UPDATED: This version has been edited as of Oct. 19.
Six people are in the race for Bend's directly elected mayor.
Charles Baer is a local activist who's added some colorful dialogue in this race. Brian Douglass is a disabilities advocate who believes strongly in a ward system—something we also support in the interest of equity and equal representation. Michael Hughes is an attorney and hemp farmer who has helped move cannabis to the legal market in our state. Joshua Langlais is a local photographer running as an advocate for the working class, and for those whose voices are underrepresented in local government. Bill Moseley is a local business owner with a law degree, and is a sitting city councilor. Sally Russell is also a current city councilor who's held positions in marketing, event management and construction, and has served on a host of local government and community boards.
We see benefits of having both Russell and Moseley as mayor. We'd be happy to see Hughes added to the Council roster as well. Hughes presented a fresh, informed perspective and some new ideas on fire management that would be welcome in Bend, and we hope to see him engaged in another role in the future. We also believe Langlais should enter politics by joining a committee or board, to represent that portion of Bend that so often takes a back seat.
- Joshua Langlais
Still, the two sitting councilors represent the most viable candidates. On a council in which the mayor gets an equal vote to the other councilors, we believe consensus building is the most important quality Bend's new mayor should possess, and that Russell will deliver that best among these candidates. We admit this choice was an incredibly difficult one, because in Moseley we see a process-oriented, organized, fearless and outspoken leader who's a strong public speaker and clearly does his homework.
Still, Russell does not incite outright anger from city staff or her fellow councilors, as Moseley does. You could argue that Moseley's approach is inciting that type of anger because he's shaking things up in the interest of getting things done—but then again, the stronger argument is that this is not the way to build strong consensus and move forward as a city.
This will be the first time Bend will directly elect a mayor, and that mayor should be someone who's strongly supported by other leaders in our community, as Russell is. While Moseley could be a strong leader who could push forward his agenda, we question whether his approach is more opportunistic than authentic. In Russell we find more authenticity. We see her approach to governance as more carrot and less stick. During meetings, Russell sometimes seems unsure of which direction to take, but upon closer observation, we see that as a commitment to trying to understand what her constituents want. She has a strong track record of reaching out to her community and being inclusive in decision-making.
We point to some of the most pressing issues in Bend as evidence of that inclusivity. While we disagree with Russell in her assertion that the City of Bend should contribute funds to dredge Mirror Pond, we respect her willingness to take a collaborative approach and to listen to stakeholders—as it is clearly a divisive issue in which constituents' opinions vary widely. While we fundamentally agree with Moseley in his assertion that Bend Park and Recreation District could, in theory, find the funds more readily than the City of Bend, his hardline approach is not likely to elicit the consensus the issue requires.
We also agree with Moseley that the Septic to Sewer conversion is a "catastrophe," and that the costs should be spread out city-wide—though we also appreciate Russell's pragmatic reminder that not all costs can be legally spread city-wide. It's nice to say what voters want to hear, but there's also a responsibility to not lead voters astray by proclaiming things that can't actually be achieved. On that note, we believe that Moseley's position on whether to promote Bend as a tourist destination is not entirely rooted in reality, either. While we agree with him that Bend should foster a more diverse economy and work to bring in higher-wage jobs, it seems like voter-baiting for him to say Bend should not promote itself. It might sound like a grand rallying cry, for those locals tired of sharing the brew halls with tourists, to say, "Stop promoting Bend," but research shows that states that have cut off all tourism promotion have suffered great economic setbacks. And that's not to mention that using Transient Room Tax funds for tourism promotion—in whatever creative interpretation we can come up with—is baked in, as state law. Russell, on the other hand, seems to be more realistic about what we can actually do about tourism promotion within the bounds of state law, and doesn't use an opportunistic argument to discuss the issue.
In the end, we believe Russell's reputation and track record as a consensus builder make her a more viable candidate for Bend's first directly elected mayor. Vote Sally Russell for Bend City Council Position 7 – Mayor.
Editor's note: This opinion has been altered from its original version. We have removed mention of the departure of sitting councilors upon election of the new mayor. According to city staff, should Moseley or Russell not win as mayor, they will fill the remainder of their term(s) as Councilor—not be removed, as our piece originally stated. If one of the two becomes mayor, the Bend City Council will vote to fill the Council vacancy by appointing someone to the council.
This has also been altered to state that Bill Moseley has a law degree. Since he is not listed as a member of the Oregon State Bar in the OSB database, he's not an "attorney," as we previously stated.
We regret the errors.