A divided city council opted earlier this week to postpone a decision on whether to break a 100-year tradition of allowing the council to appoint the city’s mayor and turn the question over to voters.
The issue will be readdressed at the Aug. 3 Council meeting, in part to allow Council member Scott Ramsay and Mayor Jeff Eager weigh in. Both were absent for most or all of Wednesday’s work session.
During the City Council work session on July 20, Charter Review Committee chair, Oran Teater presented the committee’s conclusions as to whether or not a directly elected mayor option should be made a ballot measure (currently, Bend City Council members, who are elected, appoint a mayor from within the Council).
Though the committee was unanimous in their decision to more or less preserve the status quo, not all of the Council members were sold on the idea.
As reported on June 7, the Charter Review Committee’s position was as follows: "no compelling reason to change the system to a directly elected mayor and that there are many risks in doing so." However, the committee did want to explore making the mayoral position a four-year affair (rather than two).
When Teater and others on the committee presented their findings during Wednesday’s work session, it was clear that he did not have the Council’s full support.
Jim Clinton, the longest-serving active council member, said he was “surprised” by the committee’s conclusion. He also noted that the list of cons the committee compiled seemed “undemocratic.”
Clinton explained that having an appointed mayor may add to the perception of Bend as a rural, Central Oregon town — a perception which could affect Bend’s ability to garner state funds.
“I think that having an appointed mayor is hopelessly small-townish and undemocratic,” added Jim Clinton on Thursday via email.
“The voters should choose an elected city leader, just as they do in 234 of the 253 other cities in Oregon. And even if I didn't think that, I would favor giving the voters the opportunity to change the City Charter in that direction if they wish,” added Clinton.
Council member Mark Cappell disagreed.
“There are not enough pros to consider the expense [of adding it to the ballot],” said Cappell on Wednesday. City Manager Eric King noted that should the decision be put to the people, it should be done in May so as to reduce costs. Adding the measure on November’s ballots would create a more “significant cost,” according to King, which he said could reach $20,000 to $30,000.
Mayor Pro Tem Jodie Barram, like Clinton, also found fault in the Charter Review Committee’s conclusion.