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Park It, Buddy: City parking crackdowns, the Bus Project and a Salem summary 

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The city of Bend plans to crack down on downtown parking scofflaws by boosting fines for repeat offenders. The city council voted last week to jack up fines by as much as four times for repeat violators who are caught abusing the two hours of free parking by hopscotching around downtown parking spaces. The practice has drawn the attention of the city council, which has invested millions of dollars into the downtown parking garage to free up spaces for customers along the streets and in the remaining surface lots.

Under the proposed system, parking offenders would see their fines increase over the course of the year as they rack up parking tickets. Anyone with five or more violations would see their parking tickets double, from $22 to $44. Those with more than 10 violations would see their tickets triple to $66 and those with 15 or more violations would see their fines go from $22 to $88 per ticket.


In related parking news, a proposal by staff that was endorsed by the Downtown Bend Business Association to institute a long-planned but never implemented pay-parking system in the Mirror Pond lots has been put on hold again because of the objections of downtown business owners.

City Councilors were forced to pull the agenda item from their meeting last week after business owners howled over new fees, flooding councilors with e-mails and phone calls. Opponents, who said they were worried that paid parking would drive customers away from already struggling downtown businesses, collected almost 50 signatures from business owners. It's the second time that opponents have rebuffed an attempt to institute a pay-as-you-go system in the Mirror Pond lots, which are currently free for the first two-hours like the rest of downtown's public parking. Councilors said, given the opposition and the current economic climate, they are prepared to shelve the paid parking plan for as long as necessary.

Bus Project

In almost-transportation-related news, the Oregon Bus Project has tapped Bend as the locale for its next big state event, a training and informational session for Oregon's next generation of activists and organizers. The program, dubbed Rebooting Democracy is expected to draw several hundred young progressive leaders to The Riverhouse convention center in Bend next month for three days (March 26-28) of workshops and training that culminates in an American Idol-style contest where attendees audition their best grassroots campaign ideas for judges with the winner getting a chance to implement his or her campaign - which is really more like The Apprentice than Idol, but we digress. The program also includes a gubernatorial candidate forum - yes, Republicans are welcome - and presentations from keynote speakers, including Heather Smith, executive director of Rock the Vote. Information at www.rebootingdemocracy.com.

Run Dennis, Run

In other political news, some of the local and regional races are already beginning to take shape with some interesting storylines emerging. Deschutes County Commissioner Dennis Luke, for example, is facing a challenger in the Republican primary. La Pine resident Tony DeBone, who has the best name of any candidate running for any office anywhere, plans to announce this week that he will challenge Luke, a former state legislator who has been a fixture on the commission for more than a decade. With his wife Carol, DeBone owns Little d Technology, an IT business based in La Pine. He has also served on the La Pine parks board. DeBone writes on his candidate website that he plans to focus on job creation and growth in Deschutes County and that he aims to broaden the county commission's agenda beyond its "backyard" i.e. Bend. Other incumbents facing potential challenges include U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden with local businessman Sam Carpenter flirting with a run. Good luck Sam, but unless your name ends in H. Christ you're not likely unseat the popular and effective Wyden no matter how many tea bags you gather. Finally, another Democrat announced that he/she would sacrifice herself on the altar of Walden. Have fun with that, we wish you luck, but it's going to take a Larry Craig moment for Dems to have a shot at Walden.

Notes From the Session

The economy and the housing bubble burst - if they can even be separated yet - may have killed destination resort development for the time being, but it remains a topic of discussion in Salem. To wit, a destination resort regulation bill that would export some of Deschutes County's requirements to other areas of the state (Seriously, are we really a model for development?) passed this week. While it may seem counterintuitive to build upon what is arguably the poster child for overdevelopment (Pronghorn dollars where are thee now?), conservationists support many of the bill's measures, including traffic impact mitigation, economic study requirements and wildfire buffers, as an interim step in the resort debate.

Other land use bills impacting Central Oregon included Rep. Ben Cannon's (D-Portland) unsuccessful attempt to close a loophole in state water laws that currently allows private well owners to withdraw virtually unlimited amounts of water for lawns and other personal uses. The bill encountered strong opposition from rural interests and died in committee, but is expected to be resurrected in 2011 as the state's dwindling water resources garner increased attention, particularly in places like Deschutes County.

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