As a regular reader of The Weekly Source, (sic) I was disappointed with the editor's suggestion (November 20, 2008) that Central Oregon Builder's Association (COBA) and Central Oregon Association of Realtors (COAR) essentially bought the election of the Bend City Council and are therefore expecting payback. While the true reasons voters voted as they did may never be factually known, the major reason may have been the incumbent councilors were incredibly poor stewards of public money.
During the past eight years our city population increased by 55%. During this time the city council increased general fund expenditures 110%, and increased the general fund debt 280%! The city council also authorized borrowing by their newly created urban renewal districts, which would have AGAIN more than doubled the general fund debt, without the vote of the people. Just last spring Mayor Abernethy noted that the council had added or beefed up 23 different programs and Councilor Friedman said he'd known about some of the underlying problems with the city's budget for at least a year. While it seems reasonable, he shared his concern with other councilors, corrective action was not taken.
The most highly visible financial failures of the pre-election city council are:
* $4,700.000 impulse purchase of the former Bulletin site to accommodate the relocation of city hall.
* $5,000,000 wasted in the misdirected pursuit of a flawed Juniper Ridge plan which included a $2,500,000 payoff to the selected developers, necessitated by inexperienced councilors having ineptly negotiated the development agreement.
* "BAT"...the well known financial and operational disaster to Bend taxpayers, which drains $1,500,000 annually from the general fund and still no long-term financing has been secured.
The subject editorial suggested builders, developers, and realtors financed the challengers for the economic benefit of COBA and COAR, and their constituencies. Au contrare! These groups and their members will most likely receive less money under the leadership and tenure of the new council. The previous council's failure to resolve needed expansion of the urban growth boundary produced speculation driven high prices and profits. Their having directed city staff to present a new boundary that included the majority of Juniper Ridge land (which would have never withstood sure-to-follow legal challenges) delayed the process for over a year.
Just as support is necessary and appropriate for President-elect Obama to solve the monumental challenges of our nation, support is also necessary and appropriate for our city council. The newly elected councilors are to be commended for their willingness to serve under the dire financial situation that they inherit. Correcting their predecessors' errors will be difficult. They, like the President-elect, deserve our support, absent incrimination.
Allan Bruckner, Bend
Editor's note: We don't pretend to know why voters cast a ballot for one candidate more than another, or why some didn't vote at all. But we think it's newsworthy when a special interest group sets a record for campaign spending. And we, too, hope councilors will look beyond their backers when weighing the city's best interest.