Monday, March 19, 2012

250,000 in Bend?

Well, maybe in a 100 years.

As of July 1, 2011, PSU's Population Research Center estimated Bend had a population of 76,925, Redmond had 26,305 and Sisters, 2,055.

In fact, Deschutes County's population estimate was just 172,050 as of July 1, 2010, according to PSU.

But, recently, one of Bend's top developers claimed he expects to see Bend's population hit 250,000 by 2050.

I think it's safe to say that the county may hit 250,000 by 2050, but not Bend itself.

Besides, there is no way the city could handle that population growth when it can't supply sewer to half its citizens now.

There aren't even sidewalks in much of the city.

As for roads, the city has a few hundred million dollars in projects already lined up just to handle our current population.

Part of the problem is that the city lets developers design the city to their benefit. The other problem is that long-time residents are forced to subsidize these developers through higher property taxes and skyrocketing water/sewer rates.

Bend has never developed a "public facilities strategy" and, consequently, our public facilities can't keep pace with growth.

Yes, Bend is a desirable place to live, but unless you come here with wealth, you aren't likely to make your fortune here.

It's always been known as "poverty with a view."

The only "industry" is tourism, but contrary to an article in the local daily, we do not have "world class tourism amenities."

We've got some nice golf courses, some decent restaurants, but accommodations are definitely not even close to "world class."

Our ski resort, Mt. Bachelor, is great, but it is too short to ever attract World Cup ski races.

On the plus side, the medical community in Bend is the largest east of the Cascades.

And, Bend has become a beer town, thanks to Deschutes Brewery and about a dozen other brewpubs/breweries in the greater Bend area.

But, a beer gut will only get you so far in this world.

What's next? A medical marijuana mecca?

Bend does have Central Oregon Community College and a tiny branch campus of Oregon State University located at COCC.

The only way Bend could approach 250,000 people in 100 years is through higher education with a legitimate four-year university. Local leaders know a such a school is a necessity for long-term sustainability of the region.

But, the powers that be can't agree on a strategy.

While we have COCC/OSU Cascades on Bend's west side, there is this ridiculous notion that a "world-class" research university can sprout up from the sagebrush at Juniper Ridge on Bend's northeast side.

I've written before that the only private four-year school we could ever attract is a Bible college and that is exactly what is happening with Northwest Nazarene University.

Given the fact that Bend almost always elects Republicans to the state legislature in a Democratic state and that these Republicans just want to cut government spending, including at all levels of education, the west side of the state merely laughs at our higher ed aspirations.

Until the leaders of our community realize that COCC/OSU Cascades should evolve into a four-year university at its present site and seek ways to fund that institution, say through a 3-cent increase in the beer tax, rather than de-fund it with tax cuts, we won't ever have such a school.

Oregon is not alone in de-funding higher education. This is a national problem that will ultimately make us less competitive, less affluent, less secure and, well, less educated.

1 comment:

  1. Agreed. I'd love to see there to be a transition of COCC or OSUcascades into a full fledge 4 year university up there. It NEEDS to happen. But the estimate of 250k by 2050, while ambitious, isn't really that outlandish. There will be another boom here (hopefully not as crazy and unsustainable as the last) and you will see another large spike in Bend's population in the next 10 year.

    That said, we all have a opinions.