Communication training paid an early return for the Ashland City Council on Tuesday night.




The City Council has been criticized by residents and made national news for deciding to pay Dr. Rick Kirschner, an author and naturopath, $37,000 for five months of group and individual sessions. The fractious council has had two Saturday sessions so far.




Mayor John Morrison said council members have been working with Kirschner on team-building and their attitudes, behavior and organizational skills.




"I think the way this meeting ran tonight, we're already seeing results," he said.




In a departure from the past, the City Council moved efficiently through a packed agenda on Tuesday, finishing at 10:18 p.m.




The council usually hits the mandatory stop time of 10:30 p.m. with items remaining on the agenda. That means some city staff members sit through entire meetings waiting to present details of agenda items and answer questions, only to be sent home without a chance to speak. Citizens who come to comment are also frequently turned away.




Perhaps even more surprising on Tuesday night, the City Council had at least nine unanimous votes on policy issues.




Each time the council reached a new agenda item, Morrison reminded them of the key question they would need to decide. He said that technique &

suggested during the training sessions &

helped sharpen the council's focus and keep members on track.




Councilor David Chapman, who has walked out of council meetings in frustration and publicly swore at Councilor Eric Navickas in September, said the sessions are helping him to become more organized.




During Tuesday's meeting, the council discussed an affordable housing project proposal that recently fell through. Chapman proposed holding a meeting with key city officials to research if land-use rules could be changed to make the construction of apartments more affordable.




His motion earned approval by a five-to-one margin from council members.




"The sessions are helping me be more organized and prepared. I may have had an idea for that in the past, but I never formalized it into a motion," Chapman said.




If he doesn't agree with another councilor's motion, Chapman said he is trying to offer amendments to modify the motion so he can support it, rather than simply voting it down.




Councilor Alice Hardesty praised fellow councilors, Morrison and city staff for moving efficiently through the meeting.




"I thought it was great &

and it ended before 10:30," she said.




Staff writer can be reached at 479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com. To post a comment, visit .