I recently came across a negative television ad my opponent approved and paid for against me. The hit piece, using grainy pictures and stock footage of some council somewhere other than Ashland, used two events that happened during my four years as Mayor of Ashland, to suggest I’m in the pocket of developers.
The first assertion said I encouraged a controversial development in downtown Ashland that both the community and City Council opposed. The fine print indicates the referenced development was the Bemis proposal across from the post office. First, I want to say: Guilty. I did support this mixed-use proposal that offered affordable housing upstairs and shopping down. I believe this is what we should be doing—offering affordable housing close to population centers, not in the outskirts of our communities where we consign families to drive to reach shopping, schools, recreation, work and real food. Interestingly enough, I never cast a vote for this project and as mayor, held little sway over land use or council policy decisions.
While we’re here, let me say there are many benefits for offering living above commerce in areas zoned for commercial use. First, it cuts taxes by minimizing both fire and police demands—after all, there is always a presence of people that can keep a watchful eye. Second, land zoned for business provides more property tax revenues while using less public resources such as fire, police, and schools. Single family residential breaks even and multi-family is subsidized.
If we want to keep taxes down and provide affordable housing where it helps people the most then we should do that where infrastructure already exists: in our downtowns as a mixed-use development.
The second example was that I used political influence to try to build a private golf course. Let’s be clear here: The proposal was for the Billings Farm and the private party was John Billings. Like me, Mayor Cathy Shaw worked for years to get his property over to the city in order to keep it out of development and green-belt the northern edge of Ashland.
By the time the proposal came to my desk, there was hope to exchange his water rights for what DEQ wanted out of the creek from Ashland’s Wastewater Treatment Plant. If a deal could be struck with John Billings, Ashland taxpayers would have saved $31 million dollars in the treatment plant upgrade and would have forever locked that land under the protection of the Ashland Parks Department. Sounded like a good deal.
Although the television ad shows some nice vistas, those are not of the Billings property or of Ashland. And more important, there was never a discussion to infringe on environmentally sensitive areas.
Tonia, in the spirit of Dr. Bates, don’t let your Portland advisors lead you down this path. Let’s stick to the issues and keep one campaign in America free from mudslinging.