Among the many reasons that Bend is in dire need of changes to its City Charter, here's another one.A
t an Aug. 16 City Council meeting, Bend City Councilor Barb Campbell asked fellow councilors to come together to send a letter of support to the city council in Charlottesville, Va., following the Aug. 12 protests that left one woman dead. In some cities, this is a no-brainer—it's a simple gesture that can help communicate a message for the community sending the letter, a reiteration of the community's values, if you will. In this case, the wider City Council rejected the idea as superfluous and not in line with its mission to focus on "core services."
We acknowledge that the City Council has a great deal on its plate in terms of managing and planning for core services. The job of a city council does indeed lie in mundane duties that in Bend include implementing a growth plan consistent with community goals, improving road conditions, increasing affordable housing options, keeping residents safe and modernizing and professionalizing how city government operates—items the current council has identified as its goals and objectives for the 2017-19 session.
Yet, a city also needs a leader who can help set the value baseline for its community. That person should be a directly-elected mayor.
If Bend had a publicly-elected mayor instead of one chosen by fellow councilors, his or her values would be clearly stated and understood through the campaign process, and through his or her continued visibility in the community. From that, the mayor would be able to skip over the groupthink and pen a letter of support like the one Campbell suggested, while leaving the council to focus on core services.A
ll communities need leaders who can set the tone, interpret and share their values with the wider world. This is a function of government. If you don't believe that political leaders set a tone, simply look at what's happening right now on the national stage.
And let's not overlook how councilor pay fits into the current situation in Bend. City councilors who are already basically donating their time to lead the city may be less tolerant of spending time on cultural matters than councilors who are adequately paid to do their jobs. When councilors are beleaguered by Bend's problems and compensated poorly, it's natural to want to stick to the basics. But governance is more than road repair. Being a role model for a community is also a "core service." Let's elect a leader who can set that tone for our community.
Thankfully, city leaders are moving forward on changes to the city charter. The newly-formed Charter Review Committee began meeting in early August and is already tackling the issue of a directly-elected mayor. Should you have an opinion on this, attend the meetings, or visit the city's Charter Review Committee page to learn more about why these changes are crucial for Bend.