Councilor Doug Knight Vies for the Mayoral Gavel

Councilor Doug Knight (left) and Mayor Jim Clinton. Source file photos.
Councilor Doug Knight (left) and Mayor Jim Clinton. Source file photos.
By Erin Rook, Source Weekly

When the new City Council meets for the first time on Wednesday, it’s short agenda includes electing a mayor and mayor pro-tem. In Bend, the mayor functions similarly to the chair of a board. He or she helps create the meeting agenda in cooperation with the city manager, facilitates meetings (with the ever-so-official gavel), and represents the City in a largely ceremonial capacity. Rather than being elected by a vote of the people, these positions are determined by the council.

This cycle, for the second time in recent history, one candidate is actively campaigning for the position, soliciting a show of support from members of the community.(Recently ousted Councilor Mark Capell made a bid for the honorary position in 2012.) Doug Knight, who was elected to Council in 2012, has thrown his name in the hat by encouraging Bendites — including Scott Morgan, founder of the Truth in Site Coalition — to recommend him to his fellow councilors.

In an email sent to Morgan and posted on the Truth in Site website, Councilor Knight makes his pitch:

Selection of Bend’s mayor occurs by a vote of council this Wednesday January 7th.
Based upon my long-time service to the Bend community and my recent successes
while serving on the Council, I am actively campaigning for the position. It would help
me immensely if you would put in a good word by emailing the other councilors and
councilor select advocating they vote for me as their mayor.

Topics such as preserving neighborhood livability from unruly vacation
rentals & excessive noise, protecting businesses from unnecessary ODOT
access closures from the HWY 97 re-route, and increased funding for our
long-range planning department to streamline the UGB remand are all topics
I’ve individually championed. If you recall, I was the only councilor to question
the OSU parking management plan as well.

Since being elected to the Bend City Council over two years ago, I have always
voted courageously with logic and fairness. Please help me by writing to those
listed below, and additionally, by asking your political contacts at TIS to do so as
well. Emails must be received by Tuesday evening 1/6/14.

We talked to Councilor Knight, who affirmed his interest in serving as mayor of Bend.

“I think that having someone who is a team leader and used to working as part of a team wiould be very beneficial,” Knight explains. “[Mayor Jim Clinton] is a critical thinker and scientist by nature and I think that brings an element of questioning to his modus operandi.”

Knight also suggested that he would take a bolder approach, encouraging Council to adopt what he calls a “culture of yes.”

“As of late, there’s been more of a culture among councilors of, “No, we’re not going to do that,” for fear of, perhaps, being sued. I’d like to change that culture,” Knight says. “Sometimes the right thing involves some inherent risk.”

He adds that his development background would contribute to discussions about Heritage Square, systems development charges (SDCs), affordable housing and other pending projects. Knight also contends that his moderate, nonpartisan stance would make him a good spokesperson for the City.

“I think its important we have a moderate with support from all sectors of the community and that would be me,” Knight says.

Despite his call for support from residents, Knight says he favors keeping the mayor an appointed position, rather than opening it up to an election by voters.

“I think it should continue to be an appointed position,” Knight explains. Otherwise, he adds, “it rapidly turns into a partisan pursuit, where those entities in the community recognize the mayor and pro tem set the agenda. As a moderate and nonpartisan I think it’s important to keep [partisan interests] out of all elections at the local level.”

Sitting Mayor Jim Clinton says he would like to continue on in the position and that he feels he has the support of the majority of Council. Though he doesn’t describe his activities as campaigning, Clinton says he has had conversations with his fellow city councilors and councilors-elect as well as City staff about what Council hopes to accomplish and who would be best for the position of mayor.

“I think my style and approach will help us get work done in a reasonable way,” Clinton says. “I think I enjoy considerable support from the other councilors. Doug appears to have started this campaign on his own account. He certainly has a right to do that. Everything is open for discussion.”

Still, he points out that actively campaigning among residents for a position appointed by Council is “a bit off of the point” and a relatively new trend. He says that he’s not aware of it happening prior to Councilor Capell’s bid, which led to Clinton and outgoing Mayor Pro-Tem Jodie Barram publicly declaring their candidacies.

“This time maybe that was a new pattern to be established, looking to supporters in community to lobby on your behalf to be mayor,” Clinton says. “I’m not so sure that is beneficial to the candidate promoting himself. It’s more about the confidence of colleagues than popular support for that.”

The sitting mayor adds that he believes continuity in the position is particular important following a contentious election that saw two incumbents unseated and three new councilors elected. That perceived stability is one of the major reasons Clinton says he favors the mayor being elected by the voters and says he’ll again push for Council to take that question on. When the issue was last broached, the proposal was one vote short of getting the go-ahead from Council, despite the support of then-Mayor Jeff Eager.

The Council will elect a mayor and mayor pro-tem at Wednesday night’s meeting.