In last Tuesday's election, Brady Fuller won the election for Position One on Bend Park and Recreation District (BPRD) with 4,081 votes. That is hardly a big number of votes—actually only four percent of the total number of eligible voters. Yet, Fuller won by a landslide, thumping incumbent Dan Fishkin, who only earned 2,305 votes, and challenger Foster Fell, who pulled in 2,068 votes. Ultimately, Fuller took 48 percent of the vote, nearly twice the percentage for his two competitors combined.
Yet, the bottom line is that only 18 percent of registered voters bothered to submit a ballot.
No, we are not trying to detract anything from Fuller's victory. Yes, we did endorse Fishkin, but in our endorsement interview we also were impressed by Fuller's sincerity and his preparedness. With two major capital projects underway for BPRD, we believed that it was best to maintain Fishkin's same capable leadership.
We are, however, chastising the tens of thousands of you who did not bother to vote in this last election—83,156 in Deschutes County to be exact, and that doesn't even account for the number of people not yet registered to vote.
The low voter turnout, in one analysis, is easy to understand: The races for BPRD board members and for Central Oregon Community College directors may not seem like a marquee positions. Certainly, during presidential election cycles, like in November 2014, voting rates jump considerably; to be precise, four times as many people voted in November 2014 than in last Tuesday's local election. But the rationale that those elections are more exciting and important is counter-intuitive to us: Yes, those races have splashy TV ads and incessant media coverage, but the issues are often much more removed from daily life. Yes, the President certainly sets the tone for national debates about foreign policy and social issues, and affects financial issues like taxation and interest rates, but a member of the Park & Rec board determines what services you will have down the street from you, and arguably has a much greater impact on your daily life.
Moreover, in presidential elections voters rarely have as much leverage to provide their opinion. By the numbers, a voter in last Tuesday's Special Election had four times more leverage for his or her vote as compared to what he or she voted in November 2014 for president or any other position on that ballot; yet fewer of you take part. This does not compute.
But, we hate to be simply problem-observers; we'd also like to give some solutions. Like, yes, go vote next time. Also, and more immediately, go submit an opinion at City Council.
For the next two weeks, the City of Bend is taking comments about a proposed increase for water and sewage fees.
We don't argue that the City of Bend needs money. That is evident. While maybe not a scientific method to calculate the City's dire financial position, drive down any street in town and count the potholes, and the picture is fairly clear that the City of Bend is not flush with revenue. We certainly don't fault the City for looking for a means to increase that flow (no pun intended) by increasing water and sewer fees.
But we find it curious that the City is looking to increase basic fees at the very same time it is trying to plow forward waiving System Development Charges (SDCs) as a means to incentivize more affordable housing. To us, it seems as if increasing water and sewer fees has a huge potential to have an adverse affect on that very demographic that the City is trying to serve with more affordable housing.
But, those are just our thoughts.
Please go submit your own to the City.
Comments can be filed before June 19. We encourage you to do so. Make up for not voting!