Why do local elections matter?

By: Victor Chudowsky, Bend City Councilor

What should business people consider when voting for a Bend City Councilor?

November 2016 is going to be a big election and the national situation is tumultuous to say the least. This is going to divert attention from local elections, which is unfortunate because many decisions made at the local level have a more direct impact on voters’ everyday lives than what happens in Washington, DC.  Pay attention to your local races.  They matter a lot. To follow are a few other things business people should consider when backing a candidate this fall.

Level of interest: First, is the candidate interested in issues affecting business people?  This includes fees, taxes, land use, system development charges, code enforcement, etc. Often candidates stress that they themselves run a business, and somehow this gives them credibility. Don’t be fooled. Owning a business is not enough; lots of people do that.  The question is whether the candidate cares about all businesses, not just their own. Business people need to support one another and get involved with issues even if their own business is not affected. That’s how we maintain a strong voice.

Involvement: Has the candidate been a voice in the business community, or the community at large?  Look for people who have worked on previous issues, or whether they have served on community boards, neighborhood associations or city committees.

Basic knowledge: The candidate should have a basic understanding of core city functions and the budget.  The City does not control parks or schools, nor does it provide social services (although one can argue that our police department does so, in a sense). A candidate may complain that we are not doing enough to provide health assistance to the homeless.  That’s a worthy opinion, but the City of Bend does not provide health services; that is done through the county government.  Similarly, the City budget is composed of “silo” funds which are segmented and restricted.  We can’t, for example, use water revenues to repair streets.

Grand schemes: In the past, Bend taxpayers have been burned when elected officials have funded things outside the core functions of government. If a candidate has some wonderful new initiative, ask that candidate whether the City has the capacity to administer it and who is going to pay.

Personal attributes like communication skills and leadership matter a lot. It’s a complicated job that requires one to be both decisive and flexible.

Victor Chudowsky will be on the panel at the upcoming What’s Brewing: Why Local Elections Matter on Tuesday, July 12 at the Deschutes Brewery Tap Room. Join the discussion about the role of the Bend City Council, how it impacts you and trickles out to the community. Register here!

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