BEND, OR -- More changes may be coming to Bend's city charter. Some want it to include language forcing elections for all City Councilors, instead of appointing new members to mid-term vacancies.
The issue arose during the process of filling the Council seat vacated when Sally Russell was elected Mayor in 2018. Several applicants were considered. But, in the end, Chris Piper was appointed to Position Three; he was sworn in last month amid protests. Some who opposed the decision were upset over what they saw as back-room deals. Councilor Bill Moseley says some even claimed racism, "it's kind of a complex issue. The assertion was that during our evaluation process, that there was another candidate who was an opportunity to create more diversity within the Council. For myself, I just fundamentally reject that you should evaluate any person based on their race or gender as a qualification." He believes Piper was the only candidate whose centrist views more closely represented the community and, Moseley tells KBND News, he was willing to take a drastic step if Piper didn't get the job. "My intention was to resign from the Council. Really, the logic behind it: if we're going to go this direction, then I'm going to make sure that we have a full understanding of where we're going, and we can see that it's not in the community's best interests to go far, far left."
Moseley says Mayor Russell asked him to stay on, agreeing to vote for Piper instead of another more progressive candidate. He calls it a brave move, "They basically preserved a council that is going to be pretty focused and centrist on solving the community's problems."
Despite his support of Piper, Moseley supports a movement to see all Councilors elected by voters. One proposal would force a sitting Councilor to resign if they want to run for Mayor before the end of their term. Voters would then select that seat's replacement at the same time the Mayor is elected. But Moseley says that's not all that should be considered, "If we're going to open up the charter again, I think we need to have a fuller discussion about the kinds of City Councilors we have. Bend is really just growing and changing too fast to have basically very, very part-time volunteer Councilors."
UPDATE (02/13/19): Mayor Sally Russell says she and Councilor Moseley never spoke directly about who would better serve Council, prior to the public vote in Council Chambers. During Moseley's original interview with KBND News, he said he was concerned about the future of important city projects if a far-left candidate was selected, and shared those concerns with some in the community. He says other members of Council had to have known he was ready to resign over the issue. "And so, Bruce (Abernethy) and Sally (Russell) took it into consideration and said, 'no, as much as we are a little bit left of center, we don't really want - we can see that it's not in the community's best interest to go left, left of center'," Moseley said, speaking hypothetically. He says he didn't talk with Councilor Abernethy nor Mayor Russell about the appointment process, nor was there a "quid pro quo" agreement in place.
Mayor Russell tells KBND News, "The reason I turned to Councilor Bill Moseley just prior to the [January 16] vote and asked him whether he was going to vote, was because I was still unclear whether or not he was even going to participate." Moseley agrees, saying the final decision was not made until that vote. Russell adds, "I hope we can not only learn from this event but, as a community, we can focus on the important work we need to do, move on from this and tackle the important issues. In last week's goal setting, Council began to focus on important work for our community. We've made some really tough decisions; now, let's move on and start getting work done. We recognize diversity, equity and inclusion as an area that is important for our community."
Photo: 2019 Bend City Council (L-R) Justin Livingston, Barb Campbell, Bill Moseley, Mayor Sally Russell, Bruce Abernethy, Gena Goodman-Campbell, Chris Piper