BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) — The candidates running for Bend City Council Position 4 are competing for a two-year term, which is half the usual time.
An election became necessary with the recent resignation of Rita Shenkelberg.
Candidates Barb Campbell, Karon Johnson, Bill Olsen and Erlin Taylor met with NewsChannel 21 in recent weeks to talk about their leadership skills, why they’re running and priorities for the city.
Campbell is the veteran in the group, with eight years on the City Council.
“I do bring experience, and that is the single thing that separates me from the other candidates — and from anyone else sitting on the council,” Campbell said, standing outside City Hall. “We will have a council with everyone at less than two years experience.,”
The housing shortage and its impact on homelessness would be priorities if she’s elected for another two years.
“I feel like a safe managed space for people is one answer. We’ve seen success, with almost a dozen people already who have needed that stability for a few months,” Campbell said, “Most funding for temporary shelter goes through the county, and we’ve not had real success in getting the county commissioners to work with us.”
Campbell admits government moves slowly, saying during her tenure, it took five years for the first neighborhood greenway and three years for the fireworks ban.
“Even so, I’ve been able to maintain that joy when something does come to fruition and not let the time it takes weigh me down,” she said.
Council candidate Karon Johnson is a devoted gardener who spent decades weeding out criminals as a prosecutor in Multnomah County and with the U.S. Department of Justice.
“I spent 38 years prosecuting criminals, which meant leading investigations, taking people to trial and protecting victims’ rights,” she said from the driveway of her Bend home.
Johnson moved to Bend in 2014 and is passionate about land use law but says she’s struggled to find a voice.
“There is no dialogue in this city. You make a comment or ask a question, and all you hear back is thank you. The city refuses to engage in dialogue, and that’s the main reason I’m running.”
Johnson’s first action would focus on the homeless problem.
“They’re allowing low-barrier shelters in residential neighborhoods,” she said. “If I’m elected, the day after I’m sworn in, I’m going to introduce legislation to take that law off the books, because low-barrier shelters do not belong in residential neighborhoods.”
Johnson suggests looking to Boise for successful regulations involving the homeless population and to cities in Colorado for how they’ve increased workforce housing.
“I’ve been talking to planning directors of these cities, and I have some positive solutions, but they’re not going to happen unless I get on the City Council,” she said.
Candidate Bill Olsen enjoyed a lengthy career in commercial real estate development and is ready to get involved in city government after serving on local boards.
“I think I would bring a different perspective and perhaps new blood,” he said. ” We all know the city manager sets the agenda, and maybe that needs to change. That’s what I’m hearing from voters.”
Olsen says he also hears complaints from voters about the homeless problem in Bend.
“I contend it’s an issue we’re all going to have to take care of,” he said. “You can’t just say the city is going to do it, or (Deschutes) County. It’s about establishing a base — grassroots.”
If elected, Olsen would look to the police and fire departments, Deschutes County, local colleges and businesses to collaborate on a plan. Some funding, he says, might come from a bond issue or federal money.
“I was born and raised in Bend. I’m a product of this environment and simply put I’d like to be part of the future,” Olsen added.
In her run for council Position 4, Erlin Taylor points to her 20 years of experience as a property manager.
“I’ve been in the housing industry for many years, and I feel like being in thye collaborative environment of providing housing and also being on the other end, I feel I have the ability to serve the community even more,” Taylor said.
“The City Council is trying to make some changes,” she said. “I just don’t necessarily think they’re collaborating with the citizens of Bend as to come up with solutions as to how to handle those things.”
Taylor’s campaign website credits her with developing outreach programs in the Hispanic community, to help families secure their first homes.
If elected, affordable housing and the homeless problem would be priorities.