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Don Leonard tosses his hat into the ring: A talk with the Bend City Council candidate 

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With the election season coming up and candidates beginning to work their ways out of the woodwork, it's hard to say if there's going to be any barn-burning races quite yet. But in the realm of the Bend City Council, there's been some rumblings as past planning commission and budget committee member Don Leonard threw his hat into the ring for the council's Position 4, currently held by Jim Clinton. We chatted it up with Leonard, and here's what he had to say about leadership, affordable housing, and what the public wants from their city councilors.

The Source Weekly
First off, why do you want to be a City Councilor?

Don Leonard: I want to give back to the community. I developed a taste for working with the city while I was on the planning commission. I thought it was time to step up and do something on a larger level and that would be city council.

tSW: What is the biggest problem facing the council?

DL: I think it's more fundamental than just the council. I think there's a lack of leadership within the city and I blame the council for that to a certain extent. If you look at the city managers we've gone through in the past few years, I think we need to hire a city manager that will stand toe-to-toe with the council and tell them what they should and shouldn't be doing.

tSW: You've lived here for 20 years, how do you view the change you've seen in that time?

DL: I'm not an anti-growth person, I'm pro-growth, as long as we do it reasonably and define what we want our community to look like through zoning. I don't think we should be standing in the way of growth, but there are people in the community who just don't want to see Bend change at all. The attitude sometimes is 'I've just now moved here and I don't want to see Bend change from this moment on.' My attitude is that the fact that if they're here, it's changed. We need to accept change, but do it logically and not make it overly complicated. I think Juniper Ridge is an example. We need to bring industry to the city of Bend to help pay for things and pay for the quality of life that we want. [Juniper Ridge] started out as industry land and it's morphed into something very complicated - a research park, education, housing - and it was not intended for that.

tSW: Transportation has been a headache for the council, is that something you'd want to tackle?

DL: I absolutely would tackle it. I'd need to keep it small to start with. My primary things are leadership within the city, fiscal responsibility-mainly the budget, and affordable housing, but I think transportation in a sense could be a component of affordable housing.

Affordable housing must be integrated into the community. We don't want to create slums or ghettos, it should be integrated. I think it would be great for people to get affordable living space, especially if they could do it downtown where they could walk.

tSW: You've highlighted fiscal management as a key talking point, is that in response to recent budget cuts?

DL: Yes it is. It became apparent during the budgeting process this spring. I was brought into that committee at the very last minute, but it became apparent that the council had a tendency to rubber stamp everything the city was pushing through. There are some on the council that don't do this, but the majority of the council weren't asking the hard questions, like 'we see building declining, but you're still increasing staff levels - how are you going to justify this?' I don't like to see a staff micromanage a city, but I do think they need to challenge the decision making process.

tSW: Would you like to see a more hands-off management style by the council?

DL: Not totally hands off. I don't want to see them micromanaging every item on the budget and dealing directly with department heads, but they ought to have a sense of what the city is doing with its finances and do a little more challenging of the budgetary process.

tSW: Do you think the public is looking for a change in the City Council?

DL: I believe they are. There's a lot of backroom dealing and I think people want their city government to be a little more transparent than that.


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