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Future Fears 

When Halloween and elections collide, frightening predictions arise

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Erin Rook

Masks of elected officials are a Halloween staple. Why? Because politicians can be scary. But like super powered-mutants, they have the ability to either wreak havoc on, or help to save, the future. We talked to city staff and councilors to find out what keeps them awake at night, why they're worried, and what they'll do to prevent their scariest predictions from coming to pass.

Houses, houses everywhere, and not a place to sleep

With rental vacancies at less than 1 percent and a raging debate about the impact of vacation rentals on both housing availability and the economy, it doesn't seem hyperbolic when City of Bend Affordable Housing Manager Jim Long calls the rental situation a "crisis."

When we polled readers, housing concerns topped their lists of fears for the future of Bend. And they're not alone.

"Not to sound like a worrywart, but since you asked, my worst fears are losing natural resources, lack of housing that's affordable, and not enough work for our workforce," says City Councilor and Deschutes County Commission candidate Jodie Barram.

SW: Why is that possibility a scary prospect?

JB: If people can't find a job or place to live in the beautiful area we call home now, then our communities suffer.

SW: What do you think would need to happen for this to occur?

JB: I think we are facing these fears right now.

SW: How can it be prevented?

JB: Elected officials need to be thinking long term—way long term—beyond their own stints in office. And the community needs to tell them what it wants.

SW: What will you do if it comes to pass?

JB: Keep calm and make good decisions.

Welcome to the Des Shits River

It happened in Portland. Monsoon-like rains coupled with an overloaded sewer system and before long, the Willamette River turned to shit. Suddenly, also those jokes about not swimming in the river took on a serious tone. Jet skis were put into storage and residents started boiling their water.

City Manager Eric King says a similar sewage overflow is not entirely out of the question, and could soil more than just the river.

"Here's a scary scenario: It's Halloween night and the sewer system overflows. Sewage is bubbling out of manholes, oozing down the streets. Children's costumes are ruined, and the stench destroys their appetite for candy," King says. "I have two children; they would be angry. Never mind the cost and inconveniences associated with the cleanup efforts, and the likelihood of contamination of the Deschutes River. It would be horrible."

SW: Why is that possibility a scary prospect?

EK: Well, because it's not entirely out of the question. Bend's sewer system is at capacity. In other words, the system is full. Pipes are failing and sometime approaching overflow levels. And as I answer these questions right now, it's pouring rain outside.

SW: What do think would need happen for this to occur?

EK: A perfect storm. If a couple of pumps failed at the same time that there was increased outflow activity from businesses that discharge a lot of waste and residents and we were also experiencing unusually high rainfall, it would seriously jeopardize our system's ability to manage sewage flow. It's been raining a lot here this week. On Oct. 22, heavy rainfall triggered a sewer overflow in Portland that ran into the Willamette River.

SW: How can it be prevented?

EK: I'm so glad you asked! The City of Bend is on top of this one. We've just completed a two-year study of solutions, which resulted in a Collection System Master Plan (CSMP). We have a plan for resolving this issue (you can find it at and a couple of sewer system upgrade projects are already underway. We're rebuilding a sewer lift station and building new pipes in the Colorado Avenue area. We take this "crap" seriously.

SW: What will you do if it comes to pass?

EK: We would mobilize our troops to clean up the mess on the streets. We'd work with the Department of Environmental Quality to ensure that state and federal water quality laws were met. We'd probably have to reschedule Halloween for the children.

A drought of drafts

It's no secret that Bend loves beer. And much credit for Bend's tasty brews is given to the region sparkling, clean water. As drought threatens some of California's biggest (and thirstiest) cash crops—such as avocados and almonds—City Councilor Mark Capell's worries about the future of the city's favorite beverage.

Capell's biggest fear: "There is no more beer in Bend. Well, actually, there is some Coors Light but we all know that you only use that on your Coco Puffs when you are out of skim milk."

SW: Why is that possibility a scary prospect?

MC: NO BEER! That speaks for itself.

SW: What do think would need happen for this to occur?

MC: The City Council would need to give away the surface water rights and then the ground water becomes polluted (this could be from not building out the sewer infrastructure).

SW: How can it be prevented?

MC: Maintain the dual sources of water and prudently build out the sewer infrastructure!

SW: What will you do if it comes to pass?

MC: Prepare for the Zombie Apocalypse. 

An outbreak of academia

Speaking of beer, fears of an influx of drunken undergrads have colored community concerns about the growth of OSU-Cascades. But City Councilor Victor Chudowsky says the students are the least of his concerns. They are, after all, still young and malleable (and apparently, wasted).

"I'm really worried about the influx of people as a result of the new OSU campus. Not the students," Chudowsky explains, "they'll be great and I welcome them. It is the professors I am worried about."

 SW: Why is that possibility a scary prospect?

VC: We'll have to suffer through many of the pet causes they pursue on other campuses, like boycotting Israel or limiting free speech. There are currently not enough food co-ops in Bend to accommodate them all, and they're going to be mad as hornets when they find they can't afford a house in Broken Top.

SW: What do think would need happen for this to occur?

VC: It's inevitable.

SW: How can it be prevented?

VC: Juniper Ridge was often mentioned as a possible campus location. Perhaps some of the most problematic academic disciplines can be located out there, like the sociology department. That way they can be safely isolated from the rest of Bend, and they can conduct field studies of the people who are living out there now.

SW: What will you do if it comes to pass?

VC: Not much. OSU is a plus for our city. It'll make Bend even more interesting than it is now. Besides, I have a Ph.D. Maybe I'll even apply for a job...


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