Bend Park & Recreation District directors decided Tuesday to hire a lobbyist to represent the district in Salem. They’ll pay $9,000 for six months of Erik Kancler’s service next year, in part while the 2018 Legislature is in session.
Park district residents can thank state Rep. Gene Whisnant, R-Sunriver, for the decision. After all, it was his sneak attack on the district’s proposal to build a southern footbridge across the Deschutes River that no doubt persuaded park board members that having a lobbyist on hand in Salem might be a good thing.
Whisnant, you will recall, introduced an amendment to a bill before the House that turned an innocuous measure about lottery bonds into a ban on a Deschutes River footbridge. He did so, he said at the time, because some opponents of a bridge across the river in their neighborhood asked him to. He also did so without discussing the issue with park district officials or even informing them of his action.
Fortunately for the district and Bend residents on the south side of the community, the bill died in the Senate.
But the legislation and the lawmaker’s failure to communicate about it with the park district, parts of which he represents, was an unacceptable failure to treat his constituents fairly. Surely informing the park district about a measure that would force it to change plans it had in place for years would have been the right thing to do.
No doubt Kancler will provide the district more than a heads-up about legislation that could affect it. He will provide a voice for the district’s interests at times when park officials cannot be in Salem to make a case for themselves, and he can keep district officials in the loop about things that may have a less direct impact on it.
The $9,000 is a reasonable expense to help ensure the district is not blindsided and can weigh in on issues important to it.