The nonprofit Envision Bend, once known as Bend 2030, is launching a new effort to create a vision for the future of the city.
The organization, which started in 2005, was responsible for drafting a vision for what Bend would look like by 2030, and has launched efforts to address transportation and housing issues.
The goal by 2030 was to maintain Bend’s small-town character while supporting a range of environmentally friendly modes of transportation, provide more diverse and affordable housing and form complete communities — including mixed-use development and accessible neighborhood centers, according to the original vision statement.
But more than 15 years later, it’s time for a new community conversation about the vision for the town, said Laura Fritz, Envision Bend’s executive director.
“People have been saying we need to revisit the vision for the last several years, and we’ve only changed more in that time,” Fritz told The Bulletin.
“I really do think the community is ready for this.”
While the name has changed, the organization’s goals will be the same, Fritz said.
Fritz, who before becoming executive director worked as a consultant for nonprofits and for the nonprofit NeighborImpact, said the name was changed to exclude a date because dates can create “challenges.”
So much has changed since the last visioning project, Fritz said, including Bend’s transition from a big town to a small city. Addressing housing affordability, climate change, wildfire threats and addressing social equity are all challenges that have only grown, with the pandemic accelerating some of them more quickly than anticipated.
“Our mission hasn’t changed,” Fritz told The Bulletin. “The organization always has been here to educate, engage and empower people in our community to come together to have a voice in our community’s future.”
Fritz said the first stage of the process will be conducting research before launching into community listening sessions and surveys.
On Wednesday, the Bend City Council voted to allocate $50,000 toward the effort. Fritz said the organization hopes the city will pay for half of the effort, which she estimates will cost up to $200,000 over the course of 18 months, with the organization raising funds for the rest.
The city of Bend has given thousands of dollars to the organization since its inception. But this time around, the City Council has given it with one condition: Before giving the full amount of money, the council must see an equity plan.
The condition, introduced by Councilor Rita Schenkelberg, is meant to make sure the organization has a concrete plan to include voices from communities that are often left out of efforts like this, like homeless people, people of color and people whose first language is not English.
Schenkelberg said she wanted to see “receipts” of the organization including diverse voices in the process — a term used to mean holding someone accountable.
“I want to know we are engaging with the humans that normally don’t get engaged with,” she said.
Councilor Barb Campbell raised concerns about the influence the organization’s “leadership alliance” would have over the process. The leadership alliance is businesses and organizations that give money to the organization. Some include the Central Oregon Association of Realtors, the Old Mill District and Brooks Resources Corp., along other public entities like the Bend Park & Recreation District.
Fritz said the organization fully intends to figure out the best way to remove barriers for people who often are left out of city decision making, and that the “alliance” does not have more influence than anyone else.
“The input will come from the community,” Fritz said. “The Leadership Alliance doesn’t have some fast track to outweigh the community’s input.”