Councilman listening, paying attention to Sweet Home public

“You listen to the people, you can’t go wrong,” Sweet Home City Council incumbent Jim Bean said. “That’ll give you your guidance in issues that come up.”

Bean, a former Sweet Home police officer whose employment ended in 1986, has worked at Triple T Studs in Cascadia since 1989. He has been on the city council for about eight years.

“I got on the council because I wanted to see if I could help make things a little bit better,” Bean said. He had no particular issues of concern but wanted to be in a position to make decisions that impact the future of the community and the issues of the day. He also made sure that he had no axes to grind over his previous employment.

“I have seen some great improvements as far as really buckling down and dealing with issues in a real positive way that gets results,” Bean said. “I think that more is expected of us than in years past by the citizens. Being a councilman, I take it seriously.”

Bean said he likes to read his material and ask information of the staff prior to meeting so he can be prepared to deal with issues.

One trend that disturbs Bean is calling members of the public “customers,” something that is getting common among government agencies.

“I think there is something wrong with calling the citizens of Sweet Home customers,” Bean said. “We’re here to serve this community and the citizens that live here.”

Those people, those citizens, are friends and neighbors, Bean said, and listening to them is probably the most important thing for a councilman to do.

A councilman’s job is to listen to the community, apply the law and make the best decision he can, Bean said.

“The land issues are tough,” Bean said. “We’re being exposed to more of it than I have been.”

Right now, Bean and the council is hearing a proposal by Linn County Affordable Housing to develop a property on the south end of Sunset Lane. The property includes single-family units that will be sold and duplex units that will be rented to low-income seniors and disabled persons.

The planning commission, city staff and council at different times in the process have been criticized for the process and not listening to the people.

Bean said he is definitely paying attention to the people there.

“My basic thinking is if you listen to the people, you can’t go wrong,” Bean said. The criteria and law weigh heavily into such decisions as well. With the volume and extent of the information, the members of the council looks to professionals on staff to guide them through the areas where they are not experts.

“After we consider testimony and listening to information and thoughts of staff, then we have to make our best decision,” Bean said. Those decisions also are guided by state laws and other regulations. In technical issues like land use, there are other issues, like regulation, that take it beyond he opinions, pro and con, of people. “It is quite a shock to think that people think that you’re stonewalling…. I know a lot people up there because they’re my friends and neighbors. I don’t shine off anything. It’s very serious. I pay attention and tie it all in with the criteria.”

Those friends and neighbor’s thoughts are important, Bean said. “I enjoy having the opportunity to be a part of the decision-making process that builds our city and makes it better. The good things that are happening, I like being a part of that.”

Other than the city council, there are committees he serves on where Bean feels accomplishments have been made, including the traffic safety committee and the public safety committee .

“Am I listening? You, bet I listening,” Bean said. As a councilman he has received many phone calls over the years. “It’s just an opportunity to serve your friends and your neighbors and be a part of the process that makes the city better. No one on the council is trying to be mean or stonewalling. We’re not the enemy, not the masked bandit. We’re your friends and neighbors.

“I think our council has been a good council,” Bean said. “We work well together. It’s a diverse bunch of individuals that have one thing in common. That’s do something positive of friends and neighbors.”

Bean said he knows what it is to work hard and scrap for every nickel, and when the city raised sewer and water rates earlier this year, “I feel that pinch and the pain too.”

But that decision will go toward solving some of the most critical problems in the near future, the city’s infrastructure. Among the major infrastructure problems is inflow and infiltration, which is essentially storm water leaking into the sewer system requiring the wastewater treatment plant to treat more water than is produced by the water treatment plant.

“I’d like to see us get a handle on it, and I don’t think it’s that far off,” Bean said. “I would like to improve our streets and work a little harder on our parks.”

In other areas of city business, “I put the success of the budget, all the credit goes to the staff and the city manager for their wise use and wise budgeting,” Bean said. “I would like to see continued improvement in the relations that all city staff and city employees have with the public at large.”