Some Bend city councilors and the committee advising them are clearly stuck on two ideas: Bend needs an elected mayor and the city must be divided into zones, called wards, to ensure more diversity among the council members. They have yet to demonstrate that the change will improve city government in Bend.
It’s true that the council has been dominated by west-side residents in the last few years, though it hasn’t always been that way. Looking back, it’s difficult to make the case that geographic dominance by councilors from one part of the city or another has skewed city government.
Meanwhile, there are some realities about the makeup of the council.
It takes time, and sometimes a lot of it, to be an effective member of the council. There are regular meetings and work sessions. There are committee meetings and public events. And so on. Those whose jobs and family life take up most of their time will not be able to serve on the council effectively, no matter where they live.
Nor does the argument that a west side-dominated council is somehow blind to the issues that matter east of Third Street make much sense. If the current city councilors live in a cocoon of ignorance about their east-side neighbors, that says more about the councilors than it does about where they live. They can also make a bigger effort to get to know people on the other side of town, if that’s really a problem.
Bend’s residents no doubt want councilors who care about the city and who will work to see that all parts of it thrive. They want streets that are in good shape no matter where they are, and housing that’s affordable in all parts of town. They want water and sewer rates they can afford, and so on.
Geographic diversity among council members will not guarantee any of that. Sensitivity to the needs of the entire community, from NW Summit Drive to SE Daisy Lane, is what makes a city councilor, and by extension, a city council, effective.