This week's letter comes from Michael Funke who hits the nail on the head with this slow-burn blast of the city council. Thanks for the letter Michael, you can pick up your winner's prize, a bag of freshly ground strictly ground Strictly Organic coffee at our office, 704 NW Georgia.
Three new Bend City Councilors have ushered in an era of secrecy and backroom deals. It started before Kathie Eckman, Jeff Eager and Tom Greene took office-when they held an invitation-only meeting with local business leaders-and continued through the selection of Eckman as mayor and now the surprise appointment of Oran Teater to fill a vacant seat on the Council.
In each instance Eckman, Eager and Greene-accurately dubbed the "Bully Bloc" by the Bulletin-have worked together behind closed doors and shut out Councilors Jim Clinton and Jodie Barram. Councilor Mark Capell was shut out until he decided to join the Bully Bloc on the Teater appointment.
While they may not have broken any state laws-though we don't know that for certain-Eckman, Eager and Greene have decided to make Council decisions between public meetings and without input from Barram and Clinton.
Their walking orders come from the Central Oregon Builders Association (COBA) and Central Oregon Association of Realtors (COAR)-lobbyists for the developers and realtors who spent over $50,000 to elect a Council majority to represent their interests.
COBA and COAR helped to arrange the December 11 meeting where Eager, Eckman and Greene asked 40 local developers, realtors and business owners what they wanted the Council to do for them. Barram and Clinton were not invited to that meeting.
Moments before the January 7 Council meeting where new Councilors were sworn into office, Barram, Clinton and Capell learned that Eckman, Eager, Greene and outgoing-Councilor Chris Telfer had already picked the next mayor.
Last Friday, Eckman, Eager, Greene and Capell conferred prior to an emergency Council meeting and-without bothering to tell Barram and Clinton-picked Teater to fill the Council vacancy created when Telfer left. The decision was made before the meeting.
That might explain why a recent Council work session was suddenly cancelled, even though the city has a lot of work to do. And why Mayor Eckman promised Teater she would do her best to cut the number of Council meetings. There's no need to hold meetings in front of all those pesky citizens when you make policy decisions in private.
It looks like Capell and Teater hold the balance of power between secrecy and transparency. Will they buy into Bend's new secret government? Or will they stand up for open government? Can we afford to wait and find out?
Where's the outrage? Our city government has been hijacked. If the people of Bend want open, honest, transparent government that is not beholden to special interests, they need to organize, mobilize, and demand it now.
The City Council meets at 7 p.m. on the first and third Wednesday of each month. Each Council agenda includes a time when the Council "receives visitors." That's just one time when the people can make their voices heard. Councilors can also be contacted by email, via City Recorder Patty Stell, firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, you can look up their home phone numbers and give them a call.
Let's stop the secret government now.
Michael Funke, Bend