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Mayor, Sally Russell on Bend, Oregon Now and What to Expect Moving Forward

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KAREN: Hi, this isKaren Malanga, Principal Broker at RE/MAX Key Properties and I’mso excited today because we have Sally Russell, our mayor. Sally, welcome tothe program.

SALLY: Hi, goodmorning. Oh my God, what a beautiful day, Karen. My pleasure to be here. Thanksfor inviting me.

KAREN: You’rewelcome. Sally wants to discuss some of the goals that they’re setting here forthe city of Bend, but first I wanted to talk about snow, because the word onthe street is people are frustrated, and I think a lot of that comes with wedon’t know what goes on behind the scenes.

I think thatknowledge always is helpful. It’s easy to complain, but it’s better to complainonce you have knowledge, and then once you have knowledge maybe you won’t becomplaining anymore. Sally, do you want to address our snow issue and what’sbeen going on?

SALLY: Yeah. Thelast couple of years we’ve had Snowmageddon 1 and Snowmageddon 2, and theamount of snowfall we’ve gotten in a very, very short period of time – it’s ahundred-year event.

I think thequestion really is how we can prepare for something like that and whether wereally want to invest the additional resources and hire the additionalpersonnel to be ready for this, not knowing if it’s another random event and wewon’t have another snow event like this for another 10 years – in which casemaybe we’ll want to put the dollars someplace else.

Again, to continueto tighten up our protocol – I was walking downtown last night, and we had huge,huge loaders and dump trucks just circling. I noticed they cleaned up severalbridges and intersections last night, and they’re doing this consistently allover town when everybody is home and off the streets, because that’s the onlytime you can get out there and do it.

KAREN: I thinkthat’s great, because last weekend I walked down to Brother John’s, and boy,the city sidewalks – it was like, this is one slippery deal, and then the hugepiles of snow. I wondered, could they bring in some back loaders or whateverthe right truck name would be at 2:00 in the morning to get some of this snowout? Because we have all the open space to dump the snow, but who’s going totake – you run out of room.

SALLY: We have 16different vehicles, and then we have the personnel to match them up. We havethem on 12-hour cycles, so teams 12 hours on, 12 hours off, 12 hours back on.We also use contractors.

Well, this stormhas been so big that the contractors of course do the city streets, but theyalso have responsibility for other streets as well. Our teams are out there andworking 24/7, rotating.

I was downtownlooking at everything and walking up Galveston, and I was also driving over onthe East Side and looking around the hospital and Neff Road and in some of thesereally critical central areas of our community and our city.

Then I had a friendcome in from Colorado Springs, and as we were driving around I was showing hersome stuff, and she said, “Wow. This is clearly a really big storm for thiscity.” And she’s right. This was a very big storm for our region. This was ahuge storm for the West Coast.

Again, I think insituations like this, do what you can do as an individual. We got over onethousand phone calls.

KAREN: I bet youdid. [laughs]

SALLY: One of thethings we do as a city is match up the Neighborhood Associations and volunteersfor the people who really need help, who aren’t capable of digging out, whocan’t get their mail, who can’t get to their medical appointment, who reallyneed some assistance.

We have oneemployee whose job is to make those connections, and we’re committed to makingit happen. That’s one of the services we feel is important, because even if wecan’t directly provide all the services, the next step is how do we make sure –the people who really need to get from here to there and really need care, howdo we make sure they have their food, they have their doctor’s appointments?Then of course, the next step is they get to work or their children get tochildcare.

KAREN: Or helpgetting their dog out. Everything.

SALLY: Well, yes.But I will say, for running a city –

KAREN: No, not you,I meant as a neighbor.

SALLY: Emergencyservices, so police, fire, getting people to the hospital, those are our toppriorities, always, every day. That’s what you depend on us for first andforemost. Everything else, then, is also very important.

KAREN: I didn’tmean the city had to help. Just one of my neighbors is very elderly and she hasa dog, and there was no way, so we as neighbors shoveled so we could get herlittle dog out.

SALLY: Thank youfor that.

KAREN: I think youhave to be neighborly.

SALLY: She’s a goodneighbor.

KAREN: But I alsothink because I live in what I call the flats, and because there’s so many carsthat park on the street, after the snow there was no way for emergency vehiclesto get down some of those streets like Columbia, because when the snow plows gothrough they bury the cars because the people don’t move their cars. Maybe theydon’t have anywhere to move them. But then it was down too tight for my Subaru.So I think when a big storm’s coming – I don’t know what I’m talking about, butget your cars off the street.

SALLY: Here’s theother thing. We make sure as a city that our emergency vehicles can move throughthe community. For me personally, it took an hour to get my truck out of thedriveway, and that’s just the pad. I’ve been working away on the walkway upfrom the street up to my front door.

KAREN: I know, metoo.

SALLY: Yesterday Ifinally finished it, but I’ve been working on that for a week, and it’s been sohard because there’s been freeze/thaw, more snow. So tired of this, right? If Icould just lie down and melt it all at once, I would, but I just don’t haveenough body heat for that. [laughs]

KAREN: Before wetake a break, what I do want to say is I think that the one thing you saidtoday that I think our listeners probably didn’t know about is that we do havepeople out later, after hours, clearing this snow. I think that’s the besttakeaway ever, because I was hoping that would happen, but of course I’masleep, so who knows? [laughs] But Sally, I’m glad that that’s in place.

SALLY: It is inplace. And remember, between our arterials and our collector and ourresidential streets, we have 800 miles of road, and the city teams are out24/7, rotating. So that is happening, and our priorities will always be thearterials and the collectors, the main roads, and being sure that emergencyservices, your fire and your police, can get where they need to go.

KAREN: I thinkthat’s critical.

SALLY: That iscritical.

KAREN: Okay, let’stake a break, and then we’ll be back and learn some more about what’s going onin Bend and the goals for the future. Be right back.

Hi, this is KarenMalanga, Principal Broker at RE/MAX Key Properties and with HouseTalk. Back again, I’ve got Sally Russell, our mayor.

We just discussedour Snowmageddon, and now, Sally, I’d like you to discuss, as the Mayor ofBend, some of the goals that you’ve been working on the future and maybe someof the housing that you’ve been working on.

SALLY: Yeah, thankyou. This gets fairly technical, so I’m going to go down this rabbit hole. Butwhat I will say is every two years, together with the state and the statebudgeting and the legislature and all the rules that come out of that, the cityof Bend revisits its goals and resets its budget.

KAREN: Every twoyears?

SALLY: Every twoyears, so it’s a biennium just like the state is. Also every two years, ofcourse, we change out part of our council, so we have new members, andsometimes we have a shift in priorities. So that happens as well.

From myperspective, I think this council is really solid and they’re doing theirhomework. We’ve been focusing first on the goals, and out of the decision thatwe make on Wednesday the 20th of March, our next council meeting,then we will solidify the direction for our budget.

KAREN: For the nexttwo years.

SALLY: For the nexttwo years. Based on the limited resources, we’ll have constrained choices andthen we’ll look at, especially in the transportation arena, really how we wantto solve these needs because during the recession especially and even beforethen, our community just didn’t put enough investment into our streets and ourtransportation system. So we’ve got some catch-up to do, and the question ishow we’re going to do that.

But according toall the statistically valid polls that the city has consistently done and theone that we just did this fall, clearly transportation congestion, being ableto move quickly and efficiently throughout our town, is a huge priority, aswell as housing that you yourself can afford.

So affordablehousing with a big ‘A,’ which is for people, and then –


SALLY: But they’remiddle class. Making sure that enough inventory is built in our community, andhow can we really set the table to allow that to happen in this marketplace?

KAREN: And to flowthrough town. Also, do you work on the road conditions themselves because ofthe potholes and stuff? Is that part of transportation, or is that a wholeother budget, a whole other deal?

SALLY: Well,streets, of course. Streets for automobiles and for delivery trucks andemergency services and all the ways our streets get used is hugely important.Yes, we have an inventory of every single street. We also have a visualinventory. We actually have visual inventories so we know what’s there. We knowhow much it will cost to repair it.

We know how much itmay cost to rebuild it, because some of our streets are so old. Some of ourstreets are actually dirt and have never been – the old, old streets.

KAREN: I know,because being a realtor, I’m on some of those.

SALLY: Some ofthese streets actually were never constructed. Don’t ask me why because thatwas 100 years ago. [laughs]

KAREN: Yeah, that’snot your problem. [laughs]

SALLY: I’m notgoing to answer that question, but I am going to have to find some solutionsfor all of these, together with my six other colleagues on council.

KAREN: Yeah. Whichone do you want to tackle first?

SALLY: I thoughtI’d talk a little bit about economic vitality, which is housing and jobs andmanaging growth. One of the things we’re doing is SMART goals, so goals thatare major goals. We haven’t approved this, but we’ll look at this thisafternoon at our meeting.

Our goal is toincrease the supply of shovel-ready land available for housing and employment.One of our goals is to permit 840 single family homes, 275 single familyattached units, and 1,020 multi-family units by June 30th, 2021.Those are some of the goals that we are setting for ourselves.

KAREN: That’s a biggoal.

SALLY: Yeah, butthat’s cool, right? The community knows it, and we’re going to have to createsome public/private partnerships to get some of it done.

KAREN: And you’resure we have all the people coming for those homes?

SALLY: We have alot of pent-up need.

KAREN: Yeah, we do.

SALLY: We havebusinesses that are trying to hire and people who live in this community, andthey’re not in the right housing inventory because it doesn’t exist for them atthe price point they need given the jobs they have.

KAREN: Sure.

SALLY: So try tomaybe grow the income levels for certain jobs that certain employers will bringwith them, and then to build the type of housing inventory that really worksfor those people on those salaries.

KAREN: Okay, nice.

SALLY: So that’sone example. We want to increase the leverage in our affordable housing fee, sowe’re going to work on that. And then we’re working on Juniper Ridgesubdivision as an employment district.

KAREN: I would loveto see that.

SALLY: Yeah, wereally have blown life back into that. There’ve been a lot of different plansover time. We have a very informed, very balanced, very diverse group of peoplein the community. It will be a public process with public meetings. That’s whatthat all means. I’m very excited about that.

Some of the othergoals – we talked about transportation infrastructure. We’ve talked aboutpublic safety and health, both very important. Some people talk a lot aboutmental health. We’re very interested in making sure that those specific issuesget addressed, and that’s partnership with the county and the state.

KAREN: Boy, youhave a lot on your agenda.

SALLY: I have alot, yeah.

KAREN: When youlook at the budget every two years – and I’m afraid it’s almost time to takeanother break, but maybe not quite – when you look at it every two years andyou set these goals, then do you look back at the past two years, obviously,and see how far did we get with the goals that we had at that time? And thenyou probably incorporate some of those goals in the new goals, maybe, so youcan get the projects finished?

SALLY: Part ofhaving SMART goals is you can track your process along the way.

KAREN: Perfect.

SALLY: We trackwhere we are in the budgeting cycle, what we’ve expended, what we’veaccomplished, and sometimes you’ll have a discussion. Maybe we’re close to thegoal. Maybe something’s not working.

KAREN: So you cantweak it.

SALLY: To identifywhat the barriers are for us. We have regular presentations, and we’re trackingon a regular basis – and our staff is absolutely tasked with that.

KAREN: Perfect.Let’s take a quick break and come right back. We’ve got Sally Russell, themayor of Bend. Thanks, Sally.

Hi, welcome back toHouse Talk. It’s Karen Malanga, Principal Broker at RE/MAX Key Properties If you’re thinking about buying or selling a home, give me acall.

Anyway, I’m backwith Sally Russell, our mayor. We want to talk about Neighborhood Associationsand how you as a listener to House Talk can really get more engaged with yourneighborhood. She’s all about really increasing the grassroots participation.Right, Sally?

SALLY: Yeah. Ithink ever since I was elected in 2012, the more people know about ourcommunity and the more they get involved, the better we can do as leaderscreating policies that really work for our community – for now and for ourfuture.

It’s reallyinteresting; when I sit there on council and I’m creating policy, it’s not onlyabout you and me all the people who live in Bend today, but my job and my taskas well is to really make sure that whatever happens in Bend, our communitywill be ready for it – whether or not it’s a forest fire, whether or not it’s aflood, or whether or not it’s people moving to our community. Whatever it is,as a community leader, I need to make sure that we are ready for it.

I think that’s agood way for people to look at it. Their job, or your job, if you’re listeningtoday, is to really learn about your community. One of the best ways to knowwhat’s going on in your community is to go to the Neighborhood Associationmeetings.

KAREN: I live inthe old part of downtown Bend, and I didn’t even know I had one. I’ve never beennotified of a Neighborhood Association meeting.

SALLY: You’re inRiver West. [laughs] I believe you’re in River West.

KAREN: I’m inPineland Park, but it’s probably under River West – because you have theadditions we look at as real estate brokers.

SALLY: Right, butwe have 13 Neighborhood Associations. I’ll send you the map.

KAREN: Okay, so I’min River West.

SALLY: I expectyou’re in River West.

KAREN: But then amI supposed to get something in the mail? How does this happen? [laughs]

SALLY: We’re not acity with an endless budget. We give the Neighborhood Associations budgets, andthey have a Land Use Chair and they have a small budget for communicating andto build a website and to bring the constituents out to meetings or tocommunicate through Facebook or the website to understand what’s happening intheir neighborhood as well as in our whole community.

What we need morefrom the Neighborhood Associations – it’s like a two-way street, right? “Here’swhat’s happening in the city. Here’s how it might affect you. Here’s when thisconstruction project is. Here are the streets in your neighborhood that areactually going to see upgrades in construction this year, so you may want tothink about changing your schedule a little bit about that.”

Or land use.There’s a lot of land use – why is this building going up? How can we work tochange it and make it more compatible for our community in a way that we see asmore appropriate? But there’s some pretty strict land use laws. They’re calledproperty rights. As a realtor you work in that world as well. You buy a pieceof property, there’s a limited – there’s a box around what you can or can’t do.

Anyway, butneighborhood engagement – I always think knowledge is so important.

KAREN: I thinkknowledge is power.

SALLY: Knowledge ispower. I agree.

KAREN: I have livedin this house for like 20 years and I’ve never had an invite to theNeighborhood Association. [laughs] I should’ve known to reach out.

SALLY: You’vegotten several postcards, which you may not have read, which announced – I knowthey do that at least one or two times a year.

Their assignmentthis year, from me as the mayor, Sally Russell the mayor of Bend, is we’regoing to set up an incentive to make sure that people like you know about yourNeighborhood Associations, and therefore know more about what’s happening inour city. Because when you’re an informed voter, when you’re an informedcommunity, a person living here or working here –

KAREN: You feellike you have a say in something.


KAREN: Yeah, so Ineed to figure this out. But you know what, Sally? We’re out of time.

SALLY: Oh, notagain. [laughs]

KAREN: We’re goingto have to have you back.

SALLY: I’ll have tocome back.

KAREN: Sally, howdoes someone reach you if they want to – and no complaints. Let’s just havepositive stuff. [laughs] No snow calls.

SALLY: People canbe curious.

KAREN: Yeah, peoplecan be curious. I’m just teasing.

SALLY: If you go tothe City of Bend Council – just google that – you can send an email to CouncilAll, or you can send an email directly to me, which is I don’t have a staff, but often if I cananswer a question directly, I will get someone to answer it.

KAREN: Thank you somuch, Sally.

SALLY: Thank you somuch.

KAREN: I know yourtime is – you’re always between meetings, and it’s really special when you comehere to visit, so we appreciate you.

SALLY: Well, it’struly an honor and a joy to serve this community. I love the work that I do andI love the people that I get to work with throughout our city.

KAREN: Thank you.

SALLY: All 90,000of them. [laughs]

KAREN: [laughs]Thanks, Sally.

SALLY: Thank you,Karen.

KAREN: Bye bye.