A group has formed to support OSU-Cascades’ embattled west-side campus, and based on a poll it funded, the organization says the community at large is on its side.
Now for Bend was launched independently of the university by Janie Teater, a former educator, and Amy Tykeson, who was president and CEO of BendBroadband until selling the company last year. Organizations that have signed up to support Now for Bend and the university’s proposed campus include Bend 2030, the Bend Chamber of Commerce, Bend Memorial Clinic, Deschutes Brewery and Economic Development for Central Oregon.
Now for Bend’s direct rival is Truth in Site, an organization that has mounted a legal challenge to block the development of a new campus near the SW Chandler Avenue and Century Drive roundabout. Truth in Site contends the campus will overrun what the group says is an already congested part of the city.
While its legal arguments have failed twice, once before an independent hearings officer and also in front of the Bend City Council, Truth in Site has succeeded in slowing down the development. Originally, OSU-Cascades had hoped to open next fall, but because of court proceedings, no ground has yet been broken.
In an interview, Teater and Tykeson emphasized the economic benefits a university brings and the risks of waiting too long for them. Among the upsides they cited is the ability to retain talented youngsters who can earn four-year degrees in Bend and the creation of university jobs that will be more insulated than other industries from the whims of the market.
Teater said she understands the concerns Truth in Site has, but argued issues with traffic and livability have more to do with the city’s overall growth than the university specifically.
“It’s time to change the conversation and move away from focusing so much on parking and traffic, which are problems that come with growth and will come up whether or not the university goes on the west side,” she said. “What the university brings is smart growth. If it doesn’t go there, something else ultimately will, and we know a major retailer has looked at that site. The university is eager to coordinate schedules with the nearby schools to reduce traffic and to contribute to transit and bike infrastructure. That’s not something you’re going to get from a big store.”
Truth in Site spokesman Scott Morgan and OSU-Cascades Director of Communications Christine Coffin did not return calls for comment.
Teater noted that as a former teacher, she’s aware of the high rate of elementary students receiving free and reduced lunches and said “our economy has real problems.”
“Are we going to stay stuck on traffic,” she asked, “or work on providing our children opportunities for education and bringing better jobs to Bend?”
Tykeson referred to those who support the university as “a silent majority,” referencing a poll her organization conducted before launching. The survey, which was conducted by the Boise, Idaho-based GS Strategy Group and fielded responses from 300 individuals, found 59 percent of respondents support the west-side location, compared with 35 percent who oppose it.
Those results are similar to a survey conducted last year by the same firm and funded by the campaign of state Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, which found 61 percent of respondents would support a west-side campus compared with 33 percent opposed.
Truth in Site has argued that Juniper Ridge, a mostly vacant city-owned property on the north end of town, would be better for a campus. OSU-Cascades argues the area lacks the infrastructure, including sewers and roads, to support a campus, and would therefore be too costly to develop.
Tykeson said she agrees with OSU-Cascades and sees the west side as the best option, in large part because the 10 acres purchased by the university are ready to go.
“We’re a popular location and people want to move here, but what kind of people do we want to move here?” Tykeson asked. “If we want businesses with good-paying jobs, then we need skilled workers here to take those jobs. We’ve had growth before, and we’ve coped before — whether you look at the parkway or the southern bridge, we’ve grown and made the community better.”
— Reporter: 541-633-2160, firstname.lastname@example.org