Position 1: Comparison of Candidates’ Survey Answers

Position 1:  Candidates – Paula Hyatt, Andrew Card

Paula Hyatt didn’t submit answers to the survey questions.

Andrew Card’s answers are below with no comparison.

  • The City of Ashland pays 12% of EVERY EMPLOYEE’S SALARY into PERS. The employee pays 0% into PERS. What is your position regarding this expense to the City?

As much as it would be ideal to reduce our PERS expense, I think this is something imposed on participating Oregon cities by the State, and not something we can negotiate separately as a stand-alone city.  Instead, we need to work with the legislature and League of Oregon Cities to help contain these costs and make them more manageable over time, as we don’t have direct control over it.

What we can control is our overall budget, which I think needs to be made healthier along with a Reserve fund that can be used to address known, growing costs like PERS.  This is similar to what Grants Pass has done, which has cushioned them from the large PERS costs.  I’m a strong believer of us looking at other successful cities and incorporating their practices into our own for sound budget management.  We don’t have to reinvent the wheel on everything, and I think we must look outside of our Ashland bubble to use models that work.

I would be open to Employee contributions toward PERS, where allowable.  In the private sector, it is pretty standard for employees to participate with contributions toward their own retirement, like with 401k plans, and that feels like a more sustainable model to me.  It’s not clear to me that Ashland can independently do this, however.

  • What is your position regarding the City paying close to 95% of City Employee’s Health Care Premium?

Personally, I would love to see Universal National Health Care so that cities wouldn’t need to independently wrestle with their own employees on how to best deal with these escalating costs.  Unless and until that happens, however, I would be supportive of a more balanced sharing of premium expenses.  I would want to research more data on what comparable cities do, so that we don’t put ourselves at a competitive disadvantage, but like private industry, I think it’s reasonable to share the burden of affordability between employees and employers.

  • Would you be in favor of FTE Staff reductions in all departments ( while requiring all departments to maintain full services)?

I would not be in favor of uninformed, blind, across-the-board cuts.  What I do advocate for is taking a close look at each department and asking hard questions on how we can right-size our operations in alignment with our values.  At the core, I’m a finance guy, and when I run my businesses, I leave no expense category uninspected.  I hope to bring the same diligence and scrutiny as your representative.  The budget is pretty large and complex, and I hope we can get deep into the necessary details with a divide and conquer approach working with groups like ACES and the Budget Committee to focus on each and every area.

I am confident that we need to get to a significant net reduction, but I don’t think it makes sense to cut areas that may already be operating efficiently vs. those that are not. However, if across the board cuts are needed from every department, then I’m prepared to ask department heads to make a certain percentage cut to their budget.

We also need to look not just at FTEs but other systemic aspects of our budget that are less obvious, but equally challenging.  For example, we don’t have good controls on payroll inflation.  We need to look at putting in place salary caps on positions, more sensible COLA increases, and focus more on merit-based systems instead of pay increases automatically invoked due to tenure, etc.  Without looking at containment in this manner, we’ll continually see payroll costs increase faster than revenues, forcing us into FTE cuts to compensate, which ultimately isn’t a way to keep services and maintain employee morale.

Another option that should be explored is the option to furlough. Each employee could take one Friday off per month or every other week. I would like to work these numbers with the Budget Committee to see what makes the most sense.

  • What is your position regarding the critical housing demand for AFFORDABLE housing in Ashland?

Our Ashland’s community will be at its best when it has broader economic diversity.  I would prefer that Ashland not solely be a retirement community, but a place where our teachers, business owners, and service workers can afford to live here and be an active part of it.  I think that’s what makes us a stronger community.  It makes me a little sad to see fewer families make Ashland their home, with elementary schools closing as we’ve historically seen here. I’m very open to creative and implementable ideas for steps we can take to broaden Ashland’s base.  [Where we can impart influence is favor projects that lend themselves better toward broader economic diversity].

I’m also for infill development (vs expanding urban growth boundary) that will allow for:

  • Efficient utilization of land resources
  • More compact patterns of land use and development
  • Reinvestment in areas that are targeted for growth and have existing infrastructure
  • More efficient delivery of quality public services
  • Homelessness remains an ongoing issue here in Ashland. What can we do about it?

First of all, I think the unhoused are a broader and varied group than people think.  I would caution against anyone painting broad strokes with a single brush here. You have those who are housing insecure, where a person or family’s living situation is tentative. There are working poor where people have jobs but cannot afford housing and are living in a vehicle or are camping. Many unhoused have mental health problems who cannot maintain a job or a safe living situation. Also, there are those who are battling severe addiction or those who do choose to be homeless, vagabonds if you will. We need a comprehensive set of services to be able to address each sector of the unhoused.

Many members of these groups are positive contributors to our community, and deserve the same rights as each of us do. Sometimes, they aren’t well represented, and our City Council has to act as their advocates.

My belief is that our City and City Council need to make sure that the needs and rights of unhoused individuals are represented and respected.  [I know many members of the local Ashland Police Force, and I believe we can work together to ensure we have training and the right methods of de-escalation and respect, where there are problems.]

I believe that we should seek efficient ways to support and fulfill mental health, food and adequate shelter to those in need.  I believe our community can help us with clever answers to difficult problems, and I will always listen to ideas and suggestions.  I have seen our people in Ashland rise to the occasion multiple times, and I think partnered with City Council support, we can make a bigger difference together.

I spent three years working with Hearts with a Mission, a shelter for unhoused or housing insecure youth in Medford, and what I’ve learned is that safe shelter, access to food, counseling, work and housing programs, and clothing are the essential steps to help people get back on their feet. There are numerous non-profits that work on these issues every day, and as a councilor, I believe that we should work with these organizations and help distribute resources where they are needed most.

  • Moving Ashland toward an engaged City Council and Citizenry.

Perhaps the top reason that I am running for City Council is that I want to truly represent Ashland’s people.  Not just accept the loudest voice, or bow down to the most well-known person, but rather represent our overall citizenry, some of whom are currently disengaged or without a voice in the process.  I run two businesses in Ashland, and I believe that what makes them successful is that we listen to our customers each and every day.  We have to. I hope my orientation to listening to feedback and keeping an open, unbiased mind will best be able to serve our citizenry in Ashland.

This also means giving more weight to citizen held committees. Ashland has numerous committees that seat volunteer citizens with expertise that the city can utilize for better city governance. The budget committee is the best example. ACES is another great organization. We ought to pay heed to the rational voices within our city.

//inserted by Sharon