MINUTES FOR THE REGULAR MEETING
ASHLAND CITY REGULAR
January 15, 2013
1175 E. Main Street
CALL TO ORDER
Mayor Stromberg called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chambers.
Councilor Voisin, Morris, Lemhouse, Slattery, Rosenthal, and Marsh were present.
STATE OF THE CITY ADDRESS BY MAYOR STROMBERG
Mayor Stromberg presented the State of the City address with the thesis that the City needed a dynamic concept of government to operate in an unsustainable world that if executed well, Ashland could thrive amid the changes. He spoke first on Infrastructure, Economic Development Strategy, and Homelessness.
The City needed to manage the infrastructure carefully to plan for future needs, manage the replacement of existing infrastructure, and amortize costs. The Water Treatment Plant had to be able to deal with climate change, disasters, emergencies, conservation, and be current on maintenance.
The Waste Water Master Plan had to address the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) regulations by cooling the effluent with a possible new mitigation method that involved shading Bear Creek with trees using financing and planting assistance from two institutions.
The Street Fund was a good example of managing replacement. It cost 8-10 times more to replace a street than it did to repave it in a timely manner.
City infrastructure included water, wastewater, storm water, streets, electric, and broadband. City infrastructure services consisted of police, fire, planning, facilities, and financial systems. Managing infrastructure prudently was crucial to retaining public trust and a stable political situation.
Economic Development Strategy
The core of the economic development strategy was expanding the economy by leveraging the quality of life to support, attract, and retain innovative businesses. Ashland specialized in innovative public sector organizations like Ashland Community Hospital, JPR Network, and the Chamber of Commerce. Current examples included GEOS, Ashland at Home, the Ashland Food Project, and Ashland Forest Resiliency (AFR).
Quality of life in Ashland was an economic good. People sacrificed income to experience a quality of life here. From this perspective, parks, and the school system were essential ingredients of quality of life and critical to the economic development strategy.
Federal dollars usually funded human services but due to economic strife and war, that money was not filtering down. The community was feeling the stress of economic problems and it resulted in homelessness and near homeless for some. In the prior month, 520 families accessed the Food Bank.
The City provided affordable housing and social services through St. Vincent De Paul, Maslow House, Community Health Center and Community Works, as well as utility subsidies for low-income residents and seniors.
In addition, the City had experimented over the past two years in conjunction with private groups to provide porta-potties, Thursday night shelter, the La Clinica Medicare/Dental van, and the request for proposal (RFP) for a resource center. The Mayor admired the Council for these efforts and thought they should continue because there was an important pay-off. He explained there were two basic ideas, one was providing pathways back into self-sufficiency, and the other was meeting the basic human needs for those who could not fully care for themselves.
Mayor Stromberg went on to address three challenges the City was facing that could create damage.
PERS (Public Employees Retirement System) Assessment
The City had a moral and legal obligation to pay employees’ retirement but the State had the funds invested in financial markets and this year the City had to make up the shortfall of an on-going increase of $700,000. The City was looking at ways to improvise to avoid layoffs and service cuts by investigating self-insurance, efficiency gains through the new City Administrator, and a hiring freeze. Long-term the PERS issue could cripple government.
GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms)
Organic food and seed production was an important component of the regional economy and Ashland’s quality of life. In 2014, Jackson County would have a ballot measure banning GMOs. The Mayor was contacting congressional representatives to find out the laws and regulations protecting GMOs. No longer in effect, the Oregon Agricultural Department had a regulation in central Oregon that required separate grow zones for two kinds of rapeseed to block cross-pollination with organic farms. The Mayor was interested in applying a similar law for organic and GMO farmers in southern Oregon.
Unsustainable Ashland School District Funding
The public school system was seeing declining revenues and had to deal with a PERS assessment as well. Educate Ashland, a group parents formed to sponsor and support school activities asked Mayoral candidates for help with funding during the recent election. In general, municipalities had little money to give to schools. However, the school district had assets they might be able to repurpose. The City had a public-private-partnership with Standing Stone Brewing Company through the lease of city property and the Mayor thought similar leases could apply to the school district. At this time, these types of transactions were illegal for schools but the Mayor thought the State might provide a waiver if funding got worse.
Mayor Stromberg concluded sustainability was a key component because the quality of life for Ashland was substantial, meaningful and communitarian. Sustainability meant reducing energy consumption rather than seeking new sources. Relying on local food production and decoupling from petroleum-based transportation systems to improve the quality of food and health. Accessing locally generated renewable energy to buffer the cost of electricity from the grid. Ashland enjoyed an abundance of alternative medicine and health practices. Sustainability also encouraged public transportation, biking, and walking.
The City needed to be a model of sustainable practices. By practicing sustainable qualities, the City and citizens could become a symbol of hope for the world and generate business possibilities that brought people to the area for conferences on sustainability practices. The Mayor proposed this as a model of city government that was dynamic not static.
ELECTION OF COUNCIL CHAIR
City Recorder Barbara Christensen explained in the Mayor’s absence the Council Chair would preside at City Council meetings. In the absence of the Mayor and Chair, Council would appoint a Chair Pro Tem. Both Council Chair and Chair Pro Tem could vote.
Councilor Lemhouse/Morris m/s to appoint Councilor Slattery as Council Chair for 2013. Voice Vote: Councilor Lemhouse and Morris, YES; Councilor Voisin, Rosenthal, and Marsh, NO. Motion failed 2-3.
Councilor Voisin/Lemhouse m/s to appoint Councilor Morris as Council Chair for 2013. Voice Vote: Councilor Voisin, Lemhouse, Slattery, Rosenthal, and Marsh, YES. Motion passed.
Mayor Stromberg announced that the City was accepting applications for the Annual Appointments to the various Commissions and Committees. The deadline for applications was March 15, 2013.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The minutes of the Study Session of December 17, 2012, Business Meeting of December 18, 2012 and Special Meeting of January 2, 2013 were approved as presented.
SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS & AWARDS
The Mayor’s proclamation of January 21, 2013 as Martin Luther King. Jr. Day was read aloud.
1. Annual review of investment policy for the City of Ashland
2. Liquor license application for Jordan MacKay dba Oberon’s Three-Penny Tavern at 45 N. Main Street
3. Resolution adopting the Jackson County Multi-Jurisdictional Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan
4. Authorization for Conservation Division vehicle purchase
5. Award of a construction contract to the apparent low bidder for the Ashland Plaza reconstruction
Councilor Slattery pulled Consent Agenda item #3, Councilor Voisin and Morris pulled Consent Agenda item #4, and Councilor Rosenthal pulled Consent Agenda item #5 for further discussion.
Councilor Slattery acknowledged the Resolution adopting the new Jackson County Multi-Jurisdictional Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan (NHMP). He also noted the need for weed control in the many of the fields surrounding Ashland for fire prevention. Fire Chief John Karns explained an amendment to the plan customized the priority and impact of potential hazards that might affect Ashland as opposed to Jackson County in general. It would also offer substantial mitigation grants from the federal government. The NHMP had some potential for addressing weed abatement.
Councilor Slattery/Rosenthal m/s to approve Consent Agenda item #3. DISCUSSION: Councilor Rosenthal expressed concern the plan obligated the City to provide funding that might not be available. Chief Karns clarified these particular items were concerns to address in the hazard profile for the City. The seismic assessment was one of the more expensive items and the foundation for going forward but did not oblige the City to fund it themselves. However, if the City pursued natural hazard mitigation funding, seismic assessment would be the priority for how the City used the funding.
Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed.
Councilor Morris voiced concern regarding the Conservation Division’s need for three vehicles as well as the cost. Councilor Voisin suggested staff try and efficiently use two cars rather than three. Administrative Services Director Lee Tuneberg explained staff had tried unsuccessfully to utilize a schedule for two vehicles but faced many challenges. A third car would make the department more efficient, eliminate the need to use personal vehicles, and provide an opportunity to look at using a PHEV (plug in hybrid electric vehicle). Project Manager Adam Hanks added there were scheduling issues for staff conducting fieldwork because contractors scheduled inspections with the City. In addition, transporting City equipment in personal vehicles was an issue. Councilor Rosenthal/Marsh m/s to approve Consent Agenda item #4. Roll Call Vote: Councilor Slattery, Lemhouse, Marsh, and Rosenthal, YES; Councilor Voisin and Morris, NO. Motion passed 4-2.
Engineering Services Manager Scott Fleury explained the process and next steps once Council approved the construction contract for the Plaza redesign. Construction could start the end of January.
Councilor Rosenthal/Lemhouse m/s to approve Consent Agenda item #5. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed.
Councilor Lemhouse/Slattery m/s to approve Consent Agenda items #1 and #2. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed.
PUBLIC HEARINGS (None)
Rich Rohde/124 Ohio Street/Explained he was the Regional Organizer for Oregon Action, a group that was part of the statewide coalition Oregon Banks Local. He addressed the City of Portland’s resolution for responsible banking discussed during the previous night’s Study Session. The City Recorder/Treasurer was recommending the City adopt a similar resolution. He added adopting a responsible banking resolution would create more flexibility for deposits by city treasurers by allowing deposits in smaller institutions including credit unions. It would increase competition in the market for city banking services and included socially responsible practices by banks as part of the bid evaluation criteria. It would also increase transparency by annually allowing public input regarding investment policies and publishing online whom the City banked with and where they invested funds.
UNFINISHED BUSINESS (None)
NEW AND MISCELLANEOUS BUSINESS
1. Results of citizen survey
Management Analyst Ann Seltzer presented the staff report on the results of the Citizen Survey conducted in October 2012. The City used the National Citizen Survey developed by the National Research Center and the International City Management Association. The survey went to 1,200 randomly selected households and 458 responded. She explained how the National Citizen Survey weighted results to provide as accurate a picture as possible for the overall population. The National Citizen Survey maintained a database of approximately 500 jurisdictions.
Staff chose to have results compared to university communities with a population range of 10,000-40,000.
Ashland measured up well. Of the 31 characteristics, 22 were above the national benchmark comparison, three were similar, and six were below benchmark. For the 38 community services characteristics, 27 were above the national benchmark comparison, seven were similar to the national benchmark comparison, and the four below benchmark concerned street lighting, animal control, economic development and services for low-income. Staff added three custom questions, and one open-ended question.
The results of the survey were favorable indicating citizens were happy with city services and city employees, they loved their community, felt safe, and valued the city services they paid for through taxes.
Survey results established trends, and let City staff and elected officials know how they were doing over time.
Based on below benchmark responses, Ms. Seltzer suggested the following policy questions Council may want to consider in the future:
3. Do we have an appropriate balance between the interests in encouraging affordable housing and maintaining citizens’ current property values?
4. Do we have the right balance in encouraging economic development and regulating commerce to ensure our land us and environmental goals are met?
Ms. Seltzer explained the City conducted a series of surveys in 1998, 2002, and 2004. Ideally, surveys should occur every two years. The survey conducted January 2011 should have happened October 2010. Staff was trying to establish a two-year survey cycle with results to Council prior to budget and Council goal setting. The earlier surveys were so different from the 2011 and 2012 surveys that staff was unable to use any of the results to identify trends. Ms. Seltzer would provide Council with national percentages for further comparison to Ashland’s survey results.
Council noted the results for neighborliness and Ms. Seltzer explained the City encouraged block parties and had ordinances for road closures. Staff would look into how to encourage more block parties and increase neighborliness.
ORDINANCES, RESOLUTIONS AND CONTRACTS (None)
OTHER BUSINESS FROM COUNCIL MEMBERS/REPORTS FROM COUNCIL LIAISONS
Councilor Lemhouse provided an update on establishing historic markers throughout the downtown. The Historic Commission and Public Arts Commission created a sub-committee to brainstorm ideas.
Mayor Stromberg invited Council to attend his “Brown Bag Lunch” meetings that occur the 4th Friday of every month and were often attended by various commission members.
Meeting was adjourned at 8:18 p.m.
Barbara Christensen, City Recorder John Stromberg, Mayor