Mayor Akins: On What the Council Is Doing and What It Needs to Do

Onward and Upward.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the mayor, city council and some folks who work at city hall. Too much talk.

There’s also been a fair amount of discussion about how public meetings run. It’s an incredibly complex grouping of three sets of rules, some which supersede others. Ashland has more than its share of super smart people–but this body of law is so dense it even takes lawyers awhile to get it. Very few people are expert in it. I’m getting closer every day in my understanding because I have to. I’ve got two editions of Robert’s Rules of Order on my nightstand, the public meeting manual on my laptop, the AMC on my desktop, especially 2.04, and the ORS.

It’s seven months for me “on the job.” I’ve been meeting with other mayors who say it takes about two years. I’m trying to go faster and I ask for your patience. When meetings get wild, though, it’s no one person’s fault. It’s everyone at the table.

One of your former mayors told me that and I think it’s true. Council, Mayor and staff have to support each other so we can do our best. To that end, I’ve invited councilors to meet regularly now that the pandemic has lifted. We had our first meeting informally, (fewer than a quorum)in the park. It’s not to do city business but to look each other in the eye and check in. I’m hoping that councilors will accept my invitation.

I feel confident, just as I’m confident we can get to what really matters: YOU! We’re here, staff, council and mayor to serve you the people at your request and by your vote under your watchful eyes.

So here’s what we’re doing:

1) We’ve identified a strong interim city manager candidate. We’re moving swiftly to make sure we’re covered and staff have a competent boss who can keep things moving and who can help us get a permanent CM.

2)We’re asking the council to bring in a contracted second attorney so our current person has the help she needs.

3)We’re solidifying the position of our current Fire Chief Ralph Sartain. He’s doing a good job and is respected by the union and staff.

4) On my to-do list is still identifying ways to work toward water storage and soil regeneration to help us combat the climate crisis. As the heat lingers and the lakes and rivers run low–this is a strong conversation that needs to be had along with continuing to plan for fires and working together to avoid them. (the interim CM we’re speaking with is so good at emergency planning his last city named their emergency center after him!)

5) Affordable housing. There are people in this community who want to build affordable homes. I recently spoke to a highly capable person who’s drawn up plans for 100 affordable homes. I want to find ways to help that happen while playing by the rules. It’s important for our future.

6) Good News! Ashland has not lost its luster to visitors–at least in our restaurants and pubs. Most of my business friends tell me they can’t believe how busy they are. That’s great, isn’t it? Onward and Upward for Ashland’s future. Sincerely, Mayor Julie

Ashland Mayor Julie Akins