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Homeless advocate challenges for Lemhouse's seat

ASHLAND — Homeless advocate Keith Haxton will try to unseat Ashland City Councilman Greg Lemhouse in the November election.

Meanwhile, two-term Councilman Russ Silbiger is not seeking re-election. Regina Ayars, a members of the Ashland Housing Commission and Ashland Homelessness Steering Committee, has filed election paperwork to seek Silbiger's seat.

One-term Councilwoman Carol Voisin said she will seek re-election. No challengers have emerged yet for her position.

People interested in running for the City Council have until Aug. 23 to file paperwork with the City Recorder's Office. A term on the City Council lasts four years.

Haxton said he believes the City Council has become too conservative and that Lemhouse is the leader in the conservative shift.

"I have values that I think are in common with the majority of Ashland residents," Haxton said.

He said he disagrees with some of Lemhouse's decisions, including votes not to allow homeless men to shower at the city-owned Grove building and to adopt an exclusion zone to bar repeat offenders from the downtown.

Haxton said he doesn't have a permanent place to stay and sleeps in his vehicle at night.

He said he wants to run on a platform of compassion, sustainability, safety for all residents and increased opportunities for people to speak to their elected officials.

"What's happening right now is pitting one part of the community against the other," Haxton said.

Lemhouse — who has long contended that he is a moderate, not a conservative — said the City Council has accomplished a lot in the last four years, but there is still work to be done.

"I talked it over with my family and felt there was still more I'd like to do for the city. I enjoy serving the community," he said.

Lemhouse said his first priority is to continue working toward economic development, for which the council adopted a strategy last July.

He said he also wants to support Ashland's budding efforts to beautify and improve the downtown area, including the Plaza.

Lemhouse is the director of global fleet development for electric motorcycle manufacturer Brammo Inc., which is headquartered in Ashland.

A former police officer in Ashland and then Medford, Lemhouse speaks with government agencies around the world about the value of integrating electric vehicles into their vehicle fleets.

Silbiger said he decided he would not seek re-election for a third term.

"It's time to let other people do it," Silbiger said, adding that he is looking forward to being out of public office and having more time to enjoy life.

While encouraging people to step forward and run for public office, he had a word of advice.

"If you think you're ready, you're not," Silbiger said.

Ayars, who is seeking Silbiger's seat, said the council is acting with too much uniformity, with many 5-1 or 4-2 votes.

"I think more political, philosophical and gender diversity on the City Council would reflect a broader range of values that are represented in the community," Ayars said, noting that the council has only one woman member.

She said her top priority would be to work for affordable housing so more families with children could live in Ashland. During her decade living here, Ayars has watched Ashland close two of its elementary schools because of falling enrollment.

Ayars said she wants to bring more civility to the council when it comes to how members interact with each other and the public.

Voisin said she wants to work to create a safe, welcoming place for at-risk Ashland teens who spend too much time hanging out downtown.

Voisin also supports the idea of an "urban rest stop" for homeless adults in Ashland where they could get basic services.

She said affordable housing and discounting utility rates for low-income residents are among her other priorities.

The Ashland City Council has six members. Three seats come up for election at a time.

For more information on how to run for public office in Ashland, contact the City Recorder's Office at 541-488-5307.

Vickie Aldous is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. She can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.