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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Downtown Pay Parking Fizzles (again)

Posted By on Thu, Feb 18, 2010 at 1:44 AM

The effort to curtail downtown parking violations by instituting a new pay as you go system in two popular downtown parking lots was rebuffed again on Wednesday by downtown Bend merchants who object to the loss of free parking for customers.

It is the second time in the past six months that retailers have revolted over a plan to revamp downtown Bend's parking system which is by many accounts plagued by problems, namely shop owners and employees who hopscotch between the free two-hour spaces to avoid tickets. The problem is more than a slight annoyance for the city which spent millions on a downtown parking garage to free up spaces for customers by moving employees into the lot where they could purchase monthly passes. However councilors said Wednesday night that the garage is less than half full. Meanwhile some of the most flagrant parking violators have collected dozens of unpaid tickets and flouted the city's attempt to crack down by challenging the tickets in court--and winning thanks to a loophole in the city's parking rules.

A pay as you go system in the downtown lots would have closed that loophole while generating additional parking revenue for the city. However, downtown merchants said loudly that now is not the right time to institute a new parking fee system in the struggling downtown. Petitioners reportedly collected some 800 signatures in opposition to the change and city councilors reported on Wednesday night that had received a raft of phone calls and emails from parking fee opponents. The staff responded by pulling the parking discussion from the council's action items on Wednesday night's agenda while asking the councilors to weigh in with their thoughts on the issue during a 5 pm work session that took place prior to the regular meeting. Councilors said they agreed that now was not the right time to institute a pay as you go system in the surface lots. They said they were willing to table the issue for a year or more, or at least until some signs of a economic recovery are are evident. The council discussed, but ultimately dismissed the idea of forming another parking committee to review the city's downtown parking strategy, favoring instead to kick the issue back to the Downtown Bend Business Association, which has taken the lead, albeit it clumsily on the parking issue.


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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Ex-Bend Chamber Pres Drops out of Council Race

Posted By on Tue, Feb 9, 2010 at 8:04 PM

Former Bend Chamber President Mike Schmidt announced today that he is dropping out of this year’s Bend City Council race just a few weeks after announcing his candidacy.

Schmidt, who came to Bend from California to replace controversial ex-Chamber President Gary Peters, charted a new more progressive direction for the chamber before splitting ways with the Bend business group. Since then Schmidt has taken up the mantle of a number of progressive causes, including public transit funding and disabled access while running his own consulting firm. As a left-leaning moderate with a strong pro-business background and extensive community ties, Schmidt was expected to run a competitive campaign in a race that could have had far reaching implications for the currently right-leaning city council.

Schmidt said in a press release that he is dropping out of the race in order to allow his wife to take a new position that he described as her “dream job” in Santa Cruz, where the couple will be relocating.

Schmidt’s announcement opens up the race for seat number seven, currently held by Oran Teater who has not said whether he will run in November, but is not expected to campaign again. Teater is a former Bend mayor who left the council just a few years ago, but was appointed to fill a vacancy after Chris Telfer was elected to the Oregon Senate in 2008.

One potential candidate for the seat is Downtown Bend Business Association President Chuck Arnold who has broached the idea of pursuing the job, but has yet to formally announce.


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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Conservation Groups Want Windpower Loophole Closed

Posted By on Tue, Feb 2, 2010 at 12:37 AM

A group of conservation groups including the Bend-based Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA) wants to Gov. Kulongoski to tighten windpower rules that allow companies to skirt rules that could lead to greater oversight and scrutiny of the massive wind power projects that have invaded Oregon. 

ONDA, the Portland Audobon Sociey and the Defenders of Wildlife sent a letter to Gov. Kulongoski today asking that he require windpower project developers be prohibited from breaking up their projects on paper to avoid state regulatory scrutiny. Several projects, including one near Steens Mtn have taken this approach, submitting multiple applications on what is essentially a single development to keep their projects under a 105-megawatt threshold for state review by the Oregon Energy Facilities Siting Council. 

“We support responsible renewable energy development in Oregon,” said Liz Nysson, Climate Change Coordinator for the Oregon Natural Desert Association.

“But it’s imperative that industrial-scale facilities not be allowed to skirt the comprehensive, public review process that the Council was created to achieve," Nysson said in a press release issued Monday afternoon.

Site suitability is just one of the issues surrounding Oregon's booming windfarm business. Gov. Kulongoski has also come under fire for  the millions in taxpayer funded subsidies handed out to windfarm developers in order to lure them to the state. The legislature is expected to end some of those economic incentives in the February special session.

 

 


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