BEND, Ore. - Bend is one step closer to a possible citywide vote in May on changes in city government, including a directly elected mayor and some councilors elected by geographic wards. But city councilors will need more time to come to full consensus before sending a proposed city charter update to the ballot.
The city's Charter Review Committee has been meeting for months and made its presentation Wednesday night to city councilors, recommending an elected mayor and four city wards.
The panel had three main recommendations: Residents would elect a mayor to a four-year term (the position is now filled by a consensus of fellow councilors), while the city would be split into four geographic wards, each electing one of the seven councilors. The mayor and two other councilors would be elected citywide.
They also said the mayor's and councilors' pay should be set by ordinance, and not locked in the city charter.
All of the councilors agreed that voters should make the call, but they disagreed on the details. Most councilors said an elected mayor should serve for four years, but a couple said they need more time to understand how that's beneficial.
The committee said the big plus for wards is more geographic diversity and all parts of the city being represented. But some councilors questioned if a councilor representing a ward should only be elected by the people within that ward, or citywide.
Nonetheless, Councilor Nathan Boddie said he was not surprised with the amount of debate.
"The most important thing to me, no matter what we do with our government at any level, be it local, state, or federal, is we want the most participation by everyday citizens," Boddie said. "We want everybody to have an equal and fair choice in how their government is chosen and what it does, so that's my main focus with the wards."
Boddie said he wants people to feel represented by their city government. Overall, the biggest debate was over the ward system, with some minor disagreements about the term length of an elected mayor and how much he or she, along with councilors, should be paid.
"It's a huge subject, because there are three main subjects, but then those break out into a lot of different discussion points," said committee Co-Chair Brent Landels. "It was very similar to when we were meeting for four months and we had a lot of those discussions within our group. So when it went that way with council, it really didn't surprise us at all."
City councilors face some deadlines to get any proposed city charter changes finalized to make the May ballot.
At the end of the night -- with his "decision tree" list mostly marked "undecided," Roats suggested, and councilors agreed to tackle the issues again at their meeting in two weeks, starting early, at 3 p.m., and allowing more public input.
If they can't reach consensus on the remaining issues, the mayor said a special meeting could be called in early January, in order to meet the deadlines for finalizing a resolution and submitting a city charter revision to voters at the May 15 primary.