Ashland Mayor John Stromberg has called on the community to prepare itself for a changing world and to safeguard the local economy by protecting quality of life.
Stromberg delivered those messages during his recent State of the City address, which traditionally comes in January. "Ashland can thrive amid the changes," Stromberg said, adding that change can become the community's "bread and butter."
As residents support sustainability and increase local self-sufficiency, Ashland can become a symbol of hope that will attract visitors and businesses, he said.
Stromberg said Ashland's quality of life is also the key to supporting, retaining and attracting businesses. "Quality of life in Ashland is an economic good," he said.
Stromberg said Ashland has innovative nonprofit organizations and government entities, including the Ashland Food Project, which gathers food for the needy; the Geos Institute climate change consulting organization; and the Ashland Forest Resiliency Project partnership, created to thin wildfire fuels in the watershed.
Stromberg said city government is taking more steps to help the homeless, even though providing human services is not normally a function of municipalities.
"The city has made its way into uncharted territory," he said.
He said Ashland needs to provide pathways back to self-sufficiency while helping people meet their basic needs.
Stromberg said Ashland is facing significant challenges, including the heavy financial burden of public employee retirement costs now and into the future, inadequate funding for the Ashland School District, and Southern Oregon University and the introduction of genetically modified crops.
Regardless of people's views on whether genetically modified crops are harmful, such crops could damage the local organic food and organic seed production industries, he said.
Organic crops that have been cross-pollinated with genetically modified crops can lose their organic status.
Stromberg said residents and businesses can help Ashland become more sustainable by supporting local food production, investing in solar energy production, encouraging public transportation, and using human-powered modes of transportation — which are healthier, better for the environment, and reduce reliance on fossil fuels.
Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or firstname.lastname@example.org.