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Bend may pull $190 million May transportation ballot measure due to COVID-19

'Difficult time for voters to make a decision' on bond measure

(Update: Bond supporters say they support waiting on measure)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The Bend City Council on Wednesday night takes up a proposal to withdraw its $190 million transportation bond measure from the May 19 primary ballot due to the new, serious economic uncertainties, locally and around the globe, brought about by the COVID-19 virus outbreak.

Last month, city councilors had referred a measure to the ballot for projects to improve traffic flow, east-west connections and neighborhood safety improvements.

But with the rush of events due to COVID-19, including a local state of emergency by the city and other local governments, "the unknown duration of the COVID-19 pandemic will likely have a significant financial impact" on the city, region and nation, according to a resolution prepared for Wednesday evening's city council meeting and supported by a group that had formed to lobby for the measure's passage.

"Although economic impacts are uncertainin both the near and long-term, they may be felt acutely by the service sector initially and more broadly by the entire community," the resolution states.

"The service sector comprises 10% of total employment in Deschutes County, and these workers are likely to be significantly impacted by a sudden and substantial decrease in hotel occupancy and restaurant closures or reductions in service, with effects likely to be felt by other workers and businesses as well," the resolution continues.

The city also noted that "the municipal bond market has become volatile and market access has been challenging, those these effects may be short term."

"For these reasons and based on the advice of community leaders with expertise related to the local economic and business community and public health and economic concerns, Council believes that the global pandemic and state of emergency makes it a difficult time for voters to make a decision on the transportation bond.

"Although transportation issues are a high community priority, at this time public health concerns are the primary focus of the nation and our community.

"The City of Bend will continue to monitor the economic impacts of COVID-19, and may consider referring the general obligation bond measure for transportation improvements to the voters when appropriate in the future," the proposed resolution states.

The group formed to campaign for the ballot measure issued this statement Tuesday night:

Strong Support for Bend Transportation Bond Looks to Future 

With the impacts of the COVID-19 virus still uncertain, priorities are shifting in Bend. In this unprecedented moment, it feels prudent to take stock of the situation, marshal resources and  work together to help our neighbors in need. 

“We have recommended that the Bend City Council make the difficult decision to remove Measure 9-131, the Go Bend 2020 bond measure, from the May ballot,” said Mike Riley, co-chair of the Go Bend 2020 Coalition, which had formed a political action committee in support of the bond measure.

The projects included in this proposal remain a critical investment for our future. The proposed road and safety improvements would fix many of the most troubled spots in Bend – where there is heavy traffic, where safety improvements are needed around schools and neighborhoods, and to improve east/west connections from one part of town to another. 

It is hard to step back and pause. We know we will need the economic stimulus, job creation and the real transportation improvements this bond will address. Therefore, the Go Bend 2020 Coalition, made up of over 100 businesses, non-profit organizations, and community leaders, will continue to support the transportation bond when the City Council deems it time to ask the community for its support. 

We want to thank the hundreds of people who helped develop the list of projects, pouring over maps and data, and debating which investments would relieve congestion and help Bend prosper the most. We want to thank the GoBend 2020 Steering Committee, our supporters and our donors for working together, shifting competing interests into support for this Transportation Bond. 

“When this challenging time is behind us, our neighbors and our community will still need a safe and efficient transportation system that works for all. We stand by and will be ready to bring Bend’s Transportation bond to voters in the future.” stated Katy Brooks, Co-Chair of the Go Bend 2020 Coalition.

For now, the Go Bend 2020 Coalition joins other community leaders as we turn our attention to those hardest hit by the impacts of the pandemic--those individuals with underlying health issues, older citizens, and folks in lower-income brackets who will be hit the hardest. Coming together as a community has never been more urgent than in this moment.

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      1. No, but if bond were limited to just improving arterials and collectors, along with sidewalk infill I’d support it. Not a fan of wasting city bond money on state highways, bike lanes, low stress networks, low-volume streets, transit, and other penny-wise, pound-foolish projects.

      2. I do. I don’t mind people sitting in cars going nowhere. They’re unlikely to run me over if they’re not moving and the lines in stores and restaurants are shorter if people are in their cars.

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