The Bend We Choose

It’s not news to local residents that humans love Bend, OR and they are moving here in droves. Feeble attempts to dissuade new residents come in the form of bumper stickers that say “Bend Sucks, Don’t Move Here.” which probably works against the cause and peaks interest even more. Some residents speak of closing mythical gates to keep newcomers out, often forgetting that had gates actually existed, they wouldn’t be calling this beautiful place home.

I have had the privilege of calling Bend home, off and on, for the past 42 years. I was born in the “new” hospital way out east of town in 1976, the first year it was in operation. Growing up here was idyllic and I cherish my childhood, “Old Bend” and the times before Bend got big. And big it has gotten and it is poised to get much bigger. Much, much bigger. Roads are congested, there isn’t enough housing to support everyone, salaries are stagnant and the cost of living is high. There isn’t enough money in the City coffers to fix all the problems that are stacking up as more people roll in. Identifying problems is easy. Solving them is challenging.

About 6 years ago, I started noticing that Bend was feeling overrun and overwhelmed. A designer by trade and a lover of this place, I began studying urban design in hopes of understanding what makes a city and its residents thrive. With this newfound knowledge, I became frustrated with the state of our City from a livability, safety and design standpoint. This energy spurred me to stop complaining and grumbing and to get involved by applying for one of the City’s Citizen Advisory Committees. That committee worked to reimagine the Bend’s Westside from a land use and transportation lens with the consideration of historic neighborhoods and new university campus, among other considerations. I learned a lot from wise residents and city staff who were patient and attentive to my questions. Today I serve on a second Citizen Advisory Committee to make recommendations about Bend’s Transportation Safety Plan (TSP), a document that will guide our transportation decisions for years to come.

This activation and engagement has allowed me to see the two top mayoral candidates, Sally Russell and Bill Moseley, in action. I’m inspired to write because although they may look similar on paper, they couldn’t be more different in their approach, how they work with Staff, their inclusivity of all citizen voices, their abilities to hear and hold new ideas, and their decision making processes. In my interactions with Staff and Council, I’ve watched a significant shift since Bill has become a city councilor. Bill is an clear, concise and efficient orator. Behind a mic he will knock your socks off. It is his strength and he makes sure his crisp voice is always heard. However, what I often find underlying that precision delivery is an aggressive, disruptive and argumentative tone that derails process and visioning and stops collaborative policymaking in its tracks. During his short time as a City Councilor, I’ve watched him publicly shame City Staff on social media by standing at congested intersections and calling out all the things wrong with Bend. Many see him as standing up for the Eastside and frustrated long-time locals like me. I’m not buying it. I find it extremely divisive and counterproductive. To a citizen without proper context, this may look like “holding Staff accountable” to reference The Bulletin recent endorsement for Bill. In reality, there is way more to it than is portrayed and his tactics have created notable division within the walls of City Hall that reverberates out to our city. 

One of Bill’s hot topics is congestion and the “war on cars” that he claims the City is currently waging. Nearly two years ago, a neighbor and I sat across the table from Bill, who kindly invited us to his office after we spoke at City Council about a dangerous intersection near our homes. He finished the meeting by asking us whether we thought that neighborhood streets or major arterial roads should be widened to relieve the City’s growing congestion problem. I was shocked and heartbroken to be sitting in front of a public servant who was out-of-touch with current transportation design thinking. If you google the phrase, induced demand, you’ll understand that when cities widen streets, they only attract more traffic and encourage more driving over time. Wider streets don’t eliminate congestion, but actually encourage more. Counterintuitive as it may be, it is the documented truth. Humans have made this mistake in many places, to the financial ruin and destruction of many communities, and are now literally paying the price to undo the damage. Anyone who has lived in or visited places like Atlanta, Seattle, or LA where road widening was the “solution” to congestion knows that it only worsened the problem. Sorry, Bend, congestion is here to stay, even if Bill believes and campaigns on the idea that we can build our way out of it. I’ve seen the models and listened to the experts. We must learn from other cities and find other solutions.

On his website, Bill states that “Bend needs a common-sense plan to manage our growth and preserve the town we love.” Unfortunately, urban planning isn’t common-sense or intuitive. It is a complex interwoven web of variables and often counterintuitive solutions and policies that require constant refinement. It requires big picture systems thinking. In listening to recent debates and council meetings, Bill’s solutions over the years, like road widening, tend to be short-term band-aids that don’t always reference the larger picture and planning that is happening in the background. Widening roads and prioritizing housing construction on the outer edges of town will only create more congestion on top of imminent population growth. This isn’t to say that these things won’t happen over time, but they sure aren’t solutions. These ideas lack entry level research or consultation from the experts in the room: City Staff. As the Bulletin Op-Ed also notes to which I agree, “City staff has much more knowledge than city council members on almost any issue. It is their full-time job.” Staff doesn’t have to google ‘induced demand’. It’s a steady part of their daily vernacular. They probably wish that we as citizens would google it, understand it and then hold our Councilors accountable for being knowledgeable about these topics. 

The coming years will be tough for Bend as we grow into a city. I want to elect a mayor who instills a culture of respect for all voices in the room.  I want the smart, savvy, hard-working Staff at the City to utilize City Council Meetings as effective and collaborative environments to find solutions. The elected mayor has much to do about how that space is held and the processes put in place during their time in office. Staff and Councilors may hold different opinions about priorities, but staff doesn’t need to be “held accountable” by the Mayor and Council. They deserve to be trusted and respected for the extensive, arduous work they do and the expertise they hold in their fields. It’s what we all deserve. Publicly blaming and shaming the very people you will sit alongside the next day to solve our communities pressing problems is the opposite of creating healthy culture. It is the definition of the oppressive, dominant, power-over model that dominates government today and divides our communities.

When I fill out my ballot on November 6, I’m choosing visionary, collaborative leaders who are skilled communicators, who bring out the best in those around them, who encourage input from citizenry, who think long-term and can make tough decisions that are equitable and just for our communities. Sally Russell checks all these boxes, in addition to having far more experience and qualifications than Bill. She recently released a version of her website in Spanish in order to reach out to more voices in our community. She was one of the first along with DA John Hummel to stand firmly alongside of a local survivor of sexual assault at the hands of a fellow City Councilor. I’ve known and worked with Sally on various service-oriented and community projects and know her talents as a policy maker, a leader who hears and holds ideas with an open mind and a positive culture builder. For these reasons, she is that candidate that best represents me and the place I’m blessed to call home.

A Community Reunited

(This post represents the written version of a story told orally at the 2018 Muse Conference Friday Salon entitled, Eastside Meets Westside by Casey Crisler Davis, a Bend, OR Native.)

To begin, I’d like to recognize my privilege to get to stand here and tell my story. I have connections to the organizers of this event and I realize not everyone gets this opportunity.

My name is Casey Davis and I am a Bend Native and an eastside resident. As a native, I am often asked the question: How do you feel about the growth and change that Bend had seen? I usually answer with the positives of enjoying more concerts and employment opportunities, but I’ve only recently been able to realize that I have suffered a real loss in Bend’s growth and it is a loss that I unknowingly helped create.

I was at Jackson’s Corner East with my family on a Friday night a couple months back for dinner. It was packed and there was live music. So we asked two women if we could join them at their table and they smiled and said yes. I asked one of them if they lived in the neighborhood and she said she proudly responded yes and that she had lived in Bend for 25 yrs. Her energy softened when I told her I was born at the hospital across the street and she said, “Then you remember when it was just one Bend.” I smiled and nodded and have been pondering that statement ever since.

I do remember Bend as one community. I remember there being class differences, however not so clearcut between west and east. Neighborhoods were inclusive and diverse. I grew up in a westside neighborhood with doctors, firefighters, teachers, coaches, the town undertaker all as neighbors. The income range was wide. I went to Bend High (this was before Summit) and the socioeconomic range was even wider. Many of my closest friends and teammates came from financially-strapped households. Everyone’s parents showed up to games and were supportive of their kids. I’ve learned since then that behind the scenes, parents who could give, including my parents, made sure that everyone had enough.

When I returned to Bend after college and travels, in 2000, Bend had grown and changed significantly. Prices of homes, especially on the westside, were skyrocketing and I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to afford ownership. As a twenty something, I had to live on the westside. It was hip, convenient, close to downtown and walkable. I realize now that about that time, I made up a story about the eastside. That it wasn’t hip and walkable, that it was lesser and my brain assigned that label to the people who lived there as well. I even began to believe that living there may not be safe.

Needless to say, I got lost temporarily in the craze of what was desirable and forgot what was real. As friends moved to town, I would tell them to find a place on the westside no matter what. Even if it stretched their budget, it was worth it. By doing this, I unintentionally contributed to the cultural divide and the loss of community that I am now grieving. It was language that kept us separate and has contributed to the unhealthy class divide we see in Bend today.

My journey east began with a decision to foreclose on our westside townhome and start a family. When my son was three months, we moved to a home in Northwest Crossing. After a year and a half, the owner was contemplating selling and raised our rent, so we began to look. In a 1-3% vacancy rental market, you go where you can. A close friend connected us to an available home with low rent and we were grateful. Except, it was on the Eastside. All those stories that lived in my subconscious started to bubble up about safety and the type of people that lived there. But then there was a part of me that began to remember. Remember that income rarely defines the character of a person. And really, you are moving to the eastside of BEND. Get over yourself, you ridiculously fortunate human being!

So in the matter of two years, I had gone from being a westside homeowner to an eastside renter. Ahhhh, titles and our attachment to them. I was choosing to see this as an adventure and soon after we moved in, set out to meet my neighbors armed with pints of fresh Oregon strawberries. A sweet woman in her 80s lived to the north and we exchanged stories about Old Bend. My third grade teacher lived across the street and we still connect with her to arrange playdates with my son. But the neighbors to the north, I had some an anxiety about knocking on their door.

It was a small older home with a wood-burning stove. I had met the teenage son one day in the backyard. He was out with their three dogs, but I hadn’t seen any adults around. The freaky part was, the curtain were always closed 24 hrs a day. When I knocked on the door mid-morning, a man with a furrowed brow and suspicion in his eyes peeked around the curtain. He opened the door, gave me the pointer finger on the lips signal to be quiet, and closed the door behind him.

My fear was standing right in front of me in the form of an unshaven, bathrood-clad middle aged white guy. I nervously introduced myself and handed him the berries.  He excused his appearance and explained that his wife was a night nurse and slept during the day–hence the closed curtains and lack of presence during daylight hours. Sensing that the first impression may have been a bit skewed, she came over on her next day off and introduced herself. We connected over her work and vision of creating a better bridge between midwives and the hospital.

By going on walks, setting up a lending library, garden plots and a bench in the front yard, we began to really connect to the neighborhood. All the stories and fears subsided and I actually began to feel more at home than I did on the westside. The eclectic mix of residents of all ages and backgrounds made conversations diverse and invigorating. It felt like home. I remembered the power of diverse community and connection to people whose lives look different than my own.

We can’t go back to the old Bend, but we can move forward with open eyes and hearts to the separations that we create and ask is it really healthy for our community? My hope is that by sharing my story, I can help to heal the loss of community that I unintentionally helped create with my language. My hope is that we can all explore what a Bend without a divide, even in our minds, might look like.

Thank you.

A Bend Mom's Struggle with School Choice

This post is a response to an article written by Courtney E. Martin for OnBeing entitled, The Problem with Seeking the Best for Your Kids. Courtney is the author of one of my favorite new books entitled, The New Better Off.

Hi Courtney....

I acknowledge that you asked for stories from parents who went against the flow and placed their children in neighborhood schools. I wonder if you also might be interested in stories from parents who, like you, heavily considered how their choice impacts their communities. In the end, we didn't stay in our neighborhood school (we are in public school) however at times during the decision making process, it could very well have been different. And that is what is interesting to me. I wonder if it is less about the decision that I made being right or wrong, good or bad. I wonder if it is the awareness that spawned within me that this is a hard conversation that our community must keep open if we want to create a world that works for all children. Regardless of where my child goes to school, I will work to ensure that all kids (and people really) in my community are getting their needs met and having an equal opportunity to thrive regardless of the cards they were dealt. I know that my family cannot be healthy if another family is suffering.

When Jon was in town for the Bend Design Conference, we had a chance meet and talk briefly. We discussed cohousing for a bit and a community building project I’m involved in, but I remember that school choice was what was really on his mind. He asked if I could offer any perspective. He wasn’t feeling well, looking rather pale, and the timing felt off to really dive deep. I think I offered him some jumbled and cliché answer about knowing in the end what is right for you family and encouraged him to get some rest. So when your article popped up in my Facebook feed with a request for stories, it seemed like time to share the story I didn’t tell Jon that night.

It’s important to have context, so I’ll lay some foundation here. Bend, Oregon doesn’t have much racial diversity, so socioeconomics is how our city is divided. From a class perspective, our cohousing community is located in one of the poorest pockets of our city. You wouldn’t know it by driving though, but subsidized affordable housing circles the neighborhood school that is two blocks from our cohousing community. According to Robert Putnam’s, Our Kids, 45% of kids 18 and under are living in poverty in our neighborhood. Eighty-nine percent of the kids at the neighborhood school (K-5) qualify for free or reduced lunch, so the district has opted to feed everyone breakfast, snack and lunch, no questions asked. Many of the kids are coming from unstable and sometimes abusive homes and have extremely high ACEs scores. Classes are intentionally small due to frequent incidents and outbursts from students who are living with trauma. Knowing all of this, I was terrified to put my son into that mix. I feared he would stand out like a sore thumb with his homemade lunches, helpful demeanor and outgoing personality.

Bend has the blessing and curse of many public school options in the form of magnet and charter schools. Some are lottery selected, but you can transfer within the district as long as you provide your own transportation. And there lies the privilege factor. If you have the means, time or support system to drive your kid across town, the system is somewhat your oyster. We applied for everything to keep our options open. I’m a bit of a urban design enthusiast and idealist who wants kids to bike or walk to their neighborhood schools for so many reasons. In a town-turning-small-city that has no public transportation of much value (currently) and traffic that is overwhelming the infrastructure, it just makes good cents. Ugh. You see my dilemma.

Thankfully I have amazing neighbors to help me process all of this. Several neighbor families had given the neighborhood school a try with no luck and had decided to transfer for various reasons. Another was good friends with the kindergarten teacher there and encouraged us to check it out. My other neighbor, friend and on-call therapist reminded me that bullying happens at any school and to look at the opportunities that staying put might bring. Another couple also had a child going into kindergarten. She was a lawyer for LegalAid at the time and her husband is a public school teacher. They were willing to do some exploring with me. It’s so much easier to do anything in this life when you’ve got some willing collaborators. She had sent me an article about how kids that go to challenging neighborhood schools vs. transferring to other more elite schools all end up with similar abilities in the end. So with open minds, we set up a tour to meet the principal at our neighborhood school. I thought about the amazing impact that our two families could have on that school and how the elders of our community would become engaged as volunteers. It was a lovely story. I felt less fearful and more empowered.

The tour was eye-opening and we came to understand the heavy lifting that the staff at the school did each day and the profile of the student body. The school and classrooms had a calmness to them that I didn’t expect from an elementary school, let alone one populated by “at-risk” kids. We were told it was intentional as a way to allow the students nervous systems to rest from the trauma they experience each day at home. School was where they could find a sense of stability and safety. Schedules were extremely consistent and rhythmic so students knew was coming next. If there was variance like a guest speaker or assembly, they were told well in advance and reminded it was coming frequently. It was easy to understand all of these strategies, but I was finding it really challenging to imagine how my outgoing child who has been deemed “the mayor” of our cohousing community and loves doing announcements at community dinners would fit in here. The environment was clearly not designed with him in mind. The social justice part of me kept saying this is where you should be, make your impact here. The mom in me was saying, this isn’t a great fit for your kid. Taking the tour and meeting the principal and staff put me at ease that if my child were to go there, which was highly probably, he would be safe. I was no longer afraid of that possibility.

Across town, I also toured two of the public magnet schools, both of which employ a more hands-on, experiential curriculum. No seats in rows or long periods of sitting. As a mother of an active boy coming from a Waldorf preschool setting, this was appealing. Each child is seen as having their own developmental timeline, gifts and offerings to the world. Both schools actively engage in the arts, social emotional learning and are very much rooted in community. We chose to apply for a school housed in one of the oldest, smallest schools in downtown Bend. There is one class per grade (K-5) and around 160 students total. Around 30% of the kids received free or reduced lunch. Despite Bend’s lack of diversity, kids of color were there. Every morning before school starts at 9, one of the classes hosts “Community Time”. It involves the class getting up on the stage and performing something they’ve been working on in class, or a singing performance by a classmate or small group, a relay race, current events trivia, an interview with a local community member. Birthdays are celebrated, school announcements are made, “celebrations” (exciting and often hilarious events in the lives of students) are spoken and applauded. From the moment they start school there, being on stage, performing, putting yourself in front of your peers is the norm. Classes work together on projects and have older and younger “buddies”. There is a culture of “olders” (3-5) caring for “youngers” (K-2) much like we experience in our cohousing community. As you can imagine, I walked away from that tour feeling at home. And conflicted as ever.

So we waited. When the letter arrived in the mail to learn our son’s name had been picked in the lottery to attend the magnet school, I was still torn. We had to answer by week’s end. I knew Taran would thrive there. But I wanted to break the trend of fleeing the neighborhood school and be able to walk Taran to school each day. By going through this process, something had clearly shifted in me. I went from wanting to run to wanting to stay. At that moment, I wasn’t willing to let go of the kids and staff at our neighborhood school. But I also wanted my own child to get his needs meant. Due to the overwhelming amount of affordable housing in our neighborhood, it was clear that our neighborhood school was focused on meeting the emotional needs of kids who were coming from trauma. At the end of the week, we chose the magnet school.

Our cohousing community is a place where I am surrounded by female mentors, wise, empty-nested mothers, nurses, therapists, writers and elders. They ask open-ended questions and allow me to fumble my way through the answers. One of those questions that comes back to me from that time was from my friend, Dorothy. She asked me, “Casey, what is your work and what is Taran’s work in this situation? At that moment, it became clear to me that my work was to use my gifts and creativity to make sure the kids in my neighborhood school felt supported. Taran’s work was to fall in love with learning and having a great time doing it. Had I sent him to the neighborhood school, I would be creating one more kid in the system not getting his needs met. The guilt I felt for “fleeing my neighborhood” started to lift. Ideas and opportunities started to appear.

About that time, a conversation had started in our cohousing community about how we wanted to interact with our surrounding neighborhood. With several retirees with bright minds and big hearts, we worked with the school staff to start an after school “reading” program. It’s taken about a year to get going, but about 7-10 of us, myself included, are involved every week. Some reading goes on, but we spend more time listening to the kids and hearing their stories. Last week a second-grader rested on the floor in the library after telling my neighbor (a nurse and facilitator) how he had to stay up until midnight doing laundry and that his dad came home angry. He didn’t get much sleep. I was so glad he had my neighbor, Sarah, to receive his story. He and another tired child slept on the floor for the session. Their stories were heard and they got exactly what they needed that day.

I also volunteer at Taran’s magnet school to stay in contact. There is plenty of parent support to manage the fundraising and daily workings of the school, so I serve on the Site Council that meets quarterly to discuss larger projects, long-term goals, and parental concerns. I work to give equally to both schools. I challenge myself to see each child as I see my very own. I know that the after school program we’ve created doesn’t just support kids, but also their parents who are living in survival mode: working multiple jobs, dealing with high levels of stress and can’t be there. My privilege allows me the space to help them and be a positive adult in their child’s lives. Our children’s lives.

Going between the two schools on a weekly basis helps me stay rooted in what is true in our community. And what is true is that somewhere in our City’s history, we chose to hide all the financially-poor people on the eastside of town where the rich people can’t see them. There’s little to no interaction, they can’t hear one another’s stories, and there is definitely “Westside” and “Eastside” language that labels and perpetuates the divide. NIMBY is alive and well on the Westside as wealthy retirees move in who have worked hard their entire life and feel they “deserve” to live away from “those people”. Any project that would add higher density, smaller dwellings, or more affordable options are attacked and vilified by neighbors at community land use hearings. You know the story. It’s not unique to Bend.

So next month I’m scared shitless to host and tell my story at a Friday SALON at the upcoming WORLD MUSE Conference here in Bend. With the help of my neighbors as group facilitators, we are going to hold small group conversations with activities that invite participants to try living on the other side of town for the session and tell that story. We will do a writing exercise to explore how people feel and react to having an affordable housing project scheduled to be built in their neighborhood. I want to hold a safe space for people to have real conversations. To share if they want and for everyone to have a chance to be heard. Because in the end this is the reason why I couldn’t send my child to my neighborhood school. Our city is so segregated by class and that school is juggling far more important topics than reading and writing. It’s not fair that one school bears that kind of intensity and it is all because access to half of the city is denied to a lower socioeconomic class of people.

I hope this story is helpful, Courtney. It may not have been what you were looking for, but it is what is true for me. Each community and scenario is different and the process is gut-wrenching, er, I mean a growth opportunity, to say the least. I think you will recognize this quote and it is so applicable here: “The complexity of the local, however, can never be an excuse for disengagement. If anything, it’s an invitation for us to stretch–to become more brave, more humble, more invested, more creative.” You know the author.  My friend and neighbor, Carol, spoke about your article yesterday and she said to me, “ This isn’t about where each individual sends their kids in the short term… is more about realizing that this is conversation that we must continue to have as a community, to stay open and to work to create change around so that all kids are getting the education that they need in the long term.” She reminds me that by volunteering at the neighborhood school, I am improving the health of my own child because his well-being is dependent upon the well-being of all of the children in our community.

Thank you for putting this topic and all of yourself out into the world. You are an inspiration to me and all who are waking up and finding their way to your work. Thank you for showing up big at this time in history. The world needs all of us to show up as our most brilliant, messy, curious and questioning selves at this time. And you are doing just that. Thank you for posing the questions that we all need to answer. Good luck to you and Jon. I’ll be following along with interest.

With much gratitude,
Casey Davis

Bursting the Bend bubble

If you’ve lived here a while you’ve heard the term, “The Bend Bubble”. It often arises when residents return from travel, having experienced something very different from their daily routine at home. Awareness of the ‘bubble’ also arises when there is discussion about social inequities that are happening elsewhere that we “just don’t experience here in Bend.” Returning to the bubble feels safe and comfortable. It’s a place where people tend to agree on most things, needs are being met and lives are relatively stable.

My intention in bringing up the bubble is not to be divisive, but instead to raise awareness, encourage action and increase connection. The truth is that due to the dramatic segregation of our City, bubble dwellers reside primarily on the more affluent Westside. I have had to good fortune to live in the bubble most of my life, safely tucked away from the struggles of people living across the tracks. When we are in the bubble, there are things that we can’t see. Over the past six years, my family has navigated the challenging local rental market, migrating from one of the most desirable neighborhoods to one of the most economically distressed part of town.  In his book, Our Kids (2015), decorated Harvard professor, Robert Putnam profiled six U.S. cities to examine how and why we are failing our children in providing pathways out of poverty. With a nation of cities at his disposal, Putnam chose Bend, OR as a community of extreme segregation and socioeconomic inequity. Bend rose to the top of the list, but not the “most livable cities” lists that we are used to see on our Facebook feed by our realtor friends. Quite the opposite. The book includes a map showing that in my neighborhood, 45% of children under the age of 18 are living in poverty. A westside high school student interviewed has no idea that Bend has a poverty problem. He cannot see it from where he exists.

Today, Bend is a rapidly growing city where vital community members such as teachers and nurses are struggling to find housing that doesn't empty their wallets. We can wait no longer. It is time to change the conversation and update the strategy. Local community leaders and developers are beginning to collaborate with change makers and thought leaders to identify tools and create solutions that fit the unique needs of our city. We can no longer look solely through the lens of financial prosperity, we must equally consider the lens of community wellbeing. Financial capital and human capital must be equally valued if Bend is to thrive again.

With respect to developers of both affordable housing projects and new urbanism neighborhoods, the solution does not live in building neighborhoods where residents all look, think, work and act alike. In Bend, those neighborhoods have been built and that strategy has been executed. In terms of affordable housing, our strategy of clustering vulnerable populations in the same neighborhood is further segregating our city and failing to create communities of social support. In neighborhoods on the Eastside, where many residents are in constant financial chaos, schools, churches and social services carry the heavy weight of providing support for our youth and their families. Neighbors cannot support one another because everyone is fighting the same battle: staying afloat. We may be putting roofs overhead, but we aren’t creating supportive neighborhoods. At the other end of the spectrum, in neighborhoods of affluence, independence reigns and busy schedules make lending a hand or connecting with neighbors challenging. Here, isolation, depression and material-derived social anxiety often arises and disconnects neighbors from each other. Asking for help signals weakness and failure.

If we look back to a time when pathways out of poverty still existed, we see communities that took care of all of the youth of their community. Neighborhoods were diverse, neighbors kept an eye on kids, childcare was shared, and kids often ate from neighbor’s dinner tables and pantries. There was a level of trust and security built in knowing the people around you. Kids walked and biked to school. It is the “small town feel” of the past that many of us are longing for. This is a description of the Bend where I grew up 30+ years ago. In an effort to raise my son in a similar way, I discovered cohousing, a type of community prioritizes support and connection by design. These neighborhood attributes have been lost in our race for individualism and personal ascension. In cohousing communities, children have constant playmates and mentors, elders share their wisdom, help with childcare and genuinely “feel needed”. This relieves parents from the constant job of parenting and children have additional adult influences in their life. Asking for help is never a sign of weakness, but an opportunity to grace someone else an opportunity to give. Interdependence reigns. People thrive. Living in cohousing or in neighborhoods where residents value relationships reminds us of the profound collective power we have when we make time to connect. Monthly soup nights are scheduled and rotate from house to house. A neighborhood camp out or lake trip is planned. A lemonade stands pop up on a hot summer day. We begin to rewrite our stories living in the “we” and remember what it feels like to be a part of something larger than ourselves.

The future of Bend lies in creating environments of wellbeing for our youngest residents. Only when we put our priorities on creating diverse communities is there opportunity for systems of support and paths for mobility. Bonds are formed, mentorships are created, childcare is shared among mothers and by neighborhood “grandparents”. Children see families that function differently from their own, and feel the struggles faced by people they know and love. They build empathy and come up with their own ways to lend a hand. With stable housing and the gentle support of neighbors, parents can focus on improving their lives and pathways for upward mobility for children are opened. Improving our lives means putting our energies toward valuable human capital in the form of the families living next door to us. We can all be a small part of the solution.

As suggested at the “Missing Middle Housing” talk by Dan Parolek at Bend’s Tower Theater (March 2017), part of the housing solution comes when developers build more diverse housing types within neighborhoods. It would be encouraging to see a portion of land set aside for a pilot project for a diverse, connected community that assures a diversity of residents by design. It could come in the form of a land lease or a land trust by a philanthropic entity, a municipality, or an institutional entity with land, or individuals with a financial gifts who recognize the need for housing and step up to address the challenge.

The single family neighborhoods have been built. Family structures have changed dramatically since I was growing up here and Bend's housing stock needs a serious update. It is time to build inclusive, diverse neighborhoods for the rest of us. People who want to live next to everyone and who want to pour their energy into relationships instead of the maintaining of things. People who are ready to engage, collaborate, support each other and be supported. People ready to burst the bubble and invest in their relationships with neighbors. As we enter another period of rapid growth, we have amazing potential to direct our future. We can continue to replicate the outdated systems of the past or build a model city that addresses the unique needs of our community. The choice is ours.