BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – Redmond Mayor George Endicott and his two election challengers, Charles Baer and Tanner Robertson, met for a generally genial debate on NewsChannel 21 Wednesday evening, discussing issues ranging from fast-rising home prices and COVID-19 business impacts to the city’s ban on marijuana dispensaries.
“I think Redmond, Oregon is a great town with a great future and lots of potential,” said Baer, who previously ran for Bend mayor two years ago before moving north. In his opening statement, Baer said his two top issues are environmentalism and transparency.
Robertson, the owner of General Duffy’s Waterhole, noted he attended Redmond High School and graduated from West Point, serving as an Army intelligence officer.
As Endicott, mayor for 12 years, again seeks re-election, Robertson said he’d seek if elected to change the city charter and set term limits for the mayor and city councilors, and also call for “proper, transparent ways” to fill any council vacancies, among those displeased with Endicott’s move earlier this year to fill a vacancy without any public process.
Robertson said he’d also seek to prohibit “nepotism” on the city council, on which Endicott’s wife also serves.
Endicott did not respond to that, instead pointing in his first comments to the “unbelievable success stories” over his tenure as mayor, including major gains in manufacturing jobs.
Times are tough right now, he acknowledged, while still urging voters, “Do not change horses midstream. I have a proven record. I have contacts all over the state of Oregon. I know the governor personally. … My advice is to stay the course.”
Asked what are the most challenging issues, Baer pointed to managing “incredible growth” and a need for more infrastructure, such as sidewalks on both sides of Highway 97 throughout the city and a need for more and larger parks.
Robertson pointed to a need to get kids back in school, while Endicott noted how the city had donated personal protective equipment to downtown businesses. “It’s just critical we allow those businesses to even open up more,” he said.
Asked about whether soaring home prices will mean Redmond is no longer an affordable place to live, Baer said there were limits to what the city can do and Robertson said there’s a need to champion “intelligent growth.” Endicott pointed to two major affordable housing projects now under way and said he’s “looking forward to more” such efforts.
Another question asked the candidates if Redmond is losing revenue to Bend and other communities by banning marijuana dispensaries.
Baer said, “I think legalization in Bend has been a tremendous success” and that he supports allowing growing and selling of marijuana in Bend, also supporting a move to allow growing and selling of psilocybin mushrooms. Robertson said the city should research “the controlled addition of dispensaries.”
But the mayor said the city reviewed the matter in recent years but still has an ordinance that does not let the city permit businesses that violate state or federal law. “As long as marijuana is outlawed federally, we are beholden to our rules.” And he also said the police chief performed a cost-benefit analysis that determined the cost of increased policing would outweigh fiscal benefits to the city.
“They can grow their own, they just can’t buy it in Redmond,” Endicott said. “It would not be a price leader for Redmond.”
When the topic shifted to what the city can do for struggling businesses amid the pandemic, Baer said he full supports the steps taken by Gov. Kate Brown: “I think we need to play it safe.” Robertson said leadership engagement is key, to get business owners input “before we lean on fines to correct behavior.” Endicott said, “We’ve done a lot already,” again noting donations of PPEs to business.
In closing statements, Baer urged voters to visit his “Global Internet Government” website and to contact him, even call him. “I’ve had a lot of fun, met a lot of people, learned a lot of things. Call me and we’ll talk.”
Robertson said, “I feel blessed to live in a country where we have free elections,” and if elected looks forward to “moving Redmond forward with integrity.”
Endicott said he’s running for a seventh term due to his love of the city where he was born and spent his early years, then chose to retire. “My whole goal in life is to make Redmond a better community.”