Candidate responses in the debate reflected the biggest challenge Bend is grappling with right now: How can the city handle the huge growth that’s projected?
Some candidates suggested the city needs a bigger expansion of the urban growth boundary than the 2,000-acre expansion currently on the table. Others suggested the city should try to limit growth and tourism.
Candidate Ronald “Rondo” Boozell suggested affordable housing measures are not enough to provide housing for low and middle-income citizens.
“It’s a band-aid,” said Boozell. “We can’t turn off the spigot of growth.”
Boozell suggested the city stop inviting growth by reexamining the funding of Visit Bend, the tourism development arm of the city.
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For council incumbent Sally Russell, affordable housing as Bend grows is a top priority.
Russell emphasized she voted for six different policy measures to encourage more affordable housing over the past year.
Her opponent, Bend native and business owner Wade Fagan, questioned the city’s current plan to increase density as a means to manage growth.
“I don’t want to see us stacked on top of each other and then say, ‘Oh, here’s a park for all the nerds to play at,’” said Fagan. “We used to have empty lots to play on.”
Candidate Bill Moseley, a tech company CEO, sparred with incumbent Doug Knight in a heated exchange over funding city services. Bend currently has an $80 million backlog of necessary street maintenance, according to the city. Moseley said the city could fix the streets and other infrastructure challenges by tightening the budget belt.
But that was an approach incumbent Knight rejected, pointing to the small amount of general funds the city has at its disposal.
“We do a good job of allocating the limited funding that we have,” said Knight.
Former mayor and councilman Bruce Abernathy is running unopposed for mayor Jim Clinton’s seat on the council. He used his time at the debate to emphasize his desire to find more solutions for workforce housing and to secure another funding source for street maintenance.
Four of seven City Council seats are open in this November’s election. Monday night’s debate was sponsored by the Central Oregon Association of Realtors.