Coos Bay's Mayoral Challenger Says He'd Take a Different Fiscal Approach

Article excerpt

Byline: ELECTION 2008 By Winston Ross The Register-Guard

COOS BAY - Fred Kirby says he decided to run for mayor only because there was no early challenger to the incumbent, Jeff Mc Keown, and Kirby wanted people to have a choice for mayor.

If City Councilor John Muencrath had decided to run, Kirby would have stepped aside.

Thing is, Muencrath did decide to run, which set up a three-way race for the office and something of a pickle for Kirby, who said afterward that he didn't think Muencrath, a physician, would have the time to devote to the mayor's duties. Kirby then met with Muencrath.

That meeting changed Kirby's mind, and so Kirby dropped out.

And now there are two candidates for mayor.

Muencrath said he decided to run because he has a different philosophy than the sitting mayor in a number of areas: He says he's more fiscally conservative and would take a different approach to economic development.

For example, Muencrath wants the South Coast Development Council to be more accountable to the city, to show that the funds it receives from Coos Bay - an estimated $35,000 annually - actually create jobs.

"When we spend public funds, we need to make sure we're getting a return on our money," Muencrath said.

McKeown said he agrees, and touts a number of accomplishments during his two years at the city's helm that make him the stronger candidate.

McKeown said he developed a plan to revitalize the city's downtown area with urban renewal money to upgrade storefronts and a business incubator program, and has also worked to revitalize the Empire business district. He said the city is working on plans to build a new visitors' center and a revamping of the building and planning department.

"There are a number of different initiatives we've undertaken since I've been mayor that are not yet finished," Mc Keown said. "There's a lot going on. …