Topics ranging from how to correctly open the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic to legalizing magic mushrooms were discussed at a Wednesday afternoon virtual forum among this year’s three Redmond mayoral candidates — six-term incumbent George Endicott, restaurateur Tanner Robertson and cook Charles Baer.
Like previous political forums held this fall, including a session with Redmond City Council candidates Sept. 22, the event was held over Zoom and hosted by local nonpartisan organizations City Club of Central Oregon and the League of Women Voters.
The candidates differed on allowing marijuana dispensaries in Redmond — a practice currently banned in the city, but allowed in Bend.
Endicott noted that despite Oregon legalizing recreational marijuana use, it is still illegal federally. An existing city law doesn’t allow businesses that violate federal or state law, he said.
Furthermore, although he was open to having marijuana be legal for pharmaceutical use, Endicott was firmly against legalizing recreational marijuana use, particularly in regards to teens.
“There is pretty strong scientific evidence that youth brains are adversely affected by the regular use of marijuana,” he said.
It is unlawful, however, for Oregonians under the age of 21 to smoke marijuana, according to state law.
Baer had the opposite opinion. Not only should Redmond legalize growing, selling and smoking marijuana, but the city should legalize the use of psilocybin mushrooms, better known as magic mushrooms, he said.
“I think pot and magic mushrooms would make a lot of tax money for Redmond, Oregon,” Baer said.
While Robertson said he understood concerns about “a dispensary on every corner,” he noted that people were smoking marijuana anyway, and Redmond is losing that tax revenue to Bend. He wants the city to look into and research the possibility of allowing dispensaries inside Redmond.
The three candidates also took different tones in regards to how to reopen businesses and other aspects of society during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Robertson — whose family owns the General Duffy’s Waterhole taphouse in Downtown Redmond — said he leaned toward reopening everything. Business owners and parents have been negatively impacted by store closings and remotely-held school, he said.
“We need to be going back aggressively towards a safe reintroduction, reopening of our city and our schools,” Robertson said. “We cannot live like this, and I believe we can find creative solutions for reopening safely.”
The Redmond City Council has no say in when schools reopen. The Oregon Department of Education has strict rules that determine when a school district can welcome students back into classrooms.
Redmond residents should continue to follow science-backed safety measures, such as wearing face masks and staying socially distant, Endicott said.
He also touted his relationship with Gov. Kate Brown. Endicott was able to convince the governor earlier in the pandemic to reopen bars, breweries and taphouses, instead of follwing her initial plan of just restaurants, he said.
“I was really proud of being able to influence her in that regard,” Endicott said.
Baer said he approves of the governor’s COVID-19 regulations. However, he believes wearing a face covering outside should be optional, he said.
When asked about the possibility of reallocating police funds to other services such as mental health support — an idea commonly referred to as “defunding the police” — all three candidates said they didn’t support that. “I could see augmenting the money we currently put into safety, I don’t see a reason to divert money,” Endicott said.
Throughout the forum, Robertson said his primary strength was the ability to listen to fellow constituents, and to explore new ideas. He shrugged off his admitted lack of elected political experience.
“I don’t think that’s the defining moment of a leader, but (rather) the ability to connect to people of different backgrounds and experiences,” Robertson said.
Endicott countered that experience is a vital component to running a city. During his 12 years as mayor, he helped lead Redmond through the Great Recession, he said.
“I like Tanner’s passion, but I worry about the level of experience,” he said. “I think listening sessions are fine, but you also need leadership, and you need someone that can steer that ship through the rough waters we’re on now.”
Although he did make vague references to fighting overpopulation during the forum, Baer did not directly reference his previously-stated goal of forcing all women in Redmond to only have one child.