The City Club of Central Oregon announced last week, at an evening reception for its members and guests, that the “Westside Transect” is the winner of its first ever “Conversation of the Year Award”. The Award is given to the community conversation that best reflects City Club’s mission and values. The winning conversation featured many individuals and organizations. It is credited, at least in part, for accomplishing three things: (1) it helped bring finality to Bend’s decade-long Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) dispute; (2) it created a de facto permanent boundary for Bend’s westward expansion toward the forest and Tumalo Creek; and (3) it re-directed the community’s focus toward revitalization of its neglected urban core between the Bend Parkway and Fourth Street. That area has become known as the Bend Central District (BCD).
Unlike most awards, which recognize individual achievement, the Conversation Award celebrates the quality of the conversation, itself, and recognizes the community as the true winner. City Club prides itself for being tough on issues but easy on people. It fosters a culture where members may disagree without being disagreeable. The participants in the winning conversation exemplified those principals.
Paul Dewey and Kirk Schueler, who started this important conversation, accepted the award on behalf of the community. Dewey is the founder and executive director of Central Oregon LandWatch, while Schueler is the president and CEO of developer Brooks Resources Corporation. Dewey and Schueler each provided their insights before being toasted for their efforts by the audience.
Dewey noted that, although the conversation had its roots in land use litigation, the mutual respect, and professionalism, between he and Schueler enabled them to continue, and then expand, their conversations. What started as an effort to settle a narrow lawsuit quickly grew into a much broader conversation about managing density, avoiding sprawl, and stewarding the region’s urban and rural resources. Schueler commented that good conversations, once started, are contagious. The seed that sprouted in conflict has developed into a series of conversations that will impact the look and feel of Central Oregon, and the quality of life for its residents, for generations. For example, just earlier this month, Brooks Resources and LandWatch jointly threw a packed-house reception at a BCD distillery to launch the transformation of Bend’s urban core into a healthy and vibrant mixed-use neighborhood.
Another key participant in the winning conversation was the City’s long-range planner, Brian Rankin, who worked tirelessly to involve the public and to obtain broad community consensus regarding the plan. Other important participants included Mike Tennant, Ron White, Charley Miller, Jim Clinton, Victor Chudowsky, and numerous volunteers who served on the City’s various technical advisory groups.
The revolving trophy for the Conversation Award is an antique lectern, equipped with a chrome microphone, which symbolizes City Club’s role in providing a voice for community perspectives. Those perspectives are represented by four interwoven “conversation bubbles” that make up City Club’s logo, which adorns the front of the lectern in wood from four species of Oregon trees. The trophy also features various historically significant artifacts, including a spike from the Shevlin-Hixon Railroad, a piece of the original fish gate for the Pilot Butte Canal diversion, and a 1912 photo of sign-bearing suffragists gathered on the porch of the Drake Lodge.
The winner was selected, from dozens of nominations, by a committee of City Club’s former presidents. Other finalists for the award include the 35-year effort to protect and restore Wychus Creek , the regional transportation funding coalition, and the conversation to shift from a quantitative, to a qualitative, emphasis for tourism.
The winner, and each finalist, demonstrates the efficacy of City Club’s tagline: “Conversation Creates Community.” According to Dewey and Schueler, that conversation is contagious.