A Bend Bulletin editorial was published on Saturday, April 28th. Read it here. The NLA responded the The Bulletin with this letter.
This is a critical time for Bend. Important decisions are about to be made, among them
Urban Growth Boundary updates, zoning alignment to the Comprehensive Plan and an
update to the Transportation System Plan. These efforts are in addition to the myriad of
everyday decisions required to manage and maintain Bend, within the set of limited
resources available to it.
At this critical time, City leadership is moving to ensure that all stakeholders are heard
equitably in the dialogue on the future of Bend. Consequently, the City of Bend is
considering formalizing a relationship with the Bend Neighborhood Associations (NAs)
to create a committee representing all neighborhoods. Called the Neighborhood
Leadership Alliance (NLA), the City’s new Code would formally recognize an advisory
committee comprised of one representative nominated by the Boards of each of the 13
Who are the Neighborhood Associations?
They are 13 geographic groups that cover the entire population of the City of Bend. They represent their Neighborhoods on behalf of their constituents. According to the City of Bend website, “The Bend Neighborhood Associations provide residents the opportunity to help shape the future of their
neighborhood and the City.
Neighborhood Associations maintain and improve the quality of life in the city, increase citizen participation in local decision making, and form an effective partnership between the City and neighborhood residents.”
A core principle of the Bend Neighborhood Associations is inclusivity. The Associations
work to coordinate conversations among multiple parties to consider matters such as
traffic, neighborhood character, business vitality, development, neighborhood watch and
welcome, and disaster preparedness. The Neighborhood Associations represent all
constituents within their boundaries.
The Neighborhood Associations are the voice of Bend residents, and that voice has not,
until now, been a coordinated one. Currently, individuals can approach our City
leadership with perspectives on City strategy, policy or ordinances, but the Council and
Staff cannot deal with 100,000 individuals.
The Purpose and Value of Neighborhood Associations
Neighborhood associations help streamline such communications while giving voice to all their
residents. The Neighborhood Leadership Alliance is a natural evolution of this
communications channel that will offer Council better visibility into residents’ ideas and
concerns, and into the community’s vision for Bend.
This is not a new concept. In fact, the proposed Bend NLA is modeled after many such
very successful Advisory Committees across the country. Some are as close as
Portland, Eugene and Kirkland, WA. Others are as distant as Green Bay, WI and
Kansas City, KS. Each of these cities has experienced some of the same issues that
face Bend. And, in each of these cities, the neighborhood leadership associations have
become vital two-way communications channels between their constituents and City
leadership in dealing with them. We expect the same outcome here in Bend.
The Council uses the committee system as a means of dialogue with constituents. The
NLA would provide for efficiencies in communications and education with
residents. Consolidated feedback from the NAs, through the NLA, will assist the
Council in prioritization, and the NLA will provide an efficient means of communication
from the City Council back to its constituents. The NLA will ensure that the voice of all
Bend’s residents will be heard on topics that affect multiple NAs. Residents deserve a
seat at the table and the NLA will give it to them.
Any objective look at the City of Bend, with increasing growth and the compromises
demanded, reveals that a more efficient and effective means of communication between
city leadership and its constituents is desirable. City Councilors face a huge challenge
communicating with their ever-growing constituent size. The general support of City
leadership for this initiative reflects their wisdom in seeing the necessity for a regular
continuing channel of communications through the Neighborhood Leadership Alliance
(NLA), and we champion their thoughtfulness in this approach.