January resignations, appointment of a councilor as mayor left two vacant seats
By Damian Mann for Ashland.news
Two longtime Ashland residents have been selected to fill vacant City Council seats.
Out of 19 candidates, the council Wednesday chose Ashland native Jeff Dahle, who has volunteered on a number of local committees including the budget committee, and Dylan Bloom, who was campaign manager for Councilor Eric Hansen.
“I’m very grateful for the confidence the councilors have placed in me,” said Bloom, who hasn’t run for a political office previously. “I know I wasn’t elected by the people, but I want to be available to all the residents of Ashland.”
Dahle said, “What a talented field of candidates. I had what I felt were wonderful open conversations with the councilors … I realize that we will not solve every single problem on day one, but we’re all working toward bettering the community that we all love.”
Both Bloom and Dahle are stepping into a City Council that has weathered a particularly fractious period.
Former Mayor Julie Akin resigned earlier this year, replaced by Tonya Graham. Bloom takes over Graham’s former council seat and was selected by the council on the fourth round of balloting.
Councilor Shaun Moran also resigned this year, and Dahle was selected as his replacement in the first round of balloting by the council.
Both Dahle and Bloom, who are scheduled to be sworn in on Monday, will run for election in 2024.
Bloom has lived in Ashland since 2005, and Dahle was born here. They both attended Southern Oregon University.
Looking back at his selection, Bloom said he thought his economic situation resonated with other councilors, describing himself as living in one of the most affordable apartments in Ashland with wife and child.
He said he currently works from home, selling go-karts for a living.
“I only get paid when I make a sale,” Bloom said.
The high cost of child care hurts struggling families who are having a difficult time paying the rent, he said.
More and more people who live in Ashland are looking to nearby communities where rents are cheaper, Bloom said.
As the city prepares for the future, Bloom said he hopes more efforts go into providing additional housing, particularly low-income housing.
Bloom addressed a news report indicating he’d received support from a gun-rights group after he helped lead a free-speech effort at SOU a decade ago.
“In hindsight, with a little more maturity than at 20 or 21, I would have figured out it was the conservative Koch brothers who were behind it,” he said.
Bloom was then, in 2014, part of Associated Students of Southern Oregon University and opposed the administration’s new free-speech policy, which restricted demonstrations to an area around Stevenson Union.
An organization named “Students for Concealed Carry” offered legal support to Bloom and others.
“Being naive and young, we accepted it,” he said, only later discovering it was connected to the Koch brothers.
An article in the Mail Tribune at the time quoted Bloom as saying, “Although we are Students for Concealed Carry, the issue we are addressing is free speech and not concealed carry on campus.”
“That said, I will not apologize or be ashamed of standing up for student rights and combating hateful speech anywhere and any time,” Bloom said. Ultimately, the administration reversed its free-speech policy, he said. (To ready Bloom’s full statement, click here.)
“My only regret was that I didn’t research this organization more deeply when agreeing to accept their legal support.”
Bloom said he supports more restrictions on gun ownership.
“I don’t believe in assault weapons — they should be banned,” he said. “They should raise the minimum age to purchase a firearm.”
Dahle, who owns Rogue Aviate, is a pilot and flight instructor, said the city faces a number of issues but he is heartened by the “active, informed and passionate citizenry.”
The city has issues to resolve with its budget, but it also needs to improve economic growth, which has been hard hit by the pandemic, Dahle said.
He said tourism has changed and the city needs to keep pace with those changes as it looks to the future.
Likewise, the city may need to take a look at expanding the urban growth boundary to help inject more economic vitality into the community and attract businesses that will support the local economy, Dahle said.
“We love the community as it is, but we have to adapt,” he said.
Before taking any steps that would change Ashland, Dahle said he’d like to engage in an open dialog with the community.
Dahle said when he first told friends that he was going to make a bid for the council, their response generally was, “‘Why are you doing this?’”
His response was, “Why would you not, if you care so much? I believe I owe it to the community.”
In profiles submitted to the city, Bloom and Dahle addressed the challenges facing the city recently.
“Many of today’s social and economic challenges currently facing municipalities as well as individual households are not unique to Ashland, but rather due in large part to decades of legislative decisions at the federal and state level,” Dahle said. “Unfortunately, adverse outcomes from these policies continue to be manifested and magnified locally.”
Bloom, who describes himself as living paycheck to paycheck, said, “I hear too often from peers how they feel government at all levels is out of touch with the lived realities of young working poor families. I don’t believe that to be the case with you, but maybe in some way I can bridge this perceived divide and bring a new energy to city government.”
Reach writer Damian Mann at email@example.com.