Hats Off! | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Hats Off!

In the three races for City Council positions, our editorial team had an incredibly difficult time choosing which candidates to endorse, and for the best reason—we were impressed by all of the candidates.

Over the past few months, we have had the opportunity to profile each of the candidates, and additionally hosted them for endorsement interviews. Each endorsement interview was the same format (and videos of the interviews have been posted at our website, as well as their profiles). For each position, we hosted the candidates to speak about their political values and their ideas on how to make City Council more productive and responsive; the candidates for each position sat together in our conference room and, impressively, the tone was civil, and the candidates actively listened to the positions their opponents held.

The race for City Council Position 6, the seat that Jodie Barram is vacating, was particularly impressive, with four very different candidates, none who have held elected public office before. That race includes Richard Robertson, who has Down syndrome and advocates for, among other issues, greater access in Bend. In response, his competitor Casey Roats pointed out at our endorsement interview, "I appreciate that Richard has brought [the Americans with Disabilities Act] as an issue to the dialogue"—really, it was just a side comment, but recognizing how heated political debates have become at the national level, consider how remarkable it is for one candidate to compliment another. Yes, this is democracy at its best—an open and dignified process where candidates respectfully share ideas.

In particular, the candidates for Position 6 discussed how City Council should handle short-term vacation rentals and also how to manage the Urban Growth Boundary—issues that ultimately relate to both livability and affordability in Bend. While Roats and candidate Lisa Seales differ on their approach to creating affordable housing and how the city should develop, they did so in a manner that was remarkably well-informed and civil.

Moreover—and perhaps we are biased toward the home team—this engagement and awareness about issues, and a willingness to take a stand, was even more impressive compared to Jeff Merkley and Monica Wehby, the candidates for U.S. Senate. Each and every candidate for City Council, a job that pays $200 a month and generally has no campaign staff, was leagues more prepared and on-point for their endorsement interviews than either candidate for U.S. Senate, a job that carries a six-figure salary and commands a small army to manage schedules and research. We were disappointed that neither senatorial candidate seemed to do any research—or have their staffs look into issues pertinent to Central Oregon—but instead trotted out virtually the same platitudes that their TV ads were presenting.

Not so for the City Council candidates, and not so for the candidates for state house, Knute Buehler and Craig Wilhelm. Although the tone in that endorsement interview was decidedly more tense, the candidates were incredibly passionate and prepared to present their positions. In fact, in 17 years conducting endorsement interviews, no candidate has arrived at his endorsement interview more prepared than Buehler, who presented a folder of information and policy statements. It is encouraging to see candidates care so much and, moreover, it is encouraging to have candidates like Wilhelm and Buehler take stands that put their principles before party politics; for example, with Buehler breaking from the Republican Party platform and stating his support for abortion rights and unwaveringly endorsing of same-sex marriage.

Yes, our local candidates for City Council and to represent this region at the state level were impressive, and for all the badmouthing of politicians, we experienced just the opposite from our endorsement interviews—men and women who are essentially volunteering their time to improve the livability of Bend.

Although we ultimately chose one candidate to endorse for each seat at City Council and for the state house, we truly appreciate the enthusiasm and optimism that each brought to our endorsement process—and encourage each of you to make an effort to meet with the candidates as well, whether at local forums or by contacting them directly, and not just the ones you plan to vote for, but all of them. We believe you will walk away from those encounters encouraged and inspired about local politics.

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