Four years ago, in the 2010 general elections, Scott Ramsay was running for office for the first time. He was facing Chuck Arnold, a popular member of the Downtown community, for Position 7 on Bend City Council. The philosophical differences between the two men were pretty clear. It was at a time when Bend was still limping from the housing bust and carrying high unemployment rates.
In the final tally, Ramsay won by two votes, 10,501 to 10,499—exactly two more people voted for Ramsay than for Arnold. Perhaps it was you and your best friend? Or, perhaps you two didn't bother to vote in that race at all?
Overall, the voter turnout for Deschutes County in 2010 was 72 percent, a relatively high turnout. Yet still, that is only two out of three registered voters—and only about half of eligible voters even bother to register to vote.
Moreover—and more troubling—more than 9,000 registered voters who did fill out a ballot for other races did not bother to submit a vote for City Council, Position 7. The so-called "under votes" totaled 9,033—meaning that nearly as many voters opted to not even choose a candidate in that race, a portion of the population about equal to the number that voted for either candidate.
(Quick math: About one third of adults in the city voted in 2010 general elections, and within that group, only one in three voted for the winner, meaning that city councilors are commonly voted into office by about 12 percent of adults.)
No, the point is not to rehash a race four years ago, but rather to say: VOTE! Yes, it matters. Especially in local elections. You easily could be the swing vote. Yes, just you.
And, moreover, these candidates, more than anyone else on the ballot, will shape your daily life—from how many police officers are funded to be on the beat, to how fast that pothole by your roundabout is filled, to questions about whether the Airbnb rental next door will remain operational. City councilors decide on issues far too intimate to your daily life to not care—or, to not cast an informed vote for.
Moreover, in a recent survey by Liveability.com about the "best places for liberals, conservative and centrists" to live, Bend was ranked second, just behind the Spokane Valley in Washington (while Alabaster, Ala., was best for conservatives and Berkeley, Calif., for liberals). That sort of moderation—an equal balance of Republicans, Democrats and Independents—is admirable. But that sort of moderation, where candidates are a shuffled deck of ideologies and political opinions, also requires voters to pay more attention and to do a bit more research to learn about which candidate best represents their ideals and interests; it is not as easy as voting Republican or Democrat.
For the past few months, the Source has been interviewing each of the candidates for City Council. Those interviews, completely unfiltered views of the candidates' opinions and personalities, are available online. And, last week, we wrote our endorsements. There also are plenty of forums to learn about the candidates—or, call them!
All of the candidates running for City Council are earnest and informed—but they differ on how to manage the city Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) and what to do about Mirror Pond and whether the City should invest more money in public transportation and affordable housing. As Bend goes through another growth spurt, what happens over the next four years at City Council will dramatically shape Bend. Let's have more than 12 percent of our voting-age population determine who should be making those decisions. Go! Vote!