At least two new councilors will be elected Tuesday
By Stephen Floyd, Ashland.news
As national elections could reshape the political landscape of the country this Tuesday, local city races could reshape Ashland’s political landscape.
Three of six seats on the Ashland City Council are open, with only one incumbent seeking re-election. The remaining five candidates are newcomers to elected city office and represent backgrounds as diverse as engineering, entrepreneurship and live media.
Incumbent Tonya Graham has been challenged by political newcomer Joy Fate.
Graham is a climate change activist who seeks public policy reform as executive director of the nonprofit Geos Institute. She wants to continue efforts by the City Council that she says will strengthen Ashland and help the city recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and recent wildfires.
Fate is a retired administrator and broadcaster for On-Air Media, a local media production company, with recent experience on the Ashland Housing and Human Services Commission. She believes the city is hampering its own recovery with excessive development fees and business taxes and wants to see those reversed.
Jill Franko and Bob Kaplan are vying for the seat currently held by outgoing Councilor Stefani Seffinger.
Community organizer Franko’s background is in health and wellness financing, including as a consultant for the Marsh McLennan Agency and Barney & Barney Insurance Agency. She has been a board member with Youth Employment Services and currently serves on the Ashland School District board, where she says vision-casting and the pursuit of ambitious goals has helped the district succeed, and she hopes to bring this to the city council.
Kaplan spent three decades working in Latin America and the Caribbean on economic and community development and environmental policies and programs, including six years as president of the Inter-American Foundation and 16 years as an executive at the Inter-American Development Bank. He serves on the Ashland Climate Policy Commission and Ashland Citizens Budget Committee. He said the city needs to prioritize livability and cost of living, particularly with the impacts of inflation.
Jim Falkenstein and Eric Hansen are running for the seat held by outgoing Councilor Stephen Jensen.
Falkenstein is a digital media instructor with Southern Oregon University and is host of “Ashland 5 Minute Meeting,” a video blog summarizing council meeting highlights. He said addressing the housing crisis in Ashland would help residents build a stronger sense of community, and the city could see projects through to completion if they focus on shovel-ready funding applications.
Hansen is owner and CEO of True South Solar and a member of the Ashland Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. He wants to see more investments in the parks and trails in and near Ashland and said an economic diversity study recently completed by the chamber has presented strong next steps for the city and community to follow.