Guest Column

The podium at Bend Venture Conference at the Tower Theater in Bend October 20, 2017. 

Recently columns by Bill Eddie and Charles Boyd addressed a perceived decline in livability in Bend and questioned issues related to future growth. While I disagree with some of their assumptions and conclusions I respect their points of view. Dreading change and fearing the unknown are natural human instincts; however, the only constant is change. Understanding how change takes place and what options are possible can help folks lessen the dread and hopefully embrace the positive aspects of that change. Change doesn’t happen smoothly and often there is a gap between policy and positive impact.

Listed on the city’s website are 12 citizens advisory committees that include 150 citizen volunteers. These volunteers offer their time and expertise to make recommendations to the City Council with respect to their specific focus. Many people on these committees are relative newcomers and are just as dedicated to making Bend the best place it can be. Some issues addressed are economic development, budget, transportation, climate, planning and urban renewal to mention just a few. The Neighborhood Leadership Alliance was created to specifically coordinate with each neighborhood association and facilitate information flow both to and from the City Council.

I serve on the city’s Affordable Housing Advisory committee. As an architect focused on affordable housing I along with my eight fellow board members bring our expertise to the discussion and work on solutions. There are very specific definitions of affordable housing in Bend and many documents available to help citizens understand the need. The city is also working on addressing the needs of many in our workforce who make too much for subsidized housing but cannot afford what is on the market. Changes are in the works to the zoning code that enable free market forces to help meet that need. Keeping workers in Bend eliminates the pollution and congestion of long commutes from outlying towns. We all benefit from our nurses, teachers, police and firefighters being close at hand. Key to this effort is providing for a broader range of housing types. I assure you that development is a very expensive and risky business. There are very real misconceptions in the public on how development works. How many reading this live in a home that a developer built? Greater empathy for others in need is something we could all benefit from.

On Bend’s website you can sign up for newsletters that will keep you informed and find out when there are meetings and openings on one of these committees. There is always time at the beginning of each committee meeting for citizen input and you may comment on any item on the agenda. Attending is a great way to understand what these committees are working on and find out what laws and constraints exist. It can help you appreciate all the work that goes into future planning for the city. Ultimately the City Council makes the decisions, but they take committee recommendations very seriously.

Citizens need to understand that many local actions are dictated by state law. Using a portion of hotel tax is mandated by the state to be spent on advertising for tourism. The urban growth boundary is controlled by the state and helps to preserve those natural resources we love. The park district is an independent entity responsible for our parks and trails. Bottom line, growth is necessary for vitality. The opposite is stagnation and ultimately degradation. There are many cities in Oregon like Burns, Grants Pass and Klamath Falls that lack industry and have very little money to improve their cities. The key is to guide that growth in a way to gain the best results and address the needs of the entire community. I invite those who feel powerless to become engaged and be part of the solution.

On Bend’s website you can sign up for newsletters that will keep you informed and find out when there are meetings and openings on one of these committees. There is always time at the beginning of each committee meeting for citizen input and you may comment on any item on the agenda. Attending is a great way to understand what these committees are working on and find out what laws and constraints exist.

Katherine Austin is an architect serving on Bend’s Affordable Housing Advisory Committee and lives in Bend.

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