We asked local leaders from a variety of fields to reflect on 2019 accomplishments and look forward into 2020 and what they hope to accomplish in the next year. Here are their responses, some edited for brevity:

Deschutes County Commission Chair Phil Henderson

Q. What do you view as the best accomplishment of 2019 and why?

A. “One is that we’ve been able to preserve the same tax rate,” Henderson said. “While that doesn’t seem like much … compared to the state … we’re able to live within our budget, and I think that’s a great thing.”

Henderson also considered the commission being able to make final decisions on several land use issues was an accomplishment in 2019.

“Land use has become incredibly complicated in Oregon and these are very challenging issues to work through,” he said. “Just to get a lot of them worked through is an accomplishment.”

Q. What do you believe can be accomplished in 2020?

A. “Putting pressure on our state legislators and (the Department of Land Conservation and Development) to make it a point that one size doesn’t fit all for housing needs,” Henderson said.

The goal is to put more emphasis on housing solutions that make sense for the county and don’t revolve around increasing density in just cities, Henderson said.

Q. What pressing issue needs to be addressed in 2020?

A. “A big issue to me is housing and housing cost,” Henderson said. “I still think (it’s) the huge issue through the county… We need to do as much as we can from a county perspective with regard to land use laws and regulations because there is a whole lack of housing in the affordable tier for a variety of people.”

Bend Park & Recreation District Board Chair Ted Schoenborn

Q. What do you view as the best accomplishment of 2019 and why?

A. Changing the methodology behind the district’s system development charges so money could be used to support affordable housing was a significant accomplishment this year, Schoenborn said.

“System Development Charges are important because … the (system development charge) formula before this year did not allow for SDCs (to) support buildings — only for land acquisition for parks and trails.

“I would also say our outreach efforts to underserved communities,” he continued. “We gave out $250,000 scholarships to families to access park programs. We do that every year, but it’s an important part of the outreach. It’s one thing to knock down the barriers, but it’s another thing to eliminate the barrier by supplying the scholarship.

Q. What do you believe can be accomplished in 2020?

A. “The Larkspur (Community Center),” Schoenborn said. “(The remodel) will make the Larkspur Center more useful for the entire community.

Schoenborn also said the completion of Pacific Crest athletic field off Skyliner Road and a new field by the Bend FC Timbers soccer club at Pine Nursery Park will be notable accomplishments next year.

“Their ability to use those astroturf fields is going to free up a lot of play time for the 2,500 kids that are involved with the recreational programs,” he said.

Q. What pressing issue needs to be addressed in 2020?

A. “Continuing access to trails and trail connections,” Schoenborn said. “That’s always the highest priority, the community says.”

Bend Mayor Sally Russell

Q. What do you view as the best accomplishment of 2019 and why?

A. Russell said gains in housing and transportation were some of the city’s best accomplishments. This year, Bend set a goal to have 3,000 units built by 2021, Russell said.

“Not only did we set that goal … we have 1,300 in construction and 500 in permit review, and 400 in the pipeline for affordable housing. We identified a goal … and developed policy, and now we are executing it.

“We need the people who work here to be able to live here and we need housing for a diversity of wallets and pocket books,” Russell continued.

Q. What do you believe can be accomplished in 2020?

A. The community is seeking better traffic flow and better, reliable transportation options, Russell said. Although a final decision hasn’t been made, that could involve the City Council asking voters to support a multi-million dollar transportation bond next spring.

“The next thing is to look at the goals of the community and say: we have a billion dollars in needed projects in our community,” Russell said. “Let’s find a way to find to take a big bite out of that cookie.”

Q. What pressing issue needs to be addressed in 2020?

A. Russell pointed to working on transportation solutions, focusing on livability in Bend and making progress toward the goals set in the recently passed climate action plan as priorities.

“It’s about using our fossil fuels as efficiently as we can, which has a positive economic impact if we do this right,” Russell said. “I think we all recognize how much we value the clean, beautiful air we have this community.”

Bend-La Pine Schools Superintendent Shay Mikalson

Q. What do you view as the best accomplishment of 2019 and why?

A. “Bend-La Pine Schools’ most recent offical graduation rate increased nearly 3 percentage points to an all-time high of 82% — and every high school saw its graduation rate increase. This increase did not happen by chance. We have put systems and people in place to keep students on track to graduate. The key to this success is personal connection.

Recently, we opened two new small high school options — Realms High School and Skyline High School. These schools provide options that are fundamentally different from our traditional neighborhood high schools. This fall, we opened our 35th school — North Star Elementary School in north central Bend.

Bend-La Pine Schools held a number of wide-ranging engagement activities in 2019 — from budget meetings and attendance area reviews to new school naming and high school design.

Most recently, we asked for feedback about how our schools could better meet the needs of students and families in ways that align with our goals. The Excellence & Equity Review, included 36 listening sessions with families and students, with particular outreach to historically underserved groups. Families and students shared experiences about connection, engagement, communication, barriers, and needs in order to thrive in our schools. We also hosted staff listening sessions at 33 schools. These extensive listening sessions, along with staff comments, data, and survey results, helped define themes and areas of need as we develop our 2020-21 strategic investment plan.”

Q. What do you believe can be accomplished in 2020?

A. In August 2019, Oregon enacted the historic Student Success Act (SSA). SSA provides public school districts with an opportunity to invest more fully in an education system that helps to ensure every student realizes their dreams for the future. When completely implemented, this new statewide investment will bring Oregon closer to the Quality Education Model funding that our students and staff deserve and make Oregon’s education system more competitive nationwide.

Q. What pressing issue needs to be addressed in 2020?

A. We all — from families and staff to community members to students and business leaders — must join together in 2020 to renew the promise of public education and push back against a narrow, “test-driven” definition of success for our students.

When we collectively care deeply about academic excellence, and care just as much about our students’ character; their preparedness for the next steps in their lives; and their abilities to think critically, work creatively, communicate, and collaborate – our students graduate capable of creating a future by design, not default.

In 2020, Bend-La Pine Schools more than 2,000 staff will continue to ready future-ready students: the next generation of thinkers, doers, leaders, and neighbors who will graduate prepared and ready to take on the world.

Sisters City Manager Cory Misely

Q. What do you view as the best accomplishment of 2019 and why?

A. “Transitioning into the implementation phase of the Sisters Country Vision to make our community more prosperous, livable, resilient, and connected as we move into the future.”

Q. What do you believe can be accomplished in 2020?

A. “Building on what already makes Sisters a special place and maintaining the positive momentum to work together to make it even better.”

Q. What pressing issue needs to be addressed in 2020?

A. “Continuing to foster civic engagement with an eye to proactively planning and managing growth.”

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Field Supervisor Bridget Moran

“I’ve based my replies on the water management issue as that’s a local issue in my field that has reached an important milestone in 2019 with 2020 bringing great opportunity.”

Q. What do you view as the best accomplishment of 2019 and why?

A. “I view the publication of the draft Deschutes Basin Habitat Conservation Plan (DBHCP) as a major accomplishment of 2019. I chose this because the publication documents the formal commitments water managers are proposing to address the long-standing impacts to fish and wildlife (frog) habitats in the Deschutes River. Public comments received demonstrate a well-engaged community that cares about the future of agriculture in Central Oregon as well as the health of the Deschutes.”

Q. What do you believe can be accomplished in 2020?

A. “I believe we can strengthen, finalize, and begin to implement the 30-year DBHCP in 2020; transitioning from decades of debate to water management changes that will restore fish and wildlife habitats in the Deschutes River.”

Q. What pressing issue needs to be addressed in 2020?

A. “The pressing issue that needs to be addressed in 2020 is climate change. Our changing climate, and its impact to water resources alone, highlights the need to act.”

High Desert Food & Farm Alliance Executive Director Katrina Van Dis

Q. What do you view as the best accomplishment of 2019 and why?

A. “The biggest accomplishment for HDFFA was making a difference in people’s lives. We donated 16,000 pounds of fresh local food to the food bank, we invested over $31,000 in the farm economy by providing greenhouse grants and VeggieRx vouchers, and provided hundreds of people nutrition education opportunities. We are excited to have initiated a couple of other projects that have been really successful. One is called the Fresh Harvest Kit, which is a ready-to-make meal kit for food pantry clients that includes fresh local food paired with pantry staple items, a recipe and spices. I’m particularly proud of this project because while we want everyone to have access to good food, we do focus specifically on improving access for food insecure residents (Central Oregonians that have limited access to affordable nutritious food). We are a small but mighty organization, and we are making a difference in people’s lives!”

Q. What do you believe can be accomplished in 2020?

A. “In 2020, I want our vision to be realized. That people celebrate local food for the taste, the love, and the people who grow, raise and make the food. That farmers and ranchers are recognized for their hard work and commitment to the community and land. That local food businesses are chosen over imported food not only because they enjoy the product but because it supports our local food economy.

I know that we will continue our food access programs to provide fresh local food to food insecure individuals and families; and I believe that more people will recognize the impact we have and support our efforts. I believe that as a community we are committed to local food and in 2020 if every person makes one small change towards supporting this value we can collectively make a difference.”

Q. What pressing issue needs to be addressed in 2020?

A. “A global pressing need is how we are going to combat climate change and support our farmers and ranchers. The topic is highly controversial, but HDFFA’s values and mission align with supporting sustainable family farms that grow and raise food for our region. Regardless of one’s view on the topic, it is important that we, collectively, know where our food is coming from, that we support the producers that are stewards of our land, and that we push for regulations that support access to affordable land. The average piece of food travels 1,500 miles to our plates! I believe that it is important to eat local, seasonal food, and to get to know the farmers and ranchers and learn how they are stewards of the land. Ask any producer and they can tell you about their land conservation practices; they rely on the land to grow their crops or graze their animals. I think it is important that we are informed about what is being and can be done locally that will help address a global crisis.”

Better Together Executive Director Katie Condit

Q. What do you view as the best accomplishment of 2019 and why?

A. “ From private sector investments in quality childcare, student internships, and Career and Technical Education to alignment between health and education sectors around trauma-informed schools, Central Oregon is leading in cross-sector approaches to ensuring students thrive. In 2019, we continued one of the strongest partnerships between K-12 and local higher education institutions in the state, which has produced robust pathways into COCC and OSU-Cascades for Central Oregon students. Early learning, K-12 and higher education leaders teamed up with dozens of community organizations in 2019 to ensure children are healthy and prepared for kindergarten, families have access to critical resources, and family and youth voice is prioritized in education systems. ”

Q. What do you believe can be accomplished in 2020?

A. “One of many examples of what can be accomplished in 2020 aligns with the new English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum adoption cycle on the horizon for Oregon public schools. Central Oregon school districts have an opportunity in 2020 to align and lead in advocating for truly rigorous, culturally inclusive instruction materials in ELA classrooms. The last curriculum adoption for this subject occurred over five years ago. Since that time, we continue to see evidence that rigorous curriculum reflecting diverse cultures and lived experiences has a significant positive impact on student engagement and academic success. In the 2018-2019 school year, an average of only 58% of third grade students in Central Oregon who (were) tested met or exceeded state ELA standards, with that average increasing only slightly for higher grades. By adopting inclusive ELA curriculum in 2020 that demonstrates our high expectations for students and honors the diversity of their lived experiences, we will take a significant step towards improving critical English Language Arts engagement and outcomes for all students in the region.”

Q. What pressing issue needs to be addressed in 2020?

A. “When we listen to the experiences of students and families in our schools, it is clear that one of the most pressing issues to be addressed is the lack of belonging, safety and connection that pushes certain groups to the margins of our education systems. For students and families of color, communities impacted by poverty and geographic isolation, students experiencing disabilities, families who speak limited English, and LBGTQ+ identifying students, we have an opportunity to remove barriers that exist. Research consistently links access, safety and belonging in school to education outcomes and long-term health and well-being. We have an opportunity in 2020 to come together as a region to adopt policies, practices, and mindsets that move us towards restorative cultures of care in our education systems where all students and families belong and are thriving.”

Mike Harrington, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Deschutes district manager

Q. What do you view as the best accomplishment of 2019 and why?

A. “The completion of fish passage at Opal Springs Dam is one the most notable accomplishments benefiting fish and wildlife in Central Oregon in 2019. The Deschutes Valley Water District built the dam in 1982. The dam has since blocked passage for migratory fish including redband trout, bull trout, steelhead and Chinook salmon; however, in 2011, the water district voluntarily agreed to construct passage at their dam without legal triggers. Fish immediately began using the ladder upon completion, and a steelhead passed through it within 72 hours. The ladder reconnects 125 miles of mainstem and tributary habitat and will improve the success of anadromous reintroduction efforts.”

Q. What do you believe can be accomplished in 2020?

A. “The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has become a leading expert on Sierra Nevada red fox in Oregon since it began studying the native animal in 2015. The small red fox, averaging around 10 pounds, lives in alpine habitats and often frequents busy areas like the Mt. Bachelor parking lot. We will analyze our data sets in 2020 with the goal of contributing scientific information to our partners that will enhance knowledge, management and persistence of the species.”

Q. What pressing issue needs to be addressed in 2020?

A. “Although mule deer are relatively common in cities like Bend, their populations are struggling in natural habitats in Oregon and throughout the west. Dozens of factors are limiting their populations, like busy highways, large solar arrays, predation, disease, urban expansion and changing land management. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife needs to continue working with our partners to address these factors and limit mule deer mortality.”

Deschutes County Forester Ed Keith

Q. What do you view as the best accomplishment of 2019 and why?

A. “Perhaps the accomplishment I’m most excited about, looking back at the past year, is the Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project (DCFP). The DCFP is in its (potentially) final year of funding for a 10-year project that brought together a diverse set of partners to build agreement on how forests can be managed to restore them to a more healthy and resilient condition. There was a lot more polarization at the start of the project, and not much was getting done, and as we finish off the last year we’re seeing thousands of acres of forests in a much better condition should a fire occur all the while providing jobs in the local economy, clean water, diverse recreation opportunities and improved habitat for wildlife. We are actively pursuing a five year extension of this project in cooperation with the Forest Service to finish key work that is yet to be completed so stay tuned in 2020 for news on that.”

Q. What do you believe can be accomplished in 2020?

A. “One thing I think we can collectively accomplish in Central Oregon and I would certainly like to see more of, is people creating defensible space around their homes. We have a lot of educational efforts to inform people of the need for, and how to create an attractive and safe area around their home that would reduce the chance of a home igniting in a wildfire. We also have events such as FireFree where people can get rid of their thinned trees and shrubs for free each spring at the landfill and transfer sites. But there is a need for more people to realize that we live in a location that frequently experiences wildfire and all residents to take personal responsibility to prepare for those fires by creating a defensible space around their homes, both for their own safety and for the safety of first responders.”

Q. What pressing issue needs to be addressed in 2020?

A. “Biomass. More specifically, development of markets and facilities to use what is now non-merchantable material created from forest health and fuel reduction projects. With our current epidemic of small trees in our forests and neighborhoods, and no outlet for material created from thinning projects, a lot of that material has to be piled and burned. If we had a market for this material and it paid its way out of the woods, even at a break even situation, we could accelerate our forest restoration activities and reduce the likelihood of high intensity wildfire. We need to see development of local facilities and markets to use this material.”

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