MINUTES FOR THE STUDY SESSION
ASHLAND CITY COUNCIL
November 7, 2005
Civic Center Council Chambers
1175 E. Main Street
CALL TO ORDER:
Mayor Morrison called the meeting to order at 5:00 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chambers.
Councilors Amarotico, Jackson, Silbiger and Chapman were present. Councilor Hardesty was absent. (Councilor Hartzell arrived at 5:45 p.m.)
1. Discussion of Watershed Projects
Fire Chief Keith Woodley was joined by Chris Chambers, Marty Main and Linda Duffy to present the Watershed Projects Update.
Linda Duffy with the Forest Service addressed the Ashland Watershed Protection Project (AWPP) and the Ashland Forest Resiliency Project (AFR). She stated that the Forest Service is in the process of the manual work for the AWPP, which involves hand-cutting, piling, and burning. Nearly 800 acres have been completed and there are 500 acres remaining. The other component that involves the cutting and removal of commercial value trees has not yet been implemented. Ms. Duffy reported that the project is expected to be completed by 2007.
Ms. Duffy commented on a fire that occurred this summer that was caused by a lightning strike and submitted a handout to the Council titled Agency Treatments Prevent Winburn Ridge Fire from Escalating. Ms. Duffy explained that because the lightning struck an area that had been treated under the AWPP, the fire behaved as predicted as was well suppressed.
Ms. Duffy provided the update on the AFR project and noted that the hazard reduction work in the watershed would be ongoing and multi-generational. Ms. Duffy stated that under the Healthy Forest Restoration Act, the Forest Service is working on a collaborative alternative with the City on how to treat the fuels in the watershed. It was noted that while they are working on the manual work for the AWPP, the commercial work will not be implemented until a decision is reached on the AFR. Ms. Duffy explained that once the City and Forest Service have collaborated and determined the preferred alternative, the Forest Service will present the Final Environmental Impact Statement to the Council for their review and approval. It is anticipated that the FEIS will be completed by January 2006.
Marty Main provided the update on the Winburn Parcel and stated that they have developed a description and prescription for activities on this parcel. Mr. Main stated that the Forest Lands Commission would be reviewing this document and noted that there is a tour of the Winburn Parcel scheduled for Saturday, November 12th. He explained that some non-commercial work has been done to protect and promote the large diameter trees; however they are now moving towards a more elaborative look at the entire parcel.
Chris Chambers addressed the Wildfire Fuels Reduction Program and presented a handout to the Council titled Wildfire Fuels Reduction Program Summary 2001-2005. Mr. Chambers discussed the previous grants received by the City to perform this work, however noted that they have had to ask for a redistribution of the funds from the fuels project to administrative time so that he can continue to work on this project. Mr. Chamber stated that quite a bit has been accomplished in the 4 years they have been working on this project and noted the acres of fuels managed. The two challenges of this project were noted as: 1) Getting participation from more owners for home safety inspections, and 2) Maintenance of vegetation over time.
2. Discussion of Charter Committee Recommendations
It was noted that a number of the Charter Review Committee members were present to address Council questions. Mayor Morrison acknowledged the work of the Committee and voiced support for using them as a resource. He also reminded the Council that there are two parts to this decision process. One part is regarding the substance of the recommendations; the other is to determine the form and process in which to provide the recommendations to the voters.
Management Analyst Ann Seltzer invited the Charter Review Committee members to come forward and she provided a brief overview of the Council's prior actions. She noted that at their October Study Session, Council decided to delay discussion of these recommendations until tonight's meeting. At that meeting Council also requested information on the costs for Mr. Sponslor to prepare two drafts of the charter. Ms. Seltzer reported that it would take Mr. Sponslor 10 hours to prepare each draft and would cost $3,600. She added that there is $5,000 allocated for these services in the budget.
Council discussed whether to follow the Model Charter format. John Enders, Chair of the Charter Review Committee, noted that the Committee had unanimously decided to use the format of the Model Charter and suggested that the Council start with the model. Council voiced support for using the Model Charter, but questioned whether the recommendations of the Committee should be included. Support was voiced for "cleaning-up" the Ashland Charter and putting it in the Model Charter format, but omitting the substantive recommendations of the Committee. The Council could then place those substantive recommendations to the voters individually. Mr. Enders commented on public awareness and urged the Council to take a strong position on each change, warning that otherwise the citizens might not vote to change anything.
Suggestion was made for the Council to begin discussing the individual recommendations. Ms. Seltzer stated that there are three recommendations that directly affect the City's form of government and those are recommendations #1, #2 and #4. She noted that many of the remaining recommendations are regarding items that are superseded by state law.
It was questioned if the Council should provide some direction to Mr. Sponslor at this time. Charter Review Committee Co-Chair Carole Wheeldon recommended that the Council immerse themselves in the discussion before having the consultant prepare the drafts. Council voiced their opinions and agreed to postpone providing direction to Mr. Sponslor and to begin discussion of the recommendations.
Council began their discussion of key recommendation #1, which states "The City of Ashland should be governed by a partnership between the elected mayor (the political leader), a city manager (the administrative leader), and the council (the legislative body). Elected officials are charged with responsibility for developing policy; the city manager should implement that policy. The manager's administrative powers should be expanded to include staff supervision (hiring, firing, and general accountability)."
The Charter Review Committee stated that they spent substantial time discussing this issue and provided an explanation of why they recommended this change. They shared their concerns with the existing system and stated that the city manager should be the one responsible for hiring and firing of department heads, not the Mayor. Testimony from prior City Administrator Brian Almquist and Councilor Don Laws was noted, both of whom had cited instances where the current system had been abused. The Committee noted that they also gathered testimony from many former mayors and administrators and all but one recommended this change. It was noted that there was a lot of community interest in this issue and statement was made that it would be a mistake for the Council to not put this to the voters.
Council shared their thoughts on this recommendation. Comment was made that there is potential for abuse in both forms of structure. Council requested clarification on what would make a "strong mayor" position. The Committee stated that the mayor would be given the powers to be the true political head of the City. He/she would still be chosen by the voters and would retain the responsibility for appointing committee and commission members. It was noted that a complete list of the proposed duties of the mayor is listed in the Committee's Report in Appendix 3, Item C.
Council continued discussion of who should be responsible for hiring and firing. Comment was made noting the political pressure placed on department heads when they are appointed by the mayor and that it lends itself to a more professional organization when department heads are appointed by the city manager. Support was voiced for the hiring and firing responsibilities to lie with the city manager, and statement was made that if the city manager is responsible for the employees, they need to be the one who hires or fires them. Concern was expressed that if the department heads do not look at the council as people of authority, they may not be as responsive to the council.
Councilor Jackson and Councilor Hartzell left the meeting at approximately 6:30 p.m. The Mayor and the remaining councilors agreed to extend the Study Session to 7:00 p.m.
Council questioned whether the mayor should be a voting member of the Council and whether the mayor should have veto powers. Charter Review Committee members explained that the intent of this recommendation was to empower the mayor. Committee member Laurie MacGraw provided an explanation of both sides of this issue. She stated that some believe that the veto is a powerful way for the mayor to make a statement; others feel that it is much more powerful for the mayor to be able to vote and for the citizens to know their position on each issue.
Comment was made that the mayor not voting helps the council meetings run better. Mayor Morrison shared his opinion that the mayor should not vote. He stated that there are times when a mayor wishes to make a strong statement; however votes are not necessarily the best way to state ones position. He noted that the mayor always has the option to speak out and voiced support for the current system.
It was noted that the Council needs to determine whether there is credibility to place this recommendation before the voters. Statement was made supporting the placement of all of the substantive recommendations to the voters.
Ms. Wheeldon shared her belief that government and resources should be used as effectively as possible and if this means a more professional administration, than she is all for it.
City Administrator Gino Grimaldi asked the Council how they would like to proceed. He noted that if they continue at this pace with short study sessions, the discussions will stretch out for a long time. He suggested that the Council consider scheduling a special session from 7:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. in order to get through all of the recommendations and provide guidance on each.
Support was voiced for Mr. Grimaldi's suggestion and Council agreed to meet for a 3.5 hour special meeting. The Charter Review Committee was invited to attend and suggestion was made for Staff to check with the absent councilors.
Meeting adjourned at 6:57 p.m.
April Lucas, Assistant to City Recorder