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Ashland ballot measure might not accomplish all of its goals

City Council action might still be required even if ballot measure passes
Flags fly above Ashland city offices. [Mail Tribune/file photo]

A charter change proposal on the Ashland ballot in November might not accomplish everything its backers are hoping.

Ballot Measure 15-210, proposed by Ashland City Manager Joe Lessard, would put Ashland parks employees under the authority of the city manager’s office with the rest of city employees, rather than under the supervision of the Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission.

Lessard told Ashland City Council Tuesday he asked acting City Attorney Doug McGeary to review the city’s charter language. Lessard said the charter appears to only grant the commission limited authority, which has been expanded by various City Council decisions over the years.

Lessard told the council that even if voters approve the measure, council would likely need to revisit its own past work to create clean lines of authority and control from the city manager’s office to the entire body of city employees, including parks and recreation.

The council was not asked to take action, but to consider the information.

In other action Tuesday, the council learned that 51% of people who filled out a city survey are in favor of removing city funding from the drought-plagued Oak Knoll Golf Course.

The survey, conducted by a team from the Southern Oregon University Research Center, was designed to give council direction as it ponders budget decisions. The survey asked respondents what budget items they would be willing to cut or increase.

The study did not give council clear direction on which potential budget cuts residents might prefer. Only one question was able to exceed 50% support — cutting funding for the golf course was favored by 51% of those who filled out the survey.

Maintaining dog parks and small neighborhood parks using volunteers rather than parks and recreation staff was the second most popular at just under 40% support.

Other potential budget cuts, such as delaying the replacement of city vehicles, transferring some criminal cases to county courts or reducing parks and recreation offerings, all failed to reach 40% support from respondents.

Of the more than 10,000 surveys sent out by mail, 2,500 people responded, which was an excellent response rate, according to Dr. Eva Skuratowicz, director of the Southern Oregon University Research Center.

“Frankly there isn’t an overwhelming mandate, only one item is over 50% for any specific policy change or cut,” Skuratowicz told the council.

Councilors and Mayor Julie Akins said they were excited to see that 1,615 open-ended comments were sent with the surveys, and they promised to read all of them. The researchers said the comments would be available to council in November.

Also Tuesday, Ashland Public Arts Commission Chair Ken Engelund told the council more public forums will gather public input on “Ancestor’s Future: Crystalizing Our Call,” a sculpture recently approved by Ashland City Council, with conditions, for installation at Ashland Creek Park.

Engelund also reported an Indigenous art installation, known as the “Otterlifter Canoe” will be dedicated Thursday at the entrance of Ashland High School, and he encouraged all to come.

The Otterlifter Canoe was a gift to Ashland High, donated by the Wahpepah family in response to a proposal by the school’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee to use a new art installation as a land acknowledgment, a sign of support for Native students and a symbol of the importance of climate issues.

The installation was approved by council in April and installed by members of the Native American Student Union Aug. 17.

In other action Tuesday, the council approved a raise for Public Works employees represented by the AFL-CIO. The new three-year contract includes a cost-of-living adjustment of 4% for two years and 3% for the third year.

The council in August approved similar raises for Public Works employees represented by two other unions.

The employees will be responsible for more of their health insurance premiums.

Councilors Gina DuQuenne and Shaun Moran voted against the raise while councilors Paula Hyatt, Tonya Graham, Stefani Seffinger and Stephen Jensen voted in favor.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Morgan Rothborne at mrothborne@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4487. Follow her on Twitter @MRothborne.