Ashland Mayor Akins delivers her annual address, calls for equity, addressing climate change
By Holly Dillemuth, Ashland.news
The average price of a one-bedroom rental in Ashland is more than $1,500 per month.
That leaves a mother of two children with an annual average income of $29,658 per year in a real bind to cover all of her expenses every month, according to Julie Akins, mayor of Ashland. The example was one Akins pointed to in her annual “State of the City” address to Ashland City Council members and the public via a virtual platform on Tuesday evening.
“Our work is clear: We must solve for that problem,” Akins said during the address. “Housing is critical …. We must house that young mother, that average Ashland household,” she continued later in her speech. “Family housing, workforce housing is what we need. We do not need more condos priced in the $400,000 range — it’s with respect that I say — we need to diversify how we build and for whom we build, too.”
Akins laid out examples of the city’s plans to help solve their housing woes, including the concept of building above Hargadine Parking Garage.
Columbia Care is also building housing on Ashland Street for those living below the poverty line, Akins said. Jackson County Housing Authority recently opened the second phase of family housing off Clay Street.
“We need housing and we need jobs,” she said. “In that order.”
Job growth in Ashland is down 2.6%, Akins said, and the city’s population is not growing.
The city’s population of individuals aged 65 or older is now at more than 26%.
“This is not a trend with the future in mind,” she said. “We need to diversify our sources of income. We need to manage our budget as well. A thriving economy is good for everyone. So is facing where we are and doing what needs to be done.”
Akins also called for strengthening individual efforts toward combatting Climate Change, and looking at solar solutions as viable options.
“Saving our world is a job for all of us,” Akins said.
Akins praised the city for creating a mapping system for evacuation and its Wildfire Safety Division working to help homeowners safeguard their homes from wildfire.
In December, Ashland Fire & Rescue’s Wildfire Division received final signatures on a $3 million FEMA Pre-Disaster Mitigation grant to fund reduction of flammable vegetation around 1,100 homes and replacement of wood shake roofing with fire resistant material, Akins noted.
She emphasized the need to make Ashland a place where young families could raise their children with the possibility that they could grow up to be the next generation of Ashland residents.
Akins called for more to be done to address racism in Ashland, referencing specifically the death of Aidan Ellison, a former Ashland High School student. A mural has been set up at AHS in his memory.
“His face along with along with those of agents of change in our community remind us of the work yet to be done,” Akins said.
Akins said she has spoken directly with a person of color in Ashland who told her he has experienced more racism here than anywhere in the Rogue Valley.
“Let’s be honest,” Akins said. “This is not the work of Black, Indigenous people of color, this is the work of white Ashland. If it was up to our Black and brown neighbors, racism would have been solved. But there remains hope.”
Akins said forming the Social Equity and Racial Justice Commission is not performative but an intentional step toward living up to the aspiration of equity and justice.
She also addressed the divisions present throughout the country that many have also experienced locally due to many factors in 2021.
“Community is the cure to the wounds we have all witnessed and experienced in this past year,” she said. “For the first time in our lives, we have heard the question of whether America, this great nation, can survive. As it is across our country, so it is in Ashland.”