Letters, May 7
Present system is best
Proponents of the city manager charter change contend the city will run more efficiently if the council makes policy and lets a city manager implement it. But the council is responsible to the people for how city services are delivered. In fact the routine business of the council draws councilors into policy implementation all the time.
During our current state of emergency the city administrator acts more like a manager. Things move more quickly and smoothly, but over time the council can lose touch with how the city is being run. If the arrangement were permanent, this separation could create a crisis in the manager/council relationship that would be very difficult to resolve. (We have seen such examples in our area in recent years.)
As mayor I have encouraged councilors to be more involved in the administrator’s world, for example: by participating in the hiring of department heads or leading ad hoc committees as chair and voting member to tackle emerging issues. In this system the administrator communicates regularly with the councilors, which makes council decision-making more practical and collegial.
The key is collaboration, not separation, between the policy-making and administering branches of city government, with the mayor connecting both.
For a city like Ashland, with its large array of services and active citizen involvement, our current structure may be the answer.
John Stromberg, mayor
AT&T’s cell tower application
On Monday I sent a letter to the Ashland Planning Department objecting to the proposed “105-foot stealth monopole designed to resemble a pine tree in a 450-square-foot area southeast of Raider Stadium” on the SOU campus for two reasons.
First, yes, we all need and are using cellphones and the internet more and consequently are being exposed to microwave radiation dangers everywhere. Read the fine print in your cellphone’s disclaimer. However, I find the “fake pine” placement objectionable in such a beautiful park-like setting, trying to blend in to look like a real pine tree.
Second, the placement shown in Figure F of the AT&T application places it at the south end of the football field, near the facilities building and unfortunately in the trees. Since cellphone towers have been known to catch fire, this could make it a hazard. The Oregon Department of Forestry announced May as the beginning of fire season and Jackson County is in an extreme drought, which means lower moisture levels in flammable vegetation, grass, bushes and trees, prompting the early onset of fire danger and possibly a more intense wildfire season. If that isn’t bad enough, everyone who has ever sat in the SOU bleachers or walked the paths know it is a breezy area of the valley and even a wind tunnel at times. Those concerned should contact the Ashland Planning Department in writing by 4:30 p.m., Monday, May 11 at
51 Winburn Way, Ashland, OR 97520.
My problem with the City Hall bond
For 20 years, leadership at the city has discussed repairs vs. replacement of City Hall. Last December, the City Council boldly agreed with the Public Works recommendation to completely rebuild City Hall from scratch! Then realized they disregarded a number of issues regarding the building’s situation as a historic building. Whereupon, the council boldly agreed with the Historic Commission recommendation to mostly renovate City Hall!
City Council marched the bond to pay for all of this onto the May 2020 ballot without any real plan after years of ad-hoc committees and study sessions. Leadership continues to cobble together ideas as they come along. No vision. No grand design. The City Council’s plan was to get it on the ballot and figure out all the other stuff later.
Is this the leadership we trust to shepherd a new building project through two years of construction and redesign ups and downs with new questions and decisions at every turn, let alone a historic, multi-year renovation? When they have proven that when “chips” hit the fan, they will just defer to the city manager, or Public Works, or the architects, or ?
This project is something that will affect daily traffic, business, parking, and Lithia Park for at least 18 months. I am not on board with this, or the team in charge of it. Because I’m not certain what it will actually become, or certain who will really be making the decisions.
Governing model obsolete
Ashland’s current governing model, established in 1908 when the city had few employees, is obsolete and inadequate for today’s complex operations.
The council-manager model is being referred to voters in Ballot Measure 15-189 by today’s city councilors and recommended by many former councilors, including Pam Marsh. This is the preferred governing model for cities in Oregon and the U.S. It streamlines city management by a trained, experienced professional who is hired by and accountable to the City Council.
Change the form of government
If you are an Ashland resident who plans to vote against the Ashland bond measure because you don’t trust the current city government to operate efficiently, it is incumbent on you to vote for Measure 15-189 to change to a city manager form of government.
Under a city manager, the city would be managed by someone with training, education and experience in the executive functions of a city. The mayor and City Council would set policy, which is what they are elected to do, but a trained professional would guide operation of the city.
A volunteer mayor and city council members do not have the time, education or experience to determine if city departments are being operated effectively, efficiently and fairly. They should not be involved in the personnel decisions, department goal setting, and the myriad details that determine how effectively a city is operated.
Everyone loves Ashland’s small-town atmosphere, especially our wonderful parades, but there should be nothing small town about city government. Vote for Measure 15-189.
Vote for Joe Charter
I have been an attorney since 1979, practicing in both state and federal courts. On Nov. 1, 2019, this newspaper printed an editorial recommending that Judge Greif resign, and that if she did not “she should face a challenge when she is next up for re-election, and let the voters decide.” Judge Greif did not resign and that election is now. I urge you to join me in voting for her challenger, Judge Joe Charter.
It is with great pain that I am writing this letter, as I have known Judge Greif for a number of years, but I believe that her conduct over the past several years demonstrates that she is unfit for office and should not be returned to the bench.
Within the last several years, she repeatedly inserted herself into a matter that was pending in the Jackson County Circuit Court. She advised one of the parties in that matter by suggesting a particular legal strategy. She advised and colluded with that party in a media strategy to influence the outcome. She made disparaging comments regarding the other parties and potential witnesses in that lawsuit. (The full extent of her actions is currently being investigated by the Judicial Fitness Commission.)
We in Jackson County are lucky that Justice Court Judge Joe Charter has displayed the courage to step forward and run against a sitting Circuit Court judge. He is not just any challenger. He is experienced, has demonstrated judicial temperament and ability and is fully qualified to be a Circuit Court judge.
The integrity of our legal system is only as strong as the integrity of our judges. Please join me in voting for the candidate, Judge Joe Charter, who has consistently demonstrated integrity throughout his entire legal career.