Eugene personnel and operations and to carry out the City Council's direction.
The mayor serves as the City's political head and chairperson of the council. He or she is elected by the city at large on a nonpartisan ballot for a four-year term. The mayor receives a monthly stipend of $1500 per month and is compensated for expenses. The mayor is the formal representative of the City. He or she presides over City Council meetings but has no vote except in the case of a tie. The mayor can veto any decision, but a two-thirds vote of the council can override the veto.
The City Council, Eugene's legislative body, has eight members. The mayor is the presiding officer. Councilors are elected on a nonpartisan ballot for four year terms. One council member is elected from each of eight wards. One-half of the Council is elected every two years. Like the mayor, City Councilors are paid a monthly stipend of $1000 per month and are compensated for expenses.
Irkutsk is located in central Siberia in the taiga (coniferous forest) at the confluence of the Angara and Irkutsk rivers. Lake Baikal, the world's deepest freshwater lake, (Crater Lake is the second deepest), is located 40 miles away.
Baikal is exceptionally clear with more than 1,500 indigenous species of wildlife and plants. The Trans-Siberian Railroad and trains heading south through Mongolia and China stop in Irkutsk. Irktusk is a major industrial, scientific and cultural center. The city has many industries: a hydroelectric plant, heavy machinery plants, mining and metallurgy processing, food processing and clothing manufacturers are just a few. Irkutsk Oblast is the leading producer of commercial timber in the region. Irkutsk is also a scientific and cultural center with a university and research institutes of geography, applied physics, petroleum and carbon chemical synthesis.