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New mayor prepared for rookie term

NORTH BEND - Bridging the gap between city officials and residents, creating a thriving business district and teaming with regional agencies to move North Bend forward were just a few of the subjects new Mayor Ken Hearing was expected to discuss at his swearing-in ceremony this week.

The event, scheduled for Jan. 6 - after the Valley Record's deadline - brings to an end the two-term reign of Joan Simpson and finds Hearing setting up shop in what could be one of the most important stretches in the city's history.

With the city's water rights issue slated to be resolved possibly late next year, which will be met by the lifting of the four-year building moratorium, Hearing has spent the weeks since the election attending North Bend staff meetings and acquainting himself with the procedures.

"The first thing you need to do is understand the process ... learning what's what and who's who," said Hearing.

When Hearing takes his spot in the mayor's office, one of his first priorities will be to get city information to residents. One of the first steps will be to bring back the videotaping of City Council meetings, the funding for which was approved by the council in the 2004 budget. While on the campaign trail, Hearing said the comment many residents conveyed was the canceling of taped meetings due to budget constraints in 2003 caused a disconnect. Hearing hopes to bridge that disconnect through the videotaping and broadcasting of meetings and also by scheduling community roundtables and an Internet bulletin board. Funding for the Internet board was approved in the 2004 budget.

Teaming with regional agencies on issues will help the city achieve many of its goals as it comes out of a construction moratorium and looks toward the future.

"We, as a small community, can't do things alone ... there's strength in numbers," said Hearing.

North Bend residents proved they were a force to be reckoned with during the effort to fight a proposed state Department of Social and Health Services sex-offender halfway house near Grouse Ridge. The organized effort and strongly attended public meetings showed that there's power in numbers, Hearing said. Utilizing regional contacts with agencies and other cities will only help to bolster that feeling, he added.

Improving the downtown business district and creating a thriving economic landscape for North Bend merchants is also a priority for Hearing, who owns Scott's Dairy Freeze.

The city's sign code ordinance often is confusing to business owners, he said. Streamlining the language of the regulations will benefit business owners, he added.

The city's Economic Development Commission has made exceptional strides to assist improving the business climate in North Bend, Hearing said, but he'd like to see the group become more proactive in its approach. Just what that proactive approach will include is yet to be determined, Hearing said, but actively soliciting businesses won't be an attribute.

Hearing said as a group, North Bend officials and residents can build a bright future.

"Remember, this is a team effort and together we can make it happen," said Hearing.

Travis Peterson can be reached at (425) 888-2311 or by e-mail at travis.peterson@valleyrecord.com.

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