Friday, May 28, 2010

Weekly Update, May 24 - 28, 2010

Council -

There is not much to report on this week that hasn't been in the news. The Police Department has been very busy in the last couple of weeks with the vandalism and tire slashing around town and with the incident at the high school. Here are some other things you might be interested in.

League of Oregon Cities Policy Issues. As I think I have mentioned in previous posts to this blog, the League of Oregon Cities is in the process of developing the Legislative Agenda for the 2011 session of the Oregon Legislature. The Policy Committees have completed their work, and now it's time for all of the cities in Oregon to weigh in. The League has sent a comprehensive list of all of the recommended policy priorities, and every City Council in Oregon has a chance to pick their preferences for League priorities. Every City can recommend four priorities to the League's Board, and then the League Board will meet in late July to finalize the list for the upcoming session. This is scheduled for action by the Ashland City Council on June 29, 2010, and the Department Head staff will meet to develop a recommendation for Council consideration. The list is quite diverse and can be found here. As you may remember, David Chapman and Mike Faught serve on the League's Transportation Committee, and I serve on both the Finance and Taxation and Community Development Committees. As I participate in these committees, I am reminded that Oregon's cities are quite diverse - geographically, economically, and politically - and that it is a tough challenge to develop consensus on a Policy Agenda.

Request for Salary and Benefit Information. A reporter for the Sneak Preview has requested (and received) salary and benefit information for all City employees. He mentioned that his deadline is June 3, so I expect that there will be a story about this in the next issue of the Sneak Preview.

Parking Reconfiguration on the Plaza. Last week, the Transportation Commission approved a decision to reconfigure the parking in the plaza and in front of City Hall. The design actually will add a couple of new parking spaces and remove the first two parking stalls nearest North Main (in front of Mix), by changing current 75 degree angle parking to a 60 degree angle. This recommendation will be coming to the City Council for final approval. A couple of people have submitted written testimony in opposition to the proposed changes, and the change is significant enough that it will affect how the Plaza looks. The staff is looking at whether the removed spaces can be used for bicycle parking and for motorcycle parking. Please let Mike Faught or Pieter Smeenk know if you have any questions about this.

Ex Parte Contact and Cell Tower Decision. Many of you know that there is an application to install a new cell tower at the Ashland Street Cinemas. The Planning Commission has held a hearing on the matter. Because this decision is very likely to be appealed no matter how it turns out, Councilors should avoid ex parte contact on this case. In other words, if you get a phone call or get stopped at the grocery store, you probably should let folks know that you can't talk to them about the case. If you do talk to the person, please write down the date, the person's name, and the general statement that the person makes. And, if you receive any email, you probably should hang onto them and make sure that they are entered into the record if the matter is appealed. I know this is a really hot topic in town, and it's going to be important that Council keeps the procedure clean. If you have any questions about this, you should contact Richard Appicello or Bill Molnar.

City Administrator Pro Tem. I'll be out of town this weekend, and Lee Tuneberg will be City Administrator Pro Tem for any weird thing that comes up in my absence.

See you all Tuesday evening.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

May 18 Weekly Update

Council - There isn't much that you don't already know this week.

Last Phase of Budget Adoption. Thanks for all of your hard work in the past three weeks on the Budget Committee. I thought the Committee and staff worked really well together this year, and I hope you do as well. Council will hold the last formal hearing on the 2010-2011 budget on June 1, 2010 at your regular Council meeting. If you know of anyone with an opinion to share on this year's budget, please invite them to offer comments to the Council at this public hearing. People can also email their written comments either to the Comment to the Council listserv ( or by sending them to Barbara Christensen ( or Bryn Morrison (

PERS Issue. On Friday, David Chapman and Mike Faught happened to be in Salem at a League of Oregon Cities Transportation Policy Committee meeting. Councilor Chapman spoke to League staff, and League staff followed up with a call to me. I told staff that the City would likely send a letter to the Human Resources Policy Committee asking for continued work by LOC with the Legislature and the PERS Board to minimize and control the effect of Tier One benefit costs so that cities don't have to cut essential services to fund retirement benefits. League staff reminded me that in 2003, the Oregon Legislature did pass a bill to attempt to better manage the Tier One costs (it allowed the PERS Board to reduce allocations to accounts, to reduce benefits, and to refuse to give Cost of Living Adjustments to retirees). That law was thrown out by the Oregon Supreme Court in a case called Strunk,, v. Public Employees Retirement Board (PERB), in 2005. The opinion by the court is 92 pages long and it is very complicated. The net effect is that there isn't much the Legislature is likely to do as a result of this case. The Legislature did create a major reform in 2003 that applies to everyone hired since then.

Scott Winkels also shared that Ashland's increase is likely to be on the low end (close to or maybe even less than 6%) because we do not have significant unfunded liabilities. Also. the rate increase could be lower if the investments income for PERS continues to increase this calendar year.

Chamber of Commerce Board Meeting. The Mayor, Councilor Voisin, Adam Hanks and I all attended the Chamber of Commerce Board meeting on Thursday, May 13. There was much discussion about National Tourism Week, Downtown beautification, and the plans for the Fourth of July. Sandra and Meiwen Richards also reported on a meeting they attended with the Oregon Business Council in their efforts to update the Oregon Business Plan. The group discussed the growing divide in Oregon between government and business, and we talked a little about ways to develop an agenda for the issues we agree on. The Chamber of Commerce is also part of a coalition that is welcoming some VIPs from China to the Rogue Valley on June 4, and the hope is that will improve some trade and will lead to more tourists from China choosing Oregon and the Rogue Valley as a destination.

See most of you at this week's Council meeting. Please let me know if you have questions.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Weekly Update, May 11, 2010

Council - It seems like we've all been spending quite a bit of time together in the past couple of weeks, so hopefully you feel up-to-date on most things going on in the City.

Budget Committee meetings. We have two Budget Committee meetings this week, and they are both important. On Wednesday, May 12, you will be hearing from the Public Works Department, the Department with the largest budgets in the City. On Thursday, you will conduct your Committee Discussion, making decisions about the variety of issues that have come up during the past three weeks. This is the meeting, too, where the Committee sets the overall budget and the property tax rate. Finance staff have been compiling a list of issues that have come up, and that will be included on the agenda. If you have any issues that you want the full Budget Committee to discuss, please get those to Lee or Bryn by Wednesday evening so the issue can be on the agenda. Also, if you are going to miss a meeting and have not already told Bryn or Melissa, please let them know as soon as you can. Council will consider the Budget Committee's decisions on June 1, 2010.

Croman Master Plan Special Meeting. We have scheduled the special meeting to deliberate on the Croman Mill Master Plan for Wednesday, May 26. Here is a list of the discussion topics that the Mayor prepared for your deliberation. Staff will not be providing any additional copies of materials for this session, so please bring your packets from the April 6 and May 4 meetings with you on May 26. We will send out an agenda on May 21 with the meeting time, the finalized list of deliberation topics, and anything else you need for the meeting.

League of Oregon Cities Weekly Bulletin. Last Friday's bulletin from the League of Oregon cities had updates on two issues that I thought you all might be interested in. The first was the Department of Energy's work to update the Business Energy Tax Credit (BETC), and the second is work on the State's Transportation Planning Rule (TPR). The TPR is especially interesting to Ashland, and I'd draw your attention to efforts to use something besides the volume to capacity ration (V/C Ratio) to g\figure out whether a transportation facility needs to be bigger. More flexibility will be good for Ashland. The link is:

Ashland Creek Bacteria. A few weeks ago, Lesley Adams, the Rogue Riverkeeper, pulled together a group of people who are interested in trying to reduce fecal coliform and e-coli in Ashland Creek during the summer so that the stream never exceeds the levels for safe swimming. A good cross section of people with expertise in testing and pollution have come together to design a strategy to identify the sources of pollution and to reduce them to avoid violating health standards. City and Parks staff have been participating along with community advocates, SOU faculty, DEQ staff, and some citizens with real expertise and passion for water and stream quality issues. As you can imagine, we are both excited about the chance to really look at where the pollution is coming from and pleased that a group is helping us tackle it constructively. Mike Faught and soon-to-retire GIS Tech Richard Best can give you more information about the effort. Thank you to Lesley and all of the other good folks who are working on this issue.

June 11 Update. Many of you may know that June 11 will be a very busy evening in downtown Ashland. Both High School Graduation and the opening of the Elizabethan Theater and Feast of Will are on that evening. First, I appreciate all of the work that OSF, ASD, the Lions Club, Parks and Recreation and Ashland Police have done already to coordinate the timing of these events to reduce conflicts. Second, we are working closely with these groups to ensure that each organization has a plan for traffic and for parking. You may get complaints from citizens about this overlapping schedule. You should know that there is a lot of coordination taking place to ensure that everyone has a successful event. If you have questions from our end, please talk with Don Robertson or Terry Holderness. This is a good problem to have, even though it is a challenge.

Economic Development Planning. The Economic Development Strategy is moving into its public outreach phase. A draft vision and about 14 draft strategies are going out for public comment shortly after July 4. We will be holding several kinds of meetings and will have an on-line questionnaire about the draft. If you have any specific suggestions about groups or people we should not forget to talk with, please let Adam Hanks know.

I think that is all for now. Please keep your fingers crossed for warmer weather so I can turn the heat off at home.