This past Tuesday, Councilor Seffinger and I had our regular monthly meeting with the Chamber of Commerce Health and Wellness Subcommittee that has been working for about a year to evaluate a variety of initiatives to improve community health. The committee, which includes representatives of the hospital, the school district, the Shakespeare Festival and SOU, first coalesced around the “Oregon Healthiest State Initiative,” which was launched by former Governor John Kitzhaber. This is an effort to encourage Oregonians to “sustain healthy environments and support healthy lifestyles” in order to improve the state’s ranking on a number of nationally recognized health indices on which Oregon is currently very much middle-of-the-pack. Part of this initiative involves having local governments take steps to change local codes to, for example, improve bicycle and pedestrian access and facilities or encourage mixed-use development. From what I can see, Ashland City government has already done most if not all of the things that are measured by this initiative. To the east of us, Klamath Falls has wholeheartedly embraced this initiative and sent a delegation of 55(!) people to last year’s Healthiest State conference in Portland. The second annual conference is coming up in two weeks and most members of the Health and Wellness Subcommittee, including me and Councilor Seffinger, will attend. In addition, Ashland’s delegation has been invited to participate in a panel discussion on the first day of the conference. The second day of the conference will feature a presentation on the Blue Zones Project, which is a separate initiative aimed at improving community health and which is also being examined by the Subcommittee for its applicability in Ashland. (Dan Buettner, the founder of the Blue Zones Project, was the keynote speaker at the recent Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner.)
I have a couple of interesting articles to share with you this week. The first is from the CityLab e-newsletter and is headlined “Affordable Housing is a Moral Choice.” Though thought-provoking, the main premise is that affordable housing is feasible if developers accept less profit on their developments; a political minefield to be sure.
There is also this article from the San Francisco Chronicle about an effort by at least a couple of the city’s street kids to clean up their image. Like Ashland, San Francisco (and many cities in California, for that matter) is struggling with how to deal with the young, transient population that lives on its streets, and a resident population that is demanding the city “do something,” particularly in light of a recent murder in Golden Gate Park. (Three transients were arrested and charged in connection with that crime.)
Ashland Fire & Rescue was nominated to be one of five departments, along with Austin, TX, Santa Fe, NM, Colorado Springs, CO, and Boise, ID, asked to develop a national program to encourage fire departments to undertake the Fire Adapted Communities program for wildfire preparedness. AF&R staff will periodically participate over the next three years in the Community Wildfire Readiness program, funded by the International Association of Fire Chiefs. Upon completion, the program will be rolled out to hundreds of fire departments nationwide as a “tool-kit” to create safer communities.
The CERT program was busy this week. Program leaders toured the five emergency bases with new graduates via bicycle this weekend as a means of showing members their home base and promoting health and wellness. This activity also promotes team relationship building. Some folks carpooled who felt they could not bike. CERT also delivered a Disaster Preparedness presentation to the residents as the Ashley Senior Center this week. The presentation was well attended and many thoughtful reflections and epiphanies were made in promoting changes in resident behavior.
Ashland Fire & Rescue recently came into possession – or we should say back into possession – of a bell that was used by the Fire Department 100 years ago (or more) when the department was located in what is now the City Hall building. It’s believed the bell was used as a fire alarm until 1917, when a gas whistle was installed. The bell has been stored in the Shakespeare Festival’s Elizabethan Theater for decades, although no one is quite sure how it got there. AF&R plans to clean it up and display it at Fire Station 2.