By Bonnie Snyder
In response to Bruce Abernethy’s June 3 In My View, I agree. OSU-Cascades has the potential to “fundamentally change this community — economically, socially and culturally — for the better” and believe that is one of the main reasons we should be very thoughtful about all aspects of the project, especially the location.
I disagree with several of Abernethy’s points, beginning with his self-described bottom line: “the city should trust its staff, trust its land-use policies, trust its process!” To me it sounds as if Abernethy believes the “city” (does he mean citizens of the city?) should shut up and go along with these plans without questioning them. Personally, I would be worried if that were happening. The OSU-Cascades campus location (no matter where it is) will affect Bend in many ways for many years, and a lively discussion is a sign of community interest and involvement, as well as our emotional investment in the growth of our city. Most of us want to see Bend and Central Oregon thrive, and naturally there are differing viewpoints about how and where to achieve that goal.
Having been on the City Council, Abernethy cites several examples of citizens claiming, “the sky is falling” regarding other big projects in Bend, as if passionate discussions involving all points of view should be avoided in the name of progress. What I hear many people from both sides of town saying about the OSU-Cascades Campus is that they want to understand how and why this site was chosen. Since many people don’t understand the site selection process, they wonder who is benefiting personally or professionally from the sale of this property, as well as who was on the committee determining what sites would be considered. Are there any conflicts of interest? Are there people who should recuse themselves from parts of the process?
As for the NIMBY mindset he talks about, I live on the east side and I’ve been opposed to the proposed site from the beginning. It makes no sense to me to cram a campus, or a Fred Meyer or other private business, into an already-congested area, even though the zoning allows it.
Is it possible there may be more than one “best location?” The new facilities will be integrated into the community by virtue of their function. There will be classes, events and other activities the entire community can enjoy. It’s not necessary to be on the west side to be part of Bend, or to attract all Central Oregonians. In fact, that site may be a deterrent to those who are already frustrated by and weary of traffic congestion. Sharing amenities with COCC is possible whether or not the campuses are in close proximity. I also imagine the students, faculty and visitors will be competent enough to access our businesses and recreational activities no matter where the campus is located. Since college is often about education, I don’t think close proximity to hiking trails, skiing, shopping, brewpubs etc. is the main reason most students consider when choosing the college they’d like to attend.
Lastly, have the environmental studies proved this site is suitable? That may be more of a deterrent than any “small, highly vocal group.” There will be challenges no matter where the campus is located. In my opinion, we should avoid the unnecessary challenges, such as increased traffic congestion, that go hand in hand with the current site being considered.
— Bonnie Snyder lives in Bend.