“It used to be that when the state caught a cold, Bend caught pneumonia. I think because of our construction and our boom and our growth, we’re a bit insulated from the rest of the state.” -Oran Teater, June 2005
“It was a frenzy for quite a while. We knew it wasn’t going to sustain.” -Oran Teater, May 2009
What a difference four years make. In the former mayor and current city councilor’s first quote, given to the Bulletin during the height of the real estate bubble, it certainly doesn’t sound like he’s saying, ‘of course, it won’t last’ or ‘the current frenzy is unsustainable’ or, better yet, ‘beware! Financial Armageddon is coming!’
No. It sounds just a bit more optimistic than that. It sounds as if he’s telling Bendites there is really nothing to worry about. Bend is an economic island unto itself, an economic utopia.
Four years and the worst recession in decades later, however, and it seems he was much more prescient about the current “economic Pearl Harbor,” as Warren Buffett has dubbed it. Mr. Teater is clearly taking a page out of Sir Alan Greenspan’s revisionist playbook.
There were a few of us who actually did know that the real estate bubble and concomitant economic boom were unsustainable. There were even fewer of us who warned of the inevitable consequences. Mr. Teater was not one of us, though he now claims to have been. Politicians will be politicians.
This time Oregon hasn’t just caught a cold. It’s Oregon that has caught pneumonia and Bend has tuberculosis (or swine flu – take your pick). If the country has, indeed, witnessed “economic Pearl Harbor” then, in comparison, Bend has seen “economic Hiroshima.”
Bend currently sports the 8th highest unemployement rate in the country out of 372 metropolitan areas surveyed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s the top 2% in the country, putting us in a very rarefied air (obviously not the kind that the City Council and the Chamber like to brag about, however.)
It doesn’t help that the politicians and other organizations that not only witnessed the bubble but encouraged it and actually helped inflate it are now focused on covering their behinds. If we are going to rescue the patient and turn Bend’s economy around, it’s going to take sober analysis and strong medicine. And I, for one, don’t think this is too much to ask of our public servants.