Julia Shumway
The Bulletin

Bend’s mayoral candidates

Name: Charles Baer

Age: 49

Profession: ­security guard

Education: bachelor’s degree in political science, University of Hawaii-Hilo

Name: Brian Douglass

Age: 69

Profession: disability rights advocate

Education: bachelor’s degree in speech communications from Pacific University

Name: Michael Hughes

Age: 47

Profession: attorney and hemp farmer

Education: bachelor’s in criminal justice from University of Nebraska-Lincoln and law degree from Drake University

Name: Joshua Langlais

Age: 36

Profession: freelance ­photographer

Education: bachelor’s in recreation from Asbury College

Name: Bill Moseley

Age: 50

Profession: CEO of ­software company GL Solutions

Education: bachelor’s in economics and political science, master’s in public administration and city management and a law degree, all from the University of Kansas

Name: Sally Russell

Age: 60

Profession: retired

Education: bachelor’s in German from Smith College and master’s in business from Portland State University

A crowded field of candidates running to become Bend’s first elected mayor since the 1920s includes two sitting city councilors, a disability rights advocate, an attorney who specializes in marijuana law, a freelance photojournalist and the self-described former president of Earth.

Voters in May decided to switch from a system in which councilors choose a mayor from among themselves to a citywide election. They also approved a pay raise, so the next mayor of Bend will earn $1,066 per month, more than five times the $200 per month stipend the current mayor earns.

Each of the six candidates has a different view of how to define the role of mayor. One will win the chance to define that role on Nov. 6.

Charles Baer

Baer, 49, is a security guard who ran unsuccessfully for the Bend City Council in 2012 but has no prior government experience. He describes himself as the former president of Earth, however, based on an online election on his website.

“The mayor of Bend is the de facto leader of Central Oregon,” Baer said. “The fact that the mayor is elected gives the mayor moral authority to assume that role.”

Baer said he wants to see the city lead on female reproductive rights and fiscal transparency in government. Fiscal transparency requires putting every city financial transaction online immediately, and leading on female reproductive rights entails making sure women have free access to all forms of birth control, he said. The city of Bend does not have a role in providing health care, including birth control.

“I think the city of Bend has a unique and exciting opportunity to lead the state, the country and the world in the two most important political issues that we face as human beings on the planet Earth in this millennium,” Baer said.

Baer said he wants to use eminent domain to turn Neff Road, which turns into Alfalfa Market Road east of Bend, into a six-lane highway between Bend and the Prineville Reservoir. The second 100,000 Bend residents would live along this highway, he said.

He also wants to use eminent domain to build three or four parking garages on either side of the Bend Parkway between Franklin and Greenwood and ban all cars in downtown Bend.

“I’m very fond of the term eminent domain,” Baer said. “The metaphor is Bend wants an omelet, and I’m willing to crack eggs to make that omelet.”

Baer also wants the city to pass an ordinance raising minimum wage in city limits to $15 an hour. He said he wants the city to treat psilocybin mushrooms as it does marijuana.

Homeowners on septic systems should bear most of the cost of connecting to the city’s sewer, he said.

“The bottom line is that these people bought houses that don’t have sewer,” he said. “That’s what they bought and that’s what they got.”

Brian Douglass

Douglass, 69, is a disability rights advocate and one of four Bend residents who filed a complaint against the city of Bend in 2001 for not doing enough to comply with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. That complaint resulted in a settlement between the Department of Justice and the city of Bend that required the city to upgrade curb ramps and other public facilities.

While Douglass doesn’t have any prior government experience, he said he does have experience working with city officials and staff through his work as a disability rights advocate.

He said one of his first goals will be to change Bend’s council-­manager form of government, in which the City Council sets policy and a city manager appointed by the council runs day-to-day city operations. Bend’s form of government is enshrined in the city’s charter and any changes to it would require a citywide vote.

“I remember Sally (Russell, a city councilor running for mayor) saying that she really thought the mayor was going to be kind of like the councilors are and I said that’s totally wrong,” he said. “That’s not what the public is saying. I don’t believe either that the majority of the voters contemplated just promoting from the existing incumbents.”

Douglass also wants the City Council to shrink from six councilors to four, with one representing each quadrant of Bend. A city committee recommended electing councilors from wards less than a year ago, but councilors didn’t agree to send that recommendation to voters. He would stick with six councilors, however, if each took charge of a division of city government, he said.

Instead of proceeding with transportation planning, Douglass said he wants the city to pass a $100 million bond measure to catch up on missing infrastructure, including miles of missing sidewalks, non-­accessible curb ramps and unpaved travel lanes on some residential streets.

“We need to make a commitment to the Bendites who have been paying taxes here for the last 25, 30 years and have infrastructure needs,” he said.

The city also should pay the cost of connecting homes on septic systems to Bend’s sewer, he said.

Michael R. Hughes

Hughes, 47, is an attorney and hemp farmer who previously served on a city committee that advised the city on regulations for retail marijuana outlets. He said he chose to run for mayor to give back to Bend because the city’s been good to him.

Hughes is not raising money for his campaign and said he doesn’t have any ties to either major political party, though he has been a registered Republican for the past two years.

“The mayor has to be able to look at every side of all issues, understand the issues and articulate them,” he said.

Bend can address the high cost of housing by attracting high-paying businesses and offering incentives to developers to encourage them to build affordable housing projects, Hughes said. The city also should consider requiring that a percentage of future housing units built in Bend be dedicated to affordable homes, he said.

While developing its transportation plan, the city needs to prioritize safe routes for people to bike and walk, including corridors that only allow bikers and pedestrians. The city also should consider adding parking spots in the Old Mill District and downtown Bend specifically for hotel shuttles to reduce tourism-related traffic, and it should consider investing in charging spots for hybrid and electric vehicles, electric bikes and electric scooters, he said.

“A lot of people in Bend would walk and bike if they had the chance and it was safe,” Hughes said.

The city should promote and embrace tourism because it is a big part of Bend’s economy, Hughes said. Bend has some of the best microbreweries in the country and a thriving cannabis industry in part because of tourism, and the industry helps even people who may not think they benefit from tourism — such as a criminal defense attorney who represents a tourist in a DUI case, he said.

“We need to be welcoming to the people,” Hughes said. “We need to let people know we appreciate them as tourists.”

Hughes said he favors paying to connect homes with a septic system to the city’s sewer with a 30-year special assessment on the affected properties, and the city should waive fees for these homes to connect. The city as a whole should pay 10 or 20 percent of the costs, he said, and revenue from Bend’s local cannabis tax could supplement that spending.

Joshua Langlais

Langlais, 36, is a freelance photographer who moved to Bend about a year and a half ago. He runs a website where he posts weekly interviews and portraits of Bend residents.

“I have concern for the community, and I see the office of mayor and the work that I do as a photographer going hand in hand,” Langlais said.

The mayor should listen to residents and represent the values of the people of Bend, not just powerful special interests, he said. He said he wants to hold regular town-hall style meetings where residents can talk to their councilors and mayor outside of the twice-monthly Wednesday night meetings.

Langlais said Bend needs more homes that cost less than $200,000 and more places to live that can be afforded by people who make less than $15 an hour. The city should encourage different types of housing and discourage cookie-­cutter single-family homes, he said.

“There is a facade of caring about affordable housing and livability here that is easily removed and very shallow,” Langlais said. “Right now, it doesn’t seem to me that the developers of this town have a focus on affordability. It seems to me that the developers of this town are determining the fate of the city and their goal is to make tons of money.”

When planning for transportation, the city needs to make sure people using all modes of transportation can get along better, he said.

Tourism brought life and livelihoods to the city, but Bend doesn’t need to spend any more money on tourism marketing because it’s being done for free by people on Instagram, he said. Langlais said he’d support lobbying the Oregon Legislature to change a state law that requires about one-third of hotel tax revenue to be spent on tourism.

“Change the law,” he said. “Lots of laws get changed.”

Individual homeowners shouldn’t pay large sums to connect to the city’s sewer, Langlais said. He said he wants to make sure the connection costs are as low as possible and then distribute the cost to the entire city.

Bill Moseley

Moseley, 50, was elected to the City Council in 2016. During his two years on the City Council, Moseley’s advocated for forming a livability committee, slowing growth by reducing tourism and increasing spending on street construction.

He said the City Council doesn’t do enough to represent residents of Bend and holding “city bureaucracy” accountable to achieving goals. Moseley’s been criticized by Bend residents and fellow councilors for how he interacts with city staff and describes their work.

“The council’s been operating in a passive manner for a very long time where we just kind of take information and vote on it one way or another, but we don’t really offer direction to the city staff,” Moseley said. “Mainly city staff says ‘We want to go here. Is that OK?’ and the council in 85, 95 percent of cases says ‘Sure, that’s fine.’”

Moseley said he thinks transportation planning should focus on reducing vehicle congestion, while also providing safe routes to bike or walk. The city’s fixed-route transit system doesn’t work well, and Bend should consider replacing its Dial-a-Ride services for riders with disabilities with transportation networks like Uber, he said.

“There’s a very small group of people that says ‘I want to be able to bike to work instead of drive,’ but it’s a very small percentage of the overall community,” Moseley said. “Overwhelmingly, I hear people say ‘I want to be able to get back and forth to work without being caught behind a train on Reed Market.’”

Moseley said he supports complete neighborhoods with amenities near homes, and future development on the outskirts of town should have a variety of homes. He said he wants to be careful about making it too easy to build dense homes in existing neighborhoods to discourage developers from tearing down single-family homes and replacing them with duplexes.

Bend should stabilize demand for homes by changing how it markets to tourists, Moseley said. Tourism leads to wealthy people who vacation in Bend deciding to move here and it results in homes being used for vacation rentals, he said.

Bend can invest portions of the city’s hotel tax earmarked for tourism marketing to construct a performing arts center modeled after one in Banff, Alberta, Canada, he said. The city also could push for a larger rainy day fund and require Visit Bend to advertise only in media markets with lower median home prices than Bend.

The city should shoulder the cost of public sewer infrastructure and pay for it with a $5 a month fee paid by all residents, he said.

Sally Russell

Russell, 60, was first elected to the City Council in 2012, and she was chosen as the city’s mayor pro tem in 2017. She said she’s proven during her time in the city that she works hard and brings people together in a collaborative process.

“I see the mayor as somebody who creates a direction working together with the rest of the community,” she said. “My strength as mayor is to really understand the value of working together as a community, understanding that if we still keep these core values, we’ll still be a great place to live in five, 10, 15 years from now.”

From 1993 to 2002, Russell served on the city’s planning commission, where she worked on plans for the Old Mill District and Northwest Crossing.

“I have experience in planning and understanding when you make a decision today how it plays out,” Russell said.

The city needs to catch up on its transportation infrastructure after falling behind during a boom cycle during the early 2000s and in the 2008 recession, Russell said. Catching up requires identifying priorities, figuring out how much they’ll cost and then deciding how to pay for those projects, and the process requires involvement from people throughout the community, she said.

When it comes to the high cost of housing, Russell said she wants to implement three new policies: reducing fees developers pay for smaller homes, identifying the cost to live in a home and simplifying the city’s permit process by making sure each person building a home works with one city employee from start to finish. The city’s already addressing housing costs with a number of policies, and rental prices have stabilized, she said.

Neighborhood hubs that put amenities like grocery stores near homes reduces costs for residents by reducing the distance they have to drive and cuts down on traffic, she said.

Connecting homes to the sewer is a hugely important issue to some of Bend’s most vulnerable residents, Russell said. She said she wants to buy a lot of time to allow homeowners to connect, a policy the city council agreed to pursue last week.

“Getting the wrong solution in place too quickly could cost all of us,” she said. “One tool that’s viable for one family may not be viable for the family next door.”

The city can’t legally keep a portion of hotel tax revenue from being used for tourism, Russell said, but it can manage how the city markets to tourists. She pointed out that many of Bend’s amenities exist because of tourism, and tourists support the city’s police and fire departments through the hotel tax.

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