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Talent mayor and challenger differ

TALENT — Talent Mayor Darby Ayers-Flood, who wants to see initiatives started in her first term carried through, will face off in November against City Councilor Ken Baker, who wants to increase public input and see balance on issues.

“I’m excited the race is a contest, especially given the fact that we have such different viewpoints on government,” said Ayers-Flood. ‘(It) will give us a great opportunity to have a comprehensive discussion on what Talent needs moving forward. That doesn’t happen when races are uncontested.”

Baker described himself as a fiscal conservative. He was appointed to the council in 2017 when E.J. McManus resigned.

“There have been a lot of things that we got started over the course of the last four years that have been effective for Talent. I want to see them through,” said Ayers-Flood. Those include completing the Talent Urban Renewal Agency Gateway Project, implementing a clean energy action plan and seeking affordable housing. They are all in process, with more work to do, she said.

Top accomplishments during her term include City Council absorbing the urban renewal board role, and work on city infrastructure, said Ayers-Flood.

“There’s a new water tank for both storage and security around the Cascadia (earthquake) event,” said Ayers-Flood. “We captured state funding around that.”

Council, as the urban renewal board, has worked to obtain a third leg for a roundabout through the Gateway Project after Talent Irrigation District declined to sell its property for the roadway, the mayor said.

“I think there needs to be a change in the way certain things are done in Talent. The biggest issue is communication,” said Baker. “We’ve got to involve more people on the front end before decisions are made.”

More than just public notices are needed, said Baker. He points to current and upcoming road projects as instances where people did not feel included in discussions.

A number of people have questioned a project now underway on Highway 99 to create three lanes from four between Rapp and Creel roads. While public notices were issued seeking input on the project in previous years, many people are now questioning the loss of vehicles lanes and the inclusion of wide bike lanes, Baker said. Similar work has been approved for West Valley View Road, he noted.

An upcoming rework of the city parks master plan would be an opportunity to seek extensive public input, said Baker. The plan is critical because the city has land holdings next to Bear Creek designated for park use. Possibility of a development like Medford’s U.S. Cellular Park needs to be explored, he said.

“I want us to start thinking big,” said Baker, “,omething that stimulates possible hotel and restaurant growth. That’s a win-win for the city.”

Top accomplishments for Baker have been to ask hard questions and provide alternative viewpoints during council deliberations, he said. He often casts votes opposite the majority.

Both candidates want to address affordable housing issues, but from different perspectives.

“Moving forward, the add-on for me will be an increased focus on affordable housing,” said Ayers-Flood. “I’m excited there are state-level measures that will allow cities more opportunity to effect affordable housing. I’d like to be around when that happens.”

Affordable housing issues point up the need for balance on the council, said Baker. Some councilors advocate for affordable housing in most developments, while others call for solar installations, said Baker.

“The two don’t go together. You can’t spend up to $20,000 for solar (per house) and push for most, if not all, new housing as affordable,” said Baker.

Ayers-Flood said she’s open to debating Baker, who said he would debate if there are rules and an agreement on structure.

Ayers-Flood is a regional operations manager in the hospitality industry. Baker is the owner of KRB Builders.

Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

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