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The City Council Shuffle: Parsing the Bulletin's endorsement, and a sad farewell 

Don't you know, I am the man?Upfront was less than surprised to see that the local daily endorsed former planning commissioner Don Leonard to fill

click to enlarge Don't you know, I am the man: Don't you know, I am the man?
  • Don't you know, I am the man: Don't you know, I am the man?
Don't you know, I am the man?
Upfront was less than surprised to see that the local daily endorsed former planning commissioner Don Leonard to fill the seat opened when Councilor and former Mayor Bill Friedman died Nov. 9 after undergoing back surgery. Leonard, who ran unsuccessfully against incumbent Jim Clinton in the Nov. 4 election, failed to gain the newspaper's endorsement in that race. But the paper suggested at the time that the Leonard would make a suitable councilor and that the city council ought to consider appointing him should a vacancy arise. No doubt the paper's editorial board was looking forward to the prospect that current councilor Chris Telfer would be leaving the city for the legislature, which in fact she is after defeating Democrat Maren Lundgren in the race for Senate District 27. Friedman's death, however, added another wrinkle, which allows the current "lame duck" council to appoint for Friedman's seat before Telfer vacates for the statehouse. That's important because three of the current council's members, Bruce Abernethy, Linda Johnson and Peter Gramlich, all part of the so-called progressive bloc, will be leaving office Jan. 1. Taking their places are Jeff Eager, Peter Greene and Kathie Eckman. All three of whom ran on a small government, pro-growth model and received significant contributions from the building and real estate industry. We can guess what kind of appointment they will make when they have control of the council in January.

The daily paper has the race for the now-open seat appointment down to Leonard and planning commissioner Jodie Barram, who lost a close three-way race to Jeff Eager. The paper says it's backing Leonard because of his experience. That's a novel argument given that Barram has served on the planning commission for more than three years and served two years on the Bend 2030 commission. While Leonard served eight years on the planning commission, he's been off for more than two years - a time period when the commission has done most of its work on the city's biggest planning project, the urban growth boundary expansion.

But what it really comes down to, according to the Bulletin's editorial page is Barram's decision to sign the Infrastructure First petition. The petition, which seeks to require the city and developers to provide services like road, street and sewer improvements before they can plat more subdivisions has plenty of critics, including the Bulletin. The paper says Barram is essentially a slow growth candidate who would jack up land prices and reduce Bend's livability with compact neighborhoods and infill development. That's interesting, given the fact that Barram actually voted in favor of the recent 10,000-acre UGB expansion plan. Facts be damned, though. The paper says Leonard's the man for the job.

Upfront talked to one city councilor who said he will be looking hard at Barram as a candidate when the council meets next Monday, Nov. 24 to make a decision.

While this particular councilor hadn't read the Leonard endorsement, the councilor said it's helpful to know where the paper stands.

"If it comes down to a tie-breaker I will always do what the Bulletin doesn't want me to do because they are always wrong," he said.

Farewell To A Friend

click to enlarge Jim Witty: All-Around Great Guy.
  • Jim Witty: All-Around Great Guy.
Jim Witty: All-Around Great Guy.Burying the Newspaper Rivalry hatchet for a minute... Upfront was saddened to hear that former Bulletin colleague and all-around great guy Jim Witty died unexpectedly Sunday of an apparent heart attack. Witty was known to many Central Oregonians as the man who provided virtual tours of the region's far flung places through his outdoors columns and trail updates. For those who didn't, or couldn't, get out as much as they would have liked, Witty was the gateway to the vast Central Oregon backcountry from the Cascade peaks out to the far reaches of the High Desert. One overlooked part of Jim's contribution to Central Oregon journalism was his gift for writing moving profiles, which he did through an occasional series. These eloquent and compassionate profiles told the stories of everyday folks, many of them members of the Greatest Generation, who had often lived quietly extraordinary lives. And he had a knack for teasing those stories out of his subjects.

Jim was an amazing writer and an amazing person who was as easy with a smile as he was with the turn of a phrase. As journalists, we all envied Jim as the guy who got to go hike on the clock and then write about it. But the truth is none of us could have done what Jim did - at least not the way he did. But we knew that, too. We were writers from 9-5. Jim - he was an artist.

According to his front-page obituary in Tuesday's Bulletin, Jim was out hiking in the Badlands the day before he died, likely gathering pieces for another canvas.

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