As 2017 comes to a close, we want to take time to reflect on the momentous year that has passed. The biggest issue for the community happened on the national stage, where we've experienced the ups and, mostly downs, of inaugurating a new president who is more tuned to midnight tweets than policy that benefits the majority of Americans. The year 2017 has brought new battles on public lands, a highly contentious tax plan and debates on health care—not to mention the more philosophical debates on race and racism, and inappropriate treatment of women.
Yet while the national dysfunction gives us a great deal to consider, local happenings and politics continue as well. While not as tumultuous as the clownery happening nationally, our own little corner of the world has definitely had its ups and downs.
One of the most recent issues—the debate over changing the Bend city charter—gives us pause to ponder how our local political process works a bit better than the national one. Last week, the Bend City Council decided 4-3 against establishing a ward system in Bend. Wards, as we have posited before, would have allowed people in distinct geographical areas of the city to elect a councilor who would represent their quadrant of the city. We contended that this was an issue of equity, and would have allowed the historically less-influential—and less-represented—east side to have more of a voice in city decisions.
Like all issues put before the council, ultimately, the end result was borne out of a vote by councilors. Before that, however, a Charter Review Committee, populated by local citizens, debated for months on the possibility of various changes to the charter. They recommended a directly-elected mayor—something the council did vote in favor of. The committee also recommended removing language surrounding councilor pay from the charter, thereby allowing that topic to be decided upon by the City Council. The committee also recommended that ward system.
The deviation between the committee's recommendation and the ultimate council decision is disappointing. Yes, it's up to each councilor to vote their conscience, and to vote in favor of what they believe is best for the city. At least we hope that's what they did. That the council was relatively evenly split on this issue demonstrates, at least, that the voice of the committee was considered.
We wish the decision would have gone the other way, but even though it wasn't, we take comfort in knowing that, in our local area, a decision this big was not taken lightly, and it involved heavy citizen input. The decision came after months of work by citizens who donated their time to create a more equitable vision for what the leadership of this city should look like in the future, and that's the way it should be.
Would that decisions made nationally came with so much direct citizen input.