City Council recommends nonpartisan commission positions

The Ashland City Council has asked Jackson County commissioners to refer a county charter amendment to the ballot that would make their seats nonpartisan.

Councilors voted unanimously earlier this week to send a letter to commissioners making the request.

The majority of counties in Oregon with commissions as governing bodies elect their leaders in non-partisan elections, according to city of Ashland staff.

Currently, Jackson County Board of Commissioners candidates are selected in party primaries and run as Democrats or Republicans, with nonaffiliated candidates qualifying for the ballot via alternative means, city staff said.

Ashland councilors said they are not taking a stance on the issue of whether commissioner races should be non-partisan, but they want voters to have a chance to weigh in on the issue.

"Our citizens would like to have a voice," Councilor Greg Lemhouse said.

Commissioners had been discussing the issue, but decided to delay putting it on the May ballot because they are focusing their energies on a Jackson County library district proposal planned for that ballot, Commissioner Don Skundrick told councilors Tuesday.

"We felt the energy should be around that," he said, noting that the May ballot is becoming crowded.

Voters also will be deciding in May whether to approve a measure that would ban genetically modified crops in the county and whether to approve a taxing district to support the Extension Service.

Skundrick said he believes the issue of nonpartisan commission races could go to voters in November.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or

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