Six candidates for Redmond City Council discussed police funding, affordable housing, economic development and other topics during a recent virtual forum.
The event, hosted by nonpartisan organizations City Club of Central Oregon and the League of Women Voters, was held over Zoom.
Three candidates did not participate: retired city staffer David Wegener and the race’s only two incumbents, Albert Calderon and Camden King.
All six candidates agreed that rising housing and rental costs were a concern in Redmond, although each had different solutions for the issue.
Ronald Osmundson, who co-owns an emergency child care center with his wife, suggested expanding Redmond’s urban growth boundary to lower the cost of living, as well as enticing more businesses to the city, which could bring higher-wage jobs.
“We also need to bring in some businesses that will accommodate employment here, so we can have an affordable wage to live,” he said.
Ed Fitch, former mayor, wants more private-public partnerships to build affordable housing throughout the city, he said. But he emphasized that these housing projects should still be built with quality in mind.
“We don’t just do the cheapest housing we can do that will fall apart in a couple years,” Fitch said. “That’s happened before, and it can’t happen again.”
All six candidates also voiced support for local law enforcement, in the light of movements around Oregon and the world protesting police brutality this year. However, they had differing degrees of how Redmond police should respond to Black Lives Matter protests.
Michael Kusinska — who is also chairman of the Deschutes County Republican Party — advocated for extra police funding so officers could be better equipped to handle mental health crises in a non-adversarial fashion.
He also said there was no proof of systemic racism in Redmond, and that officers are being “blackballed.”
“To put any limits on the police department from doing their job is intolerable and inexcusable,” Kusinska said.
Clifford Evelyn — who, as a retired commander with the Clark County Sheriff’s Department in Washington, is the only candidate with law enforcement experience — said he “supports my fellows in blue and green,” but believes that bad officers need to be de-certified. That means those officers are not only fired, but they can’t find another law enforcement job somewhere else.
Evelyn also suggested re-allocating some law enforcement funds towards hiring mental health advisors.
“Not every situation requires a police officer with a gun at the scene,” he said.
All candidates agreed that the city should play a role in economic development.
Don Crouch, a former member of the city Downtown Urban Renewal Advisory Committee, supports Redmond City Council’s current efforts for a new urban renewal district to redevelop U.S. Highway 97, which cuts through south Redmond, he said.
Crouch also wants to continue to utilize public-private partnerships to spur development, which he said was successful in revitalizing downtown Redmond.
“I’ve heard from folks that have driven through (downtown) for the first time in years, and have just been knocked out,” he said. “I want to keep that momentum going.”
Shannon Wedding, a civil engineer, said the city should actively pursue new businesses to set up shop in Redmond. But these businesses must be willing to partner with the city to build new infrastructure, she said.
“We don’t want to be in that continuous cycle of trying to catch up,” she said.
Forum moderator Harrison Womack, a City Club board member, asked the candidates one yes or no question: Do you support cannabis dispensaries opening in Redmond?
Osmundson, Kusinska and Wedding said no. Evelyn and Crouch said yes. Fitch was unable to unmute himself on Zoom, and could not respond.