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City agrees to discuss 'Culture of Peace' panel

While Ashland Mayor John Stromberg has said that he doesn't want the city to take on any more commissions, some Ashland residents are asking it to create just one more.

Members of the Ashland chapter of the Culture of Peace Initiative (CPI) urged the city council to consider creating a Culture of Peace Commission during the public comment period at the council meeting Tuesday night. 

The group, part of a United Nations-designated "Peace Messenger Initiative," describes a culture of peace as a shift in mindset and behavior in a community from force to reason, from conflict and violence to dialogue and peace building.

"When we talk about a culture of peace, we're talking about our values, our behavior and our ways of life," said David Wick, the local CPI team leader, at Tuesday's meeting. "Creating this commission is a historic moment that will put Ashland on the map."

Eric Sirotkin, who works with the Ubuntuworks Peace Education Project, said that the city should pull from the best in conflict resolution in Ashland.

"It's not just bringing in people who believe in peace," he said. "We would create a pool of experience and creative problem solving. Commissioners would become ambassadors to the world."

Iren Kai pointed to Ashland's schools and recent designation as Oregon's eCity as evidence of the city's cutting edge practices. 

"We've shown that we have the courage to pick up a vision and push forward to create amazing culture in the city," she said.

The CPI chapter collected 200 signatures in support of the commission, publishing the names as an ad in Tuesday's Daily Tidings.

"The community wants this commission," Wick said. "There are many who, while not listed, would stand up and ask for this."

The speakers also noted that this commission would create a positive image for the city that would resonate further than the community. 

"It will create an additional draw for tourism in this city," Wick added.

Berkeley, Calif.; New Haven, Conn.; and Cambridge, Mass. already have similar commissions. However, Wick said more will follow if Ashland creates one. 

"The city has the reach and responsibility to set the tone," he said. "Many cities are aware of what we're doing and await Ashland's decision for a commission model."

Councilors agreed to discuss the commission on the earliest available study session date, most likely in 2015.

Email reporter Ian Hand at ihand@dailytidings.com or call him at 253-722-4071. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/IanHand_DT.