▶️ City of Bend says ad campaign was insensitive, removes billboard

BY HEATHER ROBERTS
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY

The billboard went up Monday at 9th and Wilson.

On Wednesday, frustrations boiled over at a Bend City Council meeting.

“History matters,” Bend resident Joanne Mina told councilors. “When we tell a history that is incomplete, we are lying to ourselves and we are asking others to believe our lies. And it’s not City Council, it’s not our City Manager, it’s not one individual, it’s all of us.”

Several people spoke out against the billboard that portrays a covered wagon in the High Desert.

“Campaigns that produce offense, like the one at Ninth and Wilson, remind communities like mine of how naive, ignorant and oblivious the dominant culture of this city remains,” said Sareli Beltran of Bend.

The ad campaign is supposed to get people thinking about east-west connectivity in Bend and encourage participation in a one-minute transportation survey.

It didn’t take long for negative feedback over the image to come in.

“It started as a Facebook post, from somebody who felt that this was insensitive,” said Anne Aurand, Communications Director. “And, one of our Councilors was aware of that Facebook post and had engaged with it, and she brought it to our attention.”

City Manager Eric King acknowledged Tuesday night eluding to the western expansion and colonization was a misstep.

“There were displacement of native peoples and that is real; and that is a mistake on our part to sort of acknowledge that,” King said. “So, we are taking that image down.”

Aurand says the covered wagon image was removed from the website as soon as the city was first made aware of the complaint, but it takes longer to replace a billboard, a process that will cost the city $500.

“Our options are to create a new image or put the safe crossing image there. So, we’re working through that process,” she said.

The campaign was created with the help of a consultant and Aurand calls it a regrettable, insensitive oversight, “This isn’t going to happen again. I’m never going to not remember this moment in a future campaign.”

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