BEND, OR -- Bend City Councilors heard final recommendations from the Charter Review Committee, Wednesday. Committee Co-Chair Brent Landels says after several months of research, interviews and negotiations, the committee suggests three major changes to city government.
Two of the revisions involve how Councilors and the Mayor are elected, "To go to a directly elected mayor in a four-year term; also adoption of a ward system. So, it’s actually a mixed version: four Councilors would be elected from essentially a geographic ward – northeast, southeast, southwest and northwest – everybody would still represent the entire city, but they would also concurrently represent their district. And then two of the remaining councilors would be elected at large, the same way they are today." Landels says they studied Oregon's other major cities and found, "Of all of the 10 largest cities, city of Gresham is the only other city that has not gone to wards. Everybody else votes either directly by wards or a mixed system, which is what we’re proposing to go to. So, it’s kind of as cities grow up, they move into a ward system." Bend is also the largest city in the state without a directly elected Mayor.
The third recommendation would remove from the charter any reference to how much Councilors and the Mayor are paid. Landels tells KBND News, "The charter is essentially the constitution for the city of Bend, and it just isn’t a place where you typically would ever see somebody’s payroll. It’d be like having the President of the United States’ actual dollar amount that he’s being paid in the Constitution of the country; it’s just not where it belongs."
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Councilors did not make any decisions on Wednesday, but they discussed hosting a public listening session on the options at their next Council meeting. They will then decide whether to send any or all issues to the ballot and what those measures would look like. Landels wants to see them appear as separate issues in May, "Our recommendation is to do it as three different things, so folks can decide if they want an elected mayor independently of if they want to have four geographic wards and independently, if they want to have pay stay in the charter, so that the citizens have the ability to really pick and choose what form of government they want."