It must be nice to vote twice, doubling your influence. But that wouldn’t be fair in an election. And it isn’t fair in shaping decisions involving the expenditure of millions of taxpayer dollars.

The Bend Metropolitan Planning Organization, or MPO, is one of the alphabet soup of organizations that tend to exist far below most people’s radar. The Bend MPO, though, makes big decisions about planning and how millions in state and federal dollars are spent locally. Its coverage area includes Bend and areas around it that may be annexed in the next 20 years. The MPO meets in public, and any final MPO decision requires a majority vote from the MPO’s policy board. The city of Bend gets one vote. Deschutes County gets one vote. And the Oregon Department of Transportation gets one vote.

Sounds reasonable, so far.

But before an issue comes to the policy board, a decision can already have taken shape. The MPO board takes recommendations from its technical advisory committee, or TAC. “The TAC provides technical analysis and review, comments and recommendations on draft MPO plans, programs, studies, and issues,” according to the MPO website.

And who gets a vote on the TAC? A proposal to be reviewed on Wednesday would give one vote to Deschutes County, ODOT, Central Oregon Community College, Commute Options Central Oregon, the Deschutes County Bike/Pedestrian Advisory Committee, Bend Park & Recreation District, OSU-Cascades, Bend-La Pine Schools and give one vote to Bend. (Bend has two votes now.) The two citizens on the TAC would also get one vote each.

And then there’s the problem: The Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council, a regional organization, would effectively get two votes. It would get one vote by a COIC representative and one vote by a Cascades East Transit representative — the regional bus system operated by COIC.

Why? Tyler Deke, the Bend MPO manager, says he cannot remember a time when COIC and CET have ever voted differently.

The proposed structure gives double the influence to COIC/CET in decisions that could benefit COIC/CET. The MPO board and the TAC should reject that structure. No organization should have undue influence — or the appearance of undue influence — in shaping how millions of taxpayer dollars are spent. Taxpayers deserve better.

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