For those who want to “think globally, act locally,” the Nov. 8 Ashland Municipal Election for mayor may be the perfect opportunity. All candidates who agreed to share their platforms have a local response to global issues.
The slate of candidates is varied. The mayor’s race, so far, has four people who hope to lead the city. Filing, which opened June 1, closes Aug. 12.
Current Mayor John Stromberg and Councilor Carol Voisin have platforms which include local initiatives to deal with global issues such as climate change, affordable housing and equity. Biome Michael Erickson is also running on a platform of sustainability, renewable energy and housing initiatives, but adds to that a discussion around U.S. policies regarding Israel. Candidate John Greene declined a request for an interview.
Voisin, a councilor since 2008, says she has a vision she is ready to present as mayor. “The vision is wrapped up in what I stand for: equal opportunity for women. The next mayor is going to be hiring three or four department heads. We have no women in upper management and we must have them.”
She believes women have not been sought out or encouraged to play major roles in day-to-day administration. “We need the best applicants that will include women. Women are good decision makers. The fact that we have all men making decisions in our government when we have 52 percent women living here is wrong. We need to have women in our top positions. I know we have qualified, eligible women out there. I want them to be part of the candidates looked at and hired.”
The councilor also intends to create a higher level of transparency and accountability. “I’m committed to that. Citizens need to know how their tax dollars are spent. I’ll be sure they know.” She is suggesting creating regular reports in the areas she identifies as the six districts of town. Voisin plans to discuss any changes to neighborhoods in advance and promises a timely response from city staff, which she identifies as within 24 hours of an inquiry.
She is also running on environmental stewardship, sustainability, a disaster preparedness commission, a buy-local program and renewable energy. “It’s not the mayor standing up doing this. I want the community to have ownership.”
As mayor, Voison believes her voice would be better heard. She acknowledges that as a councilor she has trouble getting others to even second her motions. “I won’t let a lot of the things that happened to me happen to other councilors. I will allow discussion and debate, more not less. I’ll make sure citizens know they can speak.”
Councilor Voisin says she wants to include segments of the community that are not heard often enough. “I want to include the citizens in all of our neighborhoods, downtown merchants, but also those on the south side of town too. I’m listening to all citizens.” As part of that plan Voisin would change the way appointments to commissions are made, saying they are too favorable to the powerful members of the community. “The Chamber (of Commerce) board is an elite group of folks that are extremely vocal and the mayor continues to put them on boards and commissions. You need to include other citizens. You need to put folks from neighborhoods on these commissions. My appointments would be different.”
Voisin says she wants people who haven’t been fully heard but are ready to take action. “I have got to have critical thinkers, not people who are going to rubber stamp.”
Voisin admits she’s an underdog since she is running against an incumbent mayor, but believes her eight years on the council qualifies her to bring experience combined with a fresh perspective. “The current mayor has been there eight years, I think that’s enough time. I want us to scale up what has been done.”
She does not want to criticize Mayor John Stromberg, she says, but feels progress has been slow. “We’re OK, but I think we can do much better. John’s a nice guy, he’s had long enough. I think it’s time to pass the baton and I’m there to receive it.”
Mayor Stromberg disagrees with the assessment that he’s been there long enough. He says there is more to do and he has a track record of getting it done. “I’ve been in this for the long haul. I love this job, love the work and love the people.” He does not agree that his progress has been slow. “We’ve had a lot of success. I finally got us to self-insure and save $400,000 the first year. We’re leading the Ashland Forest Resiliency Institute which is a model for the nation, the council helped buy the building for the Ashland Food Bank. We’re harnessing the creative power of diversity to create an environment with a unity of purpose and mutual respect.”
One crucial issue, he says, is a lack of affordable housing in the community. “We need to do something for families with children who can’t afford to live here.” He identifies a “broad spectrum approach to housing” which he says is critical for the future of the community. He plans a housing summit to begin getting the community together for solutions.
Next he plans to continue the AFR Institute. “We need to keep doing amazing work for forests which changes the face of forestry throughout the country.”
Mayor Stromberg plans a fire mitigation ordinance for the city given the fact that Ashland is largely in an urban forest. He says there needs to be a way to maintain the city’s canopy and green space with smart planning around fire fighting, especially as we continue to face the challenges of global warming and progressively hotter summers. The 2015 summer was the hottest on record.
Facing the challenges of disaster, which could include major fires or the Cascadia Subduction Earthquake, Stromberg says it’s important city of Ashland employees and their families have 14 days of full preparedness. “We need them to be able to come to work and take care of people. After Katrina, New Orleans never came back. People couldn’t get services and they gave up and moved away.” He will provide citizens with the information about how they can also prepare to ride out disaster for 14 days, saying Ashland would likely be isolated for roughly that period of time before outside services can come in and assist.
Stromberg says he also plans to build services and create pathways for homeless people. “We can do better in how we handle this domestic refugee crisis.” He points to the larger numbers of homeless people in Oregon. The state has seen increases of 9 percent in the past year, according to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. Much of that has to do with a lack of affordable housing, low wage jobs, health issues and foster children who age out at 18 and have no support system, says Stromberg.
Finally, the mayor says he wants to create a project to protect and promote organic agriculture and gardening. “We’re the only county who has successfully been designated organic. Can you imagine what we could do with that? By building the identity and using it to get projects and funding we could do some really exciting things.”
Mayor Stromberg says it’s important to get egos out of the way and build relationships which get things done. He says he believes in face-to-face communication and compromise as a way to build bigger opportunities.
Biome Michael Erickson is not a newcomer, having run for mayor in 2012 and city council in 2014. He was soundly defeated both times, but maintains he is more qualified this time around. “I’m a little older and have read many more books and studies on these issues.”
He identifies three local priorities: “Slow urban growth to a steady state, pursue sustainable, renewable energy and affordable housing initiatives and remove the bureaucratic obstacles to achieving these first two goals.”
When asked why he wants to be mayor, Erickson says he does not. “In a spirit of self-sacrifice, we might all strive to save the world through volunteering our talents in service to others. I don’t want to be mayor. If it so happened that I did become mayor, I would be dependent on the support of like-minded members of the community for filling advisory roles as well as facilitating my daily bread.”
He says he is running to send a message. “I wish to use this campaign as a soapbox to indicate and remove psycho-social taboos which have formed around certain topics forbidding their public discussion.”
Among those topics might be his answer to the question; what will you hope to accomplish in your first 90 days? He replied: “I hope to be a part of the process of reclaiming our country, our Constitutional Republic, from the parasitic Zionist hijackers who are systematically undermining it.”
He continues by saying he does not believe in the Jewish Holocaust at the hands of the Nazis and he does not believe in supporting Israel or Judaism specifically. “The worst crimes in this world impacting the greatest number of innocent victims are the by-product of the pragmatic expression of Zionist, Communist, Talmudic and Masonic Judaism. I believe the illegal racist terror state of Israel needs to be speedily and peacefully dismantled, if possible, through any and all means at our disposal.”
Asked if he believes the city is run well now and, if not, why not, Erickson replied, “I don’t know.” When asked what he specifically brings to the city which residents need, he responded that “There is nothing new under the sun.”
In the final question he was asked why the citizens of Ashland should vote for him. “A vote for me is a vote for solving both 9/11 and the Jewish Question which will end the War of Terror and Save the World, God willing,” he said.
When asked for an interview, mayoral candidate John Greene declined. “I don’t think I’ll do that. I’ll just keep doing ,what I’m doing.” The Tidings was unable to find a profile or website for Greene’s candidacy. According to his candidacy filing, Greene is retired, with 18 years experience in farming, nine years experience in retail "and other" jobs, plus two years active duty service in the Army and four years "inactive duty."
Email Ashland freelance writer Julie Akins at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/@julieakins.