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MailTribune.com
  • Economy is contenders' top priority

    Four vying for Ward 2 council seat seek revitalized downtown
  • Stimulating Medford's economy is a top priority for four candidates seeking an appointment to the City Council seat formerly held by Jim Kuntz.
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  • Stimulating Medford's economy is a top priority for four candidates seeking an appointment to the City Council seat formerly held by Jim Kuntz.
    Clay Bearnson, Matthew Krunglevich, Eli Matthews and Ben Truwe have filed their candidacy papers for the position.
    The City Council will hold a study session at 5:30 p.m. today at City Hall, 411 W. Eighth St., to interview the candidates.
    Kuntz resigned from his Ward 2 council position effective April 5, citing health problems.
    Bearnson, the 36-year-old owner of The Gypsy Blues Bar, 205 W. Eighth St., said he wants the council to promote local businesses and to fill the many empty storefronts in the downtown area. "The economic revitalization of the downtown is one of my primary concerns," he said.
    He applauded efforts to make the Pear Blossom Festival more of a downtown event this year, in part by featuring events that encouraged people to walk through the area.
    Gang vandalism continues to be of concern in his neighborhood, and the city could do more to quell gang problems, he said.
    Because of the growing number of Hispanics in west Medford, Bearnson said more should be done to include that population and its traditions into the community.
    Krunglevich, a 31-year-old forester with the Oregon Department of Forestry, said his three main objectives are public health and safety, and revitalization of the local business, particularly in the downtown area.
    He said the Holly Theatre and new Lithia Motors headquarters will help promote the downtown.
    "I want to make sure this is a destination for people," he said.
    Krunglevich, who has volunteered on many local committees, said the city could do more to make sure people in lower income areas get more access to educational opportunities.
    The city also could help promote more job growth, which he said is a major concern for his neighborhood.
    Matthews, the 29-year-old chairman of the Medford Arts Commission, said he is running because he hopes to improve public safety, particularly by building a new fire station in his southwest Medford ward.
    He said the main issues for him include getting a better handle on crime, gangs and graffiti.
    Matthews said he supports proposals for bond measures for a new police station and aquatics facility.
    At the same time, he said, he doesn't support adding taxes or placing too many fees on businesses, which would discourage downtown revitalization.
    Matthews, who is on the Citizens Planning Advisory Committee, noted he would be youngest member of the City Council.
    "I want to diversify the council a little bit," he said.
    Truwe, 60, who lost his bid for re-election to Councilwoman Karen Blair in 2010, said he would like to encourage greater use of social media for council members to better connect with the citizens of Medford.
    He said he would push for televised recordings of council study sessions to give the public a better understanding of the workings of local government and how decisions are made.
    "It seems like a no-brainer to me," he said.
    Truwe said he wants to provide a different direction for commissions that work under the council.
    Usually, advisory committees and planning commissions are told their job is to approve projects, Truwe said.
    "As a result, we have in-fill projects that stick out like a sore thumb," he said.
    Instead, he would prefer that committees and commissions apply city or national standards to see if a project is acceptable.
    Ward 2 takes in the southwest quadrant of the city, south of Fourth Street, Jackson Street and Jacksonville Highway, and west of Willamette Avenue and Interstate 5.
    Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or email dmann@mailtribune.com.
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