Updated: Dec 18, 2020
By KYLE SPURR The Bulletin
Housing, transportation and other major issues in Bend were discussed Tuesday at a virtual forum for three City Council candidates.
Anthony Broadman, an attorney at an indigenous rights law firm running for Position 2, and Position 4 candidates Rita Schenkelberg, a mental health counselor, and Michael Hughes, a cannabis lawyer, each took turns answering questions on a wide variety of topics.
August Paul Johnson, an Oregon State University-Cascades student running for Position 2 and Anon “Bubba” Walters, who works in commercial flooring and is running for Position 4, did not participate.
The forum was hosted by the City Club of Central Oregon and the League of Women Voters of Deschutes County.
The three candidates at the forum agreed Bend is facing a housing crisis and there is a need for more diverse housing options.
“Let’s be clear, the crisis is that many people who work in Bend cannot afford to live here,” Broadman said. “That’s not the type of city any of us want to live in.”
Schenkelberg said she believes that making neighborhoods better connected to basic services should be included in any discussion about improving affordable housing.
“We can’t just stop with having diverse housing units,” Schenkelberg said. “It needs to include having complete neighborhoods so humans can walk or bike to grab something from the store. It also means that we have to have safe transportation within those complete neighborhoods.”
Hughes supports more affordable housing options, but warned that changing the city’s zoning codes could cause legal issues if not done right.
“Anytime we do anything with zoning, the city has to do so in a very cautious manner so we don’t create land use disputes that get stuck in the courts for years,” Hughes said.
Each candidate did not support the bond to build a new library in Bend due to the proposed location and investment, but the candidates had differing views on the $190 million transportation bond on the general election ballot.
Broadman said now is the time to invest in Bend’s future transportation needs, and not doing so would hamper the city’s efforts to become more bike friendly and environmentally conscious.
“If we make this the most bikeable, busable, walkable city, it will also be the most drivable city,” Broadman said.
Schenkelberg also supports the transportation bond and wants to see more connection for travelers from the east side of the city to the west side. Schenkelberg wants to prioritize safer sidewalks and bike lanes, as well.
“Crossing from the east side of Bend and trying to go over or, rather under, Greenwood or Franklin is kind of terrifying,” Schenkelberg said.
Hughes said he does not support the transportation bond and said it is too much money to ask, as many residents are hurting financially from the COVID-19 pandemic. He understands residents wouldn’t have to pay the bond for another two years, but the $190 million is still too much.
Other specific transportation projects could be done, such as reexamining speed limits and creating better bike paths, Hughes said.
“We need to do more to connect our bike paths along the river to make this a more bike friendly town,” Hughes said.
As for addressing climate change, the three candidates said they support the city’s Community Climate Action Plan. But the candidates said they want to see the city take the work further.
Broadman said it is the responsibility of all levels of government, from city councils to the federal government, to find climate change solutions.
“We need to take this matter very seriously,” Broadman said. “I reject the idea that this is too big of a problem for the city to take up.”
Schenkelberg said she was encouraged to see several community members involved with the city’s climate action plan. With that much involvement, Schenkelberg could see Bend being a leader in climate change policies.
“There were so many different individuals that were able to share their perspective on the climate right now and really have conversations,” Schenkelberg said.
Hughes said he has fought for the environment many times as an attorney. He wants to see the city do more to examine the chemicals it uses to treat landscaping and roads.
“I think the city could do a lot more than the action plan,” Hughes said. “I would be in favor of looking at anything that would involve making our environment cleaner.”
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