Ashland election 2008
Editor's Note: These are the results of a Tidings survey e-mailed to all candidates.
DT: How old are you?
DT: How long have you been in Ashland?
SH: Born and raised in Ashland.
DT: What are your top three priorities?
SH: Economic development — I believe the goal should be a diversified economy that protects and markets our plentiful existing assets, protects rather than depletes our natural resources, and creates the conditions for new and existing businesses to grow and prosper. This means developing an economic strategy of "import substitution" or "economic infill" as I like to call it. Simply put, our economic strategy must be based on finding those areas of our local economy where goods and services are being imported from outside and using our economic development efforts to encourage the development of local business into those areas.
Affordable housing — the issue of affordable housing was the major focus of my two terms as a City Council member; that experience taught me that implementing a successful affordable housing strategy requires more than words on a page. It must be proactive, bringing the entire community together to work towards a common goal; it must be fully funded, with a permanent and sustainable funding source; and it must have specific targets.
Neighborhood oriented government — from involvement in community organizations and holding public office, I have learned that the first responsibility of elected officials is to invite, encourage, support and extend opportunities for citizen participation. It is time to engage the public in a true governance partnership with Ashland's neighborhoods to create, develop, implement and evaluate city policy decisions and management actions. I am ready to make that happen by supporting the development of true neighborhood associations.
DT: What is the biggest issue facing Ashland in the next two years, and how do you intend to address it?
SH: While I believe that two years is too short of a timeline, in my experience, creating a sound plan — a "road map" — is the key to any forward progress. What Ashland needs is to revisit and renew its vision for itself. Through extensive and diverse involvement with the entire community, I will use all the tools for community visioning, including identifying community issues and analyzing emerging trends, articulating core community values, creating a vision statement and developing strategic action plans.
ST: What kind of experience do you have, and how will it affect your approach to city government?
SH: Nearly 30 years of government and community service, including 20 years of executive experience in the nonprofit world. This includes leadership service on the Ashland City Council, the Rogue Valley Transportation District, the Rogue Valley Council of Governments, the Special Districts Association of Oregon, the Ashland School District Budget Committee, the Ashland City Budget Committee, the Metropolitan Planning Organization for Transportation, the Oregon Department of Transportation Urban Transportation Committee, an Oregon Legislative Assistant and the National League of Cities Technology Committee. I have also served on the ACCESS Board of Directors, the Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development Board, the Rogue Valley Community Development Corporation Board, the Ashland Emergency Food Bank Board and the Friends of Ashland Board.
From local, regional, state and national service, this experience has brought me in contact and working relationships with a wide variety of people and issues and given me the skills needed to work with a diverse range of people with differing backgrounds and opinions to achieve common goals. I have learned to seek out differing opinions, foster constructive dialogue and fully explore new ideas. My experience has taught me that these are the keys to improved decision-making — a horizontal approach that engages many voices, rather than a "top-down" approach.
DT: Would you try to be a strong leader, or do you see your role more as the facilitator of City Council meetings?
SH: There is no inherent contradiction between strong leadership and facilitation. In fact, a strong leader must be a strong facilitator. Leadership is not issuing directives from the top and expecting everyone to follow along; that is merely being "The Boss." True leadership differs in that it makes others want to achieve high goals, rather than simply bossing people around. A leader uses a core of beliefs and values to inspire and motivate others towards a common goal; they are people-oriented and believe that success comes first and last through deep and sustained commitment.
DT: What do you think the city government's role should be in relation to the business community?
SH: It should be a collaborative relationship that links economic development to strategic planning. This relationship should extend beyond downtown to the other business areas in town, including home-based businesses. Each area and sector has unique characteristics and needs, and any strategic economic plan must take that into account.
DT: Is the current pace of growth in Ashland desirable?
SH: The city has been very active in anticipating growth rates and developing management plans and techniques for dealing with it. It's been said that it's not the growth itself, but the effects of growth that we feel. That said, the current rate at 1 to 1.5 percent per year is within the projected rates and manageable. If we can make a decision as to where we want to be as a community, we can direct and manage the effects of growth successfully.
DT: Should the city government continue to devote resources to affordable housing?
SH: Absolutely. Diversity has always been the key to our city's health. The lack of affordable housing threatens that diversity. Even with limited resources dedicated to date, Ashland's affordable housing program has been successful. But the time has come to step up our commitment and resources. I work for affordable housing because it is part of the glue that keeps our community intact. The bargain is simple. The return on investment in the housing program is the friends, neighbors, and maybe the nurse who'll resuscitate you from your heart attack. For Ashland, an effective housing program can make the difference between growing numbers punching the clock as temporary workers and being real, permanent members of the community.
DT: How would you address the city government's growing financial problems?
SH: The same way you must deal with all issues, with planning. We must decide as a community what is important and worthy of community resources. Ashland has always prided itself on being a "full-service" government. If that remains the case, then we have to find the resources to continue to provide those services the citizen's want to maintain, including dedicated funding sources for particular programs, such as police and fire.
However, if we decide as a community that some programs or services are no longer necessary or wanted, then we should simply discontinue those programs or services. I am not a believer in the "across the board cuts" approach to budgeting. Instead, you should either fund programs to the level needed to provide efficient and effective service or stop funding altogether.