Illustrations by James Brickell
City Council has given Bendites plenty to both gripe about and express gratitude for this year. But what do those decisions look like from the dais? Longtime and outspoken Councilor Victor Chudowsky is joined by newcomers Barb Campbell and Casey Roats in sharing lessons learned over the past year in City Hall.
1. Bend is getting more expensive for the average person to live in.
2. Through increases in taxes (like the gas tax) and fees, the majority of the current City Council is making Bend even more expensive for the average person to live in.
3. The idea that growth cannot pay for itself is untrue. City revenues are increasing at a rate that is faster than population growth.
4. Tax revenues are coming in much higher than the City predicted.
5. The City's ability to act on things is severely constrained by a tangle of federal and state laws and regulations as well as case law. Sometimes I think we're not really a democracy; we're really just administered from above.
6. The City has an excellent staff. Coming from Washington, D.C., I had a highly negative impression of bureaucrats. That was corrected to an extent by working with the people at the City. They are very committed people.
7. Oregon is unfortunately an educational and economic underachiever with a stagnant state government.
8. We are getting close to finishing the Urban Growth Boundary process now. It has taken only 10 years. See points number 5 and 7 above.
9. Bend is going to urbanize—grow into a real city—pretty quickly. It is going to be hard for many people to accept, much less embrace, this fact.
10. Councilor Casey Roats is really, really smart. Listen to him closely; he knows what is going on.
1. Henry David Thoreau was right when he said, "Distrust any enterprise that requires new clothes." The $161.19 per month I am paid ($200 before taxes) hasn't been enough to buy a new, official looking wardrobe. I still look like a Cool Japanese Stuff storeowner or dog walker most of the time.
2. I got elected too late to stop the Surface Water Improvement Project. I cannot pull the new, $10 million pipe out from under Skyliner Drive, or exchange our fanciest filtration plant for the cheaper model. Sadly, the exorbitant utility bill increases paying for that project will be followed by (less onerous) increases to pay for the needed sewer system expansions no one has ever questioned. So it goes.
3. The "Preferred Alternative" for Mirror Pond has been shelved. We are back where we were three years and a $200,000 "visioning process" ago: Trying to decide whether or not to dredge the pond. As long as the plan doesn't involve that damn dam ending up in the hands of our taxpayers, I'm willing to discuss alternatives for the pond.
4. When our city grows and we need new streets, we have a couple of ways to pay for them: General Obligation bonds and System Development Charges. GO bonds must be voter approved, like the 2012 GO bond for improvements on Empire, Purcell, Reed Market, and NW 14th. SDCs are assessed on all new construction projects. When you build a new house, you have to pay for part of the new road to the new house. GO bonds and SDC monies can only be spent for new construction or complete rebuild.
5. We have no dedicated source of funds for street maintenance. After 5 or 10 or 20 or more years, the roads that were once new need maintenance and the money must come from the general fund, from the same pot as snow removal.
6. We have a housing crisis. More than half of our citizens spend more than a third of their income on housing. The quality of life and the natural beauty we enjoy are enviable by most who visit. The only long-term solution involves South Sister erupting or a toxic waste spill. We can't hope that people will ever stop wanting to move here. Months after taking office we passed "efficiency measures" and SDC breaks which provide incentives for affordable housing, but we have a long way to go. Since the bulge on South Sister hasn't grown in a while we will have to find more alternatives.
7. I agree with the people who think inflatable boulders in our river and an ice palace in which to skate are extravagances we cannot afford. Those extravagances were approved and paid for by a GO bond for the Bend Park and Recreation District. BPRD is a separate taxing district and we can't touch their money. That $30 million GO bond was in addition to their tax base. City of Bend general fund tax base is $2.80 per $1,000 of property value and covers police, fire, streets, planning, codes, permits, and some other stuff. (We also do water and sewer but the funds for them are separate, coming from our utility bills.) Bend Park and Recreation District general fund tax base is $1.65 per $1,000 of property value and covers parks.
8. The young people who come speak at our meetings about climate change are right to be worried. We will continue to find small and big ways our city can do its part to help with this global problem.
9. Bendites do not need to see the bumper stickers reading "Be nice! You're in Bend." They are already nice. Even emails sent to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) by people who are the most concerned and upset usually go like this:
Dear Ms. Campbell,
Thank you for serving on City Council and thank you for reading this email.
You stink! You are the worst councilor who has ever set foot in City Hall!
You are completely wrong about ______ and I hope you don't get reelected.
Thank you again for your service.
Sincerely, Jasper Q. Public
In 2016 we will be holding "office hours" (No, we won't be getting offices. We don't even have cubbies. Maybe we should call them table hours.) Please take the opportunity to tell us what you think and thanks in advance for being nice.
10. Casey's a decent guy with a perspective that needs to be heard on Council...and he looks smashing in Spandex pants! To those of you who voted for us as the best reason to watch a City Council meeting...thank you! And Happy New Year!
1. Our model of local government with volunteer councilors has its limitations with such a rapidly evolving community.
2. Our City staff does a very good job of trying to balance the competing demands and interests of the community.
3. It's better to not try and make everyone happy.
4. The implementation of the marijuana laws are a mess.
5. We need better, more evenly spread representation from our community on Council.
6. When it comes to growth, everyone agrees on the need for more density.
7. Nobody wants the density in their part of town.
8. Our meetings are too long. Some of us talk too much.
9. The west side of town is very, very special, and can't possibly accommodate any more growth, apparently.
10. Bend is a great city and will be much better as more and more young people are able to buy homes, invest in their education, and be upwardly mobile in their employment.