Editorial: Chudowsky, McCoy, Eckman and Clinton for Bend Council

Bend needs aggressive, intelligent leadership to square its need for services with flattening revenues.

The council will have to make smart choices about its $60 million Bridge Creek surface water project and it’s headed straight into the mouth of another pricey behemoth — a sewer infrastructure fix that early estimates put at $170 million.

Voters in Bend elect councilors by position. Our endorsements are Victor Chudowsky for Position 1, Edward McCoy for Position 2, Kathy Eckman for Position 3 and Jim Clinton for Position 4.

Position 1

Chudowsky is a certified policy wonk. He and his wife run a business, Caldera Research, that does research on education policy — student achievement and so on. Speak with him about Bend’s issues and what is likely to strike you is the depth of his research and the power of his analysis.

He worries that Bend grew, but the administration didn’t grow up. He says he will challenge staff recommendations and test assumptions. That is just what Bend needs. When Bend Police Chief Jeff Sales came before the council and ticked off a dreary future of decreasing services from the police department, the council sat back — for the most part — and bemoaned its plight. Chudowsky said he would have challenged Sales to come up with a better plan than less enforcement.

Chudowsky faces a lively crop of opponents for the open seat. There’s Wade Fagen, a longtime Bend resident and businessman, and Barb Campbell, a former school teacher and owner of wabi sabi in downtown Bend. Fagen knows how to skewer nonsense. Campbell has been doing her homework. Chudowsky is our pick, because he offers the most promise to study Bend’s challenges and guide it to an efficient response.

Position 2

There’s no lack of choice for this seat. It drew four candidates. There is no incumbent. We endorse Edward McCoy. He’s an Air Force veteran, and the president and owner of Mile High Community Management. The company helps homeowner associations and similar organizations with their duties. He’s also been a general contractor.

McCoy is not the most experienced in government, nor the most knowledgeable about city issues. What he does have, though, is an excellent understanding of business. He knows the alchemy city government needs to help the community emerge from recession — or at least not stifle jobs. He came to Central Oregon with $500 and a truck and built his business. He’s a blue collar guy, with a de facto Ph.D. in people skills.

McCoy’s got an uphill learning curve on many city issues. He’s had his struggles, such as catching up on back taxes owed the state. But he’s thrown himself into learning about city complexities. He brings common sense and experience on the other side of the counter in dealing with the city.

Doug Knight offers an alternative with significant political and professional experience. He’s an engineer and developer of a number of projects around town. He has been chairman of the Bend Planning Commission and on the Deschutes County Landmarks Commission.

He has also made a couple of what we’d politely call missteps. Most recently, the state says he violated the new rules for keeping up with required training to keep his professional engineering license. The hearing to settle the matter is a long way off. Then there was his property tax delinquency in 2010, while he was planning commissioner. He paid the balance of $3,119 a few days after The Bulletin contacted him for an article.

The missteps do not disqualify him. But he’s also a priest for development goals we do not support. For instance, he would like to see parts of town zoned where only green-approved buildings could be built. The city doesn’t have to mandate that for it to happen. He is also a strong advocate for infill.

McCoy’s opponent Charles Baer is, well, mesmerized by his concept of global internet government. Voters should give him time to devote to that quest and not elect him.

Ed Barbeau has run before for Deschutes County commissioner and we endorsed him in the primary that he lost. He owns Pisano’s Pizza Northwest Crossing. Barbeau is wary of government mistakes. We can see him being a force on the council similar to McCoy though, frankly, McCoy impressed us more.

Position 3

This endorsement was not an easy decision for us. Kathie Eckman is the experienced choice. She was elected to the Bend City Council/Commission in 1980, 1982, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2008. In Burns, she was city recorder, treasurer and municipal judge. But watching her in action on the council, we don’t see the payoff. She doesn’t ask insightful questions of city staff and doesn’t lead on policy. To her credit, she has been committed to moving forward on the surface water project and tries to ensure city policies don’t stifle jobs.

Her chief opponent, Sally Russell, has a resume that includes eight years on the Bend Planning Commission, work at Broken Top and she was the executive director of the Cascade Festival of Music.

We disagree with many of her positions. Russell opposed the city’s surface water project, though now says the project is moving forward. If she had done her homework on the issue or other city issues, it did not come across to us. She also said because Bend couldn’t get quick approval of its urban growth boundary from the state it must be doing it wrong. We’d argue the state’s vision of infill would mar the city’s character.

Then there’s Ron “Rondo” Boozell. When he speaks up, he’s unimpressive. At a recent open meeting of Bend’s Community Center, for instance, he spun a conspiratorial tale of what might really be happening with the organization’s finances. A city councilor should deal in facts.

Eckman is endorsed. We just hope she steps up her game.

Position 4

City councils don’t need to have physicists, but we should certainly keep the one Bend has, Jim Clinton. He’s been the lone “no” on countless council votes. You could argue that means he’s ineffective or contrary by nature.

Neither explanation does him justice. He’s much more likely than any sitting councilor to propel the council into what we’ll call a Clinton pause. He asks a question that pierces the assumptions or presentation of city staff. Everybody sits there for a moment to figure it out.

For instance, when the city was marching along toward spending $1.9 million on consultants for a city sewer plan, Clinton tried to get the council to rethink. He asked if a better strategy would be for the city to hire its own engineers, rather than have the city continue on its merry path of outsourcing.

We disagree with Clinton on some topics, but there needs to be more voices on the council that compel the city to explore options.

Clinton’s opponent, Mike Roberts, has worked in government for some 20 years, including at the city and for Deschutes County. Roberts has many strengths, but Clinton’s experience on the council and other qualities make him the stronger candidate.

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