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Three contenders vie for spot on RVTD board

Reliable funding and enhanced services for public transportation are some of the goals of three candidates vying for Position 7 on the Rogue Valley Transportation District board in the May 19 election.

Susan Aufderheide of Ashland and Rick Dyer of Medford are challenging incumbent Sharon Ely of White City for the four-year term. Running unopposed for three other seats are incumbents Stan Littrell, Joel Marks and David Carr.

Ballots must be returned by 8 p.m. May 19 to the Jackson County Elections Center to be counted. They were mailed out Friday. Drop boxes open May 11.

All members of the RVTD board talk about dependable funding for public transportation, but a proposed payroll tax on employers in the valley does not seem likely to happen anytime soon, said Ely, who seeks her second and, she said, last term on the board.

"The payroll tax is not going to be an issue in the next two years," Ely said. "We've looked at a lot of different (funding) ways and have been talking to a lot of different agencies and businesses. I don't know where they're at. They support it more than they used to."

A good source of funding in the short term might be senior and disabled grants to better serve those populations, she said.

Ely, 45, is a licensed massage therapist and provides services for people with disabilities to support independent living. She has an associate's degree as an occupational therapy assistant. She's on the Home Care Commission and State Independent Living Council.

Dyer said he rode the bus from Medford to Southern Oregon University to get his business administration and accounting degree in 1987. Having worked 20 years in the automotive industry here, he said he understands the business world and thinks businesses want to step up and help public transit work.

"It's going to take a lot of innovative ideas. Hopefully there will be federal funding for vital services," said Dyer.

While not committing to any new tax, Dyer noted that "business owners recognize the need for bus service and are not averse to paying their share, but they feel the responsibility to see a concrete plan of what's going to be done with the money and what the economic benefit will be."

Dyer, 44, is an efficient-energy educator and owns Northwest Energy Solutions. He lives in Medford and is in his third year of Concord Law School in Los Angeles, which he attends online. He hasn't held public office before.

Aufderheide said sustainability and stewardship of limited resources should be the guiding principles in transportation and all other actions, according to her Voters' Pamphlet statement.

"My passion is light rail between Ashland and Medford and a line-item in budgets of all cities for public transportation, so it's sustainable," she said.

Aufderheide supports night and weekend buses, "efficient service for vulnerable populations," short electric buses for small communities, using train tracks for an electric trolley, getting more riders educated to use buses and finding a combination of revenue options that shares the burden among all who benefit from public transit.

Aufderheide, 60, is a videographer and membership chairwoman for KSKQ Community Radio. She has a communications degree from SOU and is a certified mediator. She has served on the Ashland Cable Access Commission, Alliance for Community Media, Ashland Living Wage Committee, Multicultural Association of Southern Oregon and the Pacific Green Party.

The seven RVTD directors are elected at large to four-year terms.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.