Sunday, March 29, 2009

Visit Bend Wants "All" Its Money

A couple of months ago the Bulletin published the article "Visit Bend seeks new funding structure" detailing a proposal from the local tourism council Visit Bend to ask the City to change their funding formula. Currently 30% of the 9% room tax is earmarked for tourism promotion. About 5% goes towards related items, such as paying the debt service on the former visitor info center on the north side and to help promote major events like BendFilm, while 25% goes to Visit Bend.

Currently, the annual budget sets the level of overall tourism promotion funding at 30% of expected room tax revenues, and Visit Bend receives its share, in twelve equal monthly payments. The proposal is to simply pay Visit Bend the full 30% on a monthly basis, from actual revenues. The city will have to fund the old visitor center debt service and any other tourism promotion it wishes to do from some other source, like the general fund.

City staff and Visit Bend are promoting this proposal as a way to reduce financial risk if revenues do not reach the anticipated level, like is happening this fiscal year. The reasoning goes that in down times the general fund must make up the difference between expected and actual revenues, an amount that is anticipated to be up to $150,000.

As stated in the Bulletin:
“The percentage of funding from the city would go up, but overall, the amount of transient room-tax collections will likely go down,” La Placa said. “The end result should be pretty stable funding over time.”

For the fiscal year 2007-08, the city collected about $3.4 million in room taxes. Its funding for Visit Bend was $852,000, or about 25 percent of the room-tax collections, according to La Placa. If the city had allocated 30 percent, funding would have exceeded $1 million, giving the visitor bureau more money to attract visitors, he said.

If room-tax collections dropped 15 percent last fiscal year, using the new formula, the city still would have received $870,000 in funding, he said.

This simply doesn't make much sense-I think the writer meant that Visit Bend would still have received $870,000 in funding if revenues dropped 15%. There are a few other quotes from this article that ring some bells, like:
Under the new system, the onus of managing funding during slower room-tax collection periods would fall on Visit Bend, taking the pressure off the city if room-tax collections were less than anticipated, La Placa said.

“This would take the financial risk off the city and also satisfy the tourism and business community that the city is reinvesting 30 percent of the (transient room tax) collections back into the promotion of tourism — as stipulated by city code and state law,” La Placa said...

The new method of determining Visit Bend’s budget would give Visit Bend greater reason to promote tourism because higher room-tax collections would mean more funding, Bend City Manager Eric King said at Tuesday’s meeting.

Does Visit Bend need greater incentive to simply do their job? If so, perhaps we should find someone else to do the job. And I'm not clear on how providing a higher percentage of the actual revenues to Visit Bend takes any pressure off the City.

The council is taking up this issue in the April 1st Work Session. The proposal from Visit Bend states:
Consistent with Oregon House Bill 2267 and Bend City Code 7.012, the City of Bend currently allocates 30% of transient room tax (TRT) collections to the Tourism Fund to be used for the promotion of tourism as defined in Oregon House Bill 2934. The majority of these funds are transferred to the Bend Visitor & Convention Bureau (d.b.a., Visit Bend) through a pre-fixed budget that is established by the City prior to the beginning of each fiscal year and paid to Visit Bend in 12 equal monthly installments.

Since the budget is pre-fixed, the City carries the financial risk created by fluctuations in TRT collections throughout the year. Meaning, if the established budget for Visit Bend is greater than 30% of actual TRT collections over the ensuing year, the City absorbs the difference creating an unnecessary financial burden for the city.

Additionally, the current funding system does not allocate the full 30% of TRT collections to Visit Bend, but rather withholds a percentage of the Tourism Fund for internal City projects and expenses that the tourism industry and business community have argued do not fit the State’s definition of tourism promotion as defined in HB2934.

Proposed Solution
To resolve the negative impacts created by the current funding system, Visit Bend on behalf of the Bend tourism industry, is proposing that the current pre-fixed budget system is replaced by a percentage-based system, whereby 30% of TRT collections on a monthly basis are directed to Visit Bend for the promotion of tourism (minus the City’s pre-determined administrative and audit expenses). In this proposed system, the financial risk created by fluctuations in TRT collections is shifted from the City to Visit Bend.

In addition to removing the financial risk from the City, the tourism industry and business community receive the full 30% reinvestment into the Bend economy that they believe they are legislatively entitled to.

An additional benefit of this proposed system, is that is de-politicizes the allocation of the Tourism Fund. By allocating the full 30% to Visit Bend, the City is empowering Visit Bend to maximize the return on investment for the local economy, and holding them accountable to do so.

Additional benefits resulting from the proposed system are the following:
- The proposed system supports the legislative intent of City code 7.012 and Oregon House Bill 2267.
- The proposed system maximizes the positive economic impact of tourism in Bend, for area businesses and the City’s general fund.
- The proposed system fosters a strong and mutually beneficial relationship between the City of Bend and the Bend Business Community.

Proposed Contract Amendment
The proposed contract amendment will stipulate that City Council’s approval of Visit Bend’s business plan each year will activate a one year renewal of the contract (as it does currently), and a one year commitment to fund Visit Bend with 30% of the monthly TRT collections during the following fiscal year (minus City administrative and auditing expenses that will amount to approximately $25,000 in FY09/10).

Additional Note
In order to initiate the 2009/2010 fiscal year with a deficit-free Tourism Fund, Visit Bend will reimburse the City an amount equal to the 2008/2009 year-end deficit in the City’s Tourism Fund. This amount will be between $50,000 and $80,000 and will be paid by Visit Bend to the City at the end of the 08/09 fiscal year. If Visit Bend does not have sufficient funds to pay-off the deficit at the end of FY08/09, the City will withhold one-twelfth on the remaining deficit amount each month of FY09/10.

Note that there is no mention of where the 5% Visit Bend doesn't currently get goes, just that it goes to something that some people don't think promotes tourism. Yet, the Bulletin stated that this 5% goes to grants for ads for events like BendFilm and for debt service on a building that was used to promote tourism.

The controlling law from ORS 320.300 defines:
(7) “Tourism promotion” means any of the following activities:
(a) Advertising, publicizing or distributing information for the purpose of attracting and welcoming tourists;
(b) Conducting strategic planning and research necessary to stimulate future tourism development;
(c) Operating tourism promotion agencies; and
(d) Marketing special events and festivals designed to attract tourists.

(8) “Tourism promotion agency” includes:
(a) An incorporated nonprofit organization or governmental unit that is responsible for the tourism promotion of a destination on a year-round basis.
(b) A nonprofit entity that manages tourism-related economic development plans, programs and projects.
(c) A regional or statewide association that represents entities that rely on tourism-related business for more than 50 percent of their total income.

(9) “Tourism-related facility”:
(a) Means a conference center, convention center or visitor information center; and
(b) Means other improved real property that has a useful life of 10 or more years and has a substantial purpose of supporting tourism or accommodating tourist activities.
From the 2008 VCB Funding Memo we see that the only entity funded is Visit Bend. Grants to BendFilm, etc. were stopped in 08/09. The funds not going to Visit Bend now are used to repay the general fund for earlier shortfalls, city overhead, debt service on the Visitor Information Center, and for motel audits. These items totaled $231,000, while Visit Bend received $809,000 (not the $830,000 listed) after the council vote.

In its proposal Visit Bend wants all the tourism promotion money, a full 30% of room tax revenues instead of the 25% it currently receives, and full control of how the city promotes tourism. Event planners will have to go hat in hand to Doug LaPlaca at Visit Bend rather than approach the council for advertising funding. In return, Visit Bend pledges to pay any shortfall in the current years' revenues, but immediately backtracks by saying that if it doesn't have the cash at the end of June, it will simply agree to receive less of the monies it would be now entitled to next year. Note that it states this will make the current tourism fund deficit free, but the Issue Summary from staff states:
Based on current trends in room tax revenues, the Tourism Fund is expected to end the year with a cash shortfall of $100,000 to $130,000. This Visit Bend proposal provides for a reimbursement to the City of $50,000 to $80,000 (depending on level of reserves Visit Bend has) to cover the year-end deficit in the City’s Tourism Fund. The remaining cash shortfall will need to be covered by a loan from the General Fund and repaid with the following year’s room tax receipts.
The current overhead, debt service, and motel audit expenses would also have to be funded by another source, i.e. the general fund.

In any case, I have seen no evidence that the city must make up any shortfall. In fact according the contract with Visit Bend, more than funds actually received can NOT be spent:
2. Public sector funding will be limited to those sources set forth in Section IV. (Note: currently 30% of transient room taxes) The annual budget will be based upon a percent of tourism related taxes mutually agreed upon by February 1st of the proceeding year by CONTRACTOR and the CITY, and the annual budget will contain a reserve fund in an amount up to fifteen percent (10%) of the public funded portion of the annual budget. The reserve fund, if such is deemed to be necessary, may be used in the case of actual revenues being less than forecast revenues and in support of activities included in the approved Business Plan. CONTRACTOR may access the reserve fund upon request and approval by the CITY. In no case will expenditures exceed actual funds available for CONTRACTOR operations. Actual funds available shall consist of those funds provided in accordance with Section IV above (NOTE:"...shall be no less than 27%of the transient room tax revenues."), and any funds provided from private sector contributions. However, if CONTRACTOR assumes additional event sponsorships that are not funded by tourism related taxes, then CONTRACTOR may request additional funding from the CITY to support these additional events.
So the reality is that the the city not only does not have to make up room tax shortfalls, the contract itself specifically addresses the issue, stating that only the agreed percentage of room tax funds actually collected can be spent.

It is not up to city taxpayers to make up funding shortfalls, it is up to Visit Bend to adjust their budget.

And there is an element of Bend City Code that may render any such changes in VIsit Bend funding a moot point at this time, specifically:
7.036(1)(b) Amendment to Tourist Promotion Fund. A decrease in the percentage of the monies to the Tourist Promotion Fund, or a change in the definition of the Tourist Promotion Fund, shall require a vote of the people as provided in Section ___ of the Bend Charter.
The Code earier defines the "Tourist Fund" as:
A special fund called a Tourist Fund shall be established for the purpose of promoting tourism within the City of Bend...30% of the money shall be paid into the fund. The Tourist Fund shall be used for the promotion of tourism as defined in Section 1 of HB 2934 (Oregon Laws, 2001)(NOTE: Same as definition from ORS 320.300 quoted above), and the city is authorized to enter into contracts with the Bend Visitor & Convention Bureau, the Central Oregon Visitor’s Association or other entities deemed worthy by the City Council to carry out this purpose.

An argument could very well be made that such changes in revenue distribution constitutes a change in the definition of toursim fund, namely that the only defined use of tourism promotion funds is to finance Visit Bend. This is a significant restriction from current practice.

That is irrelavant in this case, as the current contract clearly shows that the "change" requested, to a percentage of the actual revenues, is already in force.

It just hasn't been enforced to date.

Monday, March 23, 2009

16.1% Unemployment in February

For January, we were one place in front of Flint, MI, tied for 356th out of 372 MSA's in the US:

356 Bend, OR Metropolitan Statistical Area 14.6
356 Monroe, MI Metropolitan Statistical Area 14.6
358 Flint, MI Metropolitan Statistical Area 14.8

The numbers for February just came out a few minutes ago, and we are number one in Oregon once again at 16.1% unadjusted, a stunning 1.7% increase from January. I wonder if we will actually surpass Flint and drop into the range of the Central Valley in California. It was grim and it's gotten even grimmer for anyone needing a job around Bend.

On a related note, I just talked to Trudy a little while ago, and she had a customer who works worked for Cessna come in and talk for awhile this morning. His last day was last Friday, and his comment about Cessna after this latest round of layoffs is that "'s like a ghost town out there." Not good. He is single and doesn't have much for expenses, so he figures he is going to hang out and play for a while. Those with families to support are probably not that lucky. Every day I see more For Rent and For Sale signs. And more people like the "Single Father, Needs Rent Money, Anything Helps" guy with his two kids at the intersection of Reed Market and 3rd St. the other day.

I'm not sure what the solution is, but it's going to take a long time to get back to where we were even twelve months ago at 8.1% UE. We are now in the top 5% of unemployment in the entire United States.

That's really grim. Let's hope our Councilors don't decide to spend too much more of our precious tax dollars as things get worse. No more unanticipated $400,000 expenses to be paid out before June 30th, please.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Councilor Clinton's Response

In full:

The contract we voted on was for $387k to redo all the standards & specs for the public works dept. I voiced my misgivings: (1) this work should be done in-house (2) it should be paid for out of the SDC fund rather than by ratepayers and (3) cost is too high. I received semi-reasonable answers from the staff so decided that on balance, the importance of the work overrode my misgivings.

I have seen numerous cases where the City has ended up paying through the nose for patching up projects that were not done right the first time. ADA compliant curb cuts and ramp work is a good example. Part of the reason was often that the standards and specs were ambiguous. In the long run, I think that getting all this on a more professional basis will save the City way more than it costs.

Facing huge cutbacks, Council approves $687K building standards update

This just flat out astounds me. An expenditure, at this time in this economic climate, that will total almost $700,000, and it's not even reported in the Bulletin. The only Councilors voting against it were Capell and Eager. I asked Clinton about his vote and will update when I receive an answer.

From the summary of yesterday's City Council meeting:
After discussion about the cost and timeliness of this action Council authorized (by vote of 5 to 2 with Councilors Capell and Eager opposed, but noting that they may support the agreement with additional information) a professional services agreement with CH2M Hill for Phase 2 of the new Construction Standards and Specifications in the amount of $387,041. These documents are the foundation for all designing, contracting and construction of public infrastructure. Legal and contracting requirements that protect the City have changed dramatically over the past 10 years. In addition, construction methods and practices continue to improve. New standards and specifications are needed to better meet the needs of the community, properly protect the City, and provide clear and consistent requirements of the development community. The cost of this will be split equally between operational budgets in the Water, Water Reclamation, Stormwater and Street Operations Divisions

Of course, there is no mention of the concomitant additional $300,000 next year.

I was up until 4:30 in the morning a few nights ago, talking with Trudy about "should we stay or should we go?". Luckily the patent licensing fees I have been receiving make moving a possibility.

And after this, it's done. Time to move on...

PS from the Bulletin reporter, Erin Golden: "I didn't write about it because unfortunately, there's only so much that can go in one meeting story. The focus of the evening was the budget discussion..."

Local Economic Indicators

Did a little research on the trends, to see if it is really that bad. Here are some numbers and trends:

Bend single-family home sales
  • 2009, through March 19th 25 sold, $210K median, includes 15 REO/3 short sales
  • 2008, through March 19th 57 sold, $289K median

Bend real estate listings with a dwelling-current numbers
  • Active listings 1813
  • Number of these vacant 618

Deschutes County “Notice of Default and Intention to Sell” recordings
  • 2009, through March 17th 671
  • 2008, through March 17th 264
  • 2007, through March 17th 75

Bend single-family housing building permit numbers
  • Feb, 2009 7
  • Feb, 2008 34

Bend room tax collections (best measure of tourism)
  • July 1, 2009-June 30, 2010 Projected 15% decrease
  • Jan, 2009 20.1% decrease from Jan, 2008
  • Dec, 2008 28.6% decrease from Dec, 2007

Unemployment rates (not seasonally adjusted)
  • Bend, Jan, 2009 14.6%
  • Bend, Dec, 2008 11.9%
  • Bend, June, 2008 6.8%
  • Bend, Dec, 2007 6.1%

Oregon, Feb, 2009 10.9% (21,700 jobs lost in February, most since recordkeeping started in 1977; highest unemployment rate since July, 1983)
  • Oregon, Jan, 2009 9.8% (13,000 jobs lost)
  • Oregon, Dec, 2008 8.8%
  • Oregon, June, 2008 5.8%
  • Oregon, Dec, 2007 5.3%

Partial list of recent Central Oregon layoffs
  • Cascade Healthcare Feb. 10, 2009 74
  • Cessna Nov. 12, 2008 165
  • Cessna Jan. 28, 2009 120 (only 200 employees left working)
  • Jeld-Wen Jan, 22, 2009 51
  • Les Schwab HQ Jan. 27, 2009 25

Major job increases
  • iSky/TRG March 15, 2009 350 @ $10/hour


Walking the dog this morning, I counted six for rent signs in one block of Garfield just off Summer Lake. Definitely reality check time.

Monday, March 16, 2009

City May Spend $687K "Updating" Construction Standards

On the agenda for the upcoming Wednesday, March 18th City Council Session is an unbudgeted request for almost $400,000 to:

Authorize the City Manager to enter into a professional services agreement with CH2M Hill for Phase 2 of the new Construction Standards and Specifications in the amount of $387,041
Why? Because according to staff:

The City needs updated and modern standards and specifications. These documents are the foundation for all designing, contracting and construction of public infrastructure. Legal and contracting requirements that protect the City have changed dramatically over the past 10 years. In addition, construction methods and practices continue to improve. New standards and specifications are needed to better meet the needs of the community, properly protect the City, and provide clear and consistent requirements of the development community. The total budget impact to the Public Works Department for Phase 2 of the standards and specifications project is $387,041. This amount will be split equally four (4) ways and paid for out of the operational budgets in the Water, Water Reclamation, Stormwater and Street Operations Divisions. This is an unbudgeted expense, so each division will be reallocating money from other areas in their budget to cover this expense.

In this time of severely constrained resources all budgeted items are being intensely scrutinized, there have been three rounds of layoffs, and revenue shortfalls may force the city into another round of budget cuts and layoff later this spring.

Any new spending items, especially unbudgeted ones, need to be carefully scrutinized. This item is placed on the Consent Agenda, where it will be voted in along with seven other items. The Consent Agenda normally sees virtually no discussion. Yet, even though little discussion is expected, the request is supported by a 50-page report and an additional 2,156 pages of appendices. Such a significant dollar amount would normally be viewed with much more scrutiny. Especially since staff anticipates spending another $300,000 next year to implement these new guidelines.

Just yesterday the Bulletin reported only seven building permits were issued in February, an unprecedentedly low number. Last February, when 34 permits were issued, was considered a disaster. Current economic conditions, especially with upwards of 30 months inventory of homes on the market, indicate the construction industry will be severely constrained for the foreseeable future. The Stimulus Package will provide several millions in forest thinning, deferred road and bridge maintenance, and other public projects, but the private sector is flooded with inventory, both commercial and residential. And that is not even counting the dozens of started and currently abandoned subdivisions littering Bend.

So what exactly is staff proposing to implement for the taxpayers $387K? According to the Issue Summary:

The City needs updated and modern standards and specifications. These documents are the foundation for all designing, contracting and construction of public infrastructure. Legal and contracting requirements that protect the City have changed dramatically over the past 10 years. In addition, construction methods and practices continue to improve. New standards and specifications are needed to better meet the needs of the community, properly protect the City, and provide clear and consistent requirements of the development community....It is anticipated that there will be an additional phase of the current Standards and Specifications project. An additional $300,000 has been included in the 2009-10 budget for phase 3 of the work (split equally between Water, Water Reclamation, Stormwater and Street Operations). In the future, the City’s standards and specifications will be reviewed and updated approximately every two years.

So the real total is $687K, with $387K this year and $300K next. Reading through the 50-page "Final Stakeholder and Alternative Format Report" provides some details. First, the report lists CH2MHILL, DVA Advertising and Public Relations, and Crane & Merseth Surveying and Engineering as its authors. The Executive Summary states:

The purpose of the City of Bend Construction Standards and Specifications project is to prepare an updated and modern version of Construction Standards and Standards and Specifications to be the principle document for design and construction of all public infrastructure in the City of Bend. This report summarizes the results and recommendations of the first phase of the project (Phase 1 – Assessment), which recommends a format for the updated documents. The second phase (Phase 2 – Implementation) will develop content for the documents based on the updated framework.

Phase 1 involved review of existing documents, broad research and compilation of standards used in other jurisdictions, internal and external stakeholder meetings and interviews, documentation of comments received in stakeholder meetings, and development of the recommendations included in this report. Following receipt and review of this report, an Alternatives Evaluation Workshop will be held with the City to evaluate these recommendations.
So if it has really been ten years since the Standards were updated, maybe this does make sense. It seems like there has been a lot of work already done, which a Google search of the City website should provide a little more information about. Unfortunately, the first ten pages of results show nothing regarding such a study. It does provide a link to the current Standards and Specifications, which indicates that they were last revised in January, 2007 with an accessibility addendum, which was an update to a thorough revision in June, 2006.

According to the City Engineering Division's Construction Management page:

The 2004 City of Bend Standards and Specifications follow closely with AASHTO (American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials) and other publications regarding streets, water and sewer installations. Modifications to the City Standards and Specifications are made on a regular basis to keep pace with construction practices and needs of the City. The Construction Division is responsible for all standard and specification modifications.

So according to the City's own website these guidelines were actually updated less than three years ago.

According to the Report:

The stakeholder meetings were held on September 29 and 30, 2008 at City of Bend facilities. Subsequent meetings and phone calls were conducted with City staff and one external stakeholder, who were unable to attend the scheduled meetings. Input from those stakeholders was summarized and presented to the City and incorporated into this report.

These stakeholders consisted of 26 staff members from various departments, and three contractors, four developers, and five consulting engineers as the voice of external stakeholders. No other documentation of these meetings is found on the City website. It is anticipated more stakeholder involvement, as well as training for both staff and external stakeholders, will be needed in the future as this process moves forward.

Several questions come to mind regarding the timing and budget impact of this process. The first question that comes to mind is how did we survive the intense level of building from 2004 to 2007 with such apparently lousy standards and specifications? What exactly is wrong with the current Standards and Specifications, as compared to the OSS? How has this process proceeded under the radar for so long? How much has already been spent on the study? (No mention of a contract for this report with CH2MHILL is found in a Google search of the City website.) Is it truly necessary? At the current rate of construction, can it be slowed down and implemented over a longer time frame? All questions that should be publicly discussed by the Council before voting on such a significant expenditure.

Friday, March 6, 2009

City Trying To Reduce Developer Subsidies

In the last City Council Work Session on Wednesday, March 4, Community Development Director Mel Oberst presented several options to the City Council that are intended to reduce the subsidization of plan reviews, permits, and inspections by the General Fund. Mr. Oberst's intention is for the Building and Planning Divisions to become more self-funding instead of its historical reliance on millions dollars from the general fund to provide services to the development community. This subsidy rewards developers with lower fees while increasing the burden on the normal taxpayer.

According the the fee study by the FCS Group, current fees are far under actual costs in many areas. The Community Development Dept. will require a subsidy of almost $2.1 million from the general fund for Fiscal Year 2009. This will occur even though department staffing levels have been slashed in two rounds of layoffs, resulting in the anticipated FTE 89 jobs being reduced to 47 FTE's this summer.

Some actual examples from the study:
-Residential Subdivision-Base Fee:
Fee $4,156 Actual Cost $11,781 Subsidy $7,625

-Site Plan-New Development-Base Fee:
Fee $3,636 Actual Cost $9,207 Subsidy $5,571

-Site Plan-Major Alteration-Base Fee:
Fee $2,857 Actual Cost $7,720 Subsidy $4,863

-Tentative Subdivision Approval Modification-Base Fee:
Fee $1,650 Actual Cost$6,310 Subsidy $4,660

-Master Plan 21-40 Acres-Base Fee:
Fee $10,390 Actual Cost $27,616 Subsidy $17,226

-MR Zone Review Per Plan-Base Fee:
Fee $4,000 Actual Cost $26,859 Subsidy $22,859

-Refinement Plan/Dev Agreement per ORS 94-Base Fee:
$5,195 Actual Cost $36,532 Subsidy $31,337
Some fees actually are higher than their costs, although not by very much.

There are also costs for Long Range Planning, about $1.3M, and Fire Prevention Plan Reviews, about $54,000, that are both currently underwritten by general fund subsidies. A 14% LRP surcharge will recover about 50% of the LRP costs.

The intention of Director Oberst is to move towards a self-funding model and reduce reliance on general fund subsidies. He presented a spreadsheet showing several options, recommending the most aggressive option in Column G, along with a 14% surcharge to fund Long Term Planning. The subsidies expected to be needed even with fee and surcharge increases ranges from $1.2M to $874K, down substantially from the current $2.1M.

The department's operational reserve is currently under one month of funding, which is also a grave concern. The State of Oregon recommends a 6 to 18 month reserve. With another 14% surcharge it would take seven years to build up a 12 month reserve. However, this option was not part of Mr. Oberst's presentation.

With local builders association COBA already expressing concern, according to a article, this will be a hot subject for the next City Council meeting. With the three new members all having received a high percentage of their campaign funding from COBA via the COAH PAC and the Realtor COAR PAC, many eyes will be watching to see if the Council decides it is time to make development come closer to paying for itself, or if the historical subsidy of development by the all Bend taxpayers will continue.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

$4000 election ad? Still looking...

UPDATE: Friday I called Jennifer Peterson at the Bend Bulletin. During our initial conversation she stated that she had an archive of multiple copies of all issues and would find the Oct. 28th issue and give me a call back. She never did.

I called her back on Monday and she stated that she did not have any copies of that issue. She then referred me to Sean Tate, who is in charge of advertising. So I called Sean, who picked up on the first ring.

I stated who I was and what I was looking for, whereupon Mr. Tate suddenly informed me he was in a meeting and had to go.

So I called Bryan Iverson, of the Iverson Group that the amended Orestar filing now states actually paid for, produced and placed the ad. He stated that it was a single-sheet, two-sided ad that was inserted into the Oct. 31 issue. I said I haven't been able to find it and asked if he could produce a copy. He said he might still have one around and that he would take a look. I plan to call him again tomorrow.

On the ORESTAR election funding database the transaction has been amended from a single filing showing the Bend Bulletin as donating $4000 in ad space in which was placed an ad produced by the Iverson Group that featured the four candidates for City Council Kathie Eckman, Tom Greene, Jeff Eager and Don Leonard. The amended filing is two entries: the original #541503, now amended, showing a $4000 In-Kind contribution from the Iverson Group for a Bend Bulletin newspaper ad, and a second filing, #540613, that shows the purchase of a $4000 ad by Iverson Group, as an agent for BB PAC, from the Bend Bulletin. Both show a transaction date of 10/28/08.

I just can't seem to find an actual copy of this ad.

UPDATE 2: On Wednesday afternoon I was actually able to hold what seems to be the last copy of this ad in my hands, courtesy of the Bulletin's Sean Tate. He would not let me actually have the two-sided color full-page insert, but did make me a copy. I'll get a scan soon and update this story in a new post.

Mr. Tate was unable to discuss the funding of this ad in any way.