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Council Corner: Citizens making a difference

“10 x 20” Clean Energy Initiative

A group of environmentally aware and concerned Ashland citizens is working to place a renewable energy measure on the November ballot, one which would allow Ashlanders to express explicit approval of a more forward-leaning, city-wide approach to climate change. The initiative includes language that would require that, by the year 2020, the City of Ashland must generate at least 10 percent of its electricity from “new, local and clean” renewable energy sources.

Getting such an initiative on the ballot is an onerous process requiring the gathering of more than 2,400 valid signatures of registered voters by July 4. This challenging effort is moving ahead. To simplify the process, however, the City Council may vote to place this measure on the ballot itself, thus bypassing the need to gather signatures while giving citizens the opportunity to express their sense of urgency about global climate change and the critical need at the local level to reduce our carbon footprint. Climate change as an issue should not be political; it is an urgent matter of planetary survival, and voters deserve this democratically initiated opportunity to voice their will. Watch for a vote on this to come before the council in the next few months.

East Nevada Street Bridge

Recently, the Transportation Commission hosted a forum to hear public input on the proposed $5.5 million East Nevada Street Bridge capital improvement project. At this forum, between 80 and 100 Ashlanders crowded into the Council Chamber; many others left because they couldn’t squeeze into the room. Several questions raised by citizens remain unanswered, and the hope is that the Transportation Commission will address these issues with Public Works staff at their next meeting, scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, May 26 (Council Chamber): (1) What requirements must be met by FEMA and other agencies; what is their cost? (2) What are the expenditures for lobbying on this project? (3) What additional costs can be expected, given that the Rogue Valley Transportation District can provide new routes only if they receive additional funding, and given that this new route would require the city to widen East Nevada Street from the creek to North Mountain to two full lanes and mitigate the twists and turns and the steep incline at the top of the street? (4) What is the cost of the less expensive option allowing for a bicycle and pedestrian foot bridge with emergency vehicle access? I urge interested citizens to attend the May 26 Commission meeting to hear answers to these and other questions.

Citizen watch: Verde Village development

Citizens have written to me voicing concerns about the Verde Village developer’s request for a change to the development agreement, one that may affect Bear Creek Greenway bike and pedestrian access and right of way through Ashland. Councilors cannot speak to the issue outside of a public meeting. However, the topic is scheduled for consideration at the June 7 council meeting at 7 pm in the Council Chamber. It remains unclear what the impact will be of the developer’s proposed change to the development agreement, but the issue definitely bears watching, especially if public access to the Greenway might be curtailed. The council’s study session packet on Verde Village will be available on the city’s website on Thursday, June 2. If interested, you may also check the minutes of the Planning Commission’s April 12 meeting, also found on the city’s website.

Thank you!

Finally, many thanks are owed to the citizens who presented an alternative plan for the affordable housing development at 380 Clay St. Thanks also to city staff and to my colleagues on the council for their flexibility in adopting this alternative plan, and in doing so eliminating the need to remove an historic cottonwood tree located on the site. One of the objections to the tree had been the potential loss of three units of affordable housing that would result. Citizens are working with me to bring to market three or four additional housing units to ensure there will be no loss of affordable housing, even as we save this majestic tree.

Carol Voisin  is a member of the Ashland City Council.