That depends on whether we persist in ineffective government processes used today, or adopt empowered democracy as the basis for city government.
Plan A. If we use council to rubber-stamp staff recommendations, as some candidates propose, we’ll recreate the AFN scenario. Without the majority ballot our charter required, city embarked on a massive new infrastructure project for a fiber optic network. City told taxpayers it would cost $4 million and make a lot of money (in network fees). Instead it cost $9 million, and city government lost another $6 million trying to operate it. City borrowed $15 million, and now Ashland is saddled with a $23 million debt over 20 years. That’s a generation of $8 million of taxes exported as interest to bankers and bondholders that could have funded local buses, neighborhood organization, small business support, water sustainability, and dozens of other taxpayer-desired programs.
Plan B. If we choose empowered democracy, the scenario will unfold into sustainability. We’ll avoid multi-million fiascoes and prevent the Vallejo, California scenario, where mortgage defaults and rising city costs led council to declare bankruptcy.
Ashland has the people, the mountains and water, the trees and land, the climate, heritage, and passion to lead the way into sustainability. We have businesses to build a localization economy, compactness required for alternative transportation, a critical mass of professionals in green businesses, financial resources for local investments, a creative arts and performance community, and the passion to build a truly great city.
If we choose the empowered democracy that Thomas Jefferson dreamed and America’s founders anticipated, Ashland will lead into a sustainable future.
The people of Ashland, increasingly aware of the need, have the experience and wisdom to transform city government.
I’m teaching a class this fall on the Citizen’s role in Ashland government. 100 years ago, the people of Oregon designed and passed at ballot, a system of self-government that historians consider to be the most advanced system of democracy ever invented — the Oregon System. The Oregon System has been adopted by 27 states.
Ashland is a Home Rule city. That means Citizens, not council or mayor, have ultimate decision authority.
In Ashland, you are sovereign.
Because of wise generations before us, Ashlanders have full legal power to govern themselves directly at the ballot, or indirectly through representatives. We have all the legal and professional tools we need to build a government on the majority will and common wisdom.
With your votes, and your wisdom, running the government, we’ll realize the promise and benefits of full democracy, and achieve Ashland’s potential as a great American city, transitioning our community into the extraordinary era of sustainable abundance.