Newcomer Hansen embraces pragmatic agenda for council

Ashland City Hall. Bob Palermini photo/palermini.com
December 1, 2022

Proposes moving up meeting times to late afternoons

By Stephen Floyd, Ashland.news

Local businessman Eric Hansen wants to lead with a pragmatic approach when sworn into the Ashland City Council in January.

Hansen won the Nov. 8 election with 60.4 percent of the vote, compared to 39.4 percent for opponent Jim Falkenstein.

Eric Hansen speaks during an Ashland Chamber of Commerce forum recorded in September 2022.

Hansen, owner and CEO of True South Solar, said he wants to begin his term with a push to reschedule regular council meetings for a more accessible timeslot.

“First off: let’s schedule City Council meetings for afternoon hours, not evening hours,” Hansen told Ashland.News. “Staff and community often have to stay to 8:30 p.m. to report to council. I don’t think that’s fair and we’ll get better participation if we hold them closer to 4 to 7:30 p.m. Same for council’s Monday study sessions.”

Hansen said, after this straightforward priority, he would like to start addressing issues related to long-term planning, strategizing, setting goals and addressing the city budget.

Hansen campaigned on a platform of economic and ecological sustainability and vitality, citing his experience as a business owner and as a board member of the Ashland Chamber of Commerce. He thanked voters for supporting his vision of the city, and said he is ready to act on the many concerns voters raised during the campaign.

“I hear what you want and need,” said Hansen. “I’m ready to get to work!”

To Falkenstein, Hansen said he was grateful for his opponent’s contributions during the race.

“Thanks for running for City Council, and all the hard work for your love of Ashland,” said Hansen.

Falkenstein, a local political vlogger (video blogger) and digital media instructor with Southern Oregon University, congratulated Hansen on a race well-run, and told Ashland.News he planned to support his opponent once Hansen takes office.

“I hope (Hansen) does his best for the city,” said Falkenstein. “I know he will, and I will support him in all matters that involve making Ashland a better place.”

Falkenstein said he wasn’t necessarily surprised Hansen won, but instead was surprised by the fact that all three candidates who won their city council races had similar outcomes, with the victor claiming around 60 percent of votes. Falkenstein said this was unusual given how different each candidate was and the different platforms they campaigned on, and was evidence perhaps of deep political divisions within the city.

Jim Falkenstein speaks during an Ashland Chamber of Commerce forum recorded in September 2022.

“It didn’t matter about specific policies or ideas or presentations or personalities,” he said. “If you kind of like the mayor, you’re on one side, and if you mostly don’t agree with the mayor, you’re on the other side, and that’s the way people seem to vote.”

To his supporters, Falkenstein said he hopes he “did them proud” and plans to continue pursuing the issues central to his campaign, including housing costs and homelessness. He said he is reaching out to nonprofit groups to become more involved.

But after his experience running for council, Falkenstein said he is ready to stay in the private sector rather than seek public office in the future. He said the recent election reinforced what he had suspected about Ashland’s cliquish politics while attempting to become involved in local committees and commissions in the past.

“The city just divides people into groups, and they assign you your place in the group, and that’s the end of people’s curiosity about you or your ideas,” he said.

Falkenstein said he feels positive about not being beholden to an in-crowd, and this will free him to pursue community involvement at his own pace in the future.

“My value is not appreciated by the city powers that be, so I shall have to engage outside of the traditional city powers,” he said.

Email Ashland.news reporter Stephen Floyd at sfloydmedia@gmail.com.

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Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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