Bend, Not Ready for Prime Time
Coming to your neighborhood soon: higher density, Bend style
Have you heard? Bend will continue to expand at its current, incredible pace, growing another 40 percent within a decade. While I'm sure that developers, realtors, and those who actually benefit from more people and tourism are jumping for joy, the other 90 percent of us should think again. Personally, I've had enough of the local talking-heads (City Council members, Chamber folks, and boosters) who are resigned, if not cheering on, this incredible phenomenon. They do this, all the while denying the state of our infrastructure and governmental dysfunction and being mindlessly resigned to linear growth projections. This is a city that is driven by developers and other absentee-landowners, enabled and facilitated by policy-directed "city planners" operating in the most development-friendly environment imaginable.
If you're paying attention, you know that the City is struggling to overcome a determination on the part of the State that Bend is NOT ready for prime time. That is, incapable of expanding its Urban Growth Boundary because it has managed growth very poorly in the past and has yet to present a viable plan for orderly growth moving forward. (Thankfully, at least someone in Salem is paying attention.) The solution, it appears, is to increase density within the city by any and all means possible.
Please indulge me this example: Imagine that there are two shoddy single-family homes in your otherwise nice neighborhood. An enterprising developer (who coincidentally owns the houses) decides that it would be profitable to replace those two with 12 housing units (a six-fold increase in density). To do this he'll build six townhouses and six apartments on that half-acre plot. In order to side-step zoning and subdivision codes, get hundreds of thousands of interest-free money from the city, get reduced permitting fees, and expedited service from the friendly folks at the Planning Dept., he shrewdly proclaims the apartments "affordable" (at least for the first three years). How would you feel about the introduction of 24 new, unrelated neighbors, their cars, their dogs, and the rest into your hood? Now imagine this is next door to YOU.
Sadly, this is not hypothetical—this project was just approved. Granted, this hits close to home because I'm that hapless sap that lives next door. But what you need to know is that this can happen anywhere in this town under its current leadership and mindset. And it will happen with the same lack of transparency and accountability that gave us the insider Mirror Pond "fix", the Tumalo Creek water project, OSU Cascades, and other "fate de completes" that we have become accustomed to.
Take it from someone who lives on a dirt street with 12 homes. A street (Linster) that's been here for 115 years, one block from Wall Street in town. A street that the City will never improve (even with gravel), while it builds grand boulevards (Reed Mkt.), roundabouts, and multi-million dollar overpasses to nowhere in the south side to keep the development interests greased. Salem had it right. This town is not ready for growth. And even if it was, "going vertical" and jamming high-density developments in established neighborhoods down our throats is not the answer. Maybe the City should take a breather and think about attracting decent paying jobs before those 35,000 new people arrive. Then it can start thinking about creating well-planned, affordable, sensible housing. And I'm clearly not talking about homes that are shrewdly conceived and designed to meet the minimal criteria for the City's current developers dream: the shameless "affordable housing bonus" scam. I've personally seen where that leads.
The Homeless Issue
The homeless issue is basically an unresolvable issue in this country, due to the way Americans regard the homeless. Most Americans think that homeless people are in the situation they are because they are lazy and don't want to work. In some cases this is true, but the majority of homeless are where they are due to circumstances such as losing jobs, illness, accidents, victims of crime, etc. We have the worst record of dealing with the homeless of any of the industrialized nations. Many countries, particularly in Scandinavia, have social agencies and programs that are specifically designed to keep people off the streets. Americans basically couldn't care less about the homeless, until they become homeless themselves. This attitude is mirrored at all levels of local, state and federal government. Homeless people in this country are, for the most part, invisible to all but those who share in their circumstance. Everyone else looks right through them.
Hiring Local Teens
I want to ask local retail businesses, particularly those in Old Mill and Downtown, why they choose to only hire teenagers 18 and older. My daughter who is 16 recently tried to find a summer job with numerous business in Old Mill, and Downtown only to be told that they don't hire under 18. "Back in the good ole' days" when I was a teen, I had great summer jobs. I learned how to deal with the public, learned retail sales, and how to commit to a job when my friends were enticing me to head out to the beach. I think our community may be missing the boat here. It does take a village to raise these kids. We need to give them the opportunity to hold a job during their high school years and all the real life education that comes with that life experience.
While the amount of river trash is appalling, at the least, it's a little unfair to place blame solely on visitors and out-of-towners. Couldn't it be locals, too? And it's not just a "river issue." I ride the river, ride bikes, take hikes, ski, walk my kids to school, and I see trash everywhere. In the gutters on Mt. Washington drive; in the ditch on the way to Horse Ridge; in and around our cave sites; at Phil's Trailhead; under the chairlift; roadside all along Cascade Hwy., Skyliner, and Shevlin; in the school yard; at the park. And yes, in the river.
Don't even get me started on shoot-pollute: shotgun shells and loads of blown up bits of junk litter our public lands. Illegal dumping, too. I often pick it up, stuff my bike jersey pockets with trash, bottles, cans, during my rides. And the next day, the next week, more trash, same spots, sometimes more than before. I would argue that the litter/trash problem is getting worse. While we could ask, implore, argue that our public/government entities be responsible for cleanup, my point is to direct the spotlight on the throw-away, pollute culture we have in general, and shine it right here, locally. Bend isn't the dirtiest town, but it sure as heck isn't the cleanest. If we think we have a world-class playground, then we all need to be world-class stewards of where we live and play.
Mike—Thank you for your letter about trash around town and also for helping our community by picking it up yourself! Come by the Source office to pick up a Palate gift card, and have some coffee on us.