Former Ashland Mayor, Shaw, Challenged by ACES

Recently, a letter from Cathy Shaw appeared in which she argued against a Council/Manager form of government.    Provided below, in BOLD, are ACES responses to each of Cathy Shaw’s points from her letter on the proposed charter change which was unanimously approved by the city Council to be placed on the ballot in May of 2020.

Thank you for paying attention to this very important issue.     

Ashland Citizens for Economic Sustainability  (ACES)

“I missed the last council meeting where a decision was made to place before the voters a change to our charter to make Ashland a weak-mayor form of government.” 

A Council/Manager is not a weak Mayor form but rather a strong Council form. 

This is a terrible idea.  

A majority of Oregon cities have moved to this form of modern and democratic government and it is recommended by the ICMA and The League of Oregon Cities (in their model charter)

I get that those urging for this change are concerned about the possibility of a problem child ascending to the mayor’s office but in doing this, you will shift all appointment powers from the mayor and council to a manager. While I love Kelly and completely trust her judgement, fact remains, she may not always be in that post.

A bad mayor is not the primary reason for supporting the measure. Rather the proposed change represents a more professional form of government that allows for more checks and balances, transparency and accountability within the system. Studies by the University of North Carolina show the Council/Manager form of government to be the most ethical form.

In addition, it is more democratic in that increased power is given to the Council who directly represent the citizens of Ashland.  Finally, it assigns accountability and delegates responsibility to those who are actually managing city staff and carrying out the policies set by the City Council.

An appointed person having full control of department head slots can do more to change the direction of the city than anything a horrible mayor could do.  

Currently, the mayor has full authority to hire and fire.  If the measure passes, the Council will also be assessing the City Manager’s performance.  Over the last 20 years, on average, there has been a new City Administrator every three years resulting in a lack of continuity costly to the city.  (This does not include the four interim administrators during the same period.)  Under the proposed system, together, the Council and Mayor would hire and evaluate the City Manager. 

Currently there are only two cities in southern Oregon who have this set up: Medford and Central Point. Think about that.  

This is a completely false statement. We’ve included below an excerpt from Bill Heimann’s recent e-mail to the Council.

“In addition to Medford and Central Point, Phoenix, Talent and Gold Hill have city managers.  In Eagle Point, Shady Cove and Rogue River, the title of the CAO is city administrator, but they have the appointment/removal powers of a city manager. The Rogue River and Shady Cove charters are the LOC model charter.  Eagle Point is similar but not identical to the model charter. Jacksonville, Prospect and Butte Falls are the only cities without a true city manager. Grants Pass and Klamath Falls are council/manager cities.

Also note that in Oregon, cities between 15,000 and 25,000 population; a total of 17 cities every one of them, except Ashland, is council/manager.  In Canby and Woodburn, although the title of the CAO is city administrator, in both cities, the administrator appoints and removes all city employees, effectively making them City Managers. Woodburn’s website even describes the city as “council/manager.”

I will tell you, if Ashland had a Mayor/Manager form of government when I was elected, we would not have an open-space program or funding for it; we would still be outside the Jackson County AQMA; we would not have renovated library buildings, which, in turn, would not have allowed us to break away to a library district.  We would not have bolstered our school district through the Youth Activity Levy after passage of Measure 5; we would not have hillside development standards, flood plain protections or the beginning of forest management that is now a star in our legacy. Heck, even the recycling depot.  All were initially opposed by majority of council and the administrator. 

There is no proof or indication that these programs or initiatives would not have eventually happened. More concerning, Ms. Shaw rolls the council in with the city administrator as fighting her on these initiatives.  Is she saying the council is also a “horrible” form of government? 

Please reconsider this decision.  Cathy Shaw

There are many compelling reasons to go to a council/manager form of government.  The last measure proposed in 2007 only failed because:

1) It was confused with a second measure on the same ballot and

2) The opposition used the same kind of hyperbole and misinformation that you see presented in Ms. Shaw’s letter. 

ACES urges everyone to vote for a Council/Manager form of government in May, 2020.