Bend transportation bond pulled from May ballot

The Bend City Council on Wednesday unanimously voted to remove a $190 million transportation bond measure from the May ballot.

Mayor Sally Russell said COVID-19’s impact on the local economy and the uncertainty of what lies ahead made removing the measure from the ballot the right thing to do.

“All the projections are the number of infections will spike toward end of April,” Russell said in a phone call Thursday. “There was no reason to complicate anyone’s brain with whether or not to vote on a transportation bond.”

Councilors Wednesday night – over the phone to abide by social distancing guidelines – agreed.

“This won’t be able to get people’s focus and attention that it needs to,” said Councilor Bruce Abernethy. “This is not the right time to do it.”

The proposed bond – the largest ever requested by the city – would have helped fund dozens of projects including a railroad overpass on Reed Market Road, roundabout construction at some of the city’s most congested intersection and a slew of bike path and sidewalk improvements.

Councilors had to make a swift decision on whether to move forward as Thursday was the deadline to remove it from the ballot.

Council Gena Goodman-Campbell said many Bend residents right now are worried about whether they have a job today or could lose their job tomorrow and asking them for an additional $170 likely wouldn’t go over well.

GoBend2020, the coalition of business, environmental, and community groups  that joined forces to support the bond has encouraged the council to remove the measure from the ballot

“With the impacts of the COVID-19 virus still uncertain, priorities are shifting in Bend. In this unprecedented moment, it feels prudent to take stock of the situation, marshal resources and  work together to help our neighbors in need,” said Mike Riley, co-chair of the coalition.

“It is hard to step back and pause. We know we will need the economic stimulus, job creation and the real transportation improvements this bond will address. Therefore, the Go Bend 2020 Coalition, made up of over 100 businesses, non-profit organizations, and community leaders, will continue to support the transportation bond when the City Council deems it time to ask the community for its support,” Riley said.

Russell said the council would revisit the bond measure “at the appropriate time.”

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