Agendas and Minutes

City Council (View All)

Study Session

Tuesday, January 05, 1999

January 5, 1999

Councilor Hauck called the meeting to order at 6:10 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chambers.

Councilors Laws, Reid, Hauck, Hanson, and Fine were present. Staff present included City Administrator Mike Freeman, Assistant City Administrator Greg Scoles, City Attorney Paul Nolte, Administrative Services Director Dick Wanderscheid, Director of Community Development John McLaughlin, Director of Electrical Utilities Pete Lovrovich, Public Works Director Paula Brown, Director of Finance Jill Turner, Fire Chief Keith Woodley, Chief of Police Scott Fleuter, Senior Program Director Sharon Laws, and Telecommunications & Marketing Manager Ann Seltzer.

Freeman gave a brief explanation of what Councilors could expect in this meeting, and other upcoming meetings on Strategic Planning. Reminded Councilors to bring their Strategic Planning binders to future meetings. Noted that the purpose of tonightís meeting is to identify issues from the citizen surveys. Had each Councilor and staff member present list the issues and concerns that they had identified from the surveys.

Freeman noted that the areas where he saw a need to improve were: 1) "Trust in government" - felt that the number of neutral responses could be improved upon. Hauck noted that the wording of the question seeks the respondentís perception of the level of trust, not the individual level of trust that they personally feel. Laws noted that this applies to polling at the national level as well, and agreed that the question was not worded well. Freeman continued with areas that needed improvement, noting: 2) "Citizen Involvement" - stated that the 23% who were not satisfied was a significant number, and indicated that there was a need to work on redesigning the public involvement process; and 3) Public perception of City spending - also needs to be worked on. Freeman also stated that the significant number of citizens who now watch Council proceedings on public access television makes it important to improve the quality of the audio and video for these broadcasts. Also cited a need to work on further improving communications.

Nolte stated that he saw a need to improve on the fact that long-term residents have a worse perception of the City, while newer residents are more supportive. Also suggested that work needed to be done on the publicís perception of how public monies are spent.

Fine stated that the items he had identified were: 1) Seeing that the citizens feel they are receiving full value for their tax money; 2) Raising the level of trust in government; and 3) Raising the level of willingness to participate in government.

Hanson noted that he was still looking at issues, but that work was needed to provide citizens with more information about where money is going. Also stated that he would like more information on the interest in, "green power."

Hauck stated that the parking/traffic issue must be dealt with directly in some way. Stated that there is also a need to look at the diversity of jobs within the City, and affordable housing. Clarified for Freeman that his parking concerns center around the downtown core area. Stated that these issues have consistently come up, and are being raised more and more often.

Reid identified transportation and streets as a primary issue. Noted that there are conflicts withing the survey results that need to be considered. As an example, cited the fact that in the survey conducted by the downtown merchants, they wanted more parking but less traffic, which is an inherent conflict that needs to be looked into before work is to be done on this issue. Stated that communications efforts are on the right track, and need to be continued. Expressed concern that public testimony before Council is often based on false information. Acknowledged the importance of audio and video quality at the Council Chambers and the value of the City Source newsletter.

Laws stated that the issues he sees are growth and traffic. Agreed with Reid that there is conflicting information in the survey results. Stated that Communications should continue to be improved. Cited another example of conflict in results, noting that those who are older and have resided in Ashland longer are more likely to feel that the City is on the wrong track but are also more likely to be satisfied with City services.

Freeman suggested that since traffic is being cited frequently as an action issue, a special focus survey on traffic might be appropriate to work on plans for dealing with transit, traffic, and parking issues.

On the issue of citizen concern over how money is spend, Reid noted that the Council has long sought more citizen involvement in the budget process. They have made the budget easier to read and more available, and publicized meetings for citizen input, yet there is little interest in participation. Emphasized that people can always comment through participation in the process. Freeman stated that work would be done to better package information to encourage citizen involvement.

Seltzer identified issues as: 1)How money is spent; 2)The parking/congestion issue; and 3)The trust issue. She suggested that continuing improvements were needed with the perceived responsiveness and trust in local government. Cited the need to improve the quality of meeting broadcasts, and work on internal acoustics within the Council chambers as well. Stated that she would like more information and analysis on how people get their information, as well as information on traffic and growth concerns. Recognized conflict in survey results with regard to traffic, growth and information.

Sharon Laws identified issues as traffic, especially downtown, and the trust issue, specifically concerning the perception of spending of money. Stated that televising the Council meetings is one of the best things the City has done.

Turner stated that with the high citizen reliance on the web page for information, it needs to be made a priority. Cited other issues as employment opportunity, transportation, and continued improvements in customer service. Noted that the AFN will change customer service requirements.

Fleuter noted parking/traffic, alternative transportation, and the use of funds as the issues he had identified. Stated that he would like to see continued improvements in the citizensí rating of the Ashland Police Department, as well as ratings for customer service and responsiveness. Noted that he felt these three areas were all communications issues.

Woodley noted questions number 7 and 13 as examples to illustrate that there is a need to know what indicators were used as a basis for responses relative to growth and development. Need to find out if there are manifestations of growth besides traffic. Stated that is unusual that emergency medical services (EMS) are rated lower than fire protection. Questioned who are the users of fire service versus those who perceive themselves as customers. Also stated that there is a need to know how many of the respondents had used the services they were rating in the survey. Suggesting using caution, and not putting too much weight on responses without further information.

Wanderscheid stated that he had noted several items with a large number of neutral responses - 33% neutral on use of money, 31% on trust issue, and 24% on satisfaction. Stated that there is a need to focus on improving these, and that this might best be accomplished through communication efforts. Stated that the good work with responsiveness, satisfaction with opportunities for public input, and quality of work should be continued. Noted that he would have liked to have seen some more probing of those respondents who felt the City was on the wrong track.

Brown discussed the fact that quality of life had stayed the same for 50% of those surveyed, and noted that long-term residents tend to lack enthusiasm in the responses. Suggested that future surveys ask for ideas about solutions to issues of concern, such as traffic congestion. Feels that there is a need to look at the perception of the use of city money. Stated that she feels that the City does not do a bad job, but that it may do a bad job of explaining what it does in some cases. Also noted that there is a need to increase understanding of City services, citing as an example the fact that Siskiyou Boulevard is not maintained by the City, but some are unhappy with the City because it is poorly maintained. Suggested improving on resources, and seeking more information about defining services. Also need to look into the dichotomous nature of some of the responses.

Scoles emphasized that there is a need to better connect with long-term residents, and respond to concerns about growth. Need to improve customer service, communications, and economic vitality. Would like to see further exploration of the downtown parking issue, and the fact that 52% of respondents indicated that they would not be willing to participate.

Lovrovich cited issues as communications to citizens, growth issues and the communication thereof, more responsive to needs and suggestions, and providing more detail on financial decisions. Suggested more interactive Council sessions, with the opportunity for citizens to e-mail in comments or testimony. Also need to look at opportunities for tourism, job creation, and economic growth. Stated he would like more information on item number 6 on page 4, and suggested that responsiveness to problems/needs should be identified more specifically.

McLaughlin would like to look at attitudes of long-term residents, reducing barriers to the use of transit, and affordable housing. Stated that the City should continue to improve what it is doing well with opportunities for public involvement in meetings and maintaining a small town atmosphere. Feels that more information is needed on parking, and he would like to have this focus on the impact of parking availability on shopping and dining decisions. Suggested that the growth issue needs to be identified by the factors that create perceptions of growth. Would also like to look further at investing in tourism, and at the conflicting responses in the survey.

Christensen identified communications as a major issue, and noted the need to make up-to-date information available to employees so that it can be passed on to citizens. Also cited the parking and congestion concerns downtown as something that must be addressed. Noted that both the Ashland Fire Department and the Ashland Police Department are doing well in their efforts to reach out to the community, and feels that other departments within the City should make similar efforts. Feels that the Cityís efforts with recycling and the staff interaction with citizens are both good, and should continue to be improve upon. Again emphasized that staff needs information to make it available. Stated that she would like to see more on how individuals are receiving information, as there is a need to better understand what information sources are used and to what degree. Also suggested that future surveys should inquire about how much the respondents have used City staff and services.

Freeman concluded that it was good that so many of those present had identified common items as the issues to be dealt with. Reminded everyone to turn in their comments to him. Explained that the next step will be on January 19, when there will be a discussion of the elements and terms used in the Comprehensive Plan, and what may be missing. After that, there will be a goal setting public hearing on the 22nd, and another study session with the information on goal setting from the board members and commissioners. This information will be combined with that from tonightís discussion to prepare the agenda for the strategic planning workshop. Recapped the information products that Council will have available as survey data, information compiled from tonightís session, input from the public hearing, the boards and commissions, and the ad that was placed in the Daily Tidings and Mail Tribune. Closed by noting that they will be looking at commonalities as a basis for preparing a strategic plan.

Reid noted that statistically people do not like change, and the longer they are here, the more change they will encounter and the less satisfaction they will feel. Council discussion of this possibility.

The meeting was adjourned at 6:57 p.m.

Submitted by Derek Severson, Assistant to the City Recorder

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