2022 Bend Chamber Candidate Forum Transcript - Bend City Council and Mayor
Is it Wednesday already? Nope, sorry to mess with your biorhythm. Tonight, I went to the Bend Chamber Candidate Forum, and because I am petty, I figured I would show how easy it could be for them to make these forums accessible to the public by doing it myself. This one is important since it is one of the only times we will hear from all the council candidates. Well, most of them. Two candidates for Position 4 decided not to show up.
Below is as close to an accurate transcription as I’m able to provide in the time it takes me to finish this Monkless “The FNG” Belgian Style Abbey Ale. Which is to say, it’s probably pretty bad.
All right, Without further ado, I'm going to introduce our fabulous moderator for the evening. We are grateful to be joined by Allen Schauffler! He's with Central Oregon Daily News. Alan has had 35 years experience in broadcast news and film production (since he was five), and for the past three years he's been going to the story, bringing you there, and getting a first hand look to find the truth; from the US Capitol riots, to the Oregon Governor's race, to fundraisers for the Humane Society for Central Oregon, Allen's passion is simple and profound on covering the stories our community cares about and making sure they are told. Please help me welcome, and thank Allen for joining us here tonight.
Katie, thank you so much. I just really appreciate the opportunity to be a part of this forum tonight that I am that cheerful guy you see up there. *points to picture of his face on the projector*. I am going to remain cheerful tonight and upbeat. I think this is a great opportunity to have a reasoned political discussion and presentation.
It's a chance to talk and not yell. And I think if we all behave as reasonable adults from the previous age we are going to be okay, tonight. We want to hear from the candidates for mayor, first of all. So please help me welcome Chris Piper and Melanie Kebler.
Now we're going to start off with the five minutes for each of these folks, get a chance to for them to stand up and just tell you a little bit about who they are, what their visions for the city are, what they've encountered along the campaign trail, etc. And you two I'm going to just step out and give you a two-minute warning and a one minute warning and a “Chris It's time to get off the stage”. We'll be a little bit fluid with timing and whatnot, but we do want to try to keep on a timeline. So if it's time to go, it's time to go.
So it's time for us to get to know you a little bit better. I'm sure you know a lot of the folks in this room, and I'm sure they know a lot about you, but we’re going to give you five minutes to stand up and introduce yourselves and Melanie Kebler, you get to go first.
Thank you so much. Everyone hear me okay? Great. Hi, everybody! My name is Melanie Kebler and I'm running for Mayor because I love this city where I grew up, and I want to ensure that Bend's future is one where everyone here has the opportunity to thrive. I'm a Bend High grad, a mom, an attorney, and since 2020, I've been working hard as your city councilor to tackle the challenges that are affecting all of us in the city, including business owners and workers. As a former prosecutor and victim's rights attorney, I spent my career protecting the public and helping people have their voices be heard. I know how to work with people who have differing viewpoints, to come to a compromise, but I'm also not afraid to stand in my decisions and to speak up against injustice. I'm ready to be the next mayor of Bend. We've all been through a lot in the past two years with both the pandemic and a housing crisis hitting our business community especially hard. It's been amazing to see how resilient our community is around supporting our local small businesses in helping everyone get through this really rough time. Right now what I'm consistently hearing out there talking to folks, is that the biggest pressure on our businesses is lack of workers. We've got to make Bend a place where workers can afford to live and a place where businesses don't just survive, but they have the opportunity to thrive and to scale up and be that pillar of our community.
At the core, this comes down to our housing crisis and future growth planning, as well as continued partnership between the Chamber and the City. As Mayor, I will continue to focus on moving Bend forward and not accepting the status quo. We can and will make improvements to help businesses and workers and keep our economy on track in the next four years. For me in the past two years as your Counselor, housing has really been a priority. As I said, this is one of the biggest things impacting our business community and our entire community. We're also all impacted by the rise and homelessness that's occurred over the past few years and I know how that impacts businesses too. I've been proud to lead the city to be the first large city in the State to implement House Bill 2001, which is a policy that allows us to build more types of homes in more places in Bend to fit the needs of more people. We simply need more homes for everyone here in order to bring our housing crisis down. On Council I've also helped and make sure we could bring land into the city. We had an opportunity with a bill in Salem regarding the Stevens Road track that no Council had been able to get done before. We got it done and we brought it in on Bend's terms and we have a plan there for a great complete neighborhood that's going to have over 2500 homes, plus 20 acres of land dedicated to subsidized affordable housing.
I'm also really proud of the way that myself and our Council have stepped up on homelessness. This is an issue that's been growing for over a decade, and our previous leaders simply did not do enough to address it. We now have a permanent emergency shelter to keep people out of the elements, we have a navigation center that's moving people into housing. In this Council, in the summer of 2021, we came up with an idea to take the Salem that we got our County Commissioners on board for, and bipartisan support for, to create a coordinated office on homelessness, so we can work with our partners at the County, who provide behavioral mental health, and all of the other cities in our region, to tackle what really is not just a city problem, but a regional, State, and national problem. For me, when I look at what we need for the future of Bend, we need solutions that take meaningful steps forward and I'm the right person tonight who is prepared to do that. I want to make real progress and get real results. This is a critical moment for our city. We need serious leadership right now to manage the challenges we're facing as we grow and I'm afraid my opponent just doesn't understand that if we make some of the wrong decisions about our future in the next four years and don't address our challenges, we'll become a city where only wealthy people can afford to live, and where the problems that are impacting our community and our business community continue to fester. As Mayor. I will not let that happen. You can count on me to work hard to make Bend a city that works better for all of u, and I'd be honored to have your vote.
Thank you very much, Chris Piper.
Thank you. All right, we're good, we're good. Hey it's good to see you all out there. It's finally nice to have a live audience in front of you, because it certainly helps the energy when you're up here speaking to all of you, the Bend community. What I'm going to share with you is a compilation of information that I've been listening to over the last… Oh gosh… Eight months or so, since I've been campaigning since January. As you all know, I've been introduced, I’m Chris Piper and I do definitely want to be your mayor here in Bend. I'm running for mayor because Bend, at this critical time, needs a proven leader with real business experience, strong values, character, and a vision for the future. I'm running for mayor because I'll bring a different point of view that will contribute… contribute to the progressive Council's conversations. Our next council will uphold council seats as non-partisan positions as they're meant to be. We will walk into Chambers and check our political hat, and shred our personal agendas at the door, so that Council focuses on the fundamentals of city government, and the residents are feeling respected and heard. I’ve lived in Bend for almost two decades, and my wife, and I raised our daughter Gracie here. We love Bend's quality of life and we wouldn't want to live anywhere else. As mayor, I will bring a consistent, open, forthright, common sense approach to city government. That was my trademark as a former City Councilor, and has been my trademark serving on three boards here in our community. As mayor we will focus on core city issues while keeping a solid sense of local community with a focus toward protecting our neighborhoods, such as I did with the Riverwest McKay Park and Old Bend neighborhoods. Too many families and individuals can't get good jobs. Too many talented young people who would like to make Bend their home aren't able to live here, they must seek residence outside of Bend. As mayor I will lead using Bend's Historical strengths to attract sustainable jobs as well as help Local businesses develop and grow. I will bring innovative approaches to economic development that build up a talented, diverse workforce through public-private partnerships. A critical factor in sufficient affordable and workforce housing for this group. For example, we can look to opportunities like the Bend Central District that allows for the most housing per acre by a wide margin. We will support the culture of innovation working with OSU Cascades Innovation District, that will build upon the economic and geographic advantages of the region.
Furthermore, I will create summits that include the city's economic development partners, the backbone of our commerce. These are just some of the steps we can take immediately to attract and grow and start up businesses and the good jobs that come with them. We need to enforce our laws fairly and consistently throughout the community including the houseless. We need a strategic houseless plan that is metrics-based with accountability. The city was not enforcing ordinances until I made the point 10 months ago during a spontaneous unscheduled news interview, discussing the right away Policy. Turning a blind eye to our existing enforcement policies and ordinances to our residents who has to be heard and to our students who want to feel safe walking to and from school turning a blind eye and not listening to the community has made Bend more attractive to the houseless. As your mayor, all of Bend’s 13 Neighborhood associations will be actively engaged with City Hall. I will keep the transportation bond oversight committee accountable, and on track. I promise a transparent, welcoming, inclusive and equitable and open-minded city government. Leadership is not about being the best. Leadership is about making Bend and Bendites better. I would be honored to earn your vote and support this November 8th. Thank you.
All right, thank you so much and now we're going to ask you a series of questions. These are questions generated by the chambers strategic priorities. Some of the things that they are specifically interested in that members have brought up and we're going to start with that. A reminder for these questions, you can have two minutes. I'll give you a one-minute warning and then a wrap and somebody at the chamber flipped a coin and Melanie Kebler starts.
The first question is: One of the chambers key initiatives is increasing the inventory of workforce housing, rental and ownership properties. If elected, what immediate steps would you take to spur development and add needed housing inventory?
Thanks Alan. So every time I'm talking to people who are in business in Bend, including some of the people in this room, the number one issue I hear that prevents them from getting the workforce they need is housing. They need more workers, and in order to have more workers here, we're going to need to build more homes. We are behind by over 4,000 homes as to where we should be for what the demand is here in Bend, and that's a big, big reason why housing is unaffordable for so many. So, we need to work to make sure all kinds of housing are more affordable and we're not losing people like nurses, teachers, or just the person who makes your coffee or pours your beer, because they are all crucial parts of our community.
I wanted to note this question talks about workforce housing and I wanted to make the point people working in the Bend are living in all types of housing situations. When I visited Hunel Road this last week and spoke with a woman who was living out of a trailer with her two dogs, she was disabled, but her husband was at work. He was at work pumping gas and they were hoping to save up in order to be able to move that trailer to a piece of land. They are working people, and so are people who are in subsidized income housing, and so are people who are in market rate housing. So we need to be investing in all of those solutions, and we need both solutions to do so, like House, Bill 2001, that I mentioned and Stevens Road Tract. And we also need to look at our UGB that's going to be coming in the next four years, and it's really important who's in charge because we cannot go into that process with the idea that we need to grow as big as possible. That is not going to solve our housing crisis. We have to be data-driven and understand our communities' needs, and how we can meet the climate moment as well when we’re planning. And we know, many of us in this room, what happens when Bend submits a plan that sprawls way too far. The state sends it back and we lose years and millions of dollars in funds trying to fix it. We've got to do it, right, we've got to do it smart the first time, and make sure we get the housing we need without sacrificing our community spirit.
Chris, same question to you. Do you want me to repeat or you good with it? (I'm good.) Okay, fire away.
Yeah, The question asked about what immediate steps. I'm going to share with you those immediate steps when I become Bend's Mayor. Bend needs multiple strategies to address this issue. We need our state and local governments to amend land use policies to make housing development easier, streamline notoriously cumbersome, primitive processes and lower taxes or unnecessary requirements that depress development. First is a UGB: begin the process of expanding the UGB to increase available land for housing. 20-year Development activity is not feasible, we just can't catch up. Create deed restrictive, workforce housing only available to our first responders, nurses, teachers and other key service providers so they can work and live in the community that they serve.
The Bend Central District, designated as an opportunity zone and an urban renewal district encouraging investment. It allows for the most housing units per acre by a wide margin. Streamlining our permitting process. The City Council, and building officials should look to removing any potential regulatory overlap or duplication and creating more efficient administrative procedures. Implementing a project issueResolution process. Next, review or revisit the city. Resolution 3038. This increases workforce and affordable housing by identifying public property that can be repurposed for residential use and making it available to developers who commit to creating and maintaining ongoing affordability. And last, the most important, is to create a collaborative effort between developers, lenders, City of Bend and affordable housing stakeholders to generate workforce housing
Sorry, I didn't catch it, you can stay up there. Mr. Piper because you get the first shot at the next question, which is also along the theme of housing.
What steps are you prepared to take as mayor, specifically, something you mentioned here, to spur developments in the Bend Central District?
Certainly and I just have to say I'm having flashbacks to my days at University of Oregon and Music. I need my trumpet. I won't go there. All right, This is a great question. An area that definitely needs attention.
The Bend Central District is and has been for quite some time, poised to become the second downtown of the fastest, growing small city in America. The confluence of support and directives by federal, state, and local governments make the BCD one of the lowest line investment fruit that will spur development at a much-needed housing. First, we need to erase the uncertainty that the BCD stakeholders are feeling with the city. This can be done by including stakeholders at a participatory level, well in advance of when decisions and policy are being drafted, that may impact prospective development. Second, we need to discuss options to relocate the bottle drop. Third, have an exit strategy for the Rainbow Motel. Include BCD stakeholders in this strategy. BCD is designated an Opportunity Zone an Urban Renewal District designated to encourage investment and leverage tax incremental financing to fund infrastructure improvements. To illustrate my point, a small 10,000 square foot lot in the BCD allows for up to 72 plus one bedroom apartments. There are 196 acres in the BCD. This is 8 million plus square foot which is 853 10,000 square foot lots and equals to approximately 60,000 one bedroom units.
You want the question resaid or are you comfortable with it? (I've got it there, thank you!) Okay, good and stay right there when you're done, because you're up next.
So, um, I love being here in the BCD tonight! Can we just get around of applause for this amazing venue and staff, thank you so much for putting this on.
So, I really believe that our Core Area and the Bent Central District was just a subpart of our core area is going to be the next big thing in Bend. It's already a diverse community with diverse businesses and amazing people who are pioneering in this area and really leading the way and making it a neighborhood that's going to thrive. We're going to have continued investment, both public and private here, and that's really exciting. I've been really pleased to work with the Bend Central Business Association that formed, and encouraged them to ask council to provide the miliaison, which currently is me, so that we can continue to have that back and forth communication. We can update them on city plans and they can keep us apprised of their concerns at the street level. We've also worked to assign a staff person specifically to this area as a point person to make sure we're working towards the development we want to see, and we’ve appointed an advisory board that includes business interests. It's really important that we keep that voice in our planning for the BCD. My opponent on the other hand disparaged tall buildings the other night, and I'm afraid that despite his numbers that he just gave, he doesn't really seem to understand the opportunity we have to build incredible housing infrastructure in this area that's going to support transit and help businesses as well. We already know that sprawl as a solution isn’t going to work and this is one of our best chances to really create the housing we need without doing that. I also really support moving our city hall into this area. That's the public investment I was talking about. We are growing out of our facilities downtown and we need a new place to be, and we're working on making a plan so that we can bring not just City Hall, but a whole campus that could include a public park and our own city-built housing, as part of that plan, that will continue to catalyze this whole area. I'm really excited also on the investment of dollars back into this area with business grants and infrastructure that we can make from that urban renewal district, so, this is a great place to be tonight.
The last question for both of you:
The City of Bend has an aging and essentially divided infrastructure. What are your plans to address the city's roads and bridges to alleviate traffic congestion, promote multimodal transportation, and connect the various communities within the city?
Thanks Allen. So I think everyone here in this room can agree that our transportation system has not kept up with our growth, but one thing that we've identified through reviewing, our transportation system plan and planning for the future is, we can't build our way out of the problem. If building bigger roads and freeways solved congestion, there'd be no congestion in LA, but we know that's not the case. So what we have to do is actually transform our transportation system and address our safety and our connectivity issues, so that we can have more meaningful options for everyone to get around town. You know, I take my kiddo to school on the back of a bike, some days, so, I know firsthand where our system can work well, and where we have those pain points, where people might not want to ride or walk or use a mode that's not a car, because they don't feel safe.
So that's been a priority for me on council. As we move through the bond projects the voters approved and we're implementing, is to make sure we're always thinking about prioritizing safety, especially when it comes to giving people options to go by biker by walking. You know, one example of that is the Wilson Street Corridor, where we're going to actually have our first whole protected bikeway down the corridor, and our first on the west coast, protected roundabout.
That's the type of investment we need to really make our transportation system transform. I'm also really excited about the opportunities we're exploring right here in this area to connect Hawthorne and to improve Franklin and Greenwood. So we have those community connections from this great area that's up and coming to our well-established downtown, and the people feel like they feel safe moving from East to West in Bend, There's a meaningful segment of our workers here, that support our businesses that do need to take a bus that do need to bike or walk to get to work. So it's really important that we're giving them meaningful options and that's going to make the system work better for all of us.
So that's what I'll continue to push as Mayor.
The question asked about our plans when we become mayor, and I've identified some areas and one I'd like to make sure that we recognize, the transportation bond, that as voters, we all passed. And now we're also feeling the impact of that through the construction, But it will definitely create ease of process(?), and I was proud to be a counselor when that transportation bond was passed. It's important to know what our growth is going to look like in 2040 down the road. We have to plan for that and we're expected to grow to 153,000, if not more. I'll keep the transportation bond oversight committee accountable and on track with the prioritized project voters approved. I'll make critical decisions that make our roads, parking infrastructure, bike lanes and sidewalk safe and convenient for all. I will direct implementation of our transportation bond to affect more efficient travel and reduced commutes, which combined with Workforce housing will, further reduce vehicle miles traveled. That's the goal. Stay involved with CET's plans to provide better connected routes and open further discussion to have CET become its own district, currently being funded by the city now and through payroll deductions AKA ???. Multimodal, which was a question on here as well: We need to revisit the right Bend pilot via OSU Cascade Mobility Lab and simply supplying several options of constituents can go a long way, providing those options and allowing truly flexible mobility around town.
It can be helpful to consider each potential mode as a solution that connects existing services as opposed to district services that connects separate origins and destinations. We must move forward. Bend will move forward, and we need to work collaboratively in this effort. We are a growing city. Let's be realistic, but let's focus and let's collaborate. Thank you.
Thank you very much, I really appreciate those thoughtful responses to questions about some of the very serious issues we'll all be facing in the coming decades. Now you have a chance to say goodbye to close the deal, with this audience at least, two minutes for a closing statement and Chris you begin.
Gotta have a little fun up here. No in all seriousness. As I mentioned before, I launched my campaign in January, but it truly started several months before when business owners would contact me on how they can have a seat at the table to share their stories of how they and their employees aren't feeling safe coming to and from work, and when neighbors in residence said they are afraid of not knowing what this council will do to them next, These experiences that our community is feeling of not being heard, of not feeling safe, and not fairly being represented by this partisan council is why I am running for mayor: balance.
Must be brought back for fair representation. This is a non-partisan seat and we're here for the greater good of our community. We need to make better decisions on housing, support our businesses, improve the city's infrastructure, create a safe and welcoming community, and have a measurable and metric space solution for the houseless. Everyone in Bend deserves that kind of tomorrow, and we have some work to do. If you want creative and smart economic development that protects and will advance bends quality of life. If you want a more economically just and accessible affordable and safe community, If you want to openness in government join Team Piper, I will bring our community together and work on behalf of the entire community.
I ask why not have six city council meetings held throughout the city in larger venues, and not just in a cramped City Hall or via a controlled Zoom meeting. Let's ask ourselves that question. Let's all take the pledge to listen, lead, and be accountable. It's what we should do and together, it's what we can do. I would be honored to have your vote November 8th. Please visit PiperforBend.com.
Thanks everybody for being here tonight. It's really great to get these opportunities to speak with you about some of my priorities, that I know a lot of us in this room share. One of the things I want everyone to take away from tonight, is that all the topics we've talked about today are connected. How we plan for transportation affects how we build housing. How we plan for housing and density, affects what we can do, as far as pushing our transportation system forward, and how we tackle homelessness and helping our unhoused neighbors, speaks to our community, not just our heart, but our future, because it's tied to housing and transportation too. I don't want to just talk about these issues though. I want to do something about them and that is the type of leadership that I've already shown on Council.
I am here to get things done for all the City of Bend whom I represent, and I want to make sure this city that I love continues to grow in a way that preserves our community spirit. For me, Bend needs to be more affordable. It needs to be more livable for more people, and it needs to work better for everybody, and that includes people who are trying to start a business here, people who've had a business here for a long time, and everyone that those businesses serve and employ in our community. We have a choice of this election to move towards that vision, or to go a different path that involves sprawl and moving into our environment and not planning for a sustainable future for the city. For me, it's really important that I'm not just a partner to the chamber and to our businesses, but to everybody here in this room. I'm so thankful for the Chamber for putting this event on, and for all that they're doing to bring these issues forward. They've done some incredible work, especially around workforce housing. I want to continue that and continue this conversation about the city that we all love. For me, I want to make sure that Bend is a place that my family can live in, that my daughter can grow up in, and I know that's what you all want too. So, let's get there together.
Thank you for being here tonight.
FINE, this isn’t a one beer transcription. Two beers. Number 2 is a Warsteiner Oktoberfest.
That's a great hand for these two. Thank you so much. Another thingZ: I think we should all acknowledge that just committing to run for public office is a dedication to public service in itself. It's not an easy road.
As a reminder after the council candidate speaks, sll the candidates, Council and Mayoral candidates, are going to be available for you all to talk with one-on-one.
So the council. This is going to be a little bit busier, this portion of the event, because we're going to ask these folks to come up on stage one at a time. Excited to have you all with us this evening. We really appreciate it. We're going to invite you up on stage, one at a time, to share your thoughts about your campaign. What you're hearing out there? What you think the issues are as well as give you a chance to answer one or two or three of the questions that we're going to put up on the screen.
You will each have five minutes. You can introduce yourself. Pick one question, pick two, pick three, whatever you like. You've got five minutes and I will give you a two minute warning and a one minute warning and a wrap up. We're going to start with the candidates for position four: Barb Campbell, Karon Johnson, Bill Olson, and surrogate for Erlen Taylor standing in, Madison Bergrin.
(he forgot to read the questions, he will do so after the first candidate speaks, but for your convenience, I will move them here)
1: It's no secret that the city's permitting system has experienced significant challenges in the past years, improvements are underway, we understand, but the consequences to local businesses have been significant, both monetarily and in terms of logistical operation. If elected, how would you address the issue to expedite the permitting process?
2: Building in, or density, is one of the strategies for generating more attainable housing to meet the future population demands in the city. If elected, how will you support projects such as the Bend Central District?
3: Businesses across the city are concerned about caring for the unhoused and are looking to city council to find solutions that can help with this growing population while also addressing the monetary and safety impacts to businesses and the citizens of Bend. If elected, how would you navigate this issue to find solutions?
By the way, I should let you know that the order of speaking has been selected alphabetically Purely alphabetically And we're going to start with Barb Campbell:
Don’t start me until I get this thing (microphone) turned on. Hey, I got it! Good evening! Good evening, everyone. Thank you so much for being here tonight. Thank you to the chamber. This space is just fantastic. I was so sorry to lose the second street theater, but look what we got! And I want to thank all of the candidates sincerely, for running. Campaigning is not easy, and it makes it difference, It really does. Just running for office, honestly can change the conversation and move policy along. So, thanks to everybody who's gotten themselves involved by running.
And then, for all of you for being here. We simply cannot make good policy without an informed public, and we just appreciate you all being here and the chamber helping us out with that. So my name is Barb Campbell and I currently serve on City Council. It has been my great privilege to serve on City Council for two terms and I'm here today, seeking that kind of strange two-year position that opened up this time. Um, I have worked on my time, I found that I ended up focusing on transportation for some reason. And I found that, wow, transportation really is the key, to so many things: to housing, whether it's affordable or not, to accessible government, to quality of life. It all comes down to transportation.
I've served on the Metropolitan Planning Organization and am currently the chair of that organization, and I also serve on the statewide MPO. I serve on the central Oregon area commission for Transportation. I was instrumental in getting the three million dollar grant. We got for our airport through coact.
I serve on Central Oregon, Intergovernmental Council. I volunteered for that because of their connection to transit. That's who actually runs our bus system, is COIC, and I am so excited about the changes that are coming to our transit system. We're going to be able to redesign that with mobility hubs, meaning that not every single ride needs to end up at that single station on Hawthorne, that'll be great for those neighbors.
And then this year, I was able to attend The Citizen Police Academy, which gave me such a great understanding of our police force, and how they work, and how they're trained. So, all of this gives me experience that frankly, would be lost if I were not reelected. We have such a great city council, but all of those folks only have two years experience. I'm really running on institutional knowledge, and that gives me my segue to the Bend Urban Renewal Agency of which I currently am the chair, and the bend urban renewal agency is in fact involved in redeveloping the Bend Central District. There's my Segway to that Second question. Did you catch that Alan?
So, yeah, I absolutely have ideas on what we need to do for that Bend Central District. First, and foremost, in order to add density, we have to have balance. We have to protect the environment, We have to protect our river and our open spaces. We have an amazing parks district, but we can't just put that on them and expect that everything's going to be great.
We are going to build the Central District as it's planned, we need to make sure we're also protecting the environment. We need staff. Our staff is doing an excellent job, but we've lost the person who is dedicated to our urban renewal agencies. We need infrastructure. That is something the city absolutely can plan and help fund.
We need to follow the recommendations of our advisory councils. And this is one of the places where I am most excited, because I was the person who wrote and helped pass our resolution to have more diverse advisory councils, so that a council can really trust the recommendation that's coming from those people who spend days, months, sometimes years on advisory committees for us.
We should be listening to those recommendations. I am now in Charge of... I'm going to wrap it up and say thank you again. We need to restructure our STCs also, because the SDC for a single apartment is the same as for a single family house and on that, I will finish. Thank you, Goodbye.
*laughter and applause*
And next up is Karon Johnson.
Is it working? Yeah, I'm Karen Johnson running for position number four. My husband and I moved here in 2014. I served on a planning Commission for two years and then since then I've been the land use chair for the Old Farms neighborhood association. I’m politically moderate and middle of the road and I don't believe the City Council represents me anymore.
It refuse to listen to the citizens, they refuse to engage in dialogue. And if you have asked a question of this council, you probably realized that you didn't get an answer. You got to thank you for your comment. That needs to change. They're not making decisions based on hard data and looking at what other cities do to solve the problem. Instead they're decisions are based on ideology and emotion and that just live dances(?). My chief concern is public safety. The police department is down eight offices, The fire department cannot staff the multi-million dollar firehouse that they built on 15 is still standing empty. Why? The third concern is the homeless shelter that the codependent that the Council passed? It allows low barrier shelters and residential neighborhoods. That is unsafe. All these shelters are unhealthy, they need supervision. They're a danger to people and the neighborhoods. If I'm elected, I'm going to introduce legislation that will revoke that section of the code and low barrier shelters would not be allowed in residential neighborhoods.
High barrier shelters are very very different places. There are a lot of successful ones and St Vincent de Paul is starting another one. 10 units, called St, Vincent's Place, and it's going to give people hope, it's going to give people a path to improve their lives. The council's homeless code in this is not helping anybody but you notice the devils and the details and nobody was talking details, I am.
Look at Boise Idaho. Boise has invested and plans to invest millions in building affordable Housing. Half of the homeless are economically disadvantaged. That's why they're there. They work but the wages can't cover the rent. Boise has started a huge program to remedy that, but there's a flip side to that camping in Boise Public places is illegal. If a person wants to camp there, then the code provides that. I have a copy of the code for those who want it, 11 o'clock, every night officers call the shelters and confirm whether or not their spaces Available and a suitable for that person.
If a person wants to go to the shelter, no problem, is transported there. If herefuses to leave, he has committed a class, B misdemeanor, that brings up to six months in jail, and he would be arrested and spend the night in jail. But the public streets, the parks are clean, they don't have needles, you don't have trash. This kind of enforcement has to be done. There has to be consequences.
I'm going to address question two: how to generate more attainable housing and you notice that there wasn’t a whole lot of specifics. No one is doing the math. The median price of a home in bed is 760,000, The average person can afford a home of maybe 300,000.
There's a 460,000 gap, How are you going to fill them? Will reducing system development charges, fill that gap? 460,000? We need to look at what other cities are doing and there are four solutions. One is a Santa Barbara, the thing called, and smaller homes. Another is mandatory inclusionary housing where the developer has to build a certain percentage, another is short-term rentals. We have a thousand whole house short-term levels in Bend, and The council is adding more. Other places are putting a moratorium on them. My solution is free city land. Looking at these cities in Colorado. They're building affordable housing very successfully, but they’re building it on city owned land. They can buy a house, but the only own the house. The land is leased for 99 years and it's been hugely successful. Somewhere butte(?) has 33% of its housing units are for affordable housing. So Bend has a huge asset with the juniper ridge, and right now is zoned for industrial, but we don't need more jobs, we need housing. We need housing for the people who are already here, looking for housing so they can fill those jobs. That is what I'm recommending, that we build housing on either is a juniper ridge or other city on property with a 99 year lease. We’re not selling the land but, we are reducing the cost of that housing by about half.
Thank you, Karon, much appreciated, time is up.
Bill, Olson was unavailable to make it tonight, but the OSU grad Army Veterans semi-retired from the real estate business is also running for this position. Number four, Bill Olson, not here tonight with us Up.
Next is Madison Bergren speaking for Erwin Taylor.
Hi, Happy Monday everybody. I'm Madison Bergren. I'm so thankful to be here tonight on behalf of Erlin Taylor. I'm also a resident of Bend and I am her campaign manager and it's been so exciting working on her campaign. First of all, I'd like to thank the chamber for putting on the event tonight. This is a wonderful venue and what a great opportunity for the citizens and all the candidates here tonight. And I also like to thank the opponents for position 4, and other candidates, the city council for the opportunity to run competitive and honest campaigns here in Bend. While Erlin is not present tonight, she's happy to always connect about her campaign and she would be willing to talk as much as somebody else would like to. So, please reach out to her and she will always be willing to discuss further. Erlin has said that Bend, is a wonderful place to live, and yet throughout all the corners of our community, She's hearing her neighbors say they're worried about our quality of life. We all want more opportunity whether that's affordable places to live, stable income, job security, or safer streets. As our next city councilor, she will bring a new voice and a fresh perspective to how we've managed the city and how we will better manage it moving forward. Erlin cares deeply about affordable housing. Finding a place where you can live safely, you can work, go to school, raise a family or just enjoy our city’s and beautiful parks, streets, opportunities. That stuff should not be unattainable. Bend lacks the residential inventory and the types of housing opportunities that thriving communities need. She will work on our city. She will work so, our city can become a place that allows citizens to come here to work and live and play safely. Another issue that she cares deeply about is the homelessness crisis. It is never okay, for our neighbors to be sleeping on a street or under an overpass. Erwin plans to address these issues with multifaceted solutions, such as increased community resources, more mental and behavioral health support and more available short-term and long-term housing.
She has over 15 years of experience, working in projects related to this topic, and it is one of her most passionate issues. Another issue of hers that she cares deeply about is a thriving community and a better bend. Building a stronger community means supporting our local businesses, encouraging smart growth, and entrepreneurship, and opening the doors to innovation. Erlin will take bold action to establish objectives and goals, and address these issues and improve our quality of life here. She will not ignore the everyday issues that we have and we'll work hard with other community leaders in city councilors to find long-term sustainable solutions.
The question that I would like to address is question three dealing with businesses and the houselessness problem and what action will be taken. It's important to note that first and foremost, any of our neighbors living in the street is not Okay. I know her top priority is to find solutions for people who cannot afford to have safe housing and make it available so that they can obtain this. Out of that comes people who are now in stable living environments and can get jobs and become contributing members to our economy. It is not the businesses versus the homeless, but rather it needs to be businesses and people of our unhoused working together. Having a thriving community, businesses are supported, and have what they need, and that also includes those who own them, and those who contribute and interact within them.
Thank you so much for having me.
And those are the candidates for position Number four. We move on out of position number five, Ariel Mendes and Sean Sipe. Ariel. You get the first shot at this. Do you want me to reread those
questions or are you good? (I'm good. Thank you.)
Good evening everyone. My name is Ariel Mendez, and I'm really delighted to tell you about my vision for Bend. I have a vision for Bend that is more affordable, more walkable, more bikeable, and focuses on quality of life for children.Why focus on children? Because if our city works for children, it's going to work for everybody else.
I was elected in 2019 to the Bend Park and Recreation District Board where I was a champion for expanding our urban trail system. I've worked to expand our child care availability. The Parks District is Central Oregon's largest childcare provider, providing after school opportunities for over a thousand children and at a cost that families can afford.
I prioritized expanding the recreation scholarship program to make sure that no matter what you can afford, you'll be able to enjoy things like childcare or summer camps. I actually just came over here from the soccer field. I was coaching third grade girls and sixth grade boys. To have the opportunity for those kids to be able to walk or bike to school and then to the soccer field afterwards is wonderful. It's time for the kids to make friends, play, get ready for soccer, but it also saves parents a trip. And so this is where we start to see how transportation makes good economic sense if you don't have to drive as much. Housing Affordability is the number one problem, the number one challenge in Bend, and transportation is a close second. The average household in Bend is spending 35% of its income on housing. Transportation is almost 30%. Now we are building a lot of housing in Bend, we're building about double what the state per capita goal for housing is, but we're not paying very much attention to how we're building.
My wife is a pediatrician. She works at St. Charles. We have three kids. All of them are in different schools right now. So you can imagine transportation is at the top of our minds a lot. If we can focus on being more intentional about how we build, not if we build, we have a tremendous opportunity in Bend. I think transportation is maybe the biggest opportunity that Bend has and I don't want to miss it.
So if we can make our city work for children, it's going to work for everybody. Including people with disabilities, older adults who are worried about living independently. We have such a tremendous opportunity and I don't want to miss it. The second question that I want to address is the question of in-fil, So let's talk about the bend Central District. As a Parks Board member actually, as when I was chair last year, I supported the tax increment, finance mechanism to focus resources, public resources, not just from the city, but from all of our special districts in this core area. This represents a shared commitment to a plan with a vision to promote denser housing in this core area and it works by building public infrastructure.
It takes that pressure off so that developers feel secure, knowing that there is a plan here. There is a plan in place and we need to follow with that plan. We also need to think about how we connect this area. We heard tonight that we're expecting 50% more people in Bend in the next 20 years. Think about it. Do we really have room for 50% more cars as well? I don't think so. I think it's quite apparent that we don't. The only way that we're going to be able to achieve our housing goals and expand supply is if we change how we get around.
I ride my bike a lot, I rideit year-round. I don't expect everybody else to, but if we can just make it easier for 10%, 15% of people to get around walking or biking using transit, that is huge. You think about that morning commute? You can tell when the tourists are in town. You can tell when school pick up or drop off is happening, because that extra congestion is palpable. No city has never built its way out of congestion, and we're not going to either. Bend is incredibly special, but the word is getting out. It's already out. People are flocking here. How are we going to accommodate this? This is our greatest opportunity and I don't want to miss it.
My name is Ariel Mendez. If you like what you're hearing tonight, I can't do this alone. I would love to have your support. Please. Visit arielforbend.com, Thank you.
Next up for position 5. Sean Sipe, Mr. Sipe, do you need questions? We read. Are you good with what you've seen (Nah, im good!)
Hi, my name's Sean Sipe. I've been living here since I was a kid. I graduated in Mountain View, I grew up out in Tumalo, and I just outright loved this town. And for that reason, I'm coming here to apply for the position of the city council. It's a job, and it's a service. And I believe that the city council is meant to be, was designed to be, and i structured to be a non-partisan position, where we are not pursuing our own political Agendas. So I am putting those all at the door to come and service to you guys as our community.
What I can bring to the table though as a background of business. And so, what I would like you to consider is a benefits that a business guy can bring to city council. I've got a few reasons here and I'd like to share them for you. The first would be representation.
I represent some of the most important decisions of my client's lives. I served by educating and counseling them through the process yet never losing sight of the fact that my client's success is pertinent. And on City Council, it will be my job to represent and serve you the same diligence.
Listening. I have unique opportunity with to work with people, from all walks of life and varying backgrounds. Each one brings their own dreams aspirations and desires, much like a city population. I spend my day listening and then helping them achieve their goals, and as your city councilor, I will listen to all of the residents of our community and I will take action to help achieve the highest and best outcome for all.
I've specialized knowledge. I understand housing, I work and housing, and this includes city codes, It includes zoning laws, restrictions, and I know how to work within those requirements. Because of my work with commercial and residential developers, I can work collaboratively with them As our city continues to grow. Meeting community needs for Workforce housing and strategically addressing the homeless issues.
I bring hard work as a successful business professional. I'm not afraid of hard work. Nor am I on a time clock. I know the demands of an ever-changing job that requires thoughtful consideration and problem solving, just as city serving on city council does. Mediation. As a dealmaker, I am intimately familiar with bringing often contentious parties together.
I approach problems with a level head and I find creative common sense solutions. I will serve as a bridge that can bring this city together. And the last would be financial accountability. I will advocate for fiscal responsibility and transparency and our city of resources and I will fight wasteful spending ensuring projects don't go over budget and they actually achieve what the community expects within reasonable timeframes. Those are the reasons. Thank you. That was my three minute time piece. Those are the reasons I'm applying for the job and I want to be that for you. I'm addressing the second question here tonight. So working in real estate the conversation of infill comes up, very regularly. There's no question that our population is increasing rapidly. So the question comes up, How do we accommodate for the growth? I believe the question should actually be. How do we accommodate for the growth without losing what makes our town great? You see, it's vitally important to recognize that our city is made up of individuals and not just numbers. These individuals have varying needs and desires when it comes to housing. This includes houses of all sizes on all sizes of Lots. Some kind of small, some medium, some large, and while some folks are happy to live in apartments, downtown and condos, building vertical is not an all encompassing solution.
So to meet the demand, I will promote strategic planning to build out the available land within the city limits by prioritizing proper infrastructure , reasonable expansion of the UGB and support initiatives such as the bend central district. In regards to the BCD, I will prioritize the influx of new business and promote the businesses that are currently there to provide a thriving economic center. I've spoken with many of the business owners down there and they have felt completely disregarded by our current leadership. As the homeless population has taken over residents on their steps, directly affecting the safety and profitability of their businesses. This issue needs to be addressed first and foremost, so the city can fulfill the promise that it made to all of you, and revitalization that was outlined in this initiative. Now, if you would like to have somebody step up, bring a business mindset to these issues, I'd be your guy. If you think that the city council is amazing represents, your views. What if you want them to continue doing the exact same thing?
Vote for my opponent. He's a great guy. If you'd like a moderate common sense approach that represents everyone, That's me. Let's not turn Bend into the Portland. Okay?
Next up, we have the candidates for position number, six: Julia Brown, Rick Johns, and Mike, Riley. Julia Brown You're our first up.
(I apologize in advance for the poor readability of this section. Both Julia and I are having a hard time.)
Hi. My name is Julia Brown. I was born in South Africa and I came here 30 years ago, with my two young sons and I came over because America was looking for developers for the Y2K issue. Remember that big year2000 scare and planes were going to fall out the sky and Britain's gonna go down forever.
So that's how I can to America and I love it. It's wonderful, being an American citizen. So I worked most of my life, all of my life, in technology. Primarily Fortune 100 companies to design and implement government mandated systems. So what I haven't worked in government, I have worked a lot implementing their various regulations and mandates.
So, I'm gonna answer question, two, because they're available housing thing in the Bend Central District and they have put together the MMA plan and the MMA plan, to give you a background, it stretches from, It's the community that stretches from Revere to (?) and it stretches down from 4th street down to the 97.
And then agitated(?) that this area will provide the best potential for transportation that does not involve a motor car. So they anticipate attainable housing there as well as offices, commercial buildings, retail and things like that and open parks and so that the community will work and live and play within the footprint of that area. So we'll have minimal car. Minimal commuting. So the MMA is going to be a work live work play area where you can bike or walk safely to your school or to your office or to your favorite walking home. In order to achieve affordable housing or attainable housing as they call it In this MMA area, they have decided to increase building density. That means building more units per lot and in order to do that, because you've heard from the others that there's a shortage of housing in bend and it's actually quite acute at this point, but the reason is there's lots of reasons, but the primary reason is that people don't want to invest their money in building in bend.
And that's because the city council has got so many blockages. They want to encourage affordable housing, which means we want to encourage investors to come to Bend and spend their money here and not in Spokane, or Reno, but to do that, we have to incentivize them. So, if you have a, to give it in numbers, if you have a lot, that will take a hundred units just for a round number, and the city says, we want 20 of those to be affordable housing, the business iis going to say, well, I'll take my money to Spokane. They don't want 10 affordable houses. So you have incentivize them. Perhaps you could do that with like a density bonus and say, okay. If you give us 20 affordable houses of your 100 will allow you to build 120 on that lot that is zoned for 100. So, you can incentivize the investors, to come to bend, spend their money in the bend. The other thing that we have a problem with is the permitting system. Investors tell me it can take up to one-third of the investment just in licenses, fees, charges, tariffs, taxes. So, if you put that in numbers, again, you've got a million dollars to invest, $300,000 is not going into the housing. It's going into costs and that obviously unacceptable to an investor. And if he can get a hundred thousands, okay, he's gonna his million bucks over there. So we really do have to look at incentivizing investors and bringing them here. We have to improve that that permitting process that is so incredibly expensive. We have to look at the building code. Things like the energy code are very onerous. Your investors is not going to buy an invest, well, not investment, to build green, if you can't pass their costs to somebody else because a bathroom fan is a bathroom fan, he doesn't need to buy really expensive one that extracts four percent to be heat before it extracts the bathroom, the bathroom air. So the energy codes have to be looked at and the building codes have to be looked at. They have to be Such that an investor wants to spend his money on housing in bend and especially affordable housing because that's a loss to the investor and and the building, the building developer. Planning takes about a year. Meanwhile, the developer had bought the land. He's got, he's got a few also, to carry the cost of that land, get together teams, and he hasn't even had his plan approved yet. So we have to look at planning as well it, very slow, It's very cumbersome, and Wrap it up.
So basically, if we want out policeman and our firefighters and our nurses to live in the community that they serve, then we should have affordable housing and to do that. You need to incentivize your investors. Thank you.
Next up is Rick Johns
Many people here. Thanks to the chamber for putting this on. I have been a member of the chamber for 10 years. My wife and I moved here 14 years ago and we were crazy enough to buy a business, and I had to quit my job and help per because we were growing and expanding, and it gives me a unique perspective on what our problems are. I can answer all those questions. Kind of, in my, in my talk. We operate a warehouse in the southeast side, We live on the northwest side, We have a business downtown, we had incredible logistics problems, that shouldn't be there. We have to move product into our warehouse in large trucks.
We have to get it to the store and distributed, distributed customers and it's become very cumbersome. One of the examples of a project that doesn't work, is the Reed Market corridor. This is something that happened prior to the current city council, but it doesn't move cars, and it shows hell doesn't trucks. It's, it's a nightmare, and part of the transportation bond which is one of my Buggaboos as my wife likes to say, it's a, was promised to us, and we voted on in order to fix part of Reed Market, which they already spent 18 million dollars on a few years prior.
So I'm curious as to why we need that which should have been done in the first place and now we have to spend money on that now. Currently, the transportation bond is being, It's being used and not used yet, but it's about to be on these crosstown connections, which are actually compressing the roadways and making for stressless bike routes, and I don't really see how that adds to public safety, and I sure don't see how it adds to the traffic flow. So I kind of got off, got off a little bit there.
We've lived in Bend for all these years and I constantly hear from friends, I've had two of my best friends move away because they can’t take it anymore. Their voices aren't heard and we're not being listened to. The current city council goes in one direction, and one only. They're serving their agenda and not ours. Prior to moving here, I had 25 years in commercial construction both in planning, in sales, and management in many cities, many major cities, I've lived in Los Angeles. I've lived in San Francisco. I've traveled extensively to Chicago, New York City and Washington DC primarily doing these projects. It gives me a unique perspective on permitting. Which brings me to question one. I know how to navigate codes in some of the most complex and changing environments you can imagine. a lot more here . We don't have those same kinds of problems. I believe what is happening with the permitting issue, If it is an issue, but I believe it is, is the planning departments in the building departments are encumbered by trying to put forth the city councils changes that they want to make instead of addressing the needs. The permit fee structure is absolutely ridiculous. It's way out of line. And I don't see how you can build affordable housing when the permits are so bloody expensive, and several of the other candidates have touched on this. We need to change that and I also want to be the voice of reason. I mean I've had not heard one person. Say how do we protect the people that are already here in our way? Life, Let's have some livability. Let's have some fun again. I'm tired of being miserable. I'm sure all you are too. I want to make this a better place and it was a great place until just the last couple of years, We have a business, we survived COVID. We were named as one of the businesses that was a super spreader, I guess. So we had to shut down for almost 10 weeks. Unfortunately, thanks to my wife. We had a pretty client base. That's all I have to say, You vote for me. I have a lot of experience in commercial construction, and it's one thing I can definitely do, is I can fix this premitting problem and I can fix these codes and I can help the city, the city employees better be their jobs.
Alrighty, Rick Johns.
Our last city council candidate for the night, this one for position. Number six is Mike Riley.
Hi everybody, thanks for coming out tonight I have the great honor of being the last person on here, so im going to do a little dance. *Laughter* Not going to do that. And I won't sing either. My name's Mike Riley. I'm running for Bend City Council for position number six, I have lived in Bend for 25 years and raised my two sons here. I run a non-profit organization, The environmental Center based in downtown Bend near McMenamins. I've helped grow that organization from a small organization to having up to 16 of, about 16 employees now. I think we may have just hired our 17th today, and a budget of over a million dollars. I've got some good experience growing the organizations that serve our community and help connect to its values. I'm very excited about the opportunity to serve on the Bend City Council and help to make Bend a better place for people to live, work, raise a family, and retire. I have a lot of experience on the core issues that are facing the community, and I think that's really important to add to this current council, and I'm excited to bring that experience to helping solve the problems as I had done in the past.
So, broadly speaking, I see three really big issues that are before the community right now, but they really all come back to growth, and we've heard about this a lot tonight from everybody in some way, It connects back to growth. The big question for us is, how do we keep Bend, As I said, a great place to live, work, Raise a family, and retire, own a business for everybody who calls this place home. One important place, where growth shows up is in the transportation system, in the congestion that we all experience every day and in some parts of town, some of the very unsafe conditions that we experience on a regular basis.
I think it's really important that we ensure that we're doing what we can to move people, goods and services efficiently and safely across the whole community. The next issue I've been very involved in, I was involved in the transportation bond Measure that my opponent just talked about, I definitely have a somewhat different opinion of that he does about whether that was the right side of investments.
And so I was involved both in developing the transportation plan for the community, but then also the bond measure to put that plan into practice and actually turn it into reality. Part of that was working closely with Katie Brooks here at the Chamber of Commerce together we co-led the campaign to pass that bond measure. Why it's important, is that it's going to give us $190 million dollars to invest over the next 10 years in the things that we need to improve safety for everybody that uses the system. We need a system that is better for people who walk and for bike and people who bike and also a system that works better for transit. The reason I bring that stuff up first is that we need to make sure our system serves the whole community.
There are many people in town who can't actually afford the cost of owning a car and those other modes of transportation help them get around. We also, of course, need to make sure it works for all of us who drive, and I both ride my bike regularly and drive depending on the time of the year and the weather conditions, and I know what it's like to get around town. So, the other place that I have a fair bit of experience is working on growth planning in the community. I helped develop the growth plan for Bend that was adopted in 2016. And again, in that example, That would involve bringing a lot of people together whether it was developers, builders, realtors, environmental activists, neighborhood activists to come up with a plan that we could all agree on. The plan centers around preventing sprawl, making the most of the land that we have , and making sure that we grow smart. We have complete communities, we have a wide range of housing types across our whole city so that there are places that people can afford to live.
I want to take I think I'm not sure which question number it was but I want to talk a little bit about the houselessness question. First of all, I start with that issue from a place of compassion. I think it's really important that we make sure that everybody in our community in the end has a safe place to get a good night's rest. Secondly, I have direct experience with a homeless camp that’s developed near the environmental Center in downtown Bend, and I've had family members that experienced homelessness. So, my guess is that there are many people in this room who have had homelessness touch their lives in some way. I think it's important about the question was, how would I approach it? Be really important for me to listen and learn. I would start there, talking to houselss people, business owners, service providers, what's needed, what's working, what's not, what's worked in other communities that we could bring here in Bend. Some specifics that I would like to see? I think it's important that we do adopt a camping code that's before the city council right now. And I think then we're going to have to phase in the enforcement of that.
We all need to have an agreed upon set of rules for where people can camp, how they can camp, and what locations they can camp in the community. We don't really have that clear right now. We need to pilot some managed camps in the community. And then, finally, we need to continue to look at a range of shelter options.
It's important to remember the houseless issue is also also connected back to affordability. So if we need to continue to pay attention to, how do we keep as many homes as long-term rentals in our community as we can. So in summary, I believe, I bring some really valuable experience to the city council working across the community to create real solutions. That solve problems the community faces today. So thank you very much. I'd appreciate your vote.
It’s late and I don’t have the emotional endurance to write a satisfying concluding paragraph for you. I hope you found this helpful, and I hope in 2024, The Bend Chamber finds the space in their hearts to put a camera on a tripod and press record.