By Ed Barbeau

It was a slip, not intended for discussion. But it did add some clarity to the OSU-Cascades campus debate. Such a simple bit of information, and yet very important when you look at the very simple plan for a new campus on the west side.

It started with a question: Do you own the 44 acres next to the site on your current plan? The answer was no, and the follow-up was no one else could buy it either; they had the first right to purchase!

Why is this important? I’ll get to that in a minute.

First, I don’t live on the west side, and I do support the effort to get higher education here in Bend. But like many, I’m just a resident who reads The Bulletin, listens to local news and sometimes wonders how things really get done.

In this instance, the plan made little sense: 300 parking spaces, and no real traffic impact. Also, there are currently no places for more than a handful of new students to rent. Campus officials also submitted only a small plan requiring little new infrastructure. Where would 5,000 students park? Where would they be housed? What would the impact be on the bridges and the rest of town in the coming years?

With their small plan on only the acreage they owned, they could pass the planning muster very quickly. But here’s the important part of why the slip was so important. If they had already purchased the 44-acre adjacent site, they would have to make a plan that encompassed all of their future plans, including infrastructure needs to accommodate large numbers of students. If they do it this way, they minimize any challenges and a possible public backlash to the millions in infrastructure that plan will require. And don’t forget the heat current city officials will get for putting that burden on the residents of Bend and not on OSU.

So here’s what I want to know: First, when was this first right to purchase the 44-acre site given? Second, was there any engineering consideration for a possible occupant adjacent to the roundabout on Simpson and Mt. Washington given a few years back? Knowing that there would probably be large infrastructure needs, why is this burden on the citizens of Bend and not on OSU’s back? Even partially?

You see, I am no fan of hidden agendas. I’m also no fan of the way some of the advocates of this campus have spoken about any dissent on this issue. Sorry, attacking the public seems like a poor way to get along as a community.

Finally, in some ways, I admire the political savvy here, encompassing candidates on both the City Council and County Commission, none of whom has offered any dissent. Maybe they see no problems; who knows? I personally think this ship has sailed and the dissent is in vain. I hope a workable plan that is good for Bend now, as well as one that works in 10 years, is submitted. And please, submit the whole plan!

— Ed Barbeau lives in Bend.