Council sends off Garcia, faces 2012

A farewell roast of outgoing North Bend councilman Chris Garcia was planned for Tuesday, Nov. 15, but it turned into an emotional tribute to his nine years of service to the city.

Garcia, known on the council for his sense of humor, completed the last meeting of his most recent appointment to the council with more jokes at his expense than his colleagues, friends and family.

During a discussion of extending the city's moratorium on medical marijuana facilities, for instance, Garcia insisted on making the motion, because "how appropriate would it be that I extend one more moratorium in the city?"

Garcia served on the city council from 2002 to 2008, and was involved in four council votes to extend the city's water and sewer moratorium on development that finally ended in 2009. He was appointed to his current seat in January, 2010.

Mayor Ken Hearing told Garcia it has been a pleasure to work with him, and each council member echoed the sentiments. Community members commended and thanked Garcia for his involvement with the city and the Valley as a whole.

Encompass Director Gregory Malcolm called him a role model as a business owner, and as a volunteer, demonstrating not how much time to give, but how to use the time given. He added that the Valley Chamber of Commerce was running out of categories for honoring him, and told of how his son, swapping boasts with a friend about their fathers, said "Well, my dad gets free pizza from the guy that owns Frankie's Pizza!"

Linda Garcia, Chris' mother, talked about how proud she and his father were of his commitment to the Valley, which they also loved. Josh Garcia, his brother, said "He's been a role model not only in our family, but I think to this community, and I would challenge you to think of him as North Bend's good son."

City Administrator Duncan Wilson thanked Garcia for being a challenging council member, as well as a supporting one, saying "You made us work hard, and I think we're all better because of it."

When he got his own chance to speak, Garcia thanked everyone, reminded the community to remember people in need during the holidays, and said he was happy to see that vote seemed in favor of the city's sales tax increase for transportation improvements. "And I'll be watching how you guys spend that money," he told the council.

Before the roast, the council had a few items of business to take care of, which were all unanimously approved. Among them, the council approved the city budget and property tax amount of $1,245,389, for 2012.

Councilman Jonathan Rosen commented on both items, saying the budget reflected responsible planning for the city, which has protected its reserve and increased the budget for street paving 50 percent, while maintaining services, and cutting more than $150,000 from city salaries and wages in the past year. Regarding the property tax, he noted it doesn't include a 1 percent annual increase allowed by law, because "this isn't the time to raise taxes."

City Finance Manager Stan Lewis told the council that the budget they approved can be amended in 2012 to account for the potential revenue from the sales tax increase that voters had apparently approved in the Nov. 8 election.

The property tax levy, he said, was increased only $15,355, for the estimated cost of new construction, and "that leaves about $46,000 on the table."

The council also approved a six-month extension to the city's moratorium on medical marijuana facilities. The action prohibits the establishment of collective gardens, dispensaries, and production and processing facilities for medical-use marijuana within North Bend through July.

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