NORTH BEND — In the final unofficial election results, both North Bend measures have passed.
These decisions will reduce the public safety fee from $30 to $15, as well as restrain the power of the North Bend City Council by requiring any future fees to first be approved by voters.
As of 12 a.m. on Wednesday, after the Coos County Elections website experienced a brief technical issue, “Yes” votes on Measure 6-177 tallied at 58% or 2,057 ballots.
Meanwhile, 41.9% have voted “No” on the measure with a total of 1,484 ballots.
This vote follows years of strife between some members of the public and the City Council as the fee was steadily increased on resident’s water bills, having begun at $5. Voters in 2018 said “No” to any further increases, which was ignored after the council increased it again, stating it was done to provide quality public safety services while keeping up with the cost of inflation.
“There aren’t any winners,” said Jim Rose, treasurer to the grassroots North Bend Citizens for Good Faith Government. The organization is responsible for bringing both measure 6-177 and 6-176 to the May election in an effort to limit the power of the City Council and roll back the $30 safety fee.
“… Citizens won’t have to pay $30 a month, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t cuts coming to the city budget from COVID-19,” Rose said. “People will get laid off in the city government, which is why there are no winners if it passed or failed.”
North Bend City Councilwoman Jessica Engelke said she is disappointed because this vote means the “city will have to make tough decisions on the level of services we can provide to citizens in North Bend.”
As described in the ballot summary on Measure 6-177, this decision means the public safety funding may be reduced by $785,000, resulting in the elimination of police services from 11 p.m.-7 a.m.
This vote will also reduce detective staffing by 50 percent, and eliminate police responses to “many civil and criminal occurrences such as non-injury traffic crashes, trespass with no other crime, thefts under $25 and medical calls.”
“I’m thankful to everyone who worked so hard on the ballot measure and value our public safety,” Engelke said. “… The next step is to revisit the budgets we are working on that restarts July 1.”
Meanwhile, Measure 6-176 saw a flood of “Yes” votes. As of 12 a.m. on Wednesday, 76.1% - 2,674 ballots - voted “Yes” to require the City Council to put any future fee increases out for voter approval. A total of 23.8% voted "No" with 838 ballots.
Seeing Measure 6-176 pass by this margin, Rose said “Voters of North Bend came out the winner because it confirms the right of the voter to determine how the money is spent and how the city collects money from them.”
Measure 6-176 asked voters, “Shall the power to add or increase fees be removed from the City Council to the citizens by popular vote?”
This “Yes” vote will amend the city charter to require that any decision to raise or add North Bend taxes, fees or other revenue-generating mechanisms be decided by popular vote during either a May or November election.
“… It’s going to really hamstring the council on making effective and timely decisions,” Engelke said, but also encouraged North Bend citizens to become involved with city government. “There are open positions for several committees, including the budget committee."
The 2020 primary election results will be certified 20 days from May 19. This means the Election's Office is contacting voters with challenged ballots, or ballots without signatures, as well as collecting ballots mailed to the wrong county. Some of the numbers on these two measures may change.