Central Oregon

Central Oregon 2012: The year in politics

Water project, park bond measure and Senate race top headlines

2012 in review: local politics

BEND, Ore. - A presidential election year usually brings with it a spotlight on politics, from national to local

And this year, Central Oregon, surely saw its fair share

NewsChannel 21 recaps the top local stories in politics.

The year began with the first regular legislative session in an even year for Oregon lawmakers.

In that session, the governor was greeted with a split House and a nearly evenly divided Senate.

Even with that, Gov. John Kitzhaber got most of what he wanted accomplished, including health care and education reform.

And just this month, he got a tax break for Nike during a one-day special session.

Here in Central Oregon, it was a controversial water project, a successful park bond measure and a rare, hot primary state Senate race that topped our news all year long.

"There are economic reasons why this is not a good idea for the citizens of the city," said Paul Dewey, executive director of Central Oregon LandWatch  "And then there are environmental reasons why it's not a good idea," a reference to impacts on Tumalo Creek flows and fish habitat.

For all of 2011 and now all of 2012, the city of Bend heard lots of opinions about the $68 million Surface Water Improvement Project, largely from the opponents who wanted it stopped.

Early this year, city councilors asked the state for a delay in new federal water treatment rules, which would postpone the need for parts of the project, and spread out the cost increases to residents.

It would be the first of a long series of stories this year for the biggest and most controversial infrastructure project ever taken on by the city (until the next, even costlier sewer upgrade).

The city weighed different price tags, strategies and methods, all while opponents continued efforts to stop the whole thing in its tracks.

Opponents cited the project cost too much and wasn't necessary, when the city could depend solely on ground water pumping instead.

And just as the city was about to install new pipes -- the first part of the project  -- this fall, a last minute injunction halted the work and trucks were ordered to pull out the steel pipes, delaying the project further.
For now, the city continues to push forward the project with a revised version that the Forest Service is looking over.  

"Give folks an opportunity to comment and continue to sequence the project the appropriately, so we save our ratepayers," said Bend City Manager Eric King.

But with several critics among newly elected city councilors, it's anyone's guess where the new year will take the city's water plans.

From one expensive project to another, .voters in November narrowly approved a $29 million bond measure for the Bend Park and Recreation District.

"(A) portfolio of projects that we've put together for this are really what the community wants and has told us repeatedly through surveys and public outreach that is important to the community," said park board member Scott Wallace.

The measure gives the park district money to complete the Deschutes River Trail, create a safe passage at the Colorado Dam and acquire new land for new parks.

The measure won by just over 1,000 votes.

A race that surprised many and didn't even come close was for the Bend state Senate seat -- a rare primary challenge.

"Unemployment does not know party registration," said Tim Knopp, a former lawmaker who unseated incumbent Chris Telfer. "If you elect me your next state senator, I can't go it alone."

Knopp, a former republican House speaker in, handily defeated Telfer by more than 2-to-1 in an expensive, closely watched primary contest.

Knopp then went on to easily beat Geri Hauser in the general election.

So what can Central Oregonians expect in 2013?

Bend's water project will be something the new city councilors will still be talking about.

The bond measure projects will start to come to fruition.

And as for our legislators, they'll have a Democrat-controlled state Legislature when the session starts in February.

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