Medford City Council: Ward 1 is a four-way race
Four candidates are in the race for the Medford City Council seat now held by Dick Gordon.
Candidates for Ward 1, which covers northeast Medford, are Curt Ankerberg, a retired CPA who ran afoul of the IRS for tax evasion; Richard Allen Schreffler, who failed to get his information in the Voters’ Pamphlet; Jeff Thomas, a local businessman who is on various city commissions; and Sarah Spansail, an accounting clerk who has served on local boards and commissions.
Schreffler, owner of a small business, said Medford needs to be better prepared to deal with catastrophic fires.
“It’s not just the duty of the fire department, but all departments need to come together and collaborate,” he said.
He said this will require training, particularly getting first responders out as quickly as possible when an emergency arises, as well as having systems in place that engage other departments such as public works or the parks department.
The city needs to develop more affordable housing to deal with rents that have been getting higher and higher throughout the years.
“Many people are just a few paychecks away from being homeless,” Schreffler said.
He said the city needs to develop strategies to allow developers to turnover projects quicker. To make communities withstand fires better, he thinks houses should be built closer together.
Medford needs to do a better job ensuring there is adequate employment and healthy businesses so residents can afford to live in the city.
“We need jobs that pay a living wage,” he said.
Spansail, who has an environmental background, said housing is one of the biggest issues facing Medford, and she felt her voice would help spark a change for the better in this city.
“I felt a frustration with spending a lot of volunteer hours to get a policy passed,” Spansail said.
If elected, she said, she could better spend her time on the community and getting policies on a fast track.
Spansail said she supports local efforts to get shelters for the homeless and hopes that those efforts could be expanded, particularly for those struggling through mental health or addiction problems. She said her mother struggled with substance abuse.
“It’s hard for people to deal with these problems if they don’t have a roof over their head,” she said.
Spansail said social service organizations need to expand to offer those struggling with mental health or addiction issues.
In Medford, she said, more than 15,000 people are at or below the poverty level, which puts them in a precarious position as they look for housing or try to retain housing.
She said the homeowner rate in Medford is 13% below the national average.
The Medford Housing Commission found that 30% of residents are paying 50% of their income toward rent, she said.
“They’re not making ends meet,” she said.
The fires and COVID-19 have strained local businesses, as well as the employees who work for them, and the city needs to find ways to help them during these difficult times.
“It’s a crisis,” she said.
Spansail said it has been a struggle for her family as well as it deals with the issues facing the valley.
“I do understand the challenges working families are facing,” she said.
Thomas, who formerly was on the Medford School Board and the Medford Planning Commission, said the current City Council is on the right track and City Manager Brian Sjothun has done a good job.
There are still major issues that the city needs to tackle, including a funding gap to complete the $60 million sports complex at Howard Memorial Park.
“We need to have a real transparent conversation with the community about how we’re going to continue to fund it,” he said.
A good chunk of the dollars for the park are coming from the transient lodging tax.
Since COVID-19 swept the country, people are traveling less.
“Businesses are starting to understand that people don’t need to travel as much to accomplish the same goal,” he said.
Business and personal travel might increase if a vaccine becomes widely available in the near future, but current estimates predict that transient lodging taxes will be down 25%.
“It could be even more,” Thomas said.
Affordable housing is another big issue for the city, but the availability of housing for families starting out is another big concern, he said.
Rents in Medford are often as high as some other more urban areas of the country, making this city a less attractive option for some, Thomas said.
He said the city has taken steps to deal with homelessness, but he thinks a more comprehensive strategy is needed, such as working closely with organizations that deal with mental health and addiction.
The owner of Connecting Point, Thomas said his business has been broken into twice during the past six months, with thieves making off with thousands of dollars of computer gear.
Using Bend as a model, Thomas said the Bear Creek Greenway needs to become a bigger part of what makes Medford attractive instead of a place that many locals avoid.
“Bend really thought about how the downtown should be oriented around their jewel,” he said.
This will be Ankerberg’s 14th run for office, including eight unsuccessful bids for City Council.
Ankerberg has declined various attempts to interview him throughout the years and is known for his name-calling and expletive-laden rants.
In the Voters’ Pamphlet, Ankerberg wrote: “Medford government is corrupt.”
Schreffler didn’t respond to repeated attempts for an interview.
Ward 2 and Ward 4 candidates are running unopposed.
Incumbent Councilor Tim D’Alessando is running in Ward 2, and incumbent Councilor Eric Stark is running in Ward 4.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @reporterdm.