Likely ward systems

• Four councilors elected from quadrants and two elected at large

• Four councilors elected from quadrants, one elected from north Bend and one from south Bend

• Two wards with three councilors elected from each

• Three wards with two councilors elected from each

A committee reviewing Bend’s city charter still isn’t sure exactly how council wards will look, but there will most likely be four wards.

The committee on Tuesday narrowed its choices to a four-ward system with two councilors elected at large; a four-ward system with two other councilors elected from “superwards” on the north and south sides of town; and a two- or three-ward system with multiple councilors from each ward. All discussions were contingent on having an elected mayor, which the committee previously approved.

Committee members quickly ruled out suggestions that the city have six or two wards. Six would be too complicated to implement because of the election schedule, and two could result in the status quo of just one or two representatives from the east side of Bend, they agreed.

“I think six goes too far,” said Bruce Abernethy, the City Council liaison to the committee. “Two doesn’t go far enough.”

Four wards in Bend, population 83,500, would mean each ward contains slightly less than 21,000 residents. That’s about even with other large Oregon cities that elect their councilors from wards, committee member Richard Ross said.

Ross and a few other members of the committee plan to interview city councilors or management in five other Oregon cities — Hillsboro, Medford, Eugene, Springfield and Corvallis — about how their ward systems work.

They’ll also talk to leaders in Gresham about why the city doesn’t have wards, interview the Bend-La Pine school district and the Central Oregon Community College board about their ward systems in Bend and talk to a Portland State University public administration professor.

Committee co-chair Bill Galaway said wards in Bend can help solve geographic diversity and possibly socioeconomic diversity on the council. The overwhelmingly white city most likely would not see changes in the council’s racial diversity as might be found in highly segregated cities with significant minority populations.

“We don’t have one part of town with minorities,” Galaway said.

Councilors elected by wards have the same responsibility to the city as a whole that at-large councilors have, committee member Katy Brooks said. They can’t represent only their wards’ interests.

“Your job is as a city councilor,” she said. “You have to represent the city. You also have to live in northeast Bend, but your job is to represent the city.”

But while councilors would represent the whole city, living in a specific area of town might help them recognize issues in that part of town, committee co-chair Brent Landels said. For instance, he said, councilors who have to drive through the Reed Market/15th Street roundabout on their commutes would recognize that it fails every morning and night, he said, while councilors who live and work elsewhere may not see the problem.

And a ward system will encourage people in underrepresented parts of town to vote and run for city council, committee member Dan Fishkin said.

“You’re going to encourage people to vote who might otherwise not vote,” Fishkin said.

Four wards would most likely be drawn in approximate quadrants, with roughly the same number of eligible voters in each quadrant. This makes more sense than other models, Ross said.

“It jumps out at you versus other kinds of gerrymandered ways,” he said.

The committee will meet again Sept. 26 to discuss interviews with other cities. It will update the City Council on its progress Oct. 4; the council is expected to vote on recommendations early next year, and the final decision on wards and an elected mayor will be up to voters in May.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160; jshumway@bendbulletin.com

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