At the heart of every thriving economy lies civic engagement. Anyone familiar with Bend is almost certainly aware of the constant stream of recreational activities and events ranging from Summerfest and Winterfest to First Friday, Munch ‘n Music, BendFilm, the Cascade Cycling Classic, Pole Peddle Paddle, Bend Brewfest and beyond. Every week, it seems, there's a new and exciting event to attend or to participate in.
But this town offers just as much when it comes to political, economic and professional discourse, too. Here are a few highlights of community forums driving civic engagement in Bend.
City Club Forums: Hosted by the City Club of Central Oregon, monthly forums host speakers who are intended to "inspire respectful, productive dialogue and offer diverse perspectives to encourage positive change in Central Oregon." Since it formed in 2007, over 100 forums, dialogs, lectures, and debates have been held to explore current issues and regional topics. The audience is considered by many to be a "who's who" of prominent local leaders in government, business, education and media.
What's Brewing: Hosted by the Bend Chamber of Commerce on the first Tuesday of every month, this public forum is geared towards people who care about "what's brewing" in their community. Or in other words, it's an opportunity to hear from and engage with community leaders on a variety of topics that affect the quality of life and business environment in the region.
Pints and Politics: Held on the fourth Wednesday of every month and hosted by the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, Pints and Politics is a free community forum focused on issues related to air, water, land and wildlife. Recent topics have included planning for OSU Cascades' new four-year campus, sewer and infrastructure master planning, and wilderness protection.
Green Drinks: Hosted every other month by The Environmental Center, Green Drinks is an international concept aimed at mixing business and community interests over a drink or two and learning about local business efforts in sustainability. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own cup and to carpool, walk, bike, or take public transit to attend.
History Pub: Held on the last Tuesday of every month at the local McMenamin's, History Pub aims to present lively local and regional history lessons over a "frosty pint or two of handcrafted ale." The topics are always engaging and often quite quirky as well. For example: "From simple drunkenness to moonshine gangs dynamiting policemen's homes, enjoy these ripped-from-the-headlines tales of prohibition-era Bend."
Building a Better Bend: For more than 10 years, Building a Better Bend has organized an annual lecture series focused on positively impacting the quality of development and growth in the region. Expert speakers present innovative ideas and generate discussion on applying these ideas in the community. Recent topics have included creating pocket neighborhoods, opportunities for a small city campus, and creating great business districts.
Bend 2030 SuperForum: In January 2014, Bend 2030 and the City Club organized Bend's first-ever "SuperForum" at the historic Tower Theater, which focused on creating a blueprint for economic success and livability in Central Oregon. Governor Kitzhaber and First Lady Cylvia Hayes were the keynote speakers, and were joined by a number or prominent local leaders for discussions on a number of "accelerator" projects that are making a difference in the community socially and economically.