Below are the survey answers from Gina DuQuenne and Jessica Kensinger with no comparison.

Position 5:  Candidate – Gina DuQuenne

  1. The City of Ashland pays 12% of Every Employee’s Salary into PERS. The employee pays 0% into PERS.  Yes, I would advocate to reduce the City’s 12% PERS.  Under these circumstances living in a pandemic world many things need to be revisited and re-negotiate and this is one of them.
  2. What is your position regarding the City paying close to 95% of City Employee’s Health Care Premium.  Ditto number one answer.
  3. Would you be in favor of FTE Staff reductions in all departments.  Yes,  am in favor of full time employees reducing their 40 hour week.  However, not necessarily all departments.  Instead of working 5 days a week, work 4 days a week.  Living in a pandemic world sometimes we need to make allowances.  I have been furloughed and, I would not ask anyone to do anything I have not done.
  4. What is your position regarding the critical housing demand for Affordable Housing in Ashland.  I believe that part of the responsibility of the City is to encourage and work with affordable housing developers. Affordable housing developers are eligible to receive tax credits. Also affordable providers can request a property tax exemption from the county as long as they are providing public benefit.  I have been on the Housing and Human Services Commission for the past seven years.  We have done research and  many hours of useful vetting which we have presented to the Council.  I look  forward to the Council  being more hands on with all the commissions. 
  5. Homelessness remains an ongoing issue here in Ashland.  I believe that the City is reluctant to work with the homeless. There have been missed opportunities for the City to collaborate with other groups and allow our homeless people to be stabled and housed.  I would, and I do advocate for the Hardesty property to be rezoned and ask Jobs with Justice to work with groups like La Clinica, Rogue Retreat and with United Way to create a safe, sustainable place for our homeless residents.
  6. Moving Ashland toward an engaged City Council and Citizenry.  I am an engaging person.  Being a City Counselor is being of service to my constituents inside and outside of Council Chamber.  I align myself with the people of Ashland.    

         What kind of LISTENER are you?  I am a very good listener.  When I listen to you I hear your concerns, and together we move toward the solution, and we get things done.

Position 5: Candidate – Jessica Kensinger

  1. 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?
    1. Would you advocate to reduce the City’s 12% PERS expense? YES or NO.  
    2. If so, please provide your rationale for reducing it and to WHAT % would you reduce it?             
    3. How would you re-negotiate the Contract currently mandating the City to pay 12%?
    4. If you would NOT reduce it , please provide your rationale for no reduction.
                 

The City’s ability to attract and retain qualified employees hinges on its ability to stay competitive with total compensation offered by other cities. On the other hand, employer costs associated with PERS, and particularly Tier 1 employees and the escalating unfunded liability, continue to rise – hence the conundrum.

Given that the economic crisis is hitting cities extremely hard, Ashland will have to consider going away from picking up employees’ required 6-percent PERS contribution (the City is required to pay the other 6 percent). However, because the City has several multi-year Union contracts in place, it is not possible to immediately reduce PERS payments to all employees at the same time. (Once Union contracts are approved, the Union would need to agree to re-open the contract for renegotiation, which is unlikely.) Consequently, the City Council would need to direct staff to include a reduction at the time Union contracts are negotiated to the extent that such an action does not jeopardize Ashland’s ability to recruit and fill critically important positions. This process would begin with a Council directive and would play out over the course of 2-3 years during Union contract negotiations.

The upcoming financial forecast for the 2021-23 budget will dictate to what extent the City Council will need to consider a change in approach to PERS payments.

  1. What is your position regarding the City paying close to 95% of City Employee’s Health Care Premium?
    1. Would you advocate to reduce the City’s portion of the Health Care Premium expense?                                      
    2. If so, please provide your rationale for reducing it and to what % would you reduce it?
    3. How would you re-negotiate the Contract currently mandating the City to pay close to 95%?
    4. If you would not reduce it, please provide your rationale for no reduction.              

Same issue as above — the City’s ability to attract and retain qualified staff hinges on its ability to stay competitive in compensation and benefit packages with other cities. The cost of health care benefit packages increases every biennium, and most cities are capping the amounts it will pay toward employee benefit packages. Unfortunately, Ashland will have no choice but to reduce health benefit funding in order to have a balanced budget for FY21-23. And again, the scope of reductions will be a central aspect of Union contract negotiations.

  1. Would you be in favor of FTE Staff reductions in all departments ( while requiring all departments to maintain full services)?
    1. If you recommend reducing FTE positions ( full services maintained), please provide your rationale for such action.                         
    2. Please detail your recommendations for implementing the FTE reductions
    3. If you would not recommend reducing FTE City staff, please provide your rationale.                    
                 

As a result of the longtime investments in infrastructure and core services we’ve made over the past century, the City should approach the financial situation with a scalpel, not a chainsaw. Should the economic situation worsen, laying off employees should be the last resort in addressing a financial shortfall because, after all, having fewer staff reduces the quality of services Ashlanders need or expect.

Before issuing pink slips to City employees and contributing to our community’s already high misery factor and unemployment rate, the City should pursue intermediate steps like furloughs and voluntary retirement incentives in addition to the existing hiring freezes.

The most expensive services provided by the City – Police, Fire, Parks and Public Works – are critically important to any community because they impact all residents in some way. The best question Ashlanders can ask their elected representives is, “How should we invest the resources we have?” And that decision occurs during the budget process.

  1. What is your position regarding the critical housing demand for AFFORDABLE housing in Ashland?
    1. Please detail what you believe is the responsibility of the City to deal with workforce housing & low income housing as well as shelter for the homeless.  
    2. If you don’t believe the City should be responsible for providing support, please explain.
    3. How would YOU advocate for Affordable housing if you were elected to the City Council?
    4. Do you see advocating for Affordable housing impacting the City Budget? Please explain where in the budget can the Council provide more financial support to those organizations that can deal with building and managing affordable housing?

The City’s primary role in providing attainable housing for all citizens is to enact policies, development incentives and tactics that encourage development of the type of housing that is deficient. The City is a facilitator in working with the development community and social service non-profits to build low-income housing and provide transitional housing or services that help keep people in their existing homes.

In terms of available City funding, the Community Development Block Grant should be used to provide more transitional housing opportunities. Marijuana tax proceeds, social service grants, and the General Fund to the greatest extent possible, can help local or area organizations (like OHRA) leverage private, state or federal grants that make a positive difference in the lives of citizens facing challenges.

  1. Homelessness remains an ongoing issue here in Ashland.
    1. In your opinion, how responsible is the City of Ashland for providing support to the homeless population? Please explain.         
    2. What support would you advocate for providing if you were on the City Council? Why?
    3. What support would you consistently object to providing if you were on the Council? Why?

Overall, the City needs to work collaboratively with other cities and especially Jackson County on a Rogue Valley strategy to address homelessness.  Ashland can’t solve the homelessness crisis by itself. Sadly, because of lack of investment by the Federal and State government, the issue has fallen to local governments and counties to address.

The City Council and Mayor should to address the homeless situation by:

  1. Taking a leadership role in developing a unified Rogue Valley regional approach and investment so that no single community has to shoulder more than its fair share of the burden.
  2. Continue the City’s investment in the County’s “Continuum of Care” program and its improving collaboration of social service providers.
  3. Participate in implementing a crisis response program similar to the successful “COHOOTS” model in Eugene/Springfield. These programs help connect people in need with the services
  4. Maximize the City’s allocation of CDBG grant funds to create transitional and low-income housing.
  5. Increase support for Ashland’s own OHRA program.
  6. Find reasonable locations for car camping and “tiny home” villages.
  7. Other strategies to come.
  1. Moving Ashland toward an engaged City Council and Citizenry.
    1. It is not unusual to hear around Ashland that citizens who have engaged with past/present City Councils comment that they have often felt disenfranchised.       
    2. This can be serious problem to constructive cooperation between Citizens & Officials.
    3. The current “ZOOM” style CC meetings increases this sense of citizen dis-engagement as the public can no long present their comments ‘real time’ to the Council.
    4. How would your presence on the City Council improve citizen confidence and engagement with the CC?
    5. Finally: “What kind of LISTENER are you”?

These are difficult, transformative times for Ashland as decades-old industries clash with the challenges of a new millennium. To maintain our distinctive culture while remaining a vibrant, dynamic community requires a leader who will listen to her constituents, learn about the specific challenges facing individuals, and vigorously pursue policies that embrace new ideas while also respecting the distinct history of the town.

Fresh minds are a key component in creating sustainable communities that develop into the future. I will work hard to get more citizens involved in both the political process and the dynamics of their local neighborhoods. Modern technologies provide new opportunities for connection and feedback beyond what is currently used in Ashland.  I have been a pioneer in using the internet and social media to help foster community and interpersonal communication, and in a fair, theatrical, and monetizable way. I am committed to continuing those efforts, providing an open and accessible door at city hall, and building capital for the benefit of community stakeholders. 

(I am the kind of listener that records, transcribes, and keeps coming back.)

//inserted by Sharon