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Agendas and Minutes

Charter Review Committee (View All)

Regular Meeting Minutes

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Charter Review Committee
May 5, 2005
Regular Meeting Minutes
Redmond Room, Southern Oregon University

Committee Co-Chair Carole Wheeldon called the Ashland Charter Review Committee meeting to order at 7:06 p.m. on May 5, 2005 in the Redmond Room at Southern Oregon University.
Members Present: Carole Wheeldon, Hal Cloer, Keith Massie, Donald Montgomery, Kate Culbertson and Michael Riedeman.
Members Absent: John Enders, Laurie MacGraw and Pam Marsh.
Staff Present: Ann Seltzer, Staff Liaison
April Lucas, Assistant to City Recorder

Hal Cloer/Keith Massie m/s to approve the minutes of April 21, 2005 as presented. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed.

Art Bullock/791 Glendower/Mr. Bullock questioned whether the suggested Charter changes would move the City in the direction of more accountability or less. He noted the results from the surveys he conducted and stated that the public was in favor of more accountability and openness in city government. Mr. Bullock stated that 94% of the people surveyed did not support the City Manager form of government and noted that the public expressed concern that this person would not be accountable to the voters. The survey also showed that many citizens were opposed to the idea that councilors could be removed because they intervened in city business. Mr. Bullock stated in regards to the City Recorder and the Judge issue, if it not broke, don't fix it and stated that the committee had failed to communicate what the problem was with the current system.
III. ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION: Council Elections and Compensation
Michael Riedeman gave a brief explanation of the three alternatives for Council compensation:
1) Status Quo: Charter language remains unchanged.
Currently the Mayor receives $500 a year and each councilor receives $350. In addition, they also receive full medical, vision and dental benefits and a small life insurance policy that covers themselves and their dependents.
2) Remove the election requirement from the Charter.
The salaries would no longer be voted on by the public; Compensation decisions would be made by the Council.
3) Implement a specific salary-level in the Charter along with requirements for periodic review and/or pay increases.
After initial Charter approval, all pay raises would be predicated on a specific formula or review process.

Ms. Wheeldon noted the information prepared for the Committee by Tina Gray in regards to what it would cost the City to pay each councilor the living wage and how this was comparable to the amount being spent on the benefits package. It was clarified that the stipend was provided for in the Charter, while the benefits provision was adopted by ordinance. It was also noted that one of the options is to offer no compensation at all.

Staff Liaison Ann Seltzer clarified that each councilor could choose whether they, their spouse and their dependents wish to receive health coverage and noted that because of this, the amount spent on each councilor varies.

Comments made during the roundtable discussion included:
I support paying for the councilor's benefits but am not as comfortable paying for their spouse and dependents.
I would support increasing the amount each councilor receives and then tie that amount to the average increase received by management.
It would be best if you could avoid putting dollar amounts in the Charter.
Salary amounts do no belong in the Charter.
If the salary is set by ordinance, there should be guidelines for how the salaries will be set.
I think councilors should be paid a living wage, but do not want people to be motivated by the salary.
I know people who would like to run, but cannot afford it; however it would be a big financial impact on the City to pay them.
Comment was made that Ashland has very complex operations for a City of its size. If you look at the statistics, the number of hours each councilor puts in should be approximately 20 hours per week. However for larger cities, 40 hours per week is average. It was noted that there is a transition from people serving as a public service to that of an occupation as the population increases.
Land use issues take up a lot of the council's time; Council could address this issue by having appeals handled by a hearings officer.
Suggestion was made to ask the Council how many hours they put in and how many hours could be saved if the appeals were heard by a hearings officer.
Even though a hearings officer would streamline things, the citizens would prefer for the appeals to be handled by the Council.
Comment was made that the Council could deny hearing the appeals de novo, which would speed things up.
Comment was made that some councilors put in more hours than others, and it was questioned how they would track their hours if they were paid an hourly rate?
It could be categorized as stipend, not a salary.
Statement was made that some councilors choose to attend extra meetings and events, and opinion was expressed that they should not be paid extra because they made that decision.
Suggestion was made to give each councilor $1000 per month and then give them the option of enrolling in the City's benefits plan. If they do not want or need the benefits, they could just keep the stipend.
Support was expressed for the fixed amount, but it was questioned if this amount would be adjusted over time. Perhaps it could be left up to the Budget Committee each year to decide if there should be an increase.

Michael Riedeman gave a brief explanation of the alternatives for Council elections:

1) Status Quo: Charter language remains unchanged.
2) Maintain existing position system with addition of instant runoff voting.
3) Implement a city-wide ward system; Candidates would be elected from six different districts apportioned within city boundaries.
4) Implement a city-wide ward system with addition of instant voter runoff.
5) Eliminate position system in favor of city-wide at large election. Top three vote getters would win council seats at issue.

Comments made during the roundtable discussion included:
Some former councilors have stated that there is better debate when you have people filing for different positions.
Support was expressed for IRV, but it was questioned whether this would it work with an at large system.
Comment was made that Ashland is too small for wards.
Statement was made that there might be less negative campaigning if the candidates were not running for a specific position.
Opposition was expressed to the current system of running for specific seats.
Comment was made that the current system is confusing,
Opposition was voiced against ward elections and support was given to at large voting with IRV; however it was questioned whether voters would support at large voting if it were tied to IRV. Perhaps IRV should be addressed as a separate issue.
Suggestion was made to recommend to the Council that they form a committee to research IRV.
Comment was made that one of the arguments for the wards system is that people with like incomes could run against each other.
Statement was made that Ashland is small enough that elected councilors can represent the entire community.

IV. ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION: Election of City Recorder & Municipal Judge
Carole Wheeldon noted the alternatives for the City Recorder and Municipal Judge:
1) Position remains an elective position.
2) Position becomes an appointive position and would report to the City Council.

Municipal Judge Discussion
Judge Alan Drescher noted that he had compiled financial data regarding his position and submitted copies to the Committee and audience. [Document is attached to the minutes]

He explained that for Fiscal Year 03-04, the Municipal Courts collected $523,964 in funds and had $285,645 in expenditures, which resulted in a net income of $238,319. Mr. Drescher noted that he also calculated the costs comparison on what the funds would have been if cases were heard by the Medford court instead of Ashland's, and stated by having these services in Ashland, the City benefits roughly $100,000 a year. Mr. Drescher also noted the financial benefits of the diversion program and commented on its overwhelming success rate.

Comments made during the roundtable discussion included:
Support was expressed for this position remaining elected, but it was questioned if Ashland could still have a court system if we appointed the judge.
Recommendation was made for the judge to be a resident of Ashland.
It was noted that the judge's current salary works out to approximately $75 an hour.
Mr. Drescher noted that Ashland courts currently handle traffic citations, ordinance violations and misdemeanors. He clarified that the cases that get sent to Medford are more serious violations and typically involve blood. He clarified that Medford handles DUI's.
It was noted that any person could request that their case be heard by a jury.
Comment was made that it's a good idea for the judge to live within the City in order for them to have an understanding of community values.
Mr. Drescher recommended that the judge be an active member of the Oregon State Bar.
Comment was made that the income presented by Mr. Drescher could not be solely attributed to the courts, as the police have a role in the issuance of citations.
Suggestion was made for the salary to be based on experience and adjusted annually based on the other senior officials in the city.
Mr. Drescher stated that he would be comfortable with the salary being set by ordinance instead of being in the Charter.
Comment was made that given the number of hours worked by the judge, he makes a significant amount more per hour than the City Administrator, who is the City's top official.

City Recorder/Treasurer Discussion

Comments made during the roundtable discussion included:
Comment was made that the election of this position was a carry over from days gone by and needs to be updated.
Concern was expressed that an elected official was in charge of investing the City's money.
Recommendation was made for the Recorder to be a resident of Ashland and that there be minimum qualifications for this position.
Statement was made that the current Recorder was extremely qualified, but it was mentioned that a newbie shouldn't get the Recorder's current salary when she retires. Suggestion was made for the salary to be removed from the Charter and left to the Budget Committee.
Suggestion was made for the Recorder's salary to be based on the experience level.
Comment was made that by having the Recorder elected, they are better linked to be an advocate of the people. Because the people elect this person, they reach out to the people and are more responsive. Support was expressed for the status quo because it works in Ashland.
Statement was made that this is a very professional position and includes a huge fiduciary responsibility; It was suggested that this position be appointed for a term so that the Recorder is held accountable.
Comment was made that typically we elect people who set policy; Because the Recorder is not a policy making position, it was questioned why this position needed to be elected.
Concern was expressed about what would happen when the current Recorder retires.
It was noted that the current Recorder received an award for being the first municipality in Oregon to place such a large volume of records online; It was questioned if the Recorder's responsibilities could be minimized if each department was required to add their own files to the records database.
Comment was made that this position doesn't have to be elected to be responsive; By law they are required to provide public records.
Statement was made that Ashland residents are paying a premium for having an elected Recorder.
Suggestion was made to put this option out to the community and let them debate it.
Comment was made that this position should remain elected because it increases public trust and citizens are able to get the same information that Staff gets. It was noted that there are a lot of people who do not trust City staff, and by going to an independent person this increase the trust.
Concern was expressed whether the person who replaced the current Recorder would keep up on the digital records database.
Comment was made that there would be less concern regarding the election of this position if there were minimum qualifications.
Statement was made that if the Recorder was elected and the treasury responsibilities removed, this would not need to be a full time position.
Suggestion was made to pull the Recorder's salary from the Charter and leave it to the Budget Committee; Comment was made that it should be based on qualifications and education.

The roundtable forum was concluded and Ms. Wheeldon noted that the Committee's recommendations regarding these issues would be made at the May 12th meeting.

Ms. Wheeldon noted the meeting schedule and reviewed who would be absent from the upcoming meetings. She noted that the Committee needed 6 members to have a quorum and noted the importance of having a full Committee during the meetings where decisions will be made.

Ms. Wheeldon noted the Charter with mark-ups prepared by Tom Sponslor and the input received by former City Attorney Paul Nolte. She stated that Keith Massie was working on compiling this information and requested that he send it out to the Committee when finished. Ms. Wheeldon stated that City Attorney Mike Franell also submitted comments, but noted that this was a different comparison than what was done by Sponslor and Nolte. Ms. Wheeldon recommended that the Committee members start bringing their model Charter with them to the meetings, as they would need to start determining where they will insert and delete language. She added that the Committee needed to make their decisions in a systematic way and requested that they determine a process to do so.

Ms. Wheeldon spoke regarding the City Band issue and noted that she would be bringing back additional information during decision making time. She commented that it might be best to lock in the amount the band receives now and then tie it to regular increases.

It was noted that the Council has requested that the Committee provide their recommendation in layman's terms and the Council will work with the consultant in drafting the final language.

Ms. Seltzer noted that she would need to receive the Committee's final language by June 13th in order to have in ready for the Council's June 21st meeting.

Request was made for the agenda to list what decisions needed to be made at that meeting

Concerns were expressed on whether the Committee would be able to meet this deadline. Ms. Wheeldon stated that the Committee should discuss the issue of future commitments by the members at a future meeting.

VII. ADJOURNMENT: Meeting adjourned at 9:30 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
April Lucas, Assistant to City Recorder

Please click on the link below to view the information submitted by Judge Drescher


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