Political divisions exposed in motion

While City Councilor David Chapman's idea to negotiate the transfer of the special use permit to the Mt. Ashland Association may repair a rift between the city and the ski area, it may have also created a larger division among members of the council.

His motion, which passed 3-2, was not on Wednesday's agenda and came after Councilor Cate Hartzell had already left the meeting, causing Hartzell's council allies on the Mt. Ashland issue &

Alice Hardesty and Eric Navickas &

to walk out of the meeting after the vote.

Ashland City Attorney Richard Appicello said there is nothing illegal about the way the motion was brought to the table. But Hardesty, Hartzell and Navickas said they were taken aback by what they perceived as an underhanded attack on the city's stated position.

"That's sabotage," Hartzell said when told about the move. "They are hijacking the system. This proposal was a secretive and misguided effort to give away the public's mechanism for ensuring that the watershed's natural functions are not compromised by a special interest group. "

During the meeting, Navickas said, "This is not going to do anything for the divisions in this community. There has been no public notice, it's not listed as an agenda item. I just got this three minutes ago and I'm expected to vote on it. This is going to create so much animosity."

Mayor John Morrison, who supported the motion going forward but did not vote on it, asked Navickas not to speak out of turn several times as the council debated the move.

To Navickas, Morrison said, "If you were on the other side of this issue, I think you would be arguing the other way."

Hardesty said, "This would be a mistake. The public doesn't know about it. It's very interesting and it may be worthy of discussion, but I had no idea we were going to talk about this."

With the entire council present, the most contentious votes concerning Mt. Ashland have typical gone — to 3, with Hardesty, Hartzell and Navickas voting against issues Mt. Ashland supports, and Chapman, Jackson and Silbiger more supportive the ski area's agenda. Morrison, as mayor and tie-breaker, has sided with Chapman, Jackson and Silbiger.

Chapman said he did not intend for his motion to come up with Hartzell absent, but added that it didn't matter whether she was there or not.

"I know how Cate is going to vote," he said, responding to Hardesty's concerns. "It's not going to change anything."

Whether he intended her to be absent or not, he did intend to surprise her with his motion. Chapman contacted Morrison and councilors Silbiger and Jackson before the meeting, his allies on the issue. He also told three members of city staff, but he did not tell Hartzell, Hardesty or Navickas.

When asked why, he said, "Why don't they call and tell me stuff? Because they don't want me to know. The easy answer is because we all know how [each of us] is going to vote."

Further highlighting the council allegiances, after the meeting, Jackson answered questions that were directed to Chapman.

Chapman also told Mt. Ashland's general manager Kim Clark about his motion before the meeting.

"I left [Clark] a message wondering if he was receptive to this," he said. Clark said he sent Mt. Ashland employee Rick Saul to the meeting to tell Chapman the ski area was amenable to his offer. Saul was at the beginning of the meeting, but did not stay for the debate on the issue.

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