Bend Backtracks on Charter Changes

The Bend City Council got an earful from community members during a listening session on the proposed changes to the city charter.

The changed were suggested earlier this month by the city’s charter committee but this is the first time the public has come out to comment on the committee’s decisions.

The committee recommended three major changes: adopting a generally elected mayor, adopting a ward system and removing council compensation from the city charter. While the council was mostly split earlier this month, they did agree on a generally elected mayor.

However, after Wednesday’s meeting the council backtracked on that unanimous decision.

Currently the city council is responsible for selecting one member to serve as mayor for a two-year term. The council was also almost entirely for a generally elected mayor but could not decide if they wanted to keep the two-year term to upgrade to a four-year term, which would require more of a time commitment from the elected mayor and could also mean higher compensation. Currently the mayor is paid the same as all city council members, which is $200 per month.

By the end of Wednesday’s meeting the council did agree that a generally elected mayor would be good for the city and voted for it.

However, the council does not have the final say. The option will have to go to Bend residents for a vote.

The committee was also very in favor of a ward system, which would divide the city of Bend into three to four geographic areas. The committee suggested each ward would vote for two council seats which must be held by people who live in that ward. Committee members said this would guarantee geographic diversity on the city council. However, council members were concerned that wards could make the council overly political, with members being more concerned about the needs of their ward rather than the city as a whole.

Both the council and residents where highly divided on this issue, but in the end the council unanimously voted against the committee’s recommendations of a ward system – which means all Bend’s residents will continue to vote for all council seats.

The committee also recommended removing council compensation from the city charter. Since any changes to the city charter must be put on the ballot and voted on by Bend residents, the committee argued it made it difficult for compensation to be changed. The current compensation is $200 per month and that was implemented in 1992. The council did not address this particular recommendation at length but they will be discussing the changes again in January.

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