Sometime soon Ashland voters are likely to be asked to vote on a change in the city charter which would make the City Recorder an appointed, non-elected position, judging by the Ashland City Council's discussion at its study session Monday night.
After two decades, Barbara Christensen is leaving her elected position at the end of the month and the vacuum left in her wake gives city councilors pause about how to fill the position. While it’s not entirely clear when this measure would be put on the ballot, city Administrator John Karns says it’s likely to be by May. “Most cities in Oregon have appointed clerks," he said. "Having the clerk at a staff level creates deeper input and engagement.”
Christensen does not agree that it’s a good idea for the citizens of Ashland. “Having an independent person that electors can go to has proved itself to be valuable," she said. "Once you lose it, you don’t get it back.”
Her sentiment is echoed by Ashland resident Regina Ayars who came to observe the study session. She has urged the council in public testimony to give consideration to women applicants as the city has in the past not had an even mix of gender in positions of power. “There seems to be an assumption the public will want to change the charter," Ayars said, "but I think there are a lot of people who will want (the recorder) to remain elected.”
It’s unclear how much a special election to change the charter would cost the city of Ashland. Karns says it depends largely on how many issues will be on the ballot to share the cost.
Meantime, the council has narrowed down the list of candidates to fill Christensen’s position for the interim to three. Councilor Dennis Slattery expressed concern that the possible ballot measure may make the position less desirable and therefore candidates for the position need to be told of the possible change. “I think we have to disclose the possible change and let people know they can apply for the position if it becomes appointed,” he said.
The process as explained at the study session would be for the councilors to interview the three finalists and narrow the choice down to one which the council will vote on and appoint on May 2 at its regular business meeting.
The council is also starting its budgeting process with Mayor John Stromberg sharing items for consideration to councilors. Some, such as the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, has the flexibility, the mayor explained, to be funded in large measure as requested by the Housing Commission for up to $600,000 per year or much less with requests for matching funds. Stromberg mentioned the council could also budget expenditures for the fund which has more than $100,000 in it which has not yet been earmarked for spending.
Stromberg additionally gave councilors the heads up on implementing the 10X20 ordinance which requires 10 percent sustainable green energy for the city by 2020.
The budgeting process will also take marijuana taxes into consideration and will look at property taxes to see how the revenue side looks. The council plans to meet on April 19 and 20 for further consideration.
— Email Ashland freelance writer Julie Akins at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/@julieakins.