Candidates for Bend City Council discussed their positions on issues ranging from what to do about Mirror Pond to how to pay for police and fire services at a forum Thursday night.
The forum was for candidates running for two of the four City Council positions up for election in November. Incumbent City Councilor Jim Clinton and challenger Mike Roberts are running for council seat 4. Doug Knight, Ed McCoy, Ed Barbeau and Charles Baer are running for council seat 2, currently held by Mayor Jeff Eager, who is not seeking re-election. Candidates for the other two seats up for election spoke at a forum on Sept. 27.
The forum at City Hall was sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Deschutes County, a nonpartisan organization that does not endorse candidates or measures.
Moderator Kristi Miller asked the candidates how they would resolve the long running question of what to do about silt buildup in Mirror Pond, which threatens to turn the section of the Deschutes River into a mudflat.
Baer said he believes a majority of residents want to dredge the pond, but he would put the question to voters with a ballot measure. “I would assume the people who live on Mirror Pond would be able to pay for some of the expenses,” Baer said. “Certainly, they can afford it.”
Clinton called for a process that would begin with fact gathering and identifyinng the options and their costs. Then, Clinton would like a public process to determine what the public wants to do with Mirror Pond and how to pay for the work.
Roberts said any solution to the silt buildup must address how dredging or other work will affect downstream properties.
Knight said the process of finding a solution for Mirror Pond stalled because of a lack of funding. Knight would like to create a taxing district that would cover riverfront properties in the water overlay zone, a city zone that extends along the Deschutes River inside Bend. The fund created with this tax revenue would be a long-term solution, Knight said.
McCoy said the city needs to do more outreach and education for residents on the issue.
Barbeau said he liked Clinton’s plan, but the city should start by finding out what residents want. “If you have a plan before that, you’re going to have a hard time implementing it.”
A question that some candidates did not answer was how to pay for police and fire services in the future. The city general fund pays for both of these services, and City Manager Eric King has said that over the next five years, he expects property taxes and other revenue coming into the general fund to grow much more slowly — an estimated 2 percent annually — than the demand for police and fire services, which are projected to grow by 7 to 9 percent annually.
Baer said he is prepared to cut the police and fire department budgets if there is not enough revenue to sustain them.
“It’s bad news, but it’s reality,” Baer said. “I understand this and I feel I’m ready to make cuts in the budget …. I’m just trying to be honest with everybody about it.”
Clinton said he is committed to adding more police and firefighters in the next budget cycle, but did not say how he would pay for the new positions.
Roberts said he would weigh each proposed city expenditure against whether the money would be better used to hire one more firefighter or police officer.
Knight said it would help to remove the Fire Department from the city and merge it with Deschutes County Rural Fire Protection District No. 2.
McCoy said citizens are already paying taxes for these services and deserve quick response times by police and firefighters.
Source: The Bulletin ©2012