The Candidates were asked: If elected to the Jacksonville City Council, what do you hope to accomplish over the next four years?
Steve Casaleggio – Candidate for City Council
To introduce: I’m Steve Casaleggio, candidate for City Councilor. My wife Susan and I made our commitment to Jacksonville by building our home here in 2005. We both became Boosters, with Susan joining the Garden Club. I’ve served as Boosters’ Board member, President and Project Committee co-chair, on the City Transient Lodging Tax Committee and, currently chair the City’s Parks, Recreation and Visitors’ Services Committee. Apart from that, I have been hands-on in numerous volunteer projects, including Peter Britt Gardens, trails’ bridge building and, now, the Beekman Arboretum restoration.
The next four years offer challenges and great opportunities, but first, the “housekeeping” chores. As a retired attorney, who specialized in municipal finance, I hope to see to the much-needed updating of the City’s Comprehensive Master Plan. I also hope to accomplish the completion and enactment of the City’s Planning Code. Finally, I would hope to bring about the successful consideration of our Urban Growth Boundary issues. These all are critical for compliance with state law, cooperation with neighboring governments and crucial for control of future development.
I also appreciate the significant financial challenges facing the City, including assured funding for police and fire services. I pledge to work to resolve them in a fiscally responsible way, consistent with Jacksonville’s historic nature and our residents’ needs and expectations.
On the project front, I hope to see the completion of the second floor of our historic Courthouse-City Hall as a space available for all manner of public meetings and public and private events. I propose that the needed work be financed primarily by private grants and donations. With this new space available for Council meetings, Old City Hall could become a museum devoted exclusively to Jacksonville’s history, with permanent and rotating exhibits.
While the City offers a fine array of parks, I hope to see the improvement of heavily used Doc Griffin Park with a new picnic shelter and additional landscaping to screen the Main Street extension/parking project. Our Forest Park has been much improved and hosts an ever-increasing number of visitors. The creation of an ADA-accessible picnic area would significantly enhance this park as a valuable City asset.
With the election of the Councilor candidates and the re-election of our experienced and trustworthy Mayor, Paul Becker, who will assure continued competent and strong leadership, I am confident that these hopes of mine can be accomplished in the next four years.
City Councilor Criss Garcia – Incumbent
I strongly believe that politics work best at the local level and that government should be transparent and accountable to us as citizens. If reelected I will continue to work on finding pragmatic and objective solutions that will serve the unique interests and character of our community into the future.
As an incumbent I should be judged by my accomplishments and conduct over the last four years on the City Council:
Institution of City Hall at a Refurbished Historic County Courthouse—Today the courthouse is a vibrant center of our community with a seasonal Farmers Market, Art Presence and a home for lawn concerts.
Twenty Year Water Plan, Securing Lost Creek Water Rights—Securing rights to an additional 200 acre feet and development of the delivery system that supports these rights has set Jacksonville on a path to water security through the next two decades.
A Revitalized Planning Department—A cooperative and partnership approach with the public has been adopted to help projects meet their administrative and commission review criteria on the first submission.
Buildable Lands Inventory Analysis & UGB Expansion Study—The next Council will need to address the key questions of how Jacksonville can grow while maintaining the unique charm and character that draws and keeps us here as town residents.
Code Revision—The decisions made and how these decisions are implemented will direct the growth and character of Jacksonville for the next generation.
Continued Collaboration with Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce and Business Association—Council has shown support and encouragement for a now combined Chamber and JOBA by granting flexibility in operating agreements to increase visitor awareness of local businesses.
A Foundation for a Community Center—The City Council adjusted property lines and signed a dollar a year lease for fifty years providing a stable foundation for their fundraising efforts.
Partnership with Jacksonville Historic, LLC—I often look to this partnership as an excellent example of how volunteer groups and the City can work together for a common cause.
A Renewed Britt Festivals—Any small town would consider themselves very blessed to have a diverse and thriving cultural institution like Britt Festivals located with in their borders.
A Home for Art Presence—The success of the Art Presence cooperative directly reflects the extraordinary talent and passion our regional artists possess.
A Plan for Forest Park—As liaison to the Parks Committee I have admired Chairman Steve Casaleggio and the committee’s work developing a long range plan for Jacksonville’s Forest Park.
Jacksonville Reservoir Dam Removal—This was a win all around, another great success of this project was that thanks to careful planning the removal (at $75,000) was less than one tenth of the original estimated cost!
City Charter—The updated Charter has had extensive legal review and represents a much needed and timely update to Jacksonville’s foundational municipal document.
Information Technology Services Plan—This initiative is breaking new ground and demonstrating the council’s capacity for process feedback and financial accountability.
These are areas of special concern and deep personal connection for me that I have worked for and reported on during my tenure on the council.
A bike and walking path to Bear Creek Greenway—I have a commitment to forming a bicycle and pedestrian pathway that would connect our community to the our larger Rogue Valley network of paths and trails.
Pilot Recycling Program—This year I was thrilled to help bring a recycling pilot program to Doc Griffin Park for our visitors as well.
Bee Advocacy—I will continue to engage and educate around how Jacksonville can incorporate bee friendly community practices.
A Dog Park—Jacksonville needs a dog park! I hope in the near future we can find a parcel either through a public/private partnership where pet owners could gather and let our pooches socialize and play together.
The Next Four Years…
What are the big issues in store for the next four years? The number one issue that I see facing the City of Jacksonville is how we will balance the funding of emergency services as a community.
A couple years ago our City Council made a very difficult decision to fund 24 hour a day fire protection in Jacksonville. This required a third shift be added to the firehouse rotation and within their schedule that required extra staff be added to support the demands being made. This decision has resulted in our budget being short pretty much exactly that amount.
We could go back to the old rotation and balance the budget but we cannot ignore the evidence that lives and property have been saved as a direct result of having 24 hour protection. I cannot within my conscience put the lives and property of my neighbors at risk idly without developing some key alternatives.
At our very well attended town hall in March we saw what would seem to be a logical and sustainable way to keep the current level of fire service we enjoy today and eliminate the utility bill surcharge at the same time.
We could exchange the $31 a month surcharge for a fire district levy of $2.35 per thousand. Doing just that would close the funding gap that the third shift presents today and provide a stable funding source for the fire department. It seems only logical that property taxes should be the place for this public safety expense and not the utility bill.
As a fellow citizen of Jacksonville, I am asking for your vote of confidence to serve as your City Councilor over the next four years on the basis that we have a common vision. A vision for our town with a historic courthouse at its heart and as a community that values arts, culture and public service.
I welcome your thoughts and ideas, please send them by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
City Councilor David Jesser – Incumbent
Jacksonville is a very special place to live. As we look toward the next four years, it seems to me that we should first look at our recent history and see where we have come over the last 10 years, the length of time that I have been so fortunate to have served Jacksonville’s citizenry as both an appointed as well as an elected civil servant. Let’s go over just a few items. 1.) We have just recently completed the dam removal project which will now allow heavy rains to be safely diverted downstream. This had been an overhanging need that had early cost estimates of $500,000-$800,000, yet was completed at a cost of less than $100,000. 2.) Our city offices have been successfully moved into the Historic Courthouse and this was accomplished well under-budget utilizing available funds from our urban renewal program. That meant we utilized existing tax dollars or, may I reiterate, no new taxes were needed to complete this historic project. Now that we have moved our city offices into the courthouse, it has enabled us to sell the Miller House, our former city hall, and free up $380,000 for other capital investment needs as they arise. Sounds like good math to me. Particularly as it helped us achieve one of our most important goals here in Jacksonville, Historic Preservation. 3.) Something else we should all be thankful for is that we have been able to continue to fund our city and public safety operations with only a very modest rise in revenues. 4.) We have reviewed and approved a water master plan that will help ensure that our long term needs are met. 5.) We are at the tail end of a 3 year effort to revise our older codes to more reflect our present day needs, while honoring the vision in our comprehensive plan.
Now for the look forward. It is my belief that it is important to remember who we serve and what our role is as a city councilor. This is a democratic republic we live in, which means we serve you, Jane and John Q. Public. It means we are entrusted to be honest, trustworthy, thoughtful and objective. Our first and foremost responsibility is a fiscal one, to be budgeters, to gain a deep understanding of municipal accounting and to be held accountable. As our city’s personnel costs continue to increase, our ability to provide the services becomes increasingly difficult. I hope to ensure that we have a substantially well-thought-out plan that can move us from implementing band-aid solutions to our budgetary needs, to a solution that is more long term.
Another subject of concern for me is growth. Our community is a small town and I want it to maintain its character as the natural forces of change move us forward. It would please me to look back 4 years from now and see that we did not grow too fast and that we honored our slow and managed growth mandate of 1.25 percent. This number was determined as a goal by our planning commission approximately 10 years ago when the likes of Chairman Jerry Ferronato, Bill Leep, Dave Britt, Howard Johnson, Roger Thom and others sat on the planning commission. Much work was done coming to that number as we worked to ensure that growth would not be mismanaged, that we would protect the things that make Jacksonville special and honor our comprehensive plan.
Finishing things that we started is another one of my goals. Complete the necessary makeover of our planning codes and our city charter, as well as the update of our comprehensive plan. I say this as it becomes difficult to efficiently operate when we have outdated and confusing documents. With great effort and much citizen input, the 3 year trek of producing workable and clear codes is coming closer to being a reality. For those who did not participate in the CACs, town hall meetings or other forms of citizen input to get to the point we are today, I encourage you to attend any of the public hearings that will be part of the final leg of this journey to ensure that your voices are heard.
I get a great sense of accomplishment as I watch our city staff execute the policies that we craft and vote on at city council. Micro-Management is not one of our responsibilities. Actually it is outside of the parameters of the defined roles that we play as elected officials. We should be cautious to bring no undue influence onto our staff. We have been very fortunate over the last 6 years to have a thoughtful council and an effective Mayor who understands this and doesn’t get in the way of city operations. Another one of my goals is to ensure that staff time is not being wasted and to make sure that their work environment is one where good policy decisions can be turned into results due to their efforts.
With all that being said, my most important accomplishment will be to ensure Jacksonville is in a strong position moving forward. I am grateful to be living in a Small Town with Big Atmosphere.