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Council process upsets Garcia

NORTH BEND - A City Council member is concerned that a recent vote that shot down the chances of a man employed in the Valley from serving on a volunteer commission sends a message to the public that to become involved in the process, you mustn't disagree with the group's opinions.

Others dispute the claim, saying that the process was flawed in that it did not distribute needed information about candidates, leaving many council members with little information about potential appointees prior to the vote.

At the April 6 City Council meeting, Mayor Ken Hearing presented a handful of appointments to nonpaying volunteer commissions before the council. The process, usually ceremonial in nature because interviews have already been conducted and questions answered among council members, became unusual when one of the nominees was not selected for appointment.

With a 3-2 vote, council members decided not to name Kevin Kalberg to the city's Economic Development Commission (EDC).

The decision prompted Mayor Ken Hearing to halt further appointments for the evening and move onto another issue.

Councilman Chris Garcia said with Kalberg's excellent qualifications, there was no reason not to approve his nomination. Not approving his nomination, Garcia said, is a step backward for the city.

"What kind of message are we sending?" said Garcia. "I'm concerned that we're telling people that if they disagree with any of [the council members], don't bother."

Garcia would not speculate on why the members of the council would not approve the nomination.

Kalberg, a mainstay at EDC meetings and a member of the Snoqualmie Valley Chamber of Commerce, was the campaign manager for Mark Sollitto's opponent in the November 2003 election. Kalberg works in North Bend but does not reside in the city.

"He's exactly what the EDC needs," said Garcia. "To me, the EDC should be more than hanging plaques on buildings."

Councilwoman Karen Tavenner, who voted against Kalberg's appointment, said there was no political agenda involved in her vote.

"I did what I thought was best for the people," said Tavenner.

Tavenner said she didn't have enough information about the candidate at the time of the vote. She blames the process for the breakdown in information dissemination that lead to her voting against the appointment.

Although the candidate was interviewed by a panel that included North Bend City Administrator George Martinez, Mayor Ken Hearing and Councilman Garcia, Tavenner said information from that interview was not made available to council members prior to the vote. When it did come time to approve appointments, Tavenner said all she had to go on was the application filed with the city and didn't feel comfortable enough to vote in favor of Kalberg.

Council members Bill Wittress and Mark Sollitto did not return requests for comments.

When Kalberg's appointment wasn't approved at the meeting, Hearing stopped the process and moved on to another agenda item leaving at least one appointment to the EDC in the air.

Hearing said until he talks to council members he would not comment on the issues surrounding the appointments, including if and when he'll bring them back to the council. No matter what the course of action, Hearing said moving forward is a priority.

"I think we need to move in a positive direction," said Hearing.

Susan Sherman, chair of the EDC said her group is charged with helping develop the business portion of this year's Comprehensive Plan amendments and the recent lack of appointments is a setback. Already operating three members short, the delay in future appointments puts the group even further behind schedule.

"It's a disservice to the commission," she said. "We've been in demand for months and months and months and needed these appointments."

Garcia said although the council has worked well on the bigger "city" issues, such as the transportation plan, it's the issues such as appointments to commissions that appear to divide the group.

"I hope we can start to put our differences aside and do what's best for the city of North Bend," said Garcia.

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