Meet the candidates for Cottage Grove Pt. II — Candidates answer questions


November 2 - The Cottage Grove Area Chamber of Commerce, the Blackberry Pie Society and Cottage Grove 912 Project held a Mayoral and Candidates Forum at the Community Center on Oct.12, with many citizens in attendance to support their candidates in the Nov. 8 General Election. Last week, The Sentinel reported on the candidates’ opening statements.

In this second part are three questions and the candidates’ answers. For full coverage of the forum, including highlights from questions from the audience, visit the chamber’s Facebook page at: https://fb.watch/gtgJKrmFpI/.

1. What skill sets do you believe you possess that would make you an ideal councilor?

Donald Morris: I don't like spending money where we don't have to and my skill set is 40 years of construction. I can walk around the city and I can tell you, point out stuff that's wrong. There's stuff that can be fixed now that won’t cost hardly nothing. It's just community outlets, so let's go, you know, paint that building over there.

Jeff Gowing: I have the skill sets to continue to be the mayor. I think outside the box. I have no problem sitting down with somebody at a pub and having a beer, going to a coffee shop and having a cup of coffee and listening to your concerns. In 2019 I was awarded the mayor's leadership award for the state of Oregon from the mayor's association.

Chalice Savage: I have been sitting as Ward 1 City Councilor since National Women's Day of 2021. I've had the pleasure of learning and growing with the community. I'm proud to say I'm not a politician. I am a mom and a wife and a concerned citizen that just happens to love to help. I want to help, I want to listen, and I really genuinely care about this community.

Chris Holloman: I think it's time for me to give back more to my community. And, I like the idea of the challenge of being on the city council. I'm an individual that kind of questions authority so, I always am asking, “Why?” I'm used to that in the corporate world. If you're going to change an organization, you have to ask those questions. Why? Why do we always do it this way?

Candace Solesbee: I want to get back to the citizens and Cottage Grove and improve their quality of life. I think the taxpayers should expect more transparency in their city government. I believe that city councilors and the mayor should not be afraid to ask the hard questions, even if you feel like you're in the minority. I think the citizens deserve to know the truth on every issue.

Dana Merryday: I have worked a lot of different jobs over my years. Forty plus years of manual labor as a youth, then an educator in the latter part of my career. I’ve always volunteered and volunteered a lot in this community and will work with anyone regardless of political belief for the greater good. And that is what I would like to do, is work together to solve problems.

Mike Fleck: I'm finishing my 16th year as a city councilor so, I certainly have seen and learned a lot in that process. I also was very blessed to be part of The Ford Family Leadership Programs and then become a trainer with them. I think that some of the key pieces I've learned from that are consensus building and compromise. I am always one to try to find that common ground.

Robert Kidder: I just want change. I'm tired of all the naysayers and all this stuff. I'm not a politician. Actually, I have never ran for a political seat in my life. I've always just been the one in the background saying, “Oh well, what happens happens. I'll just go along with it. And finally came up, I'm tired of sitting in the background; now it's time to do something about it.

Darrel Wilson: We're becoming a mini Eugene and we've always been a bedroom community for Eugene. People like to live down here because they don't want to live in Eugene. I have a background of working in chambers, belonging to Eugene and Springfield Chamber, and I was on a beautification committee for downtown Springfield to turn that area of town around.

2. What are the top three priorities that the city council should focus on addressing in the coming year?

Merryday: Certainly the homeless solution which was going to take a multifaceted approach; it's not one size fits all. There are transitional folks that need just a little help, they had a financial crisis they fell out of housing, and they can get right back in. There are people with addiction problems. There are people with mental health problems, there's people that just lack affordable housing.

Fleck: We need 69 units a year in the next 20 years to catch up and keep up with our housing shortage. This is across all types of housing, whether it's apartments or single-family dwellings. We can do both the water, wastewater, storm and the streets with the bond that we can't do with gas tax dollars. Then, I would just say working on the business community, tourism, etcetera.

Kidder: Homeless is the one that needed to be taken care of, most immediately. That seems to be the biggest problem. And the waterways, of course. And then, our streets. I mean, our streets are horrible. My biggest thing is [homeless] are going to get hit because you can't see them and they're all over, and unfortunately, they don't pay attention to the cars. 

Wilson: Identifying the root cause of why the homeless are being attracted to our area. They seem to be migrating south from Eugene. I have seen the effects of the homeless in an area I work, right near Jefferson Street Bridge. Roads are an issue that we need to look at, obviously, the wastewater and sewage treatment. Protecting our water rights is a huge one as well.

Morris: Our infrastructure is, to me, the most important. The homeless is an issue as well. You know, I think we need more outreach from the community. Government I don't believe should be in the homeless business, I really don't. I think it should be us. We should be the one taking care of it. We did it for years and then, we're getting kicked out of that and now, here we are.

Gowing: Homelessness is an issue that we need to deal with. Rent moratoriums went up, 20 more people got evicted, so they became homeless. That is a hot issue. Roads and infrastructure, I combine that as one issue because when you tear up the road, you want to fix what's underneath it, so you're doing it once, not twice. And then, equitable housing.

Savage: I think housing is a huge issue here, but I'm going to look at this in a 20-year plan. What we are doing today is setting the precedents for what our kids are going to be working with. I think there's multiple levels of infrastructure, both roads and waterways, but I think that the city also provides social infrastructure such as our library. That's really important.

Holloman: The most pressing problem with most of the citizens that live especially near the core of downtown Cottage Grove, is the homeless situation. I mean, if we built a thousand units, they would be filled immediately. Humans are migratory species. There's a reason that homeless people live on the Pacific Coast, because it's easy to live here and you can survive.

Solesbee: Fiscal responsibility is number one to me. Most experts say we are heading into a recession and possibly even a depression. I'm worried about our seniors that are on fixed incomes. I'm worried about the families that are barely scraping by and so, I want to see our city really fiscally responsible. Also, I would say, definitely the homeless situation, of course.

3. What guidance should the council give the city manager in selecting our next police chief?

Wilson: I would absolutely love to find out what our police chief was being investigated for and why he chose to resign. There was a complete lack of any information given to the public as to what was going on, as far as direction of the council to the city manager. With law enforcement, experience is key. Doing the proper vetting and interview process to find somebody qualified.

Morris: I'm with Mr. Wilson, we need to do the vetting process. We need background checks. Let's see where he's been, let's see what he's done, let’s you know, let’s go back to his previous employers. And, let's just check him out real good, let’s see what he’s really all about.

Gowing: As far as the department head, that's up to the city manager, we don't get involved. When the community development and the public works director retired, we didn't go tell him who to hire — it's the same level of position within the city rank. It's not our position to go in there. We could say what we want with our policies but, it's up to him to find that person.

Savage: I would like to create a policy where we have better education for mental health and our police system. It is very frightening to be in a position where you don't know who's going to be responding to my child's crisis. Is this person educated in knowing how to handle this situation? It makes me thrilled that we're talking about a CAHOOTS style program here in the town.

Holloman: Well, I firmly believe that the city council should not only choose the judge but, also the chief law enforcement officer. The city council can change that either by ordinance rule or changing the city charter. It can be done and the hired management should not be in charge of law enforcement. It's too important and needs to be by the people's representatives.

Solesbee: We need to get this position filled; our police don't know who to follow. We need to build our department back. I've always felt that we're losing our police to bigger, better paying departments. Once we train them really well and invest in their training, we want to keep them here. Even evaluations need to be every single year and as I understand, that's not happening.

Merryday: Moving on for a better paying position is one thing that we will continue to face unless we can increase their salaries. Providing body cams would provide safety to both the officer and to the persons they interact with. It's hard to argue with tape. Recruiting someone that has experience and community policing models, get out to know the people of the small town.

Fleck: The city manager would be the one to actually hire and I do think that the council can provide guidance. We do want community police; saying we do want somebody who has the expertise necessary to run our department. So, I think those are things we can convey as a policy to the city manager. I believe it would take a charter amendment to change that.

Kidder: I kind of agree/disagree type of deal. I say yeah, the city manager could hire him but, i think the city council should have a say. We should be able to interview the incoming chief of police as well so we know what's going on and we know what to expect. And I agree they need to know how to deal with mental health and the drug issues. So, when they do come across them, they know how to take care of them too instead of just one person knowing.

On the Election

Ballot drop boxes will stay open through Election Day on November 8th. Voters will have several state and local measures and positions to choose from.

Creswell: Incumbent Mayor Dave Stram is running for reelection, challenged by Jane Vincent, a former councilor. Running uncontested for city councilor is Alonzo Costilla.

South Lane County Fire & Rescue 20-338: Shall the district impose $0.47 per $1000 of assessed value for operations for five years beginning Fiscal Year 2023/2024? This measure would renew present local option taxes.

Cottage Grove 20-332: Shall the City of Cottage Grove prohibit psilocybin-related businesses within the city? Approval of this measure would prohibit centers from opening their doors in Cottage Grove.

Creswell 20-339: Shall the City of Creswell prohibit psilocybin-related businesses within the city? Approval of this measure would prohibit centers from opening their doors in Cottage Grove.

Lane County 20-333: a measure to improve parks and natural areas by “levying $0.16 per $1000 assessed property value for five years beginning the 2023/24 fiscal year. This measure may cause property taxes to increase more than 3% while the measure temporarily funds Lane County Parks to improve and invest in parks, trails, water access, water quality and other natural areas.”

Senate District 6: Ashley Pelton (D), a Licensed Master Social Worker and community leader from Cottage Grove, is running against Cedric Hayden (R), a dentist and regional business owner from Lane County. Hayden is currently representing the Oregon House District #6 since 2015, and Peyton is a registered Democrat running as an Independant.

House District 4: Five candidates, including Val Hoyle (D), Jim Howard (C), Michael Beilstein (G), Levi Leatherberry (I), and Alek Skarlatos (R) are running for U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio's open seat.

Statewide: Ballot measures include; Measure 11 right to healthcare, Measure 112 removes slavery as a punishment for a crime, Measure 113 Oregon lawmaker attendance, walkouts and Measure 114 makes changes to firearm ownership and purchase requirements.

And Oregon voters will choose from among five candidates to be the state's next governor: Christine Drazan (R), Betsy Johnson (NP), Tina Kotek (D), R. Leon Noble (L), and Donice Noelle Smith (C).

Lane County residents can contact the Lane County Clerk or visit the county's elections website — lanecounty.org/elections — for additional questions. The Lane County Elections office is at 275 W. 10th Ave. in Eugene.

For additional state information, visit sos.oregon.gov/voting-elections/.

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