Bend’s first elected mayor in nearly a century was sworn in Wednesday night. Sally Russell, who won election in November, will have more duties and a bit more power than her predecessor, who was chosen from among council members.
Russell will not only set the tone for council meetings, she’ll set the agenda as well. If she’s wise, she’ll concentrate on the practical and leave the dreaming to others.
Thus, streets should be a high priority. Bend’s streets are in terrible shape, and the city is working to improve the situation. What’s happened so far is a good start, but the community needs more.
Russell can help solve the problem by advocating for a bond measure that puts streets first.
Affordable housing is another critical problem in the city. As Russell knows, Bend is, in many ways, a divided city. We have our share of child poverty, for example, but it’s largely confined to neighborhoods east of Third Street. Conversely, the city’s most expensive neighborhoods are all found west of that same street.
And while east Bend homes generally are less expensive of than their west-side neighbors, they’re priced out of reach for too many of the community’s residents. Again, leadership from Russell can help assure that the city makes progress in that critical area.
Then there are jobs. Bend needs more jobs that pay more, and Russell and the council must work to that end. Good jobs are important in all neighborhoods, and higher pay for those in less well-to-do neighborhoods is especially important.
Russell and the council may be tempted to become Portland Lite, though they should fight that temptation. Their job is to guide the city toward becoming a place that all residents love, a place where good jobs and opportunities are available for all who want them. Russell must provide that reminder when need be. It is, in fact, central to her role as mayor.