BEND, OR -- Five candidates running for Mayor of Bend answered questions about growth, the septic to sewer issue, and the differences between each other at a public forum, Thursday afternoon.
City Councilor Bill Moseley says affordable housing is a major problem, but he doesn't believe micromanaging makes it better, "The city doesn't need to provide extra regulations, rules, all these kinds of things. The city needs to get out of the way. So, when we place inordinate burdens on particular properties, we actually just make it more and more expensive." He adds, "If we don't bring land supply on, Bend is going to continue to become a more and more expensive community and there won't be a place for our kids to live anymore. I just don't think that's the Bend of the future for us." Lawyer and hemp farmer Michael Hughes says the housing issue is more than simple supply and demand, "Part of the affordable housing crisis is attracting higher paying jobs to Bend. Bend is in the middle of an economic boom, but we can do better. We can bring more jobs, there are other sectors of the economy that we can draw from and bring in higher paying jobs."
Managing growth was a big focus of Thursday's forum. Photojournalist Joshua Langlais says growth is inevitable, but he thinks there's a way to slow it down, "I think that we need to suck it up and realize that growth is going to happen, and choose the best way forward. People are going to have to make sacrifices with growth. It's compromising, and being fair and ethical." He added, "This 'nimbyism,' this hating on tourism, 'these damn Californians;' I'm just so tired of hearing about it. The word is out on Bend. We did a great job. We told everybody about it, and we can also stop doing that. We don't have to continue telling the world about Bend, because everybody knows." But Councilor and Mayor Pro Tem Sally Russell says it's not that easy, "We need to understand that tourism is 20% of our economy. We need to understand that tourism creates resiliency in downturns. Right? It brings a lot of people, but it also contributes in many ways." She went on to explain that Visit Bend only advertises in markets within eight hours of Central Oregon, and room taxes go toward road maintenance and paying for law enforcement.
When asked about the septic to sewer conversion currently impacting 2,600 properties, which could cost individual homeowners up to $25,000, Russell says she wants to tell the DEQ to stand aside, "If I got to be Mayor for a day and got my way 100%, I would have the neighborhoods make the decision on whether or not they, as a group, wanted to save money and actually do it all together." Activist Brian Douglass says no one can claim the conversion comes as a surprise, "The city has take the funds from the tax revenue from that area and they have spent it in other places, and they did not set up any kind of a fund for the purposes of putting money aside to deal with a problem they knew was coming."
Missing from Thursday's event was candidate Charles Baer, founder of the self-proclaimed global internet government. He tells KBND News he would have liked to participate but was not invited. COAR says Baer was emailed with the same invitation as the other candidates, on August 28, and failed to respond to the request to appear. For more on the candidates, visit our Elections Page.
8:45 a.m. Updated to reflect new information received by COAR that Charles Baer was invited and failed to respond to the organization's request.
Photo: (L-R) Michael Hughes, Sally Russell, Brian Douglass, Joshua Longlais and Bill Moseley listen to the moderator at Thursday's debate.