My Answers to the Ashland Chronicle Candidate Questionnaire

October 15, 2022

The Ashland Chronicle recently sent a questionnaire to all candidates for Ashland City Council. Candidates were asked to respond to four questions by Friday October 14, limiting responses to 250 words or less. The Chronicle has stated that it will post the answers, unedited, unless answers exceed 250 words for each question.

  1. What stand do you take on Ashland’s Ballot measures?  Explain your stance. (250 words for each measure)
  2. How are you going to make it more possible for folks who work in Ashland to live in Ashland?
  3. Do you believe the city budget is in trouble and if so what will you do about it?  If you don’t believe the budget is in trouble, please explain why it is not in trouble.
  4. What question do you wish folks were asking that they aren’t asking?  Explain why it is important to your campaign.

Here’s how Bob answered the questionnaire.

What stand do you take on Ashland’s Ballot measures?  Explain your stance. (250 words for each measure)

Ballot Measure 15-210, Ashland’s Charter: Shall Ashland amend its City Charter to delegate all authority to appoint, supervise, and remove employees to the City Manager?

I’ll vote no because I don’t think the ballot measure is asking the right question. 

A century ago, Ashland established an independent governance structure and funding for our parks. The Parks Commission lost its earmarked levy in the mid-1990s because of statewide ballot initiatives, and we muddled through instead of asking Ashland voters then if they wanted to create an independent Parks District to mimic the old arrangement. We voted in 2020 for a strong City Manager form of government, explicitly exempting management of staff in the parks and recreation department. Today, our separately elected Parks and Recreation Commission still has the mandate to manage our parks and recreation programs, and it must compete for funding with Police, Fire, and general administration, so it’s not surprising to see a tug-of-war when budgets get tight. 

As I’ve talked with people around town, I hear frustration with some of the management decisions in Parks and Recreation, which is also an implicit criticism of the Commission’s oversight. I get that, but I don’t think further muddying management responsibility for parks and recreation programs will fix the problems people cite. It will only add further complexity to an already muddy situation.

The right question is whether Ashland voters want an independent parks district akin to what we had before or if we’d prefer to fold everything into the City’s structure and budget. Let’s have a thorough presentation of the pros and cons of each option and then a clear vote next May.

Ballot Measure 15-211, Ashland’s Food & Beverage Tax Ordinance: Shall the Ordinance be amended to dedicate a portion of revenues to general government services and extend the sunset date?

I will vote against the ballot measure.

As a member of the Citizens Budget Committee, I voted with the majority to dedicate 98 percent of the meals tax to parks. I was persuaded it makes sense to use variable receipts from the meals tax to fund a substantial portion of parks’ expenses, which are more capable of flexing when receipts are down. This frees more of the City’s most stable source of revenue (property taxes) to fund Fire, Police, and General Administration expenses, which can’t flex much. There was some discussion in the committee about whether making this change would require a ballot measure, and we were advised it was not necessary. On this basis, the City Council endorsed this approach and approved the 2021-2023 biennial budget without putting the use of food and beverage tax proceeds on the ballot.

Ballot Measure 15-211 has the virtue of ensuring that proceeds from the meals tax can be used for general operations of our parks and not only for capital investment. Nevertheless, I will vote against the measure because I think we need to consider the tax as part of a broader solution to the City’s budget equation, which we know will require deeper structural changes. Like Measure 15-210, I think Measure 15-211 is a distraction that will not do much to address the real problem ahead of us, and I hope for a vote in May 2023 on the real question we need to decide. 

How are you going to make it more possible for folks who work in Ashland to live in Ashland?

Over the last eight weeks I’ve knocked on almost 3,000 doors across town and had many doorstep conversations with Ashland voters. Affordability is top of mind for many, and I look forward to working with the Council and staff to address this issue in creative ways that work for everyone. We are fortunate to own our utilities because it gives the Council some tools that other cities lack. We already offer low-income households a deep discount for electricity in winter months; I will work to extend this discount to the summer months as well when air conditioning is increasingly necessary for protection against extreme heat and smoke. I will also work to restructure our utility rates. The cost per kWh of electricity or cubic foot of water should be as low as possible for a reasonable base consumption amount, and it should be paid for by increasing rates more steeply on households that consume much more. We need to accompany rate restructuring with a proactive program to swap out inefficient heating and cooling equipment whenever possible and replace them with high efficiency heat pumps, taking advantage of new state and federal programs to reduce installation costs. I am hopeful the City Council will approve an assertive housing production strategy that includes securing existing low-cost housing in our three mobile home parks and exploring innovative approaches to take the high price of land out of the housing equation by expanding our community land trust or adding new ones. 

Do you believe the city budget is in trouble and if so what will you do about it?  If you don’t believe the budget is in trouble, please explain why it is not in trouble.

The 2021-2023 Biennium Budget proposal presented to the Citizens Budget Committee in Spring 2021 projected General Fund expenses exceeding revenues by the end of the biennium unless the City Council takes action to fix the structural conditions that will lead to the shortfall. I agreed with that assessment, and the Budget Committee recommended that the City Council adopt the proposed 2021-2023 biennium budget with a call to reduce General Fund expenses by $1 million over the biennium. That was intended to be a down payment on further measures to be taken by the Council and staff in time for inclusion in the 2023-2025 biennium budget that will be presented in Spring 2023.

We are fortunate that actual expenses and revenues over the last 18 months have both been more favorable than was projected back in the winter/spring of 2021, which among other things allowed a transfer of $1.7 million from the General Fund into a Reserve Fund that had been nearly empty for years. But that’s no reason for complacency. The City Council still needs to do its job and take up some of the possible structural changes identified in the budget document or identify other possible alternatives that could bring the projected future expense and revenue curves back together. Some of those options may involve Parks and Recreation, which is a further reason why I think the two ballot measures 15-210 and 15-211 are premature. 

What question do you wish folks were asking that they aren’t asking?  Explain why it is important to your campaign.

I wish folks would ask, “What more can I do to help our community and bring us all together?” Ashlanders are amazingly generous and volunteer so much of their time and resources to our community. I see and feel inspired by many examples of this every day. But I’m afraid the pandemic and stresses of the last couple of years have also fueled divisiveness, rancor, snark, and cynicism. I see it on social media, and also in the real world in how folks drive or treat people around town. We can all do a little more for our community, and be a little more gracious with each other. I’d like to join with the rest of our elected officials and City staff to invite everyone to participate in creating our very best Ashland. I appreciate the Ashland Chronicle’s question, which also asks me to explain why it’s important to my campaign. Well, my campaign is about appreciating our community and every one of us who helps make it a better place for all of us to live and work and play. I ask the readers of the Ashland Chronicle to consider my long record of public service fighting poverty and environmental degradation, along with my volunteer service in Ashland and ideas for helping our community thrive when you vote in the coming weeks. Please vote for me for Council position #4.

Do we have enough water to support more housing in Ashland?

Questions from the Campaign Trail, October 11

Quiet Village Resident: “Where are we going to get all the
water needed for the development I see going in?”

I heard this question a lot while knocking on doors to introduce myself to Ashland voters in the dry heat of late August. Ashland currently has good water resources. But do we have enough to handle additional population growth? What a good question! It seems like a real conundrum and it worries me too. So I thought I’d dig in deeper to learn more. Here are my thoughts–and my position–on water and development, laid out in brief as well as in more detail for those who appreciate a deeper dive.

  1. The Facts
  2. My Position
  3. The Deep Dive
  4. For Further Reading

The Facts

  • Our changing climate means hotter and drier summers with less winter snowpack. In recent years, we’re experiencing the worst drought period in Oregon’s recorded history. Adapting to our changing climate is a top priority for Ashland. What can we do?
    1. Install household water-saving devices. The City offers giveaways, like low-flow shower heads and faucet attachments, and partial rebates for higher ticket items like low-flush toilets and WaterSense appliances.
    2. Use less water for irrigation by taking advantage of City incentives to install smart controllers and replace lawns with drought-tolerant plants. The City’s Water Wise Landscaping resources will help you make the transition.
    3. Expand use of non-potable water sources for irrigation, like residential greywater systems. More complex, but an important option to retain for the future, would be a separate piping system to irrigate certain parts of the city with treated wastewater.
    4. Certify our full allocation of water rights in Lost Creek Lake piped through the Talent-Ashland-Phoenix Intertie (TAP). We’ve already certified about half the water rights.
    5. Improve efficiency of TID (Talent Irrigation District) water resources, drawing from new state and federal funding sources. While this last one is not really in the City’s control as TID is a separate entity with its own governance, the waste of water makes me crazy.
  • Together, these strategies provide a buffer for modest growth, which would enhance our tax base and help sustain the quality of City services we all rely on.
  • The City updated its Water Master Plan two years ago. On May 22, Public Works Director Scott Fleury provided info about the next update of our Water Management and Conservation Plan.

I’m using the campaign season to knock on lots of doors to meet voters. I really enjoy the opportunity to discuss the issues you feel are most important to our community.

“We must do what we can to conserve water given the
changing climate with hotter
and drier summers and less
winter snowpack.”

Stay informed on our
water situation by
checking out this cool dashboard.

This year, our drinking water reservoir (Reeder Reservoir) was full until July, while TID irrigation reservoirs were extremely low.

Adapting to our changing climate is a top priority for Ashland.

My Position

I say YES to a strategy of modest managed growth coupled with strategic water conservation and ongoing long-term planning.

The Deep Dive

Ashland is fortunate to have good water resources that can handle a some growth of our city…if we’re smart about it.

I love the City’s dashboard that tracks our water use from three sources:

Our main source is Reeder Reservoir, which collects the flow off of Mt Ashland in the east and west forks of Ashland Creek. Reeder can store as much as 280 million gallons, and the City operates the reservoir dynamically so that we’re mostly using only the stream flow until the end of May, when we begin to draw down the storage to meet higher summer demand. This year, our Public Works Department was able to keep the reservoir full until early July!

Reeder Reservoir

Our secondary source used to be the separate TID (Talent Irrigation District), which channels catchment from Howard Prairie and Hyatt Lake. BTW, nearby Emigrant Lake doesn’t feed Ashland’s ditch spur of the TID; it connects to the TID farther down the valley below Ashland. There are a few Ashlanders with historic water rights to draw water directly from Bear Creek. The City decided not to treat any TID water for our potable network these last two years because it’s been in such short supply. Better management of that water resource is an issue that needs to be addressed by the TID board, which in my view has not invested enough in efficiency and so continues to waste way too much water that should be available for irrigation to help our growers and our landscapes. I’m hopeful these last few years may have been a wake-up call, and fortunately there’s state and federal assistance to begin working on it. It’s important to note that even though the City didn’t treat any TID water for our potable water system these last two years, raw TID water was available for several weeks for urban irrigation for households and other accounts that are connected. That’s important because it means we used less of our potable water (from Reeder Reservoir) than we would if TID were not available at all.

Our third (now secondary) source is TAP (Talent-Ashland-Phoenix Intertie), which is what we use to get access to the 1,000 acre feet of Lost Creek Lake water storage rights that Ashland owns. FYI, 1,000 acre feet is about 325 million gallons. It’s treated by the Medford Water Commission and piped to Ashland for distribution through our potable water network. 

Ashland generally uses about 1 billion gallons of potable water each year; about 80 percent of it comes from Reeder Reservoir. We use about 1.5 – 2 million gallons per day between about the end of October and May when we’re not irrigating, and between 3 and 6 million from mid-May through October when we use a lot of our treated water for irrigation. BTW, the difference between winter and summer is the reason wastewater treatment shows up on our utility bill as a flat monthly charge rather than a charge per cubic meter like our water rate. The flat monthly charge is based on average winter usage on the theory it’s the portion of our water use that goes to the sewage treatment plant rather than into our gardens.

Ashland has done reasonably well conserving water by providing low-flow shower heads and faucet attachments, and incentives for replacing lawns with other landscaping options that use far less water. [Links at the top]

But we could do more.

Last I heard, Ashland’s average household consumption of potable water is about 180 gallons per household equivalent per day (about 125 gallons per person). The good news is that because this is really quite a lot, there’s still substantial room for savings and redirection to higher priority uses. See the links below for how other cities have done it.

And that’s the point. Although we currently have enough water to meet our current needs and projected future growth, we should not be complacent about it. We should do what we can to conserve water given the changing climate with hotter and drier summers and less winter snowpack. And we should be looking towards future opportunities to replace some of the potable water we use for irrigation with treated wastewater or on-site greywater systems. That would give us more of a buffer for modest population growth that would improve the City’s tax base so we can sustain the quality of City services we all rely on.

For Further Reading

With our climate changing, we can learn from other cities and regions that have been living with drought. Here are some interesting articles for further reading:

Knock, knock, knocking on voters’ doors!

Why I’m running for Ashland City Council...and what I’d bring to the table

Many folks ask me, “Why are you running?” or, more skeptically, “Are you sure you want to do that!?” 

I’ve been knocking on voters’ doors for about six weeks now –- over 2,200 so far! This is by far my favorite way to connect, as it gives me a terrific low-key opportunity to hear what’s on your mind. We’ve had some great conversations about housing and affordability, our changing climate, water, City finances, our local economy, Ashland’s parks, the golf course, and much more. 

So I’m starting this blog to share why I’m running, what I’m hearing, and how I think about the issues that matter most to you. Sign up here to receive my blogs in your email inbox.

Why I’m Running

Many folks ask me, “Why are you running?” or, more skeptically, “Are you sure you want to do that!?” 

I answer by talking first about some of the things I love about Ashland –- there’s so much to love!  I talk about my volunteer service in the community thus far – both with community-based organizations and on official City advisory bodies. I’ve had a unique and varied career focused on some of the same challenges and opportunities we face in Ashland today. And I believe I would actually enjoy serving on the City Council and that my skills and experience would bring a different voice that would be an asset.  

So, that’s why I’m running and YES! I am up to the challenge. Let me explain.

We have so many great community-based organizations in Ashland, and I’ve had the privilege of volunteering with several of them. (I love this work!) I was a frontline volunteer and am now a board member for OHRA and its community resource center and emergency shelter now in the old Super 8 motel. I’m on the board of the Ashland Food Co-op, and I co-teach the civics exam in Spanish required for US citizenship for UNETE’s Center for Farm Worker and Immigrant Advocacy. Our community is enriched by these and many other organizations that bring us together to support each other. My background in bringing public and private partners together leads me to see lots of opportunities to create solutions.

I also serve on two appointed citizen-commissions: I was appointed to the City’s Climate Policy Commission, which monitors implementation of Ashland’s Climate and Energy Action Plan (CEAP), enacted in 2017. Most people who know about the CEAP think it’s only about reducing greenhouse gas emissions. They’re surprised to hear about the second goal of the CEAP: to prepare Ashland to be more resilient to the impacts of climate change – like longer and more frequent bouts of smoke, fire risk, drought, and extreme temperatures we’re already feeling. Climate change hits hardest on our City’s most vulnerable residents, and that’s what really motivates me to work on it. Addressing this reality with appropriate local solutions increasingly will be one of the core responsibilities of our governments. Again, I believe my background will help us navigate these important issues together.  

I was appointed to serve on the Citizens Budget Committee in spring 2021. I have a thorough understanding of the City’s finances, and public finance in general, which is an important skill set right now. Unless we make changes, the City will face future shortfalls in the General Fund (basically police, fire, parks, and administration). To begin to address this challenge, the Committee advised the City Council to direct staff to cut $1 million from the approved biennium budget for the General Fund over the two-year period as a “down payment,” and use 2021-22 to reassess our options and priorities and take appropriate action in the next budget cycle. Not surprisingly, this often leads to a longer discussion. (Definitely a topic worth its own blog!)

This local experience fits in with my career experience. I spent decades on the give-and-take of working with municipal and national governments in Latin America to develop locally appropriate solutions that improve people’s lives. I had the opportunity to work on a wide range of issues, from environment and climate, economic development, disaster preparedness, and social welfare. Folks recognize that these are the same issues we face today in Ashland. 

The Takeaway

I’m not running because I have all the answers. Nobody does! And I’m just one voice. What I’d bring to Council deliberations is highly relevant professional experience, deep personal commitment and passion for our community, good listening skills and empathy, and a calm collaborative approach to working with others. One of the most powerful lessons I’ve learned in my career is how crucial it is for elected officials to demonstrate they have heard, understood, and considered a wide range of perspectives on important issues – that they’ve looked at all the pros and cons for our people and our community at large, including the financial impacts. To me, this is what good governance is all about. If we do this process well, we get more and better options on the table, and people are more likely to respect and support the ultimate decisions. On the other hand, when we feel unheard, we lose faith in our civic leaders, and our institutions lose their ability to govern.   

I learn a lot from my conversations on folks’ doorsteps, and I love our impromptu connections that wander off in unexpected ways. I intend to keep on knocking doors right up to the election on November 8…and I just may keep on doing it as a Councilor if you elect me to the City Council!

Please vote for me this November for Ashland City Council, position #4.

Visit to learn more about me, support my campaign, or sign up to for a yard sign!