Voters have three candidates to choose from in this race, but one of them is clearly more prepared and more up to speed on the reality of the issues facing Bend: Mike Riley. As the head of The Environmental Center and a co-chair of the committee that helped to see the transportation GO bond pass during the last election, Riley already has plenty of investment in city politics to contribute meaningfully to the council from the get-go. But Riley has more bona fides than simply advocating for environmental causes and transportation. In him we found a candidate who's invested in the community and has done the work needed to hit the ground running on topics including affordable housing and homelessness, growth and more.
Riley's vision for Bend is to help make Bend more livable, affordable and safe. By contrast, opponent Rick Johns wants to control growth, reduce traffic congestion and "make Bend how it used to be," a sign that he's not necessarily realistic about the challenges Bend faces. Sure, we agree with him that Bendites can and should say good morning to one another—and many of them still do—but we don't agree that looking back is the right vision to move Bend forward.
Candidate Julia Brown has some good ideas, too, including advocating for active transportation and for complete communities where people can live, work and play—a notion that's clearly already been embraced in Bend, with two complete communities already in the works in east Bend, thanks to past councils and the developers doing the work. That's something of the rub with Johns; she had decent ideas, but didn't add a lot of depth to what's already on the table. In both Johns and Brown we also find their approach to homelessness out of touch and too myopic. During our interview, Johns was convinced the homeless population is dominated by people "coming from other states," which is untrue. Brown expressed interest in only offering services to people who passed some type of deservability test. That's just not realistic and won't help alleviate the humanitarian crisis we are facing on our streets.
We agree with Johns that permitting times within the city's development department can improve to make housing get built faster, and we appreciate Brown's support for bike transportation, but neither had the type of fully formed ideas that Riley presented. Johns, with a background in construction and engineering who said he is a pro at spotting waste in a budget, should use those skills on the budget committee; Brown could lend her lived experience in the tech sector and as a cyclist on any number of city committees. Both have ideas and experience that could add important perspectives to the community, but for this City Council position, Riley is the candidate who's ready for the challenges ahead.
Rick Johns on Julia Brown: He appreciates Julia, who immigrated from South Africa 30 years ago, for her tenacity in becoming a U.S. citizen.
Julia Brown on her opponents: She appreciates that Mike is a cyclist and that Rick has a manufacturing business as she knows it can be tough keeping a business afloat.
Mike Riley on his opponents: He respects Rick's tenacity as a small business owner, and Julia's effort in going through the naturalization process—something he, too, went through.
Where you'll find them on a Friday night:
Julia Brown: Riding around talking to people or watching a movie and having tea
Mike Riley: Chilling at home with a gin & tonic, walking the dog or eating at a local place serving Vietnamese or Mexican food
Rick Johns: Nine out of 10 Fridays, at Brother Jon's downtown