I would like to comment on the Jan. 3 guest column in The Bulletin by Charles Boyd. “Bend has had a long decline in livability.” I thought this was an excellent article with many salient points.
1. “The local development community is well organized and well funded because growth pays well.”
2. I paraphrase — Our political leadership is usually business oriented and tends to support the short term benefits while ignoring or accepting long-term environmental degradation.
Again, he is right on the money.
3. “Economic factors almost always win over environmental considerations.”
The population of Bend was 23,694 in 1990. At that time it was ranked 1171st in size in the United States. The population was 52,624 in 2000. The population was 76,693 in 2010. The estimated population of the city as of 2017 was 94,520. One website states that “it is growing faster than 90% of similarly sized cities since 2000.” It is now ranked 333rd.
Mr. Boyd states, “livability will continue to decline locally because of continued rapid growth and the emphasis on drawing thousands to the region as tourists.” He is absolutely right. There is not one viable argument, in my humble opinion, that can be made to encourage continued advertisement of this area. The city of Bend is well known around the country. I have friends in Texas, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Georgia, just to name a few, who know about this lovely place. People are flocking here by the thousands. There is no need to advertise.
Mr. Boyd also states that he feels the current leadership is not capable or willing to address the problems of rapid growth and tourism. A cursory review of City Council members reveals a wide array of backgrounds: marketing and promotional products, software business owner with strong ties to economic development, Berkshire Hathaway real estate broker, public lands coordinator, education/biology/psychology, masters in public policy and marketing. I do not personally know them, but I would wager they are very bright and capable. Willing … that is another question.
The reason that most of us moved to Bend in the first place is because of the “livability” of the area. It is a very special place and must be protected. It offers a myriad of outdoor activities, including golf, skiing, hiking, water sports, fishing, hunting, on and on and on. I remember my first visit to this area in 2007. I thought “what a breath of fresh air.” It reminded me of towns I visited in the 1970s. It had a certain languid pace and beauty. All of that is changing rapidly. Traffic seems to increase daily. There seems to be a tension that did not exist 12 years ago. The slogan “Be Nice. You are in Bend” seems to be fading.
It is not difficult for many of us to envision the possible future of Bend. Mr. Boyd put it well. “Individuals or businesses maximize their use of a ‘commons’ for profit or personal use, to the detriment of that commons. It is up to us to be sure that this does not happen. We should be the guardians of this special and unique town (now, a small city).
The time to take action is now. I encourage the City Council and the city leadership to act responsibly and promptly to plan for our future. Mr. Boyd states that a possible means to address the situation is by hiring a consultant, one who understands and who has experience in these matters. I, for one, think this is a good idea. Will it cost? Yes. Is it worth it? Absolutely. Research the possibility of hiring a consultant with experience to guide us in the coming decades in order to improve our chances of maintaining this wonderful quality of life, and what Mr. Boyd calls “livability.” Don’t kill the golden goose.