Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Weekly Update, April 26 - 30

Summer meetings. First, in past years, you have canceled not only the meeting closest to the Independence Day Holiday, but also one in August. Diana will be polling all of you in the next week or so to check on your summer plans. Depending on what we learn, we may propose to cancel one (or none!) of the two meetings in August. We will try to keep Study Sessions in the summertime to a minimum. Because we cancel that first meeting in July, the meeting on July 20 will be very important, so we probably won't pick that one!

League of Oregon Cities Policy Committee meetings. Several of you know that in the spring and summer of even numbered years, the League of Oregon cities develops an agenda to guide the League's work on issues before the upcoming State Legislature. The League forms Policy Committees around several topic areas to develop a list of possible priorities. There are nine standing committees, and each committee will recommend that the League Board and membership consider three or four major policy initiatives as a priority. (The list of standing committees can be found at The complied list will go to the League Board in the summer, and then it will go out to all 202 member cities (including Ashland) for the members to vote on the priorities. The top three or four issues selected by the members will become the League's top priorities for the 2011 Legislative session. Currently, I serve on two Policy Committees (Finance and Taxation and Community Development) and Mike Faught and Councilor Chapman serve on the Transportation Policy Committee.

The Community Development Policy Committee has finished its work for the year and has recommended four priorities. The four priorities are: 1) Giving cities the ability to set their own population forecasts for land use planning if their County either fails to do it or fails to take City issues into account. 2) Create a conflict resolution process to deal with disagreements between Cities and Counties (like Ashland has with Jackson County) over population forecasts. 3) Create a work group that would look at a wide range of issues that are affecting cities abilities to amend their urban grown boundaries (this is not a big issue for Ashland, but has been difficult for a lot of cities in Oregon). 4) Develop legislation to resolve conflicts between the Transportation Planning Rule and the Statewide Land Use Planning Goal 14 (Urbanization). This would also be beneficial to Ashland as the current regulations and case law require cities to plan for new roads (often) before adopting land use plan. It doesn't allow cities to negotiate lower or different traffic standards, and it doesn't allow cities to use transit or non-motorized transportation to off-set required road improvements. Thus, the current application of the Transportation Planning Rule is in conflict with the Urbanization Goal's focus on infill and transit friendly design.

The Finance and Taxation Committee is about 2/3 of the way through their work. At this point, this committee is working on three priorities: 1) Convening a work group (not Legislation) to craft options to reform Oregon's Property Tax system. The focus is on creating a revenue neutral change that makes a stronger connection between Real Market Value and Assessed value, increases local control, allows jurisdictions to adjust their permanent rate, is stable, and addresses issues for local governments and for schools. I will keep you posted on this priority, as it is quite important for all local governments in Oregon. 2) Protecting State Shared Revenues (Gas Tax, Liquor Tax, Cigarette Tax, and 9-1-1 Tax). Finally 3) Allowing Transient Occupancy Tax to be used for visitor-related services as well as for capital project and for tourism marketing. This is a change we have previously supported as it would allow us to fund a few of the things that are directly related to the influx of visitors we receive in the summer such as Park Patrol. This committee will finish up on May 13, and I'll let you all know if there is a change.
Mike and David can give you an update on the Transportation Committee once they have finished their work. As a side note, if any of you are interested in particular issues that cities face on the state level, let me or Ann know, and we'll get you plugged into a League Committee during the next cycle.

Another Era is Ending. Many of you know that after approximately a bizillian years (ok, so 28 years), Pat Woods, Finance Division Manager for the Customer Service Division is retiring on Friday, April 30. Responsible for Utility Billing and managing Food and Beverage, Transient Occupancy Tax, and Business License collections, Pat has been critical to ensuring the City accurately bills and collects revenue. Pat managed the City's migration, to new utility billing software, managed transitions in AFN and cable television, and dealt with water curtailment. We are losing an excellent employee with many years of institutional knowledge. Please stop by City Hall on Friday between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to wish Pat well in her next adventure.

Project report. We will send an updated project report out to the listserv as soon as we get the update done. A couple key people are out with spring colds, so we will get it done as soon as we can.

Thanks for all your efforts, particularly as we work through the proposed budget. Please let me know if you have questions.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Volunteer Spirit

Tonight, I will be presenting the annual James M. Ragland "Volunteer Spirit" Community Service Award to the Ashland Food Project. I have to tell you that it was actually a bit of a struggle this year for the Council and me to select a winner, and I think you'll see why after you read a little about the exceptional nominees this year. Be sure to give each of these nominees (and the people who support them) a "pat on the back" and thank them for their service to our community.

Olaf Paul. Since 2005, Olaf has been the coordinator for the Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS), logging over 2,000 hours in his 4 years running that program and stepping into any volunteer position needed, including (but not limited to) crossing guard, foot patrol, assisting with the Festival of Lights and 4th of July activities, delivering interdepartmental mail, District Attorney courier, vacation house check, and regular VIPS office duties.

Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI). The OLLI program at SOU is run largely by volunteers and has been providing public education courses since 1993. They also partner with other local institution such as the Wildlife Forensics Laboratory, Jackson County Library Service, and ScienceWorks Hands-on Museum to provide educational events.

Dr. Robert Cox. Dr. Cox has been volunteering for 15 years with the Forensics Lab and for 17 years with the Ashland Senior Center. At the forensics lab, Dr. Cox works to assist the regular employees by creating the background data necessary for those who testify in court. At the Senior Center, he helps with the meals programs, and teaches basic computer skills to seniors.

Michael Hersh. Michael volunteers with a wide variety of groups including: The Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Tudor Guild, Meals on Wheels, the Ashland Police Department, ScienceWorks Hands-on Museum, and the Southern Oregon Repertory Singers.

Ballet Rogue's "Ballet in the Park". The Ballet in the Park program provides free ballet performances every summer in Lithia Park.

Ashland High School's ASPIRE Program. The ASPIRE program helps students value learning, gain access to education and vocational training beyond high school, and provides mentoring and resources about education and financial aid. They have helped the rate of graduating Ashland High School students going on to two or four year colleges go from 62% to 87%.

Tim Church. Tim helps at the Recycle Center. While on duty at the Recycle Center, Tim brings adoptable dogs, giving the dogs both an opportunity for socialization and the possibility of finding a loving permanent home.

Ashland St. Vincent de Paul Society. The Ashland Volunteers with the St. Vincent de Paul Society assist the needy with emergency utility payments, food, clothing, and prescription drugs. They do not offer direct cash, but instead, do the legwork of intervening with landlords, utility companies, etc. Last year the eleven Ashland/Talent volunteers responded to 587 calls for assistance.

James Matteson II. Jim was in the Rotary Club of Ashland since moving here in 1980. Over the years he served as Rotary president, district governor, and secretary-treasurer as well as trustee for the Ashland Rotary Foundation. He also served as the chair of the 4th of July Parade, and was on the Chamber Board for my years. From 1990-1997 Jim and his wife, Betty, acted as Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus at the Festival of Lights. Jim was also an OSF volunteer, and a member of the Elks Club of Ashland. Jim, sadly, passed away in March of this year.

James M. Ragland "Volunteer Spirit" Community Service Award 2010 given to:

The Ashland Food Project. This reliable, easy, door-to-door food collection program provides a steady supply of food to both Ashland and Talent "free food" programs. Once every two months, on the second Saturday of the month, neighborhood volunteers with the project collect food set out by households who have agreed to support, on a regular basis, local meal programs (including the Ashland Food Bank, Food Angels, Uncle Food's Diner, the Ashland Senior Center, the First Congregational United Church of Christ's Monday Morning Breakfast, and the Talent Food Pantry.) Last, but not least, this program strengthens the community as a whole as it requires face-to-face / neighbor-to-neighbor interaction with the volunteers and donating households.

Thank you to everyone who submitted nominations for this year's Ragland Award! And to all the nominees, thank you for your efforts. Keep up the good work!

Mayor Stromberg

Friday, April 9, 2010

Weekly Update, April 5 - 9, 2010

Council - It has been a few weeks since I have sent an update on the "miscellaneous" things that are going on. Here are some:

Ashland Independent Film Festival. AIFF is this weekend, and activity already seems likely around town for the weekend. Many of their showings are sold out, but if you're interested in attending, you can find the schedule here.

Proposed Budget. Budget Committee members should be receiving the paper copy of the Proposed Budget for FY 2010-2011 today. Finance staff will be bringing the document up on the website, so it should be available electronically very soon. The first meeting of the Budget Committee is April 19, 2010 at 6:00 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, and Lee Tuneberg and I will deliver the Budget Message. Please remember that until that meeting, members of the Budget Committee cannot talk to each other about the Proposed Budget. If you have questions, please let Lee know. Getting this document out every year is a huge amount of work by the Administrative Services staff and by all City Departments. Thank you to Lee, Bryn, and Melissa in particular for pulling the document together.

AFR Tour. Fire Department staff will be conducting a couple of tours of the first areas that will be treated as part of Ashland Forest Resiliency. One of the tours is already full, and the other is tentatively planned for May 8. I am wondering how many of Councilors might be interested in going along so that we can either notice the tour as a public meeting or schedule an additional tour. Can you please email John Karns if you would like to go on May 8. Also, this is a tentative date, and it may be rescheduled. John would like to hear from the public as well as Councilors, so for any blog readers, if you are interested, please email Chief Karns.

Land Use Permit for Calle and Comm. Dev. Parking Lot. The Parks Dept and the City have been working with merchants , the artisans, and restaurants on the Calle to allow additional sidewalk/Calle dining for the Sesame Kitchen. Last year's initial layout for Sesame caused some access issues for several businesses and also conflicted with the weekend Saturday Market booth space layout. The City and Parks offered a solution of extending the Saturday Market booth area into the existing parking lot of the City's Community Development building immediately west of the Calle on the opposite side of the creek. The proposed space in the Community Development parking lot replaces those lost to the Calle dining and adds 5 to 6 additional booth spaces for the weekend operations that happen each year from May through October. To do this, Parks and the City is submitting a joint application to the Planning Department for a modification to the existing conditional use permit that the Market currently operates under. Please contact Adam Hanks in Administration or Rachel Dials in Parks if you have any questions about this application.

Evening Event related to Sexual Assault and Abductions. On April 19 at 6:30 p.m., the Ashland Police Department and Southern Oregon University will host an evening presentation highlighting the importance that community involvement plays in stopping predators. The event will be in the Rogue River Room, and tickets are needed. I am sorry that this is the same evening as the Budget Committee. APD will also be hosting an officer training that afternoon. For those who aren't familiar with this topic, 19 yr old Brooke Wilberger was abducted on May 24th, 2004, in Corvallis, Oregon. In the first 7 days 1,139 tips were received by a task force that included Corvallis PD, Benton County SO, OSP, FBI, US Marshals and numerous other law enforcement agencies. This is a unique opportunity to hear from Brook's parents, Greg and Cammy Wilberger, as well as those who investigated and prosecuted this case. If you have any questions, please contact Chief Holderness.

Chamber Board Meeting. The Chamber of Commerce Board met Thursday. The Board asked a task force to send comments to the City Council for the record for the Croman Mill Master Plan. The Chamber Board also discussed issues related to the Fourth of July Parade, an upcoming seminar they are hosting for new businesses, and a beautification project that they are working with City staff on for their offices. The Chamber will be hosting a series of events the week of May 10 for Tourism Promotion Week, and they are coordinating their programs with the City as this is also Historic Preservation Week. For example, we will have a series of tours of historic houses that are now Bed & Breakfast Inns. Lastly, the Chamber just released the new "Living and Doing Business" guide, which is the publication they use for talking with new businesses and potential new residents. If you'd like a copy of that publication, please let Diana Shiplet know and we will request a few extra from the Chamber.

Oregon Business Development Commission. The Business Development Commission will hold their regular business meeting in Ashland. This Commission oversees the Oregon Business Development Department's activities. This state agency provides a variety of economic development support programs. The meeting will take place on the SOU campus, and I will get more details to you as we have them.

ODOT Open House. CLICK HERE for the flyer that ODOT recently sent to all Ashland addresses about the status of the Exit 14 and 19 bridge replacement projects. In the center of the flyer, you'll see how they are talking about the bicycle signal on the eastbound lane of Exit 14. They also had an open house Thursday evening.

Weekly Project Report. For many other City projects, the weekly project update can be found if you CLICK HERE.

I hope all of you are well, and please let me know if you have any questions.

Martha Bennett, City Administrator