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NORTH BEND — The local citizens group North Bend Citizens for Good Faith Government has received information from Coos County Circuit Court Judge Martin Stone regarding an appeal it filed recently to a ballot title the group claims the City of North Bend wrote with bias.

Stone concluded that the city must revise the ballot tittle within a week of his letter sent on Friday, and it must include actual effects of the measure’s passage.

“If the city has already decided the specific cuts that will be made to the police department on passage of the amendment then it may list those reductions. Otherwise the specific listing of possible effects must be removed from the summary,” Stone wrote in his letter.

If placed on the ballot, the potential measure would ask citizens whether they want to reduce public safety fees from $30 back to $15 a month and require any increase of city fees must be approved by a vote of the people.

“Judge Stone's ruling in our favor was a complete rebuke of Mayor Wetherell and the rest of the council who have committed voter nullification on the people of North Bend,” said Jim Rose with NBCGFG.

The North Bend citizen group submitted two potential ballot items regarding public safety fees collected through water bills. According to NBCGFG, the city added information to the proposed initiative submitted by chief petitioner John Briggs that does not fairly describe the potential ballot measure for voters.

North Bend submitted a ballot title to the county that read a “yes” vote would result in the loss of police services from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., detective staffing would be decreased by 50 percent, and that there would be no response to non-injury traffic crashes, animal complaints, abandoned vehicles, theft from motor vehicles, trespass with no other crime, thefts under $25, civil problems, medical calls, welfare checks of employees, internet fraud and false alarms. The city also claims that if the measure passes, the Fire Department will not respond to emergency medical calls, non-injury traffic crashes, lift assist and code enforcement issues.

The ballot title that Briggs submitted read: “This measure would amend the North Bend city code to state that the Public Safety Fee shall not exceed fifteen dollars ($15.00) per month per occupied unit, nor be increased in any amount except upon approval by a majority of the electors of the city on a May or November regular election date. A 'yes' vote will limit the City of North Bend’s Public Safety Fee, currently set at $30/month, to no more than $15/month, and would prevent future increases in the fee unless the increase is approved by city voters at a general election. A reduction in the fee from $30 to $15 would decrease the City’s general fund revenue by approximately $785,000/year.”

NBCGFG will be meeting again today with Judge Stone with a motion to reconsider his decision to have city revise the ballot summary.

“The last paragraph in the judge’s opinion letter that he issued on Nov. 22 remands the title back to the city to be rewritten within seven days, but the (Oregon Revised Statutes) say that the circuit court judge in the case of a local ballot initiative is the final arbiter. He’s supposed to issue the ballot title,” Rose said.

In order to get this ballot title placed as a measure on the May ballot, NBCGFG must collect 1,110 signatures from North Bend voters by Jan. 15. According to Rose, the group feels allowing the city of North Bend to rewrite the ballot measure could result in another potentially biased response and cause them to lose even more time needed to collect signatures.

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Nicholas A. Johnson can be reached at 541-266-6049, or by email at nicholas.johnson@theworldlink.com.

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