Sustainability is the key word as the Ashland City Council works to set goals for the community.

Sustainability is the key word as the Ashland City Council works to set goals for the community.

During an annual goal-setting session on Saturday, councilors and Mayor John Stromberg identified a sustainable environment, a sustainable economy, sustainable social equity, a sustainable city government and sustainable partnerships as broad categories.

"'Sustainable' is undefined and over-used, but what we're trying to get across is that we want to think about how what we do now affects the future," Councilor David Chapman said.

Specific steps and projects to accomplish goals have yet to be determined. The mayor and councilors came up with about 15 ideas but have sent them to city staff to get estimates about the budget and workload impact of addressing the goals.

A final list of goals will be adopted by the council at a future date.

Councilor Kate Jackson said she and her fellow elected officials talked about whether the word "sustainable" should even be in their goals. But she said the word captures their collective feeling about the importance of looking out for the long-term viability of the community.

One goal Jackson and others shared was developing an economic development strategy.

"We need to have a better balance of types of jobs and living wage jobs so we're not relying so much on tourism," she said.

Providing affordable housing is likely to drop off the council's list of goals for the first time in years after the council made significant progress on the issue in 2008.

Among other steps, the council teamed with the Jackson County Housing Authority to launch a 60-unit affordable housing project on Clay Street.

Councilors Eric Navickas and Carol Voisin said they are disappointed that affordable housing may not make it on this year's list of goals.

"I think affordable housing drives economic development," Voisin said. "People won't come here for a job if they can't buy a home. We're way, way behind. There's not enough affordable housing for people to live in this town. It needs to be on the front burner."

Councilor Russ Silbiger said that in addition to economic development, councilors and the mayor put a strong focus on the long-term financial viability of the city government.

Ashland Finance Director Lee Tuneberg has been warning for several years — even before the economic recession hit — that without changes, many city funds will run into the red as growth in costs continues to exceed growth in revenues.

On Friday, Tuneberg and City Administrator Martha Bennett proposed a city budget for the coming fiscal year of $81 million. That amount is $14 million less than the adopted budget for the current fiscal year and requires cutting city staff.

Navickas said he was encouraged that the council seemed supportive of creating a plan to address homelessness.

Councilor Greg Lemhouse said he was glad that the goals will focus on what the city government can accomplish within two years.

Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.