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Here comes the neighborhood

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NORTH BEND - The Forster Woods subdivision has been generating some pretty civic-minded citizens.

When North Bend residents Bill Wittress and Jack Webber take office next year as City Council members, four of five seats will be filled by residents of Forster Woods, located on the south edge of town. Both members are running unopposed in the general election, and will replace Fred Rappin and Jim Gildersleeve, who are stepping down from the council.

The Forster Woods subdivision, which has about 214 houses, is estimated - based on the average number of people in a household, according to the 2000 Census - to be home to 541 of North Bend's 4,755 residents. Come January, when the new council members attend their first meeting, 80 percent of the council will be from a neighborhood that has about 11 percent of the city's population.

But all of the City Council members and Mayor Joan Simpson agree there is nothing to worry about, and the situation will not be different from that of previous councils. Council members said since they are elected "at-large," meaning they do not have to be from a certain part of town to be elected, each member will represent the city as a whole.

The council has a history of a lopsided amount of representation coming from specific neighborhoods, but council members said they will represent every corner of North Bend.

"There has been a disproportionate number of council members in every neighborhood as long as I have been around, and that's been 20 years," Simpson said. "There has never been a problem."

Forster Woods council members said they do not agree on everything, and although it is tempting to group people from one neighborhood together, they think for themselves and have their own ideas on issues confronting the city.

"There really is no cohesive block amongst the residents," said council member and Forster Woods resident Ed Carlson. "Just because we are from Forster Woods doesn't mean we are generic."

The council members are equally at peace about the fact that two of them live in the same house. Jack and Elaine Webber, who have been married for the past 15 years, will both be on the council beginning in January. Although both had their reservations about Jack coming on board, other members reassured them that matrimony could exist within the council.

"I think there will be no more qualified candidate in the city than Jack Webber," said Councilman Mark Sollitto. "Jack has been extremely diligent about attending meetings and has become well-informed on all the issues."

Jack Webber said that although he and his wife may agree on many things, citizens shouldn't expect them to sound alike when debating the issues. He said his wife's strengths are finding details within a larger picture, while he tends to focus on improving the livability of the city and giving environmental issues a voice.

He said both he and his wife have agreed that if their marriage becomes a liability to their duties as council members, one of them will step down.

"We both know that our marriage comes before the council," Webber said. "My integrity is the most important thing."

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