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Interview With City Council Candidate Melanie Kebler.

Way back on July 17th, the Peacekeepers sat down (over Zoom) for a meeting and interview with Bend City Council candidate Melanie Kebler. Things have gotten incredibly busy, and we’d like to offer our apologies for how long it’s taken to get this summary of our meeting up.

As always, the Peacekeepers do not endorse political candidates, but we hope that our conversation with Melanie helps you to be a more informed voter. Here goes!

Melanie Kebler grew up in Bend, and came back after law school, time as a prosecutor, and finally working as a victim advocate for the non-profit “Oregon Crime Victims Law Center” in Portland. Melanie says she was inspired by the many challenges of 2020 to get more involved, and felt that City Council was a place to make needed changes.

Melanie describes herself as a progressive, and believes that the current City Council has not responded to recent challenges strongly or progressively enough. One example she gave was the response from the City Council to the Covid crisis. She believes the Council has not met often enough, and for that reason has been reactive instead of proactive in responding to the crisis.

Another area Melanie would like to see more bold action from the City Council is in establishing effective “guardrails” to limit the power of the City Manager in hiring decisions. As it stands, the City Manager has the sole power to make hiring decisions (such as the recent hiring of Mike Krantz as Chief of Police). She expressed her opinion that it would take massive public pushback at this point to change that hiring decision, but that in the future more processes in place to involve the community would help avoid the kind of controversy we’re seeing now. This example about the Chief of Police hiring was part of an overall theme throughout the conversation where Melanie described wanting to build a City Council that is more engaged with the community in meaningful ways. Specifically, she’d like the Council to really look at existing structures and processes, and ask how they help or hamper diversity and inclusion.

One way Melanie would like to remove barriers to inclusion is in making changes to the current systems in place around City of Bend Citizen Committees. She said these committees may be trying to do good work, but the structures and processes currently in place favor people who are often older, retired, white, and male. She’d like to see changes enacted that would remove barriers to participation. Some examples of changes she gave were looking for ways to remove language barriers, schedule committee meetings for times that working people can attend, help with childcare, or even a stipend to assist people for whom this kind of civic engagement may be a financial burden.

We always try to stay as neutral as possible, but it’s difficult not to admit that we were impressed by how forthright and honest Melanie is. When we asked her a question, she just answered it and that’s refreshing in a time when we’ve been struggling to get some local officials to give straight answers. For example, we asked Melanie what she thought of the work we do at Peacekeepers. She didn’t hesitate at all to say that the “internet detective Brigade” makes people nervous, and that she thinks groups like ours can overstep. She said that she appreciates the work we’ve done so far, but cautioned us about maintaining standards of integrity and ethics. We believe in hard conversations at the Peacekeepers, and Melanie came to our interview for real dialogue. She wasn’t just doing a campaign speech. She told us what she believes. When we asked her a question, she answered it.

Please take the time to learn more about ALL of the candidates for Bend City Council. We know our readers want meaningful change in this community, and that only happens when passionate people educate themselves, and vote!

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