You know what Make It Count: Our 2008 city council and local we like about Peter Gramlich? Dude's a straight shooting, open-minded cool guy who believe it or not...gasp...actually seems to want to work for what's best for the city. This is a guy who, when discussing a proposed ban on fireworks at a council meeting said, "You know, I'm usually the guy who shows up with the fireworks," but didn't let his apparent love of novelty explosives cloud his ability to soberly discuss what became a pretty hot issue amongst the public.
While Gramlich is an incumbent, he's not technically running for reelection, seeing as how he was appointed to the council after John Hummel stepped down, but during his short time he's cemented himself as the council's most reliable progressive and quite possibly its least bullshit-believing member. Although Gramlich works as an architect, he's kept COBA out of his campaign coffers and says that growth is the city's number one issue, telling us, "If we don't do something to stop sprawl, it's going to happen."
The new dad who's married to BendFilm founder Katie Merritt (tack on a few extra cool points for that one) thinks that the city should have a say as to who gets to set up shop in Juniper Ridge (sorry Wal-Mart Superstore enthusiasts) and is fully backing stabilizing Bend's transit woes, even if the transit district ballot measure fails. Gramlich's opponent, Tom Greene, is an equally nice guy, but is running on some vaguely vanilla themes of "fiscal responsibility" and when asked to discuss his second important issue at a recent League of Women Voters forum...he drew a blank.
We realize local elections aren't popularity contests (as evidenced by former Source staffer Scoop Lewis' failed 2006 county commissioner campaign) and it's not Gramlich's semi-star status in town that's got us backing him - it's his reliability. Hell, he even has his complete voting record posted on his website.
Position Two: Jodie Barram
Leading the field are two well-qualified candidates, Jodie Barram, a stay-at-home mother with a background in accounting, banking and finance, and Jeff Eager, a local attorney who has previously served as a staff member in Rep. Greg Walden's Washington office.
Both Eager and Barram have some solid experience in local government. Barram is a member of the city's planning commission and has been involved in several of the city's key projects, including Juniper Ridge. Eager has served as a member of the Deschutes County Commission on Children and Families since 2005 and has also been a member of the city's Central Area Plan committee, charged with revitalizing the area between downtown on the Third Street.
A third candidate, Dallas Brown, is a recent college graduate with the right attitude, but too little experience at a time when the city needs all the help it can get.
Eager is a strongly pro-business and free market candidate who would like to see the city remove itself from projects like Juniper Ridge. That's an interesting idea and one that has gained a lot of currency during the last year as the city has fumbled with the Juniper Ridge plans. But it's not the idea that was sold to the public when the city invested heavily in the project with cash and urban renewal financing. It's also not the right approach if the city wants a cohesive project that serves as a centerpiece for Bend's 21st century economic development plan. Barram understands and supports this idea. She also endorses a measured approach to growth that we believe reflect the realities of today's marketplace. As a result she has received almost no support from the builders and real estate lobby - despite her experience on the planning commission, while Eager's less government approach has earned him thousands in contributions from the housing industry. For her experience and her balanced approach to city issues, we urge you to support Jodie Barram for city council.
Position Three: Linda Johnson
There's a strange storyline at work in the race for position three on the Bend City Council. The challenger Kathie Eckman is running against the woman whom the council appointed five years ago to fill her seat when Eckman, a Republican, left the council to take a job with the state's Democratic U.S. Senator Ron Wyden. Got all that straight?
Eckman, who has more experience on the Bend City Council than anyone currently sitting on that body, is an old hand when it comes to Bend politics. It's probably the reason she was tapped to run against Linda Johnson, a member of the council's progressive block who has been targeted by the Old Boy Network. Johnson is ostensibly being targeted for her leadership role in things like the city's long-term vision (Bend 2030) and the mobile home park ordinance, which prevented park owners from putting residents out on the street during Bend's real estate gold rush. Those projects and Johnson's overall interest in social issues have driven the small government, meat and potatoes lobby crazy. Maybe so, but those are the kind of issues that need to be championed on a council that too often finds itself being led around from issue to issue by the local building and development lobby. Eckman on the other hand would have us roll back the clock to a simpler time when government laid down streets and maintained sewer lines and then got the hell out of the way. But that idea, like Eckman herself, is one whose time has come and gone.
We're urging you to support Linda Johnson, the candidate whose eye is on the future rather than the past.
Position FOUR: Jim Clinton
Jim Clinton takes a scientific approach to his seat on the Bend City Council. Well, that's probably because he's a scientist and that's what scientists do. Duh.
Clinton, who has a Ph.D. in physics and owns and operates his own research and development company, was elected to the city council in 2004 and has served as a no-nonsense member of our local government since. When things get heated on the council, look to Clinton for a balanced voice of reason and, you guessed it, a scientific approach to working toward what's best for the city.
If there is an expert on Juniper Ridge currently on the council, that expert is Clinton, who has been heavily involved in the often-complex workings on the massive development project. With this expertise, Clinton has made some stances when it comes to Juniper Ridge, and one of those is his belief that the city should have a say as to what businesses set up shop in the new development. He champions high-tech, environmentally low-impacting businesses, but again, ever the scientist, has not set that policy in stone.
What's also appealing about Clinton is his clear and realistic focus on the future of the city. He believes transit is integral to the sustainability of Bend, as is other infrastructure and to help manage growth. And from what we've seen over the last four years, he's not all talk.
Oh and did we mention that he was the only city council candidate to ride up to the office for his endorsement interview on a motorcycle?
With plans for a four year university at Juniper Ridge on hold indefinitely and dwindling funds for the OSU branch campus in Bend, it makes sense for the community to invest in higher education opportunities provided by Central Oregon Community College. This November the college comes calling with a request to help the institution expand its health and science curriculum by constructing additional classroom space for these programs. The school has already won a $5.8 million grant from the state, but it needs to come up with the matching funds to cash that in. In addition, the bond measure would help the college expand its offering in the underserved communities of Prineville and Madras. The tax impact on local homeowners is estimated at 12 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. However, since the school is retiring its library bond next year the net impact is more like 3 cents per $1,000 or an increase of less than $6 per year on a $200,000 home. Now that's an investment we can afford to make.YES on Measure 9-60 (Permanent Funding for Bend Area Transit)
If the measure to create a transit district is defeated, significant cuts will be made to Bend Area Transit's already limited service, and those cuts will come at a time when Bend and the residents of Deschutes River Woods need public transportation, now more than ever, due to rising gas prices and an economy headed for the gutter.
The transit district would be funded by a tax rate of 39.3 cents per $1,000 of taxable property value. A significant number of local residents rely on the BAT system to get to and from work or other personal errands. The transit system is also key to growing Bend's economy and its stable of living-wage jobs. Corporate recruiters know that Bend can hardly position itself against other communities without a functioning transit system to mobilize its workforce.
Critics have pointed out that the bus system is heavily subsidized by the city. That's true, but a big portion of that subsidy comes from the federal government and cutting BAT service could put those funds at risk, causing the city to get less bang for its buck in the transit arena.
Besides the social and economic reasons, there is also an environmental reason to support BAT. Buses save gas and cut pollution by taking cars off the road. These are the kind of sensible steps that the country and our city should be making instead of promoting offshore drilling and pillaging ANWR.
Let's give Bend a chance to be competitive while giving our own residents a choice on whether they want to drive or save gas by taking the bus. Vote yes on Measure 9-60.YES on Measure 9-61 (Increase in county room tax rates)
It's a dicey time to start tinkering with local room tax rates given the recent decline in the tourism industry, a key part of Central Oregon's economy. The reality, however, is that the county does not have enough money in its general fund to take care of even the most basic services like road maintenance. The room tax increase, which is expected to generate a little more than $1 million per year starting in 2011, would help provide that. It also brings the county in line with room tax rates inside the city of Bend by raising them from 7 percent to 8 percent in 2009 and 9 percent in 2010. What this legislation is missing, however, is a reinvestment in tourism promotion, which room taxes have traditionally incorporated. Instead, this tax gives a blank check to the county. There's no reason to think the county won't spend it wisely given its urgent needs. But we would have liked to see some of the additional revenue invested in growing tourism, which benefits the entire economy, not just the county coffers.