Francis bumped from Planning Commission

Jolene Francis

Jolene Francis

Photo By Tom Gascoyne

It’s been a bad year, public-servant-wise, for Jolene Francis. In November Francis, an eight-year planning commissioner, lost in her bid for election to the City Council. This week insult was added to injury when she failed to get appointed by the new council to another four-year term on the commission.

“That’s politics,” said Francis, who is generally seen as a conservative.

With conservative Councilman Steve Bertagna absent, Francis failed to get the needed votes in the odd dance the council performs every two years to appoint members to the city’s boards and commissions.

With 60 people vying for 21 open seats, councilmembers make nominations followed by a series of votes by the council until all the seats are filled. With only six councilmembers in attendance, there were a number of 3-3 votes.

“I knew I didn’t stand a chance without Steve [Bertagna] there,” Francis said the next day.

Bertagna was tending to the holiday crush at his recently relocated car stereo store. “Sometimes a guy has to take care of his family,” said Bertagna, defending his absence.

The three open seats on the commission, which is the most important city agency behind the council, were filled by incumbent Kirk Montfort, recently defeated former school board Trustee Steve O’Bryan and architect Dave Kelly.

During the first part of the council meeting the candidates gave short speeches to the council.

Francis is a vice president at Umpqua Bank, which handles the business accounts of a number of local developers, forcing her to conflict out whenever one of those developers comes before the commission.

When newly elected Councilwoman Ann Schwab, generally perceived as a liberal, asked about those conflicts, Francis was ready and clicked off numbers and percentages that showed she did indeed miss more votes than the other commissioners. But she defended herself by saying other commissioners had missed votes in many cases because they failed to show up to the meetings.

In the first round of votes, Francis received votes from all but Councilman Andy Holcombe. The second time through she got support only from Councilmembers Maureen Kirk, Larry Wahl and Dan Herbert.

The next day Bertagna said that had he been there he would have created a stink over booting Francis from the commission.

“A politically pathetic decision like this by the four liberals is sad,” he said. “What a great way to bring together our council.”

Francis said she did not know what her immediate political plans were, noting she has two years before another local election.

“There are a number of other projects I’m working on," she said. "I do know that I don’t plan to fade into the sunset."