|Pacific Power's dilapidated Mirror Pond spillway|
I've been to a number of such hearings in the past, but I watched this one on TV. Opponents were passionate that the river be restored to its natural state and that three- or four-story buildings not be allowed next to the river.
The council, as it always does, listened well enough, but approved by a 4-3 vote, to proceed with further study of the "vision" created by the park district and an ad hoc committee.
As I wrote earlier, Pacific Power's dam is failing and the utility wants to abandon it along with the small hydro facility connected to it. The dam makes Mirror Pond possible, but it also causes sediment to build up over the years and it needs dredging every 20 years. It's been more than 30 years since the last dredging and the sediment is now substantial.
Naturally, Pacific Power does not want to pay a dime to dredge the pond or to decommission its own dam.
Also, naturally, developers seized upon this straightforward issue to propose taking over the Pacific Power land, along with an underused nearby park and a couple of city parking lots.
The developers got freshman legislator Knute Buehler (R-Bend) to beg the state for $5 million that will likely be used by the developers to purchase the land from Pacific Power, the park district and the city. Republicans are quick to spend money, but always prevent government from raising taxes to fund those expenditures.
It's all moved so fast that most citizens of Bend have no idea whats really happening.
The last thing developers and a slim majority of the council want is for any of this to go before the vote of the people.
But, what's proposed is so massive that voters should decide the fate of the most iconic spot in Bend.
Also, the dam and dredging issues are completely separate from any redevelopment of the area.
Take one issue at a time and proceed cautiously. And, don't put the taxpayers at risk.
As for the opponents, it's great they came out and spoke at the council meeting. It's also great that they've gathered signatures from a few thousand citizens who are opposed to the preferred "vision" for Mirror Pond.
That said, all of that is essentially meaningless.
Unless opponents can pool their financial resources together to sue the city and park district to prevent the "vision" from going forward, all their angst will be for naught.
That's what the grass-roots group Truth In Site has done to stop OSU-Cascades from building its new campus on junk land on Bend's west side. It has, at least, stalled the misguided campus project.
The city won't put the Mirror Pond issue to a city-wide vote, so a lawsuit is the only recourse.
Unfortunately, a handful of people decide what gets done in this town and taxpayers get stuck with the bill.