Turnkey

The Rainbow Motel, located at 154 NE Franklin Avenue in Bend, on Wednesday, May 5, 2021.

Voters elect Bend city councilors to look after their interests and the city’s. Councilors aren’t elected to rubber stamp what the Bend Chamber of Commerce wants.

On Wednesday, something happened that could have made people wonder.

Preston Callicott, who serves on the board of the Bend Chamber, spoke before councilors and urged them not to buy the Rainbow Motel on Franklin Avenue in downtown for a homeless shelter. Katy Brooks, president and CEO of the Bend Chamber, wrote a letter to councilors making a similar argument. Then, later in Wednesday’s council meeting, councilors terminated the city’s purchase and sale agreement for the Rainbow.

Just like that the Rainbow deal was dead. Councilors are continuing to look at Bend Value Inn, which is also downtown.

Did councilors do what the chamber wanted? Yes.

Did councilors do it because the chamber said so? No.

Is the chamber against housing homeless downtown? No on that one, too.

Will one hotel fill the need? No.

Should the business community do more to ensure Bend gets a homeless shelter and services downtown? We’ll let you answer that one.

The city has been in a race to find a location for a hotel to transform into a homeless shelter. The options available now for housing the homeless in Bend are inadequate. Only a few months ago David Savory died on the street in Bend. He couldn’t get shelter. The state has made available competitive grant money that Bend could use to help buy a hotel for the homeless. Unfortunately, the city may be out of the running. It could still use funding from the federal American Rescue Plan.

The city has looked at several locations. Exactly what happens in those deals and why they may fall apart is not made public. Real estate negotiations are one of the things that under Oregon law governments can conduct behind closed doors. It protects public money.

If councilors had to plan their negotiations in the open, the seller could know how much to jack up the price.

The secrecy does create a problem. The public doesn’t get much explanation of what is going on. Councilors are also not supposed to talk about what happens in executive session. In fact, when we asked councilors to explain their positions on Rainbow, city staff sent out an email to councilors reminding them they weren’t supposed to talk about what happens in executive session.

Well, councilors didn’t recount for us what happened in executive session. Councilors Barb Campbell, Anthony Broadman, Melanie Kebler and Mayor Sally Russell did get back to us. The Rainbow is in what Bend calls its central district. That area is ripe for redevelopment. The city is promoting it. Bend is growing. More intense development downtown is better than more intense development in neighborhoods, right? Several projects are being worked on in that very area. They could kick off the redevelopment. That would be good for the city.

If you know Campbell at all, you know she is not one to sit meekly by and do the bidding of developers. Campbell wrote us in an email that the developers she spoke with convinced her that transitional housing at the Rainbow location would jeopardize those redevelopment plans.

Broadman, Kebler and Russell pointed out the money issue. With limited money to buy a hotel, councilors faced a choice: the Rainbow, the Bend Value Inn, which is also downtown or both. Councilors chose for now to continue to pursue the Bend Value Inn. Broadman wrote the “Bend Value Inn is less expensive than the Rainbow Motel....The Chamber’s argument was reasonable, but my decision wasn’t based on their points or all of the input we had about the potential impact of this project in the Bend Central District.” Although we don’t have other councilors on record, we have every reason to believe their reasoning is similar.

As for the Bend Chamber, it does believe that more must be done to serve the homeless in Bend. Brooks, the chamber’s CEO and president, told us the chamber is very supportive of siting a shelter in Bend’s downtown. Good.

When we were talking to people about this council decision, something struck us. It was from Travis Davis, a Bend businessman who serves on the Bend Economic Development Advisory Board or BEDAB. That’s a city committee to give input to the city from the business community. He said in Bend both the chamber and BEDAB do try to serve as intermediaries. They do try to balance broader community needs and the narrower interests of businesses. We believe that. So then how else will the business community step up to ensure a homeless shelter in Bend’s downtown becomes a reality?

There’s a big affordable housing project near Bend’s parking garage, as Mayor Russell reminded us. Do you know where it is? If Bend can do that so well, can it also provide shelter and services for the community’s neediest where rents are sure to soar? That would have a special poetry.

(8) comments

Funding Secured

Why would you site a (much needed) homeless shelter in your brand new TIF area? It's another reason to be against these public financing subsidy schemes. There is no guarantee that future P/T volunteer councils will have any idea what they are doing.

102625

Back in the 1980's, there were three campgrounds at Bend, one being the KOA which is now vacant land where Walmart was going to move. There were also a number of motels along 3rd street that offered weekly rates and a youth hostel. All these are gone or gentrified. The KOA was where anyone could stay, including tourists. Almost everyone knew someone who stayed there for a while. It had a small store, a post office, a school bus stop, a laundromat. All three campgrounds had toilets, showers, dumpsters, a manager. All campgrounds are gone but the needs remain.

kindergentlerbend

At the momentous Oct. 21, 2021, City Council meeting, City of Bend staff revealed (1) City compliance with two recent Federal court rulings that protect unhoused individuals from sweeps and evictions and (2) plans to construct a managed transitional housing facility at Juniper Ridge.

One veteran service provider exclaimed that this was the call she had spent years waiting for.

Unfortunately, that call got dropped.

Since then we have seen a litany of episodes in which City government has caved again and again to NIMBY fear-mongering and business-led obstruction. Even very modest proposals to purchase and renovate eyesore motels can’t seem to get off the ground.

The folks who lost their homes at Juniper Ridge due to the City’s anti-CDC guideline mass eviction last spring have since drifted back. Had that managed transitional housing facility been open and ready to accommodate them, we would have seen reduced fire danger, safer living conditions for these vulnerable individuals, and wrap-around services.

And it is very likely that such a facility would have addressed and resolved many of the long-simmering complaints expressed by several vocal Boyd Acres residents at City Council meetings.

And, the awful truth remains: Even if every motel under consideration had been purchased and renovated, only a small fraction of the thousand plus unhoused individuals in our city could have been accommodated.

This is a national tragedy occurring in thousands of municipalities that was ignored in the 2020 Presidential campaign.

However, President Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act will attempt to “pursue a comprehensive approach to ending homelessness.” Let’s hope our local Congressional delegation can latch on to some of the targeted 13 billion dollars and acquire some of the proposed 400,000 housing units.

To the Bend City Council: Remain strong and dedicated to the principles that got you elected. Don’t get sidetracked by special interests. Your community is compassionate and wants to see a breakthrough. On a plaque inside City Hall “Innovation” is identified as a value to be cherished and pursued. C’mon, now, amaze and inspire us all.

kindergentlerbend

Apologies: The date of that Council meeting--Oct. 21, 2020.

Gary Mendoza

Accommodating homelessness increases the number of homeless. The majority of Bend residents aren’t all that interested in seeing that happen. The City Council ignores that “special interest” at its political peril.

Skittish

Kindness, compassion etc. have their role, but more towards the beginning of life than the adult end. People have to learn, mature, take care of themselves and become competent to do well in life when they are growing up. It is my observation that many adults haven’t driven themselves to invest in themselves. To simply equate someone's poor situation to a failure of society is to fail to see how they have also contributed to their situation. Those who are financially successful in life are mostly self made: 80% of millionaires are self made. It is not accurate to believe the most millionaires were handed everything to them, the point being that the vast majority of people have to struggle and most of us make it despite difficult circumstances. The rich aren’t keeping the poor down but actually provide significant resources to everyone, and most on the lower end of the economic spectrum simply take for granted what they are given. One should look at the homeless with compassion, but also with one's eyes wide open.

There are always going to be poor, no matter how much we spend, care, focus resources, or divert other social resources to. Anything we spend money on is something we value, and the homeless have value, but how much do we want to divert from those who are doing the work of generating the resources that go to supporting those who have demonstrated track record of failure? We should look for ways to enable those who have a chance of getting out of poverty a ladder out, but realize many will live the rest of their lives the way they are. Finally, I don’t place value on myself for caring for those at the bottom of the society. I care for myself, then my family and then society, in that order and without guilt. When I am successful, then so is my family and to a lesser degree society. To view individuals such as myself as the enemy is pure folly and shows lack of understanding about how the world works and the nature of people.

jlsrunner1

Giving more to the supposedly homeless does zero to help them. Rather it encourages more to come here. Stop enabling them. They are not Bend’s neediest. It is not our responsibility to provide housing for anyone. Stop wasting our taxes.

xyzzy17

Truth. See San Francisco for examples. Whatever the government subsidies gets more expensive and show me the case where they solved the problem. The government should facilitate business and jobs, as well as keeping the infrastructure intact. If they want to help homeless provide jobs such as were done during the Great Depression via the CCC. Timberline Lodge is one result of those efforts. There are plenty of potholes that could be fixed; give people useful work not perpetual handouts sponsored by taxpayers.

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