Council Corner: Community can create the future

Editor's note: We are continuing to publish Council Corner columns by the mayor and City Council members while some are campaigning for re-election. We invite challengers to submit columns of their own in the interest of informing voters and contributing to the community conversation.

When I was first elected in 2008 there was a heady optimism in the air. The United States had chosen its first African American president and many important changes in our society seemed possible. Sustainability was the cornerstone of my campaign, as a guiding principle that could be applied to many facets of our community, starting with a stable and responsive City Council.

And in the years since many of our mutual objectives have been met in a variety of ways, such as:

  • Community gardens in our parks

  • Talent-Ashland-Phoenix water line

  • GMO Ban

  • RVTD Levy

  • Ashland Forest Resiliency Project

  • Climate Energy Action Plan

  • Bee City

  • Resource Center and Winter Shelter Program

  • Ashland Food Project

  • Food Bank's permanent new home

  • The Hearth

  • Culture of Peace Commission

  • Funding our libraries

  • You've Got Options

  • Voluntary Water Conservation

  • Unpacking Racism

  • Firewise Community

Ironically, however, the optimism ushered in with the 2008 election was countered by the so-called "Great Recession," which disproportionately affected those in the low and middle income levels, for many of whom benefits of the recovery have failed to materialize to this day. We see its direct and indirect effects in the current rental housing crisis and the displacement of Ashland community members who struggle against increased competition for rentals and a housing market climbing faster than wages.

Combine these challenges with issues that have reached their tipping points such as climate change, racism, gun violence, the credibility of the federal government and incomplete health care reform, and it's possible to feel overwhelmed and question what a small community like Ashland can do.

But I believe just the opposite: Our size and the engagement and creativity of our citizens give us the opportunity to lead by example — as we already have with the Ashland Forest Resiliency Project, You Have Options, OSF's American Revolutions, The Ashland Food Project, voluntary water conservation, The Hearth, and Unpacking Racism. This in turn attracts interest, support and resources and each success expands the process.

The key is to become a truly resilient community, able to respond quickly and creatively to changes of every kind. I believe this is our future and, with your support, it is my hope to continue to build on our past successes with a robust and far-reaching agenda. Here is a glimpse of what we, as a city and unified community, can accomplish:

  • The AFR Institute: a living laboratory for conferences and R&D in restoration forestry for wildfire prevention.

  • Making our town as resilient to wildfire threat as the watershed.

  • Housing Solutions: innovation in housing types, land-use regulation and the creative use of our annexation powers.

  • Emergency preparedness for city employees so they can return quickly to restore services during disasters.

  • Collaborative Homeless Infrastructure: creating the foundation for providing pathways out of homelessness.

  • Maintaining and upgrading city physical infrastructure in long-term, cost efficient ways.

  • Diversity and inclusion as part of the Ashland identity.

  • Implementation of the Climate Energy Action Plan.

  • TAP3: Ensure year-round access to water in the event of prolonged drought or natural disaster — at a capacity sufficient not only for basic needs but for protection of legacy trees and home food production as well

Ultimately, the key is to turn away from polarization and divisiveness — and toward a united community, through person-to-person relationships of integrity, compassion and trust. This is our common future. Let's create it together.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve in a job I love.

— John Stromberg is mayor of Ashland.

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