Bend Neighborhood Associations

Awbrey Butte: www.awbreybutte.org

Boyd Acres: www.boydacresneighborhood.com

Century West: www.centurywestneighborhood.com

Larkspur: www.larkspurneighborhoodassociation.com

Mountain View: www.mountainviewneighborhood.com

Old Bend: www.oldbend.org

Old Farm District: oldfarmbend.com

Orchard District: www.orcharddistrict.org

River West: www.rwna.net

Southeast Bend: www.sebendna.com

Southern Crossing: www.southerncrossingna.org

Soutwest Bend: www.southwestbendna.org

Summit West (currently inactive)

The Bend City Council may have voted down the idea of electing city councilors from geographic wards, but Bend’s neighborhood associations think there’s still a way to ensure representation from across the city.

Neighborhood associations have spent the past several months trying to figure out their role in the city and how to make neighborhood concerns heard. On Wednesday, representatives asked the City Council for permission to form an official citywide committee, the Neighborhood Leadership Alliance, that will consist of representatives from each of Bend’s neighborhood associations and advise the council on livability issues.

The new group would help residents communicate with councilors in a way the existing Neighborhood Association Round Table, an informal group of association leaders that meets monthly but has no defined purpose, does not, said Century West Neighborhood Association Vice Chairwoman Lisa Mushel.

“As it exists today, the Neighborhood Association Round Table is separate from council, and there isn’t a lot of interaction,” she said.

Mushel and fellow members of the group working to create the Neighborhood Leadership Alliance hope to bring code language to the City Council for approval by April. Once the group forms, its members intend to meet quarterly with the council as the city’s Planning Commission, Affordable Housing Advisory Committee and Bend Economic Development Advisory Board already do.

The city has tried to combat a perception that the west side of town, where the median income is nearly double what it is on the east side, benefits from greater city resources and more representation.

According to city data, some neighborhoods are much better represented on the City Council and city committees than others. As of October, the Mountain View Neighborhood Association in northeast Bend had one representative for every 16,000 residents. The Old Bend and Old Farm District neighborhood associations, meanwhile, each had one representative for every 600 residents.

Creating more geographic representation on the City Council was a goal of the citywide charter review committee that designed a council ward election system in the fall, but city councilors unanimously rejected the ward concept in December. Neighborhood associations believe the Neighborhood Leadership Alliance could fill some of the need for geographic representation because every single resident and business in Bend is represented by a neighborhood association.

The city created neighborhood associations in the early 2000s, and the Neighborhood Association Round Table soon followed. Neighborhood associations lost some of their city funding during the recession, and they stopped giving short updates as part of regular City Council meetings in spring 2015.

Now, they mainly communicate with the individual councilor assigned as their liaison or with city community relations manager Joshua Romero, who dedicates part of his time to neighborhood associations. The city uses neighborhood associations and the round table to communicate to residents, said Dave Johnson, vice chairman of the Old Farm District Neighborhood Association, but that communication doesn’t go both ways.

“(The round table) didn’t have a lot of outreach behind it of any kind,” he said.

The Bend groups saw a model in Kirkland, Washington, a Seattle suburb of about 87,000. Like Bend, Kirkland has 13 neighborhood associations that encompass every square block of the city, but its neighborhood associations work more closely with the city.

“There is that two-way communication,” said David Wolbrecht, Kirkland’s neighborhood services outreach coordinator. “We’re trying to provide a communication channel where issues can be communicated with city staff early on.”

The Kirkland Alliance of Neighborhoods, its version of the round table, isn’t a formal city committee, but it holds publicly noticed monthly meetings with set agendas. City staff attends those meetings as well as regular meetings of each neighborhood association.

Kirkland also involves its neighborhood associations in city decisions through various programs, including one in which each neighborhood chooses its top priorities for safety improvements — things like adding street signs or turn lanes — and the city adds those projects to its capital improvement program. It also provides matching grants for neighborhood projects like creating information kiosks or hosting picnics.

Neighborhood associations provide a starting point for future city councilors and committee members to start getting engaged, said Kirkland Senior Outreach Coordinator Kari Page, who’s been with the city for 18 years.

“On an average, we get maybe half of our city councilors who come up through neighborhood associations,” Page said.

In Bend, all six councilors present Wednesday night supported the idea of creating a standing committee made up of neighborhood association members. Bend Mayor Pro Tem Sally Russell said she appreciates the way neighborhood associations can capture a diverse array of voices and communicate them as a single coherent message.

“When you have geographical representation, it helps diversify the voices that we have,” she said.

Some neighborhood association members are interested in keeping the round table as an informal discussion, Johnson said. He said the groups will deal with legal issues, including what to do to keep a quorum of the Neighborhood Leadership Alliance from showing up at round table meetings and potentially violating open meeting law, at a later date.

“We have concentrated on the who, what and why of this organization, and we have consciously stayed away from the hows,” he said.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160; jshumway@bendbulletin.com

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