(We're not necessarily saying that we agree with them, but these were the five most important decisions by City Council this year.)
1. Noise Ordinance: In 2012, the question of when (as in how late) venues can host live music and how loud they could play their music had residents so hot under the collar that many even plastered bumper stickers on their Subarus (yeah! that upset). This May, City Council adopted a reasonable compromise providing clear and reasonable rules—and seemed to keep the peace this summer.
2. Transit Room Tax: Looking for more funding to pay for marketing of Bend's cultural attractions, City Council agreed to ratchet up transient room taxes (TRT) by 1%–and sent the idea to voters for a final approval (which, they did, passing Measure 94 this November). And, while they were at it, the city pulled AirBnB rentals into the mix, hiring a California firm to track down residents renting out their homes.
3. Mirror Pond: In early December, City Council added its voice to a growing chorus of support for the preservation of Mirror Pond when it voted to move forward along a pro-pond path and continue discussions with Pacific Power about the future of the dam. While the declaration has no financial or true legal commitments, it did indicate what direction City Hall would like to see the river-versus-pond debate, er, flow.
4. The Big Pipe: If this story seems familiar, it is! The city is trying to figure out how to bring more drinking water into the growing city, but in the process, they aren't making friends. A year ago, the Forest Service granted a permit to replace the two aging pipes that draw water from Tumalo Creek with one bigger pipe. But that decision quickly landed in court—and with an injunction because environmental considerations weren't fully considered. A year later—and the exact same story! The city applied again for a permit from the Forest Service, and again were slammed with a lawsuit. In addition, City Council, in a 5-4 vote, approved a $30 million water treatment facility.
5. Expansion of bike lanes: In an It's A Wonderful Life moment (as in the final aren't-people-great scene, not the scene where George Bailey decides to kill himself) cyclists crowded into council chambers in early November to say something elected officials may not hear often enough: "Thanks." Organized by Bend Bikes, a recently formed group advocating for urban cyclists, the contingent spilled into the hallway outside the council chambers and sent people up to the podium during the visitor's section to show appreciation for the recently completed Riverside/Franklin bicycle infrastructure project.
Top Five Local Unsolved Crimes
1. Church fires: Just after 2 am on March 13, a downtown resident called 9-1-1 to report a flash of fire and puff of smoke from a nearby church. Over the next hour, six other fires were reported—including another church, two cars, two garages and a wood pile that were torched. Stones were found thrown through windows of the 1929 Trinity Episcopal Church, which incurred $1.5 million in damages.
2. Bank robbery: It has become as routine as that other fat man visiting on Christmas Eve: For the past three Decembers, a man described at 5'6" tall and weighing 230 pounds (read: fat!) has robbed downtown banks, including the Bank of the Cascades in 2011 and 2012, and on Friday the 13th 2013, Home Federal Bank, AGAIN! He was last seen running (waddling?) away with cash. Police have released no indication about Santa's alibi.
3. Why police and emergency remain underfunded while Bend enjoys some of the most well-kept parks in the state: Okay, so not much mystery here, the City of Bend and Bend's Park & Rec are separate governmental agencies, with dramatically different budgets. In an August City Council hearing, emergency room physician Dr. Bill Reed provided sobering information about the current state of the anemic funding and staffing for Bend's fire department that is often called as first-responders and medical emergencies. Reed pointed out that underfunding police and fire departments have very real life-or-death consequences, as in the three cases in the previous year, when firefighters were not able to provide resources fast enough, that ended up in deaths. Meanwhile, our parks are beautiful.
4. Taxes on Mirror Pond: The week before Thanksgiving, Bill Smith, developer of the Old Mill District, and Todd Taylor, CEO of heavy construction company Taylor Northwest, announced they had signed an agreement to buy the 23.5 acres of land under Mirror Pond from the McKay family—all for the express purpose of maintaining Mirror Pond. If that deal goes through, what remains unclear is who will pay taxes for the property, as the city doesn't believe it has collected property taxes for the past several decades on the property, because the city did not assign a value to the land. However, by putting a purchase price (somewhere between $225,000 and $327,000) on that (literally, not figuratively) underwater property, the 23.5 acres now does have a value—and will qualify for property taxes.
5. My missing Tillamook Vanilla Bean Yogurt: This much is known: Every Monday, I place four six ounce cartons of my favorite yogurt, Tillamook Vanilla Bean, on the top shelf of the refrigerator in the Source's office kitchen. I ate one of the cartoons on Monday morning, September 9, and a second one on Tuesday morning. When I arrived at the offices on Wednesday morning, my remaining two cartons were GONE! After interrogating co-workers (especially looking at you, Chris!) no one confessed. Since then, no other cartons have gone missing. Honorable Mention: My missing Extra Crunch Peanut Butter. (PB)