Editorial: Put Mirror Pond on the ballot

November 17, 2013
Editorial: Put Mirror Pond on the ballot

It’s time for the folks deciding the future of Bend’s Mirror Pond to break from their weakness and their secrecy. Put the pond’s future on the ballot.

We normally expect elected leaders to represent the public and make decisions. They made a mess of Mirror Pond.

After they had been wrestling with the issue for years, they conducted a survey to find out what the community wants for Mirror Pond. They didn’t even try to make it a scientific poll. So it was meaningless.

The Bend City Council and the Bend Park & Recreation District then formed a committee that would make recommendations about Mirror Pond’s future. The Mirror Pond committee tried to hold meetings in secret. But as The Bulletin pointed out to the committee, that violates Oregon law.

The committee started over with open meetings. But the affinity for secrecy was reborn at the meeting on Wednesday.

The committee members used secret ballots to determine who the three new citizen members of the committee would be. The ballots were tabulated and collected without ever making it publicly clear how members of the body voted. Members of a public committee using secret ballots to choose other committee members at a public meeting — that has to be a new standard for obscurity.

If that is not enough secrecy for you, a subset of the committee met privately with Pacific Power. From what the subcommittee members said about the secret meeting, nothing much could happen. The subcommittee couldn’t tell Pacific Power what the community wants.

The committee’s plan is now to make a recommendation to the Bend City Council and the Bend park board about what the committee thinks should happen with Mirror Pond. Don Horton, the executive director of Bend park district, is drafting it. The draft should, at least, be posted publicly before the Mirror Pond committee’s next meeting on Dec. 2.

Presumably, the Mirror Pond Committee will vote on it and send the recommendation to the Bend City Council and the Bend park board. Those entities will vote on what they think is the right option and send that back.

Nobody brought up the possibility that the Bend City Council and the park board could recommend different things. Perhaps they assumed that the Mirror Pond process has been going so well, they would just get lucky.

There are of course many issues that the community needs better answers to. We wouldn’t blame Pacific Power if it wanted out of the dam, but what does it want to do? How stable is the dam? How much would it cost to repair the dam? How much would mitigation cost? Would the state allow the dam to remain if it were no longer used to generate power? Those are the questions the committee needs to get the best answers it can for the community.

Then it should put Mirror Pond’s future on the ballot. There should be related ballot measures that would pay for the options. No more secrecy. No more elaborate posturing. Let the voters decide. It’s the perfect poll.

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