Tuesday, April 3, 2007

I'm beginning to wonder if BendBubble2 blog hasn't been right in ---what I have felt up to now was his over the top criticisms of the Bend City Council.

I'm on record defending the city council, mostly because up to now I've believed that they were doing the best job they could in a rapidly expanding city; and because it's a job that I'd never want to do in a million years.

But...the other, unspoken, side of that assumption is that the city councilors don't have a personal agenda; because, if you have suspicions, it certainly could appear that some of the councilors are there for personal gain.

So what does the city council do? At a time when the following things have happened. (Not all of them within the powers of the Bend city council, but all of them indicative of the general trend.)

Allow a zone change that opens the door for a big developer to completely change nature of Broken Top. No doubt they'll say, whoops, and change it back too late to help.

Allow a rule change for height and set-backs, that allows several completely overbuilt buildings to be constructed downtown, then say, whoops, we'll change it back now that it doesn't matter. (Meanwhile, the developer of Franklin Crossing is on the parking committee and somehow wrangles a special deal for parking....was that story ever followed up by the local media?)

Watch buildings torn down in the middle of the night and trees cut down and nature leveled for parking lots and impose fines that the developers probably laughingly paid.

Articles show up in the Bulletin quoting developers and real estate people as experts; meanwhile, it appears that there isn't a development in Central Oregon that the paper doesn't love.

A downtown developer turns out to be a drug money launderer, and to have ties with another prominent group of developers which is explained away because the connection was severed but which still leaves a bad taste.

A Prineville developer forces out a 30 year tenant, Hatfields, by raising rents to 1.35 a foot, and downtown Bend rents start to reach 3.00 a foot.

Resort developers skirt the letter of the law and completely subvert the spirit of the law on overnight lodgings in order to create glorified sub-divisions.

The average price of a house in Bend reaches heights that the average resident can only dream of reaching. (Meanwhile, as an aside, most of these houses are too big for the lots, squeezed together, and ugly to boot.)

Developers flatten several downtown buildings with existing businesses and leave rubble strewn vacant lots as they get busy elsewhere, or because they appear to be taking revenge on neighbors who dared not cooperate with their plans.

And on and on....

So what does the city councel do? Out of a list of six very qualified applicants, they pick the guy who has the most connections to the developers. City Councilor Linda Johnson is paraphrased by the Bulletin as saying, "Gramlich's ties to the development communtiy wouldn't affect his ability to serve Bend residents."

Why? I guess because she says so.

Gramlich "admitted his work as a designer had created close ties to Bend's development community. Yet Gramlich told councilors he wouldn't allow his business intersts to override his obligation to Bend residents."

You never mind, Brer Rabbit, old Brer Fox has your best interests at heart.

"I think it would hurt my business," Gramlich says.

Again, we should take his word for it, but 'Methinks the lady doth protest too much.'

He will serve as a 'liaison between developers and local business owners. " Yes, sir. Brer Rox loves Brer Rabbit and would like to have him for dinner.

What really smells rotten about this whole deal is that the city councilors had qualified applicants to pick from and chose the guy who admits he has a conflict of interest, who they know has conflicts of interest, and then have the balls to say; "is in alignment with the council."

That's what I'm afraid of.

6 comments:

MIsstrade said...

Amen to this I say. I have been saying this for years. We need diversity in the city council and that is why we will continue to go the path of overdevelopment due to self interest in the "building" business. The council screwed the pooch 5 years ago by not trying to bring in Real Businesses, vs short term real estate buildout. They have driven the costs to where new businesses won't come due to outrageous costs. Pain has to come to the overdevelopers before this cycle will end. We are no where near the bottom unforunately and much pain will be felt.

jessefelder said...

The sad irony of this whole debacle is that the people who should be running the city would never in a million years do it.

Only the people with a personal agenda are willing (in fact, chomping at the bit to promote themselves and their interests) to commit to something like this.

What we need is to eliminate elections and simply draft people into public service - like jury duty.

Duncan for city counsel, I say!

Duncan McGeary said...

Oh, Hell, no!

All the city council had to do was pick someone who wasn't beholden to developers. In fact, just about any of the other candidates....

Jason said...

"Meanwhile, the developer of Franklin Crossing is on the parking committee and somehow wrangles a special deal for parking....was that story ever followed up by the local media?"

Not that I can recall, but I may have missed it. And speaking of missing things:

"A downtown developer turns out to be a drug money launderer, and to have ties with another prominent group of developers which is explained away because the connection was severed but which still leaves a bad taste."

When was this? Sometimes I feel like I'm living in a cave ...

"(...) most of these houses are too big for the lots, squeezed together, and ugly to boot."

Here here! Maybe a cave isn't so bad after all. Cookie-cutter houses, built anywhere they can be squeezed in.

"The sad irony of this whole debacle is that the people who should be running the city would never in a million years do it."

We need fewer politicians in politics.

Bend Economy Man said...

For Bend, the poison is the cure. And the poison is development. But this town's underlying economic problems and imbalances remain. Kind of like the way that heroin cures heroin withdrawal, but does nothing to address heroin addiction.

This town is used to growing its way out of its problems. Read any article in The Bulletin or watch any KTVZ news story and they'll always cap off any negative news by saying "Bend's booming population growth is expected to minimize the impact."

Although Bend is already known as a developer-friendly area, the City Council is vaguely aware that we have to compete with other areas for developers' investment and remain a "hot spot" for California outmigrants. They want to keep the developers dialed into local government, and, as we saw with Clint Chick and that other guy, developers want to be dialed in. Win-win, right?

Even though many of this area's problems, as Duncan pointed out, are connected with development, the City Council, thinking firmly INSIDE the box, has one remedy for every symptom: more development. It worked before, right?

And, if they achieve the unlikely, and succeed in keeping the development going at nearly the same pace, it might work again. More development might solve or mask the problems created by the previous development.

Duncan McGeary said...

I thought it was very revealing that almost the entire article was spent explaining away their decision, telling us more than once that it wasn't a conflict of interest, and trying to justify it.

I think if you have to spend that much time explaining a decision, it was probably the wrong decision.

I wonder if any of the local media notice.