Sunday, April 12, 2009

Seattle Times Joins the Kick-Bend-Around Crowd

Kick us when we're down, why don'tcha? As if the situation (economy-wise and weather-wise) wasn't dismal enough in Bend already, the Seattle Times takes a

Posted By on Sun, Apr 12, 2009 at 6:47 PM

Kick us when we're down, why don'tcha? As if the situation (economy-wise and weather-wise) wasn't dismal enough in Bend already, the Seattle Times takes a brutal shot at us on today's front page.

In a story headlined "Oregon's 'New West' tumbles, another sign of hard times," Bend is depicted as an empty shell left behind on the shore by the receding real estate tide.

"This town that helped define the booming New West economy has hit tough times," the story reads. "Once tied to timber and home to one of the nation's largest pine mills" - actually it was TWO of the nation's largest pine mills - "Bend reinvented itself in the last few decades as an outdoor-recreation mecca. Tens of thousands of new arrivals were drawn to the mountain-rimmed high desert for a lifestyle that included skiing, fishing, golfing and hiking.

"This year, Oregon as a whole has been socked by the nation's economic turmoil. ... And Bend is one of the state's roughest spots, with 12.6 percent of the work force in the city and surrounding Deschutes County without a job.

"Most of Bend's new economy - similar to that of some hard-hit communities in Nevada and Arizona - was built on a homebuilding boom. As the real-estate market crumbles, carpenters, plumbers, masons, mortgage brokers, real-estate agents, architects and others must figure out a way to make a living at a time when there is no need for big new subdivisions."

After running through some of the usual sad stories about homeless people and broke builders, the piece quotes Kirk Schueler, president of Brooks Resources: "The real-estate market partly was a symptom of the disease. And the disease, I think, mostly was easy money. And you couple easy money with the speculative mindset, and you got the cocktail that results in where we're at - huge overbuying, high leveraging. We were hot. We were Bend. ... Once the kerosene got on the fire, it took off."

We suppose it would be impertinent of us to ask who was pouring the kerosene on the fire.

Even more entertaining than the story, however, are some of the comments, which don't show much sympathy for Bend or those of its citizens who got burned. Here's one from a reader in Texas:

"Ha! To me, it sounds like Bend, Oregon has morphed into Bend Over. I am absolutely mystified at how anyone could be so obtuse as to honestly believe that the kind of absurd, extravagant growth in the so-called value of real estate in an end-of-the-road hamlet like Bend could continue for longer than it takes an elephant to break wind. Sympathy would be wasted on people so far off the beaten path of sanity and reality. The only cure for their terminal bubble-itis is a horrific crash, which is precisely what they're getting."

Ouch. But at least we don't live in Texas, dude.

In a lighter vein there's this observation from San Francisco: "Bend is boring, too many people pretending it's Malibu, CA with coffee shops on every corner, flip-flops, and thousands of people driving around going nowhere."

How anybody could possibly confuse Bend (current temperature 54 degrees) with Malibu is bewildering, but otherwise we think that comment is pretty much on the money.

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