Agendas and Minutes

City Council (View All)

Study Session

Monday, June 25, 2007

June 25, 2007
Siskiyou Room, 51 Winburn Way

Mayor Morrison called the Study Session to order at 5:20 p.m. in the Siskiyou Room.
Councilors Navickas, Chapman, and Silbiger were present. Councilor Hartzell arrived at 5:25 p.m. Councilors Hardesty and Jackson arrived at 5:30 p.m.

Chamber of Commerce Representatives Sandra Slattery, Mary Pat Parker, Graham Lewis, Jac Nickels, Mark Marchetti, Dennis Slattery, Pam Hammond, and Mike Morris were also present.

1. Expectations for Future Working Relationships.
Mayor Morrison and Chamber of Commerce President Graham Lewis offered introductions. City Administrator Martha Bennett commented on City Council's goal to refine the Economic Development strategy and their desire to work with the Chamber of Commerce on this endeavor. She stated that staff believes the City's Comprehensive Plan needs to be updated, but there also needs to be an action and operational plan.

Community Development Director David Stalheim commented on his prior experience with this type of endeavor and presented a draft Economic Development Strategy to the group. Mr. Stalheim explained the three themes that emerged as a result of the Economic Opportunities Analysis were:

1) Preservation and enhancement of the quality of life,
2) Creation of a diverse and sustainable economy, and
3) Improved coordination and processes of civic and government sectors.

Mr. Stalheim commented on the need to identify which entity will lead this effort, who should be involved, when it will be done, how it will get done, and how much it will cost. He also proposed the following five actions as a possible task list:

1) Create an Economic Development Task Force,
2) Determine interim staffing needs,
3) Review existing economic development programs within the city, region, and state,
4) Development and economic development strategy for the City of Ashland, and
5) Implement the economic development strategy.

Mr. Stalheim provided a possible timeline, and stated the Task Force could be established in August, the review of the existing programs and first draft strategies established this fall, public review the first part of next year, and adoption of the strategy by the summer of 2008.

Ms. Bennett noted the need for full support and participation from the Chamber of Commerce in order for this to be successful and stated it is important to not only have the strategies and goals outlined, but to have specific tasks assigned to the agencies. Ms. Bennett noted that these tasks would be incorporated into any new contract between the City and the Chamber.

Mr. Lewis thanked Mr. Stalheim for providing a strong framework and voiced support for the proposed actions and timeline. Councilor Hartzell voiced concern that the timeline may be too optimistic and encouraged them to take the time needed to do a good and thorough job.

Comment was made expressing concern regarding Mr. Stalheim's assessment that additional staffing or a hired consultant would be needed. Staff clarified there is currently no funding in the budget for this endeavor and it was noted that even with citizen volunteers, the public participation process will require appropriate staffing.

The issue of raising the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) was briefly mentioned. Dennis Slattery commented that it would be unfortunate to start off this process with that kind of a wedge. Ms. Bennett clarified this was only brought up because there is no existing revenue to take on this task.

2. Discussion of Current Working Relationships.
Chamber of Commerce Director Sandra Slattery provided a brief background on the Chamber's Economic Sustainability Committee and Rapid Response Team and reviewed the Draft Proposal included with the meeting materials. Ms. Slattery stated the mission of the Committee is to improve the economy of Ashland and improve small businesses. She stated the only issue they have had to deal with is how to involve the Council more without facing the issues associated with public meetings law, quorums, and confidentiality. Ms. Slattery clarified that it is the businesses who often asks for confidentiality when meeting with the Chamber, however this portion could be handled by the Rapid Response Team.

Ms. Bennett noted the issue of deciding which individuals attend the Economic Sustainability Committee meetings. Support was voiced for the idea of rotating the councilors in and out. Mayor Morrison commented on the need to clearly spell out the membership of the Committee and who is responsible for making the appointments.

Ms. Slattery listed a few of the Chamber's completed projects. She noted the labor workshops and the global conference on business and culture that was held. She also commented on the creation of a brochure to explain the City's permitting process, the updates to the Chamber's website, and the upcoming Food and Wine Classic.

Ms. Bennett commented on the tracking process for the Chamber and recommended that for the next contract the Chamber be asked to report not only on activities, but also provide data reports.

Ms. Slattery spoke regarding shoulder season and winter month activities. She noted the monthly themes that have been developed and noted the packages that are being developed for the off season.

The group briefly discussed the possibility of increasing the Transient Occupancy Tax. Comment was made that there is often a "knee jerk" reaction to this idea, however many places in Oregon, including Medford, have a higher TOT rate than Ashland. Mr. Slattery commented on this issue and noted that since the TOT was initiated there has been constant discussion about whether previous promises will continue to be honored. He noted that no matter the reason for the increase, there will be strong opposition in the community. He suggested that the Council have a direct discussion with the business owners who would be directly impacted by an increase prior to making any sort of decision. He added the best way to deal with this would be to be proactive and bring these individuals into the process early. Ms. Bennett commented that the City would need the Chambers assistance in conducting this conversation and would need their input and participation in the process.

3. Discussion of 2007-2008 Contract.
Ms. Bennett commented on the desire to simplify the City's contract with the Chamber and recommended they include the increase in off season activities for the Visitors and Convention Bureau in the contract since the Chamber is already doing this. Ms. Bennett also noted staff's proposal to have a one-year contract, and general support for this idea was voiced from the group. She noted that staff has not finished preparing the proposed contract, but would submit it to the entire group when it is ready.

Commented was made regarding the perception that the Chamber does not have the same reporting requirements as the other grantees, and suggestion was made for the Chamber to have more detailed reporting requirements.

Meeting adjourned at 7:10 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
April Lucas, Assistant to City Recorder

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