On the City Charter, Kudos to the Committee Pressing for Change | Editorial | Bend | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

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On the City Charter, Kudos to the Committee Pressing for Change

Charter presents suggestions to City Council for Charter Review



On Wednesday, as this issue begins to hit newsstands, members of the Bend Charter Review Committee will present their recommendations to the City Council on changing the city's charter. The city charter has not been updated in two decades, so this is no small task. Bend is a vastly different city than it was 20 years ago and the structure of the city's governance was overdue for another look.

The committee, which has been meeting since August, voted last month in favor of a number of changes to the charter. The first, and perhaps most important, involves establishing a ward system for the city. The committee voted in favor of creating four distinct wards within the city, allowing voters who live in those geographic areas to vote for Council candidates who will represent their ward. In addition, the committee is recommending the creation of two "at large" positions, for which all voters within Bend can vote.

Another big change the committee will recommend to the Council this week is the establishment of a process to elect a directly-elected mayor—a change from the current system by which the mayor is selected from among city councilors, by the city council.

As we've stated before, this is a move that is long overdue. A directly-elected mayor acts as a social and political leader for our community, and can set a tone for the city. A growing city, as Bend is, deserves to have a visionary at the helm—one who, while he or she won't, in this case, wield additional veto or other voting power, will advocate for the soul of Bend in the court of public opinion. Or at least so we hope.

That should, of course, come with adequate recompense—but as it stands now, the Charter Review Committee opted to leave the lion's share of that task to the City Council itself. They'll recommend to the Council that the City Charter be stripped of language surrounding councilor and mayor pay—thus allowing the Council to decide on that. We encourage the Council to find the money to pay a mayor adequately, as the $200 per-month stipend councilors currently garner isn't enough to encourage lower-income and even middle-class constituents to sit on council. We have advocated for this in the interest of equity before.

The changes the Charter Review Committee has proposed putting in place are positive ones and it deserves a great deal of support and praise for the work it has done. The Charter Review Committee is a volunteer group that had the unenviable task of moving this city's governance forward in the face of great change. We commend them for their good work. It's been a long time coming, but the recommendations they've made promise to make Bend more equitable, and represented more equally. We hope the City Council adopts their recommendations in full.

Now, onto that topic of councilor pay...

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