I heartily endorse the plan to elect our mayor, which appeared in the Source recently. I am glad to see this interest by some council members after the flabby excuses for not electing our mayor made by an ad hoc committee. The mayor should be elected by the citizens, as befits a town that has grown almost to city size. After all, the city council changed its status from commission to council in the '80s. Why not the mayoral position now?
As the city has grown, so have our problems - in size, number and complexity. Wouldn't giving the mayor more authority or responsibility be a help? The city manager runs the city day to day. The mayor would be in charge of the ideas that guide our way into the future. The current way of choosing a mayor only makes the person "first among equals," but does not confer any special duties.
The council article did not suggest any significant duties except for giving the mayor status in representing Bend to other entities.
I see giving an elected mayor more duties in the job. First, empower him or her to set the meeting agenda, balancing staff's needs for answers with discussion of Bend's course into the future. For years, we've sat through meetings with hours of rubberstamping housework and only at the end, sometimes late in the evening (or postponed), we get to hear the important business we came to hear. No wonder more [people] don't participate in local government.
Secondly, in addition to setting the agenda and thus being responsible for informing citizens of the status, change and better plan for Bend's future, the mayor would be the designated keeper of the general thoughts and oversight. (Five-year updates, where are they? We never hear of them.) The mayor could guide planning through a much needed oversight committee which would check to see if major development plans fit into (but don't lead) Bend's vision for its future. This effort alone would entitle the mayor to represent us to the rest of Oregon. No more ignorant excuses in the name of "Bend is Different!"
It would be nice to see Bend head toward managing its growth by enabling the mayor to be actively involved in planning meetings and tie staff to council in a more direct way.
Somewhere, maybe, a better salary could be found for the mayor. We should pay council members more, too.
- Barbara McAusland, Bend