NORTH BEND — Last spring, following a contentious campaign North Bend’s citizens voted to overturn a public safety fee increase and require any future fee increases to be approved by voters, not passed through by the city council.
On opposite sides of the debate were James Rose, one of the leaders of the campaign that saw nearly 60 percent of voters approve the changes, and Jessica Engelke, one of the members of the city council pushing to keep the fee in place.
Rose and Engelke are on opposite sides again this election season, the two candidates to replace retiring North Bend Mayor Rick Wetherell.
Meanwhile, seven people are in the running for three seats on the city council, with only Timm Slater among them an incumbent. The others hoping for spots on the council are Levi Clow, Eric Gleason, Pat Goll, Ron Kutch, Tim Slater, Jonathan Vinyard and Susanna Noordhoff. Read more about them on Page C3 in today’s edition.
Rose said the public safety fee played a big role in his decision to run for mayor.
“The dealbreaker for me was the nullification of my vote when the city council voted 4-3 to increase the public safety fee to $30,” he said.
His decision was only made more firm by the threats that the city wouldn’t have police protection from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., only to have the city to come up with the money for round-the-clock service after all.
“The lack of transparency, that was it for me,” Rose said. “This has got to change. I want to be part of leading that change. That’s why I am in it. I am committed to it.”
For that reason, he lists restoring the public trust as his No. 1 goal.
Engelke, meanwhile, said her reason for entering the mayor’s race is a confidence that she is the right person for the job.
“The simple answer is I’m running because I have the experience to lead and I know that I can unite our community and work on the challenges that we have together," she said.
And there are many challenges, primarily, public safety, Engelke said.
“We have a very simple number to look at,” she said. “Amount that it costs to run public safety and amount taxes bring in. To move forward, we have to come together as a community and prioritize the services that are essential to our community.”
Rose also cited the budget as important for the community, and a big challenge for a council that will include at least two new members and a new mayor.
“We are going to have to reinvent — we’re going to have to kind of re-think how we do things,” he said. “If people are going to want city services, we are going to have to change the way we provide them to the people.”
The two candidates discussed other goals as well, including better, and innovative ways of communication.
“I would like to make a priority to try to get a better virtual presence for the city,” Rose said.
Engelke agreed, saying the city needs to find new methods of communicating with the public, either through different types of newsletters or the internet.
Both candidates also spoke of the importance of pride in the city and increasing economic development.
Engelke said the key for a successful future is first making the city desirable as a place to visit, then as a place to live, then as a place where people want to work, which ultimately creates a place where businesses need to be.
All residents can have a role in that, she said.
“That means picking up trash, taking care of our yards, belonging to service groups that have an impact on the community,” Engelke said. “Each and every one of us can have a part in economic development.”
Rose also spoke of community pride.
“I want a united city with neighbors ready willing and able to help neighbors — a place where nobody is left behind,” he said.
The two have had different roles of community involvement.
Rose has long been involved in the community as a coach, as chairperson for the Elks National Scholarship Foundation, as a member of the budget committee for the Southwestern Oregon Regional Airport and as one of the people who helped create the Lighthouse Charter School.
Engelke, meanwhile, started her involvement in the community through trying to become better in her role as a business professor at Southwestern Oregon Community College. She became involved in and had various leadership roles in, among other things, the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce and Bay Area Enterprises, and founded the Charleston Salmon Run, bringing a marathon to the South Coast for the first time.
“I didn’t plan to run for city council and mayor,” she said. “It was an organic change.”
When ballots arrive this week, North Bend’s voters will decide which will lead the council into the city’s future.