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Bend city charter proposal: Four wards, elected mayor


Bend’s form of governance could be changing in major ways in 2018, possibly carving the city into wards and having a directly elected mayor — if councilors go along with a committee’s recommendations, and voters say yes to the proposal

The Bend City Charter Review Committee has been meeting for months now, trying to reach unanimous decisions on what to recommend to the city council and ultimately to voters.

In a 7-2 vote Tuesday, the committee recommended the council propose a four-ward system, with one councilor elected from each ward. Citizens within their designated wards would be able to vote for candidates within their ward. The other two councilors would be elected citywide, as well as the mayor, rather than chosen from among fellow councilors, as is the current, long-standing practice.

The committee focused the ward boundaries on not dividing communities of common interest, making sure the wards are of roughly equal population, and using existing geographic or political boundaries wherever possible.

The panel also voted 9-1 to recommend the council back having a city-wide elected mayor for a four-year term as part of the proposed charter changes.

Committee Co-Chair Brent Landels said the mayor, now chosen by councilors, is the political leader of the city and meets with the state and other regional bodies. He said having a mayor for only two years is not long enough.

“They don’t really have the opportunity to build those relationships,” Landels said. ” Having someone to help with EDCO and other organizations, to bring jobs here, and to have somebody there who’s here for a four-year term gives a better opportunity to build those relationships with CEOs of companies, to hopefully bring some living-wage jobs to the city of Bend.”

The committee also recommended the council remove mayoral and council pay from the charter. They want the council to form an independent committee that would review whether the mayor’s pay, currently the same $200 a month as fellow councilors, should go up.

Landels said the committee ran out of time to reach an informed and unanimous decision.

“The most common term we heard for the mayor was 50 percent of area median income, which would be around $25,000 a year, so it’s not a huge amount of money we are talking about,” Landels said.

“But there are people on our committee who didn’t think it should only be roughly double, so about $400 per month. Then there are people who think it should be paid significantly better, so we couldn’t really come to a consensus on it during the time frame we had.”

Landels said a decision on raising pay for the mayor or councilors would be a future council ordinance, and not part of what would be brought before voters, under the committee’s recommendations.

The charter review committee will present these options to city council Wednesday, December 6.

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