By Kerani Mitchell

Do you have a point you’d like to make or an issue you feel strongly about? Submit a letter to the editor or a guest column.

Reflecting on the outcome of and reaction to last week’s Bend City Council appointment process, I’d like to address some concerns brought up by our community and invite people to join me in moving forward with integrity, hope and gratitude.

First, I extend sincere congratulations to Chris Piper and wish him and the City Council courage moving forward.

May they proceed with open minds to reflect and seek input on how their decisions impact outcomes for our whole community, especially for those whose experiences and identities are not at the table.

Second, I recognize there is frustration, confusion and sadness among some in our community. I feel that, too.

However, I am also grateful for the clear illumination of the values, interests and reasoning that drive decision-making in our community.

This is a gift and can inform next steps.

Third, the vacancy appointment process underscores the necessity of elections and representation by the people and of the people.

It has been noted during this process that there are clear barriers to equitable elections and candidate opportunity, as demonstrated by the 36 applicants for this single position.

The barriers disproportionately affect opportunities for people of color and folks that are struggling to make ends meet or part of our LGBTQ community.

It is time for the City Council (and all of us) to truly address these barriers through ongoing education about systems of power and recognize that authentic equity and inclusion lift us all up.

This requires self-reflection, deep commitment and patience.

Fourth, I invite you to get to know me. There is more to me than what you see in my letter and application. My identity and beliefs are more nuanced than simply “renter,” “unaffiliated voter” and “woman-of-color.”

I am grounded in a goal to co-create sustainable communities and systems where we all can flourish, whatever our incomes, backgrounds or identities are. I consider such a goal to be nonpartisan and inclusive.

While my experiences being brown and struggling to make ends meet deeply shape my understanding of safety, opportunity and equity, they are not the definitive story of who I am.

I imagine we probably share more in common than what the mayor and council’s deliberations may have led you to believe.

Lastly and most personal, thank you so much to all who advocated for me, reminding the council that diversity (of race, age, lived-experienced and more) is a critical component of effective, representational government.

Moving forward, bridge building is more important than ever. I encourage us all to speak up and ask questions with respect and grace in service of a long-term vision that requires collaboration with our entire community.

I hope we’ll keep showing up and shining light on our areas of growth and our areas of strength and integrity.

Recognizing there are numerous ways to be a public servant, I am committed to our community and will see what the future holds.

I hope others are inspired to embrace opportunities to share their unique perspectives and skills with Bend, as it takes a village and we’re on our way.

— Kerani Mitchell lives in Bend.

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