KAREN: Hi, this is Karen Malanga, Principal Broker at RE/MAX Key Properties and NestBend.com. I’m so excited today because we have Sally Russell, our mayor. Sally, welcome to the program.
SALLY: Hi, good morning. Oh my God, what a beautiful day, Karen. My pleasure to be here. Thanks for inviting me.
KAREN: You’re welcome. Sally wants to discuss some of the goals that they’re setting here for the city of Bend, but first I wanted to talk about snow, because the word on the street is people are frustrated, and I think a lot of that comes with we don’t know what goes on behind the scenes.
I think that knowledge always is helpful. It’s easy to complain, but it’s better to complain once you have knowledge, and then once you have knowledge maybe you won’t be complaining anymore. Sally, do you want to address our snow issue and what’s been going on?
SALLY: Yeah. The last couple of years we’ve had Snowmageddon 1 and Snowmageddon 2, and the amount of snowfall we’ve gotten in a very, very short period of time – it’s a hundred-year event.
I think the question really is how we can prepare for something like that and whether we really want to invest the additional resources and hire the additional personnel to be ready for this, not knowing if it’s another random event and we won’t have another snow event like this for another 10 years – in which case maybe we’ll want to put the dollars someplace else.
Again, to continue to 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 several bridges and intersections last night, and they’re doing this consistently all over town when everybody is home and off the streets, because that’s the only time you can get out there and do it.
KAREN: I think that’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 huge piles of snow. I wondered, could they bring in some back loaders or whatever the right truck name would be at 2:00 in the morning to get some of this snow out? Because we have all the open space to dump the snow, but who’s going to take – you run out of room.
SALLY: We have 16 different vehicles, and then we have the personnel to match them up. We have them on 12-hour cycles, so teams 12 hours on, 12 hours off, 12 hours back on. We also use contractors.
Well, this storm has been so big that the contractors of course do the city streets, but they also have responsibility for other streets as well. Our teams are out there and working 24/7, rotating.
I was downtown looking at everything and walking up Galveston, and I was also driving over on the East Side and looking around the hospital and Neff Road and in some of these really critical central areas of our community and our city.
Then I had a friend come in from Colorado Springs, and as we were driving around I was showing her some stuff, and she said, “Wow. This is clearly a really big storm for this city.” And she’s right. This was a very big storm for our region. This was a huge storm for the West Coast.
Again, I think in situations like this, do what you can do as an individual. We got over one thousand phone calls.
KAREN: I bet you did. [laughs]
SALLY: One of the things we do as a city is match up the Neighborhood Associations and volunteers for the people who really need help, who aren’t capable of digging out, who can’t get their mail, who can’t get to their medical appointment, who really need some assistance.
We have one employee whose job is to make those connections, and we’re committed to making it happen. That’s one of the services we feel is important, because even if we can’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, how do 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 to childcare.
KAREN: Or help getting their dog out. Everything.
SALLY: Well, yes. But I will say, for running a city –
KAREN: No, not you, I meant as a neighbor.
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SALLY: Emergency services, so police, fire, getting people to the hospital, those are our top priorities, always, every day. That’s what you depend on us for first and foremost. Everything else, then, is also very important.
KAREN: I didn’t mean the city had to help. Just one of my neighbors is very elderly and she has a dog, and there was no way, so we as neighbors shoveled so we could get her little dog out.
SALLY: Thank you for that.
KAREN: I think you have to be neighborly.
SALLY: She’s a good neighbor.
KAREN: But I also think because I live in what I call the flats, and because there’s so many cars that park on the street, after the snow there was no way for emergency vehicles to get down some of those streets like Columbia, because when the snow plows go through they bury the cars because the people don’t move their cars. Maybe they don’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, but get your cars off the street.
SALLY: Here’s the other thing. We make sure as a city that our emergency vehicles can move through the community. For me personally, it took an hour to get my truck out of the driveway, and that’s just the pad. I’ve been working away on the walkway up from the street up to my front door.
KAREN: I know, me too.
SALLY: Yesterday I finally finished it, but I’ve been working on that for a week, and it’s been so hard because there’s been freeze/thaw, more snow. So tired of this, right? If I could just lie down and melt it all at once, I would, but I just don’t have enough body heat for that. [laughs]
KAREN: Before we take a break, what I do want to say is I think that the one thing you said today that I think our listeners probably didn’t know about is that we do have people out later, after hours, clearing this snow. I think that’s the best takeaway ever, because I was hoping that would happen, but of course I’m asleep, so who knows? [laughs] But Sally, I’m glad that that’s in place.
SALLY: It is in place. And remember, between our arterials and our collector and our residential streets, we have 800 miles of road, and the city teams are out 24/7, rotating. So that is happening, and our priorities will always be the arterials and the collectors, the main roads, and being sure that emergency services, your fire and your police, can get where they need to go.
KAREN: I think that’s critical.
SALLY: That is critical.
KAREN: Okay, let’s take a break, and then we’ll be back and learn some more about what’s going on in Bend and the goals for the future. Be right back.
Hi, this is Karen Malanga, Principal Broker at RE/MAX Key Properties and NestBend.com with House Talk. Back again, I’ve got Sally Russell, our mayor.
We just discussed our Snowmageddon, and now, Sally, I’d like you to discuss, as the Mayor of Bend, some of the goals that you’ve been working on the future and maybe some of the housing that you’ve been working on.
SALLY: Yeah, thank you. This gets fairly technical, so I’m going to go down this rabbit hole. But what I will say is every two years, together with the state and the state budgeting and the legislature and all the rules that come out of that, the city of Bend revisits its goals and resets its budget.
KAREN: Every two years?
SALLY: Every two years, so it’s a biennium just like the state is. Also every two years, of course, we change out part of our council, so we have new members, and sometimes we have a shift in priorities. So that happens as well.
From my perspective, I think this council is really solid and they’re doing their homework. We’ve been focusing first on the goals, and out of the decision that we make on Wednesday the 20th of March, our next council meeting, then we will solidify the direction for our budget.
KAREN: For the next two years.
SALLY: For the next two years. Based on the limited resources, we’ll have constrained choices and then we’ll look at, especially in the transportation arena, really how we want to solve these needs because during the recession especially and even before then, our community just didn’t put enough investment into our streets and our transportation system. So we’ve got some catch-up to do, and the question is how we’re going to do that.
But according to all the statistically valid polls that the city has consistently done and the one that we just did this fall, clearly transportation congestion, being able to move quickly and efficiently throughout our town, is a huge priority, as well as housing that you yourself can afford.
So affordable housing with a big ‘A,’ which is for people, and then –
SALLY: But they’re middle class. Making sure that enough inventory is built in our community, and how can we really set the table to allow that to happen in this marketplace?
KAREN: And to flow through town. Also, do you work on the road conditions themselves because of the potholes and stuff? Is that part of transportation, or is that a whole other budget, a whole other deal?
SALLY: Well, streets, of course. Streets for automobiles and for delivery trucks and emergency 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 visual inventory. We actually have visual inventories so we know what’s there. We know how much it will cost to repair it.
We know how much it may cost to rebuild it, because some of our streets are so old. Some of our streets 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 of these streets actually were never constructed. Don’t ask me why because that was 100 years ago. [laughs]
KAREN: Yeah, that’s not your problem. [laughs]
SALLY: I’m not going to answer that question, but I am going to have to find some solutions for all of these, together with my six other colleagues on council.
KAREN: Yeah. Which one do you want to tackle first?
SALLY: I thought I’d talk a little bit about economic vitality, which is housing and jobs and managing growth. One of the things we’re doing is SMART goals, so goals that are major goals. We haven’t approved this, but we’ll look at this this afternoon at our meeting.
Our goal is to increase the supply of shovel-ready land available for housing and employment. One of our goals is to permit 840 single family homes, 275 single family attached 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 big goal.
SALLY: Yeah, but that’s cool, right? The community knows it, and we’re going to have to create some public/private partnerships to get some of it done.
KAREN: And you’re sure we have all the people coming for those homes?
SALLY: We have a lot of pent-up need.
KAREN: Yeah, we do.
SALLY: We have businesses that are trying to hire and people who live in this community, and they’re not in the right housing inventory because it doesn’t exist for them at the price point they need given the jobs they have.
SALLY: So try to maybe grow the income levels for certain jobs that certain employers will bring with them, and then to build the type of housing inventory that really works for those people on those salaries.
KAREN: Okay, nice.
SALLY: So that’s one example. We want to increase the leverage in our affordable housing fee, so we’re going to work on that. And then we’re working on Juniper Ridge subdivision as an employment district.
KAREN: I would love to see that.
SALLY: Yeah, we really have blown life back into that. There’ve been a lot of different plans over time. We have a very informed, very balanced, very diverse group of people in the community. It will be a public process with public meetings. That’s what that all means. I’m very excited about that.
Some of the other goals – we talked about transportation infrastructure. We’ve talked about public safety and health, both very important. Some people talk a lot about mental health. We’re very interested in making sure that those specific issues get addressed, and that’s partnership with the county and the state.
KAREN: Boy, you have a lot on your agenda.
SALLY: I have a lot, yeah.
KAREN: When you look at the budget every two years – and I’m afraid it’s almost time to take another break, but maybe not quite – when you look at it every two years and you 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 then you probably incorporate some of those goals in the new goals, maybe, so you can get the projects finished?
SALLY: Part of having SMART goals is you can track your process along the way.
SALLY: We track where we are in the budgeting cycle, what we’ve expended, what we’ve accomplished, and sometimes you’ll have a discussion. Maybe we’re close to the goal. Maybe something’s not working.
KAREN: So you can tweak it.
SALLY: To identify what the barriers are for us. We have regular presentations, and we’re tracking on 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, the mayor of Bend. Thanks, Sally.
Hi, welcome back to House Talk. It’s Karen Malanga, Principal Broker at RE/MAX Key Properties and NestBend.com. If you’re thinking about buying or selling a home, give me a call.
Anyway, I’m back with Sally Russell, our mayor. We want to talk about Neighborhood Associations and how you as a listener to House Talk can really get more engaged with your neighborhood. She’s all about really increasing the grassroots participation. Right, Sally?
SALLY: Yeah. I think ever since I was elected in 2012, the more people know about our community and the more they get involved, the better we can do as leaders creating policies that really work for our community – for now and for our future.
It’s really interesting; when I sit there on council and I’m creating policy, it’s not only about you and me all the people who live in Bend today, but my job and my task as well is to really make sure that whatever happens in Bend, our community will be ready for it – whether or not it’s a forest fire, whether or not it’s a flood, 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 a good way for people to look at it. Their job, or your job, if you’re listening today, is to really learn about your community. One of the best ways to know what’s going on in your community is to go to the Neighborhood Association meetings.
KAREN: I live in the old part of downtown Bend, and I didn’t even know I had one. I’ve never been notified of a Neighborhood Association meeting.
SALLY: You’re in River West. [laughs] I believe you’re in River West.
KAREN: I’m in Pineland Park, but it’s probably under River West – because you have the additions we look at as real estate brokers.
SALLY: Right, but we have 13 Neighborhood Associations. I’ll send you the map.
KAREN: Okay, so I’m in River West.
SALLY: I expect you’re in River West.
KAREN: But then am I supposed to get something in the mail? How does this happen? [laughs]
SALLY: We’re not a city with an endless budget. We give the Neighborhood Associations budgets, and they have a Land Use Chair and they have a small budget for communicating and to build a website and to bring the constituents out to meetings or to communicate through Facebook or the website to understand what’s happening in their neighborhood as well as in our whole community.
What we need more from the Neighborhood Associations – it’s like a two-way street, right? “Here’s what’s happening in the city. Here’s how it might affect you. Here’s when this construction project is. Here are the streets in your neighborhood that are actually going to see upgrades in construction this year, so you may want to think 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 to change it and make it more compatible for our community in a way that we see as more appropriate? But there’s some pretty strict land use laws. They’re called property rights. As a realtor you work in that world as well. You buy a piece of property, there’s a limited – there’s a box around what you can or can’t do.
Anyway, but neighborhood engagement – I always think knowledge is so important.
KAREN: I think knowledge is power.
SALLY: Knowledge is power. I agree.
KAREN: I have lived in this house for like 20 years and I’ve never had an invite to the Neighborhood Association. [laughs] I should’ve known to reach out.
SALLY: You’ve gotten several postcards, which you may not have read, which announced – I know they do that at least one or two times a year.
Their assignment this year, from me as the mayor, Sally Russell the mayor of Bend, is we’re going to set up an incentive to make sure that people like you know about your Neighborhood Associations, and therefore know more about what’s happening in our city. Because when you’re an informed voter, when you’re an informed community, a person living here or working here –
KAREN: You feel like you have a say in something.
KAREN: Yeah, so I need to figure this out. But you know what, Sally? We’re out of time.
SALLY: Oh, not again. [laughs]
KAREN: We’re going to have to have you back.
SALLY: I’ll have to come back.
KAREN: Sally, how does someone reach you if they want to – and no complaints. Let’s just have positive stuff. [laughs] No snow calls.
SALLY: People can be curious.
KAREN: Yeah, people can be curious. I’m just teasing.
SALLY: If you go to the City of Bend Council – just google that – you can send an email to Council All, or you can send an email directly to me, which is email@example.com. I don’t have a staff, but often if I can answer a question directly, I will get someone to answer it.
KAREN: Thank you so much, Sally.
SALLY: Thank you so much.
KAREN: I know your time is – you’re always between meetings, and it’s really special when you come here to visit, so we appreciate you.
SALLY: Well, it’s truly an honor and a joy to serve this community. I love the work that I do and I love the people that I get to work with throughout our city.
KAREN: Thank you.
SALLY: All 90,000 of them. [laughs]
KAREN: [laughs] Thanks, Sally.
SALLY: Thank you, Karen.
KAREN: Bye bye.