Bend voters will choose their first elected mayor in November and city councilors will get raises, as voters approved both city charter changes Tuesday night.
The Bend City Council asked voters to support two changes to the city’s charter — a governing document that functions as the city’s constitution. After two rounds of ballot returns, a change that would allow voters to elect a mayor led by overwhelming margins.
A second change that would result in pay raises for councilors was closer but still passing Tuesday night.
A city-appointed committee and the City Council spent months discussing and debating the changes, which would be the first to Bend’s charter since 1995. Councilors rejected a third proposed amendment that would elect councilors from geographic wards.
Councilors currently select a mayor from among themselves following elections every two years. Bend is the largest city in Oregon to choose a mayor in this way, and it’s a system that critics say carries with it suspicion, however unwarranted, that mayors are chosen through backroom deals.
Bend’s first elected mayor will serve a four-year term but won’t have any more power than the current mayor has. Bend will keep its city manager, who is hired by the council to handle day-to-day operations.
Councilor pay has been set at $200 a month since 1995, the last time voters approved changes to the charter. Keeping stipends in the charter means voters had to approve any changes to council pay.
Because voters approved the council pay amendment, councilors will be able to set their own stipends, but they’ll only take effect after an intervening election. Beginning in January, the two newly elected city councilors will make $533 a month and the newly elected mayor will take home $1,066 a month. The other four councilors will still receive $200 monthly.
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