Nassar gets appointment to council

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local

Gamael Nassar, known widely as “Mr. G,” was appointed to fill the upcoming vacancy in Ward 2, as Councilor Karin Stauder steps down, at the City Council meeting March 10.
He will be sworn in at the next meeting.
Two applications were received for the vacancy, from Nassar and David McClain. Interviews were conducted during the meeting, followed by a round table discussion among councilors.
Nassar, who moved to Lebanon in late 2017 and works for a local insurance agency, is involved in a wide variety of local and regional organizations, including serving the boards of the Lebanon Downtown Association, the Strawberry Festival, United Way. A native of Miami, Fla., he has been involved at high levels in education, professional development, anti-drug efforts and social work.
Nassar said he believes three of Lebanon’s most important issues are financial stability, livability in the community, and homelessness.

Gamael “Mr. G” Nassar

In answer to a question about redevelopment and revitalization, Nassar admitted he doesn’t have as much experience and knowledge about the area as McClain, a retired local contractor and member of the city Planning Commission.
But Nassar told councilors he knows the city is aware of the areas that need help and he will take the time to learn as much as he can.
The city has a really good idea about how it wants the town to look, he said, and the vision moving forward is to determine whether we want it to remain a sleepy town or bring more manufacturing and jobs in.
Regarding homelessness, Nassar noted he had written a white paper years ago about the two types of homelessness: those who are temporarily homeless due to some extenuating circumstance, and habitual homelessness that is often related to mental health.
He said creating an encampment does very little to address the real problem. Instead, access to health, drug rehab, and self-sustainability programs is the answer, he said.
“If you don’t have a method of providing some services to help folks come up with some better ideas, help improve their way of life, help improve their decision, help improve their mental health, then we’re always in a recipe of just continuing to do the same thing over and over again,” he said.

Though he doesn’t want to join the City Council with an agenda, Nassar said he does want to be a part of helping the community in regards to homelessness, affordable housing, and COVID.
Communication is important to Nassar, he said, and he wants to be available to listen to his Ward and stakeholders, he said.
“I think that listening to folks and bringing their concerns to the council is probably the easiest thing to do,” he said.

When asked what he believed were three of Lebanon’s most important issues, McClain cited homelessness, fast growth in the city, and continued security from the local police and fire departments.
Citing some personal experience with cleaning out homeless camps, McClain said he would like to see the city form a task force to deal with the homeless crisis, especially to have that on hand should the crisis worsen through certain conditions.
McClain said he’s not interested in a plan that makes it “too easy and too comfortable” for the homeless population, as that would draw more people from outside the city. Instead, he’d like the city to take care of its own and provide resources to help the population.
That could include provision of portable toilets and cleaning stations, a location for them to set up an RV or tent, and provide various help for those who need it.
“These people are down and out, they have needs, they’re human just like us, and all they need is a little bit of help and a way out of their situation,” he said.

As a Planning Commission member, McClain said he believes the rate of growth in Lebanon is not going too fast, but personally hopes Lebanon becomes more of a bedroom community than an industrial one.
Regarding redevelopment and revitalization, McClain said he’d like to see the area near Porter Park be annexed into the city “so we can kind of clean it up and make Lebanon a little more livable.”

Most of the councilors stated they liked both applicants as solid candidates, but all highlighted Nassar as being their top choice.
Councilor Wayne Dykstra said he believes Nassar would be a great asset to the council, particularly in regards to the city’s homelessness issue.
Councilors Rebecca Grizzle and Jason Bolen indicated they were impressed with Nassar’s “beefy” application, which included a thorough examination of his life, work and volunteer experiences.
Grizzle and Councilor Michelle Steinhebel also said they appreciated that Nassar said he wanted to consciously enter as a councilor without an agenda.
Steinhebel and Mayor Paul Aziz said they think McClain’s background with the planning commission would be an asset, but Steinhebel noted she is particularly appreciative that Nassar studied Lebanon’s 2040 Vision.
Bolen noted he sees Nassar participating in several events around town, but said he also believes McClain has a great deal of love for the community.
“What I got out of this today was that I saw two different outlooks on our community,” Bolen said.
Councilor Wayne Rieskamp noted Nassar’s involvement in the communities he’s lived in, and said he is very articulate.
“Life is fun for him,” Rieskamp said. “I think he’d be an excellent ambassador for the community.”

In other business, the council:
♦ Recognized Karin Stauder for her two years of commitment as a city councilor;
♦ Heard a report from Grizzle, who serves as executive director of the Lebanon Chamber of Commerce, which operates the city’s visitor services.
She summarized last year’s accomplishments and the annual tourism and transient room tax report. A portion of taxes collected from hotel guests is used to operate the chamber’s tourism center and support local organizations such as the Strawberry Festival.
Since no events were held last year, due to COVID, the chamber agreed to accept no money from the city for two quarters, and use existing saved money for continued support of the tourist center.
“I really think 2020 was a key year of partnerships for the Lebanon Chamber,” Grizzle said.
The chamber helped connect city and other grants to local business owners during COVID last year. The chamber also partnered with Linn County and Albany’s chamber to form the Linn County Small Business Outreach Program, which helped distribute more than $5,000 in grants to Lebanon businesses.
The chamber participated in “shop local” campaigns, and hosted the Cheadle Lake Motor-Vu Drive-in fundraiser, which was recently given the Oregon Festival and Events Association “Hidden Gem” award.
The chamber is now building the account back up to help local events when they start happening again.
“Everybody’s gonna need extra help this year once the ball gets rolling,” Grizzle said;
♦ approved an ordinance bill to annex the Residential Mixed Density property at 998 W. Airport Road.