Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber is coming to Bend early next week to address how Central Oregon can balance growth with livability. He'll be presenting at SuperForum at the Tower Theatre 7pm Tuesday, Jan. 21. The event is sold out, but that doesn't mean you have to miss out on governmental insight. The following is from our conversation with the Oregon governor.
the Source Weekly: Portland, with its high-density, light rail and hundreds of miles of bikes lanes, has been heralded as a shining example of smart growth. What can Bend learn from the Rose City?
Gov. John Kitzhaber: Cities and counties all across Oregon have had to figure out how to do more with less. Over the past three years, I’ve worked with legislative leaders to invest in the kind of transportation and economic development projects that can grow with Oregon—programs like alternative fuels infrastructure, through which we’re developing charging stations across the west coast and promoting alternative-fuel vehicles, or investment in the Oregon Built Environment and Sustainable Technologies Center, which supports research into new technologies and products in the green building and renewable energy sectors. With limited budgets, especially when it comes to transportation infrastructure, we’re focused on strategies that support the dual goals of being good for Oregon’s economy and Oregon’s environment.
How important is alternative transportation infrastructure (bike lanes, sidewalks, etc.) to a city like Bend?
Here in Central Oregon, I appointed the Regional Solutions Advisory Committee to establish regional priorities for state investment and identify opportunities to leverage private and philanthropic and public funds. The highest priority this group identified was OSU-Cascades, and to support this recommendation, I included funding for the campus in my 2013-2015 budget. The state also funded a transportation planning effort for Bend’s west side that will look at opportunities for supporting alternative modes of transportation to and from OSU-Cascades and serve as the foundation for additional smart growth planning. The advisory committee also identified regional transit service as a community and economic development priority. Multi-modal transportation infrastructure is fundamental to the ongoing discussions about the size of Bend’s future Urban Growth Boundary.
Over the past two years, the Oregon Department of Transportation has been collaborating with local communities in the Highway 97 corridor on an innovative approach that links multiple community and transportation objectives into a common system. This system addresses cost efficiency, governance and financing strategies and is analogous to work being done in the Portland Metro area to invest in transit and multi-modal projects. For the state overall, I was pleased to appoint Deschutes County Commissioner Tammy Baney to the Oregon Transportation Commission.
Everyone’s all atwitter with attracting high-tech industries. It sounds like a smart, moneymaking, job-producing idea, but aren’t a lot of those companies just hunting for cheap land and tax breaks for their largely unmanned data centers?
Much of my administration’s economic strategy is focused on encouraging economic growth in our rural areas. Oregon’s future is dependent on creating jobs in every part of the state, not just in Portland or Corvallis or Hood River. Technology is one of Oregon’s most important growth sectors, and data centers are part of that technology mix, which is why local communities have decided to provide incentives to boost economic development. Local communities receive other revenues related to the projects, from construction jobs and engineering jobs to induced spending in other sectors like the supply chain and retail.
With the housing industry on the rebound how, should Bend think about building and developing this time around?
The last recession shows that Oregon has got to do better to keep up with our changing world. We have the talent, the skills and the natural assets. We just need to think differently about how we align and use all of our resources to assure the best possible results. One important role the state is playing is through our Regional Solutions Centers. At our RSC here in Central Oregon, we’ve taken a multi-sector approach to economic and community development and are engaging people in solving problems at the local and regional level. This moves state government closer to people and place; it means we can be more effective and creative when shaping our future and overcoming roadblocks; and it means we can more effectively pursue promising opportunities that are relevant to this unique region.
To be successful, we need to continue to help regions and communities come together to work with us in a way that moves well beyond the tradition silo approach to governing. My goal is to create conditions where we continue to integrate on important issues like economic development, improvements to our education and health care systems, and environmental stewardship, and where we target state investments to areas that leverage private and civic investments in communities so that were addressing multiple objectives simultaneously.
One area where Bend has really stood out as a leader is in residential green building. As the housing industry rebounds, I hope Bend maintains its focus and leadership in the expanding green building movement. Going forward, green remodeling services are likely to be in high demand as people strive to improve the performance of their homes.
2015 will mark Oregon State University-Cascades campus’ first freshman class and first year as a four-year university in Bend. What should we be doing to prepare?
Three years ago, Oregon set some ambitious but achievable goals for education in our state. For me, at the heart of these goals is the belief that public education is the vehicle through which the American Dream and the promise of opportunity are pursued. Indeed, we see an almost linear correlation between educational attainment and economic attainment. Our education goals reflect this, with a cradle-to-career approach designed to support early learning programs, invest in teachers and K-12 education, and ensure that college and career training are priorities.
So with the OSU-Cascades campus, we see a local example of how we’re working to deliver strong results for Oregon students and better prepare our workforce for the 21st century economy. We know that the jobs of the future will require post-secondary degrees, certification, or training. OSU-Cascades will help us prepare for this future while supporting students right here in Central Oregon and investing in Central Oregon economic development at the same time, and I’m pleased this effort is moving forward. In fact, the First Lady delivered OSU Cascade’s first commencement speech as a four-year university last spring.
Speaking of your partner, First Lady Cylvia Hayes—she’s from Bend, right? What are her thoughts about Bend’s growth and what’s best for Bend’s future? Any difference of opinion there?
[FROM FIRST LADY CYLVIA HAYES:] As someone who has lived in Bend for nearly 20 years, I have seen a lot of growth and change. Much of that growth has been positive, with an increase in cultural, recreational and educational opportunities. I also believe the community has made progress in diversifying its economic base. However, the region still relies heavily on construction and lower-paying service jobs. It is critical that Bend businesses, educational institutions, economic development entities, and social services providers work together to provide realistic pathways to higher-paying jobs and economic stability. Such a systemic approach is at the heart of the Prosperity Agenda I've been working on.