Bullock backs ballots

Art Bullock is running for mayor with a single goal: returning to the will of the people by putting all major issues to a majority vote.

Any key votes by the City Council should be confirmed by a ballot vote of Ashland citizens, he said, including tax policy, zoning laws, land sales and service level changes.

This goal trumps other issues because the "general process solution allows us to solve specific problems on the economy, environment, planning, etc," he wrote in an e-mail to the Tidings.

"When the people 'get' that the majority, not a small group, make the final decision, it takes down walls in extraordinary ways," he said. "Ballots raise legitimate issues for the community to decide. It's a healthy, cost-effective, democratic process that would rapidly realign Council with the majority will."

Bullock envisions presenting issues to voters two to four times each year during the four elections permitted by Oregon law in March, May, September or November. The number of issues included on those ballots would vary depending on the council's agenda for major financial and environmental decisions, such as the Talent-Ashland-Phoenix water pipeline project, paving all alleyways in the city and selling a portion of Westwood Park.

Those votes would be supplemented with interim straw votes to ensure the council was on track before the issue made it to a ballot, he said. The process would also provide the Council with direction on complex issues, such as planning the use of the Croman mill site, he said.

"Knowing it would be on the ballot changes Council's process to verify direction as the process unfolds," he said. "If we used straw votes to set direction for the Croman property plan, the probability that a wise decision would be eventually passed is high."

The government has not been motivated to thoroughly educate voters before, he said, and he views his job as mayor to continue educating citizens so they don't skip ballot measures they are not familiar with.

Controversial issues that don't make it onto a ballot could be handled on semi-formal votes on monthly utility newsletters or the Ashland Fiber Network, he said.

"When [the] city presented AFN to us, its use as a tool for grassroots direction of government was one of its selling points," he said. "We can now use AFN's promise and investment to reconnect city government to the majority will on non-ballot issues."

Bullock said he has used his "empowerment process" for more than 30 years at a variety of corporations to rebuild credibility, among the qualifications he cited in his bid for mayor.

Bullock has been active in city politics, campaigning for city councilor Jack Hardesty in 2004 and candidate Randy Dolinger in 2006. He co-founded AshlandConstitution.org to write five charter amendments, he said, and campaigned against other amendments in the May 2007 election that he warned would have left Lithia Park and city water at risk of being sold. The amendments were rejected.

Bullock has filed several lawsuits against the city around three different local improvement districts, which cost the city $150,000, City Attorney Richard Appicello told the Tidings in January. The challenge against the Nevada Street LID to install additional sidewalks used "illegal cost-sharing percentages that shifted tax money to the developer," Bullock said. The subsidy cost taxpayers $55,000, he said.

Bullock also spoke out against many development proposals and the closure of the Glenn Street railroad crossing.

With him as mayor, Bullock said citizens can expect a more transparent government, more effective and efficient Council meeting, responses to citizen e-mails and phone calls, and the experience of living the founders' hope for "empowered self-government of the people, by the people, and for the people."

Staff writer Julie French can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 227 or jfrench@dailytidings.com.

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