Ashland Planning Commissioner Michael Morris, who is challenging Ashland City Councilman Eric Navickas for his council seat in the Nov. 2 election, said the city has stalled when it comes to resolving important issues.
"A lot of issues, the council doesn't resolve," he said. "They keep coming back and coming back. We study things and shelve the study, then study it again and shelve that," Morris said.
Regarding the economy, Morris said city government needs to examine whether it is getting in the way of businesses. He said the planning process can be onerous.
"If you're a business and you want to expand or come here, the city owes it to you to make the process as predictable as possible. If we're going to diversify the economy beyond tourism, we need to look at the interactions of the city with businesses," he said.
Morris, 55, has lived in Ashland on and off for 40 years. Now a contractor, he previously worked as an engineer for Boeing. He has served for 13 years on the Ashland Planning Commission and also served on the riparian ordinance and hillside standards review committees and the Ashland Chamber of Commerce's economic sustainability committee.
He said his work on the chamber's business retention and expansion survey showed him that business people have complicated views about Ashland — mainly that the things they dislike about the town are the same things they like. For example, they are concerned about regulations, although those regulations help preserve the quality of life and livability in Ashland, he said.
Morris said Ashland can resolve that dilemma by clearly defining its identity and knowing what it wants to be.
"Then it should be easy to see if a business fits into that identity. Is it something the city would or would not like to see? If it is, it shouldn't be as difficult to go for planning approval," he said.
With the economy in a slump, Morris said the city needs to work efficiently in order to provide services.
He's also concerned that Ashland is nearing the legal ceiling for what it can charge for city government property taxes. Once that ceiling is reached, he believes the city will have to raise utility bills in order to bring in more revenue if it can't control its spending.
Morris said the rising cost of living in Ashland is making it hard for young people to live here. Also, there are few jobs that young, educated people would enjoy doing that pay well.
"There's not much here when people get out of college," he said.
Regarding the issue of wildfires that burn forests as well as lower elevation grassy areas, Morris said reducing fuels needs to be a regional issue. He said he believes he can work better with surrounding towns, Jackson County and the U.S. Forest Service than Navickas.
Navickas, who opposes logging of large trees, has clashed with the Forest Service over wildfire fuels thinning in the Ashland Watershed.
Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or firstname.lastname@example.org.