Group seeks to establish community advocate

An Ashland planning commissioner and others who supported Jeff Golden's unsuccessful bid for Jackson County commissioner are hoping to make him a "community advocate" to represent progressive views to local governments.

"With 3 conservative county commissioners and 5 out of 6 conservative Ashland city council people, we need, more than ever, someone with credibility to advocate for sensible policies at the local level," Planning Commissioner Melanie Mindlin said in an e-mail sent to possible donors.

"A group of people is putting together a project to empower and financially support Jeff as a Community Advocate." Attached to the e-mail was a draft of a job description.

Golden said supporters have approached him seeking ways to better "advocate localism and self-reliance, with the same mission" as his campaign themes. He stressed the idea is still in the talking stage, and that the advocacy role would be a collaborative effort.

The position would be private and nonprofit, not part of any government, Mindlin said in an interview. Donations would go to support the office and administration.

The group is looking at establishing a community advocate because of "the turn to conservatives in office," she said. "So the need is strong for progressive views (to be represented) by someone who has credibility and can speak policies intelligently."

Mindlin's e-mail outlined a job description that included monitoring policies and programs of governments, publicizing them in media, providing input at meetings and in writing, finding "best practices" of other governments nationwide, partnering with like-minded organizations, doing interactive blogging on vital topics and involving younger activists and volunteers.

The advocate, she wrote, would "advance and coordinate efforts to enhance Jackson County's economy and quality of life ... by support of locally-owned businesses, community-based activities, and emerging improvements in the sustainable use of natural resources and the Rogue Valley environment."

Mindlin's e-mail outlined how donors can get a tax credit by sending checks before year's end to Golden's campaign account, adding, "Your donation won't be used to compensate Jeff directly, but could be used for office, administrative and other expenses." She said she was writing a check for $50 and suggested others do, too.

Oregon Revised Statute 260.407 states leftover campaign funds may be transferred to any political committee or party, transferred to any IRS-approved charity or "used for any other lawful purpose" except personal use or to pay legal judgments.

Golden noted, "My understanding is that you can use leftover campaign funds in the spirit of the people who supported you. It would not compensate me. It has the same mission of localism and self-reliance (as the campaign). Oregon law is so permissive, it would look terrible if you used it for anything else."

Golden's campaign, in which he garnered 43.6 percent of the vote against winner Don Skundrick, stressed support of locally owned business, quality job creation, family farming, local food production and better area transportation, according to his website.

Commissioner-elect Skundrick encouraged Golden's exploration as a community advocate.

"More power to him," Skundrick said. "Jeff is passionate about those kinds of things."

County Commissioner C.W. Smith agreed, noting, "He's got a lot of ideas — and the more ideas floated, the better."

"We have a lot of organizations going already," he added, referring to economic development efforts, "and he can get involved in those, too."

Golden said the group will meet during the first week of the year and will then know more about how it will proceed.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at

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