When Ashton Eaton goes fast, he can bring home the gold. When Bend firefighters go fast, they can save lives. When Bend councilors go fast, they can blow it.
The City Council is racing to fill a vacancy. It plans to appoint a councilor quickly who will make important decisions about the city for the next two years.
Finding people for important positions isn’t best done fast. It would be best if the council fails to make the appointment and lets voters make the decision in the May election. Voters deserve to have their say.
Remember when Nathan Boddie’s Democratic candidacy exploded in the House District 54 race? People acted fast to find a substitute. Hoping to flip the seat from the Republicans, Sen. Jeff Merkley, Gov. Kate Brown and Bend Councilor Barb Campbell rushed to support Working Families Party candidate Amanda La Bell.
The Bulletin took the time to look into her background and found she claimed to have a bachelor’s degree from Valdosta State University she did not earn. La Bell’s campaign fell apart.
Has the council had enough time to avoid pulling its own La Bell?
The council is moving fast in part because it wants to be able to have the new councilor participate as fully as possible in the council’s goal-setting and budget development. Those are about to start. A seventh councilor also could help ensure there are no 3-3 deadlocks on votes between now and the next election.
Those reasons are not insignificant. But they don’t override the fact that voters should decide who represents them.
Appointing a councilor would save the city some money. It wouldn’t have to pay for an election. Deschutes County Clerk Nancy Blankenship says she can’t give a good estimate of how much such an election would cost the city, because it depends on what other entities put on the May ballot. It might be from $5,000-$15,000, she guessed. Isn’t it worth that much to let voters decide who will represent them for two years?
The real obstacle to the council waiting for an election is the city charter. The charter directs that a vacancy “shall” be filled by appointment within 30 days. If the council doesn’t make it happen, then the vacancy shall be filled at the next available election — May in this case.
If ever there was a good time for the council to fail to reach agreement, this appointment is it. Allow more time for vetting and let the voters decide. Then the council should look at changing the charter so future councils aren’t directed to bypass elections to decide who represents Bend.