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I endorse Mayor John Stromberg for a 2nd term as Mayor of Ashland, OR

by Dr. Rick Kirschner on October 22, 2012

Ballots are in the mail, so if there was ever a time to endorse a candidate, this is it.  There’s one race I’m particularly interested in.  Consider the Ashland, Oregon mayoral race, in which there are three contenders.

1.  We have a self styled anti-zionist revolutionary, ‘Biome’ as he calls himself and describes himself in the voters pamphlet, age unknown (perhaps even to him?), who in spite of our > $1 million city budget and the tremendous amount of work and long hours put in by our Mayor for and on behalf of the city virtually free, considers experience in governance irrelevant.   I give him some credit for stepping up rather than just complaining, but I can’t take his candidacy seriously because he seems remarkably ignorant of the workings of government, and the last thing we need is someone who polarizes our community by being both anti-zionist ( a position which I find emotional, ludicrous, and pitifully racist) and pro-revolution (whatever that means to him, I’m for evolution, not revolution, and working within the rules instead of attempting to tear them down and replace them with God knows what).  Biome went in front of the local Rotary in a Mayoral candidate discussion, and proceeded to go on a rant about dismantling Israel.  He succeeded in getting people to be against him rather than for another candidate.  Now when I see his picture, or hear his name, I’m left with the word ‘idiot’ bouncing around in my brain.  Clearly, this candidate’s mental elevator doesn’t make it to the top of the building, and any support he has is unlikely to be registered to vote.  And that’s a good thing!

2.  Then there’s the crusty and compromised Alan DeBoer, whose business alliances are likely to trump community allegiance.

I don’t think Alan is a bad guy.  He has contributed much to the community, in both time and money, and been a part of several worthwhile community endeavors.   I just don’t trust him with decisions that effect our environment (watershed, GMOs, water supply, etc.) or making other sustainable choices.

I also don’t buy that a businessman’s approach is the best approach to governance.  Too much short term thinking.  Positions Alan has taken in this election give me the impression that he’s more interested in expedient short term answers to complex problems than he is in the future quality of life here in the Rogue Valley.

3.  And then there’s our current Mayor John Stromberg.  John is practical minded (having already saved the town much pain and financial suffering while shepherding us through this recession), consistent in his values, inclusive towards our citizens, respectful in council, focused on sustainable choices for the whole community.   He’s personable too.  And while John keeps some things close to the vest, like his actual feelings on decisions already made by the council under his leadership, he rightly has the good sense to support the work of his council rather than grandstanding or playing for political advantage.

John has run a good clean campaign, he has a great skill set and experience, and offers the city wisdom, communication skill and leadership of the council.  While his campaign is about as plain-Jane as can be, and while his understated style fails verbally to make a strong case for re-election, nevertheless, his track record as Mayor tells us everything we really need to know about who he is, why he seeks a second term, and how he goes about fulfilling his responsibilities in this role.

In my view, the choice is clear.  We are well served by our Mayor, and  John Stromberg has my unhesitating support.  I do not intend to endorse any other candidate for local government, and am still deciding for myself who can best serve the city.  We have a lot of great candidates, a few odd ones, and a couple of absolutely nots!

I will say what I’m looking for in council candidates.  You may recall that I once worked with the City Council to develop more respect and a better process.  I don’t want the city to lose what gains we made.

I think what’s needed from any councilor is a commitment to working with all other councilors to produce decisions representative of the widest swath of our community’s interests; to do their best thinking together in discussion, and then vote.  If no proposal gains a majority, that’s the end of it for the moment, it becomes a persuasion opportunity at a future moment.  If there is a majority, even if it excludes some interests and favors others, the majority represents the will of the community, because the community created the council.
I think you have to make trade offs to serve in governance, because nobody gets everything they want all the time.  I will also add that bad intent doesn’t drive behavior, good intent does.  People may do stupid things while in public office, but they do it for what they think are good reasons.  Speaking to and appealing to those reasons is often how we find compromise and create change in the presence of uncomfortable and intractable problems.
I think that the danger of highly principled people, idealists and single issues focused, can work counter to their own interests, by isolating themselves in protest.  They wind up with no support when they need it, because they never gave support to others.
There are exceptions, times when voting against the majority in protest, has value.  But done too often, it loses all value, and simply creates a frustrating impression of obstinacy.  Thomas Jefferson said that in matters of principle, stand like a rock.  But most of what people decide are matters of principle aren’t really.  They are different criteria and different values applied to the same set of choices.  They can hold value if people place successful governance above other considerations, work to understand and address concerns in a respectful way.  I look for candidates capable of respect, clear thinking, and a willingness to bend and build.
What do you think?   Your comments and feedback are welcome.  Just keep it civil (politics can bring out the worst in people online; let’s commit to keeping our discourse civil.

Be well,

Rick

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