Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Yachats Gazette, October 22 2012

Interview with Yachats Mayoral Candidate 2012: Ron Brean 

TYG: Why do you want to be mayor?
Ron: Well you know, I spent all of my adult life in public service. I was a park ranger in California and I worked there for a long time, and I became the person in charge of California’s entire park system by the end of my career. And what that means is I had not only responsibility for all the natural resources and the cultural resources, but I was the chief of law enforcement: we had 700 peace officers, and our facilities included such things as water systems and sewer systems and roads, all the things that make a small city. So all those responsibilities are very similar to what someone who runs a city has to do, and in the case of a small town like ours, the mayor has a lot of hands-on responsibility for that sort of thing. So when I came to town, being a park ranger, I volunteered for the Parks and Commons Commission. And I did that for a while, and then people began to understand what my career really meant in terms of how it could benefit the city, and I kind of got talked into running for Mayor.

TYG: By whom?
Ron: Well, by a number of people [...]. Having gotten into doing that, what it does is it gives me a chance to use some of the skills that I’ve learned over the years to help the town that I live in and the town that I love. So, that’s why I want to be Mayor, because I think I’m doing good work and moving the city in the right direction.

TYG: I see. How long have you lived in Yachats?
Ron: Eight years.

TYG: What is your professional background?
Ron: I was a park ranger!

TYG: And I’m guessing your background in government is the same thing?
Ron: That’s right—a little bit more than that though. I started out as a field ranger, and I was doing all of the things that rangers do: boat patrol and cliff rescue and back country horse patrol and all of those kinds of things [...] and in doing those things you got to help a lot people. I saved people from drowning, I saved people from being lost in the woods, and I saved people from hanging off cliffs by their fingernails. So, I got to help people, and that was a good thing. But I was actually pretty good at it, and as a result, I kept promoting. And each time I promoted I could contribute at a higher level and a broader level, and serve more people. So eventually, I got to be a district superintendent, and then finally a deputy director for the department.

TYG: And that’s a big deal! And was this just for one part of California or the whole of California?
Ron: The entire state. [...] 278 park units, 2 million acres, 2500+ employees. And in the summertime we doubled that with seasonal help, and we served about 80 million visitors. So while I was doing that, I wound up also serving on the Delta Protection Commission, which was a commission established in California to help take care of California’s San Joaquin and Sacramento River deltas.

TYG: What policies would you like to enact, as mayor?
Ron: What I’ve done as mayor so far, is established kind of an arena where I and the Council are looking forward and anticipating what’s coming our way so that we can be ready for them when they get here. We went through a vision process, where we established the city’s [...] see that thing on the wall up there? The vision statement? That banner up there?

TYG: Yeah, the one that says “Our village is a place where natural resources are valued and protected”?
Ron: Mm-hmm. So the first thing we did is go through a process to identify what is it that we want our city to look like in the future—what is our vision. And that’s what we came up with. So now we go through that as sort of a litmus test for everything we want to do: anticipating what’s coming our way, what are the changes that are affecting us and so forth, what do we need to do in order to, and getting down to the bottom lines of that, make sure that this village, which is one that has an enduring sense of itself. How do we protect that? People in Yachats love Yachats like it is and they don’t want it to change, but everything changes, right?

TYG: Yes.
Ron: Ok, so how do we ensure that we get past those changes and still have the same character and community that we started out with. That’s what we’re working on.

 TYG: Do you hope to change this town very much, as mayor?
Ron: I hope that the town doesn’t change very much—and let me say something about that. The job of a park ranger is to make sure nothing changes. Parks are set aside to be that way for every generation that comes after. The natural resources are taken care of, the cultural resources, the historical stuff is maintained intact so that each generation can come back and see it. That’s what I was supposed to do, is make sure that nothing changed. But since everything does change, right—then we had to adjust to what was coming our way. There were threats on parks that were coming from people who wanted to build roads through them, there were threats on parks where various invasive species were coming in and trying to take over the natural species, all of those things we had to adjust to. All of the time that I was working for Parks—technology changes every year, right?—so we found ways of getting better and better and faster and faster doing the things we needed to do to make sure that those parks didn’t change. So that’s what I’m trying to do in the City of Yachats. Make sure the character of the city doesn’t change. But as we look forward, we know that we’re going to have water needs that we need to address that we’re not addressing right now. We know that the streets that we have are not always going to last, they’re going to break down, they need to be repaired and replaced. The water lines, the sewer lines [...] we just built a big sewer plant for seven and a half million dollars. There are other things we’re going to have to do. So, we’re looking far enough ahead that we can anticipate those coming and have the money ready to take care of those problems as they arise, rather than having to create new funding systems as we did in the case of the sewer plant.

TYG: Are you for city growth, or against it?
Ron: Growth? I’m neither for nor against city growth. What I know is that we have an urban growth boundary, and that there are buildable lots within that urban growth boundary, and the population of the world is still growing. So those buildable lots will probably be built. And what I want to make sure [is] as they are built, that we make the adjustments in city government so that the quality of life that we have, that character that I talked about, remains intact.

TYG: As mayor, will you plan to install any new civic services, such as a police department, or a school?
Ron: No. I mean, I can say that fairly certainly because I have no control over the schools; we just built a new school, we’re building a new school up in Waldport for the high school. And the students from Yachats go there. This building [the Commons] used to be a school, you know. But the change in [...] do you know the word “demographics”? [...] It means the kind of people that you have—the age of them, and whether they’re going to school, and what kind of jobs they’re doing—the demographics, the whole overlook of the people and what they’re doing. That changed, so that more of the center of the need for education was in Waldport; transportation improved so it was easier to get students to Waldport. So that’s not likely to occur—the demographics for Yachats suggest that it’s going to continue to be a fairly older population and not that many youngsters. There are quite a number of youngsters, but there’s not that many. [...]

As far as the police department, we have a relationship with the Sheriff’s office and they handle our law enforcement, and we’re fortunate enough that we don’t have a great deal of crime here. [...] Now we did, during the time that I’ve been Mayor, we did hire a code enforcement officer to make sure that the city’s regulations were followed.

TYG: Are you for or against the proposed Renewal of the Local Option Tax for the Yachats Fire District? Why do you think it is a good idea, or not?
Ron: The fact of the matter is that the property tax system in our state is a little goofy, and it needs some fixing. The only way that the fire district can maintain what it does for us is to continually re-appropriate those local option taxes. So, I’m for it, and 80% of the voters in Yachats, last time that was on the ballot, voted for it. So it’s very well-liked; it’s a good service that we get from the rural fire protection district.

TYG: Are you for or against the proposed amendment to the Yachats City Charter (which would eliminate the requirement for voter pre-approval of the City’s purchase or sale of real property)? Why do you think it is a good idea, or not?
Ron: I think it’s a good idea, and the reason I think it’s a good idea is that this is the only city in the entire state of Oregon that has that restriction. And the reason no other city has it is because it’s an inefficient way to do business. Every time we have a need to buy property, we will pay more than we should, because we have to telegraph to the seller of the property how much money we have. We have to tell them, “We have X number of dollars and we want to buy your property.” So there’s no bargaining, there’s no negotiation. And the other thing is—there are two other things, actually. One of them is that, if there’s an opportunity to buy a property that solves a problem for the city, we can’t just do it. Someone else is likely to buy it before we get around to putting it on the ballot. And, we currently are facing a potential problem with our watershed. If the trees come off the watershed, that’s going to make it very difficult for us to manage our water supply. The water’s going to come off the watershed faster, so it won’t be there at the end of the season. And that’s when we need it from that source. So, I’m trying to find a way to protect that watershed from that logging. Since the City Council doesn’t have the ability to actually buy property without going to a vote by the public, then I can’t have a seat at the table to negotiate the purchase, even if it’s not my money, the City’s money, that I want to use. Because I want to use Audubon Society’s money, and I want to use OWEB’s money [Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board], and I want to use DEQ’s money [Department of Environmental Quality], and I want to use money from people who want to save the fisheries, habitat—there’s quite a number of folks who want to play a part in protecting that watershed.

TYG: That’s great!
Ron: It is, except that the City has no standing to sit at the table and say “We would be the potential owners at the end of the day.” So we don’t actually necessarily want to own the property. We just want to protect it. But the inability to be a potential owner limits the negotiating that we can do to get that protection in place.

TYG: Are you for or against the proposed Children’s Trust of Lincoln County? Why do you think it is a good idea, or not?
Ron: I have mixed feelings about it. I’m going to vote for it, and the reason I’m going to vote for it is because in part of that messed-up property tax system that I talked about earlier. There is no option available for funding for those kinds of programs now in the existing tax structure, and it’s an important program. Now, having said that, once we pay those taxes to provide those services, I believe it’s actually long-term going to cost us less money, because those children will be taken care of, and services that they won’t need later on aren’t going to have to be paid for by the taxation system, like jails.

TYG: Are you for or against the proposed Permanent Rate Levy for the Formation of an Animal Services District in Lincoln County? Why do you think it is a good idea, or not?
Ron: It’s really the same answer.

TYG: You’re going to vote for it.
Ron: I’m going to vote for it. I’m going to have to vote for it in order to get those services paid for continuously, because there is no taxation system that allows for that to be taken care of in any other way. We have already, in Lincoln County, approved those funds on one of those short-term tax basis deals, and it’s coming to an end. So they have to come back and ask for another local option levy, to continue for another five years. And then five years after that they’d have to do it again, and again, and again.

TYG: So this would make it permanent.
Ron: This would make it permanent. Now, the downside of both of those measures, is that there’s a cap on the amount of property taxes that can be charged, and when you start piling one tax upon another tax you get closer to that. And some places in the state are already bumping their heads on that ceiling: it’s called compression. When that happens, then you start reducing the amount of money that can be tapped, and each of those local option levies will be reduced, and the local citizens actually won’t be able to say “I want to tax myself more money to cover that,”  because they’ll already be bumped up against that top.

TYG Editorial Assistant: Can I ask a clarifying question? So, it sounds to me like you’re saying that, yes, we should do it,  this isn’t the best way to do it, but it’s the only way we’ve got in sight right now?
Ron: Pretty much.

TYG: Are you for or against the proposed county Advisory Vote urging a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision and allow restrictions on corporate and union spending to influence elections? Why do you think it is a good idea, or not?
Ron: I think it’s a good idea, because I don’t think money is a person, [...] nor is it speech. Corporations have lots of money, corporations are not individuals; the Constitution, I think, was fairly clear when it said “government for the people, by the people.” It didn’t say “for the corporations.” Nor do I think that speech, per se, can be embodied in money. So, I think controlling corporate interests, which are not humane, by definition, means that it should be the people making the decisions.

TYG: Is there anything else you would like to discuss?
Ron: [...] In 1998, while I was still working for California State Parks, I was the district superintendent for the largest district the state had at that time. During the time that I was doing that job, I received an award that was given on a state-wide basis for leadership and vision. It was called the
Olmsted Award for Leadership and Vision. [...] Well, I’m big on vision, as I mentioned [regarding] the vision statement. The more you have a sense of what’s lying in front of you, the more you can adjust to deal with the problems before they become problems. And that’s the kind of government that I think we have in place in Yachats now, and I’m going to work real hard to make sure that it continues in that direction.

Note: these interviews have been extensively edited for length and clarity.

Interview with Yachats Mayoral Candidate 2012: Larry Nixon

TYG: Why do you want to be mayor?
Larry: Well, my wife and I and our daughter moved here in 1984, from Alaska. We bought our first piece of property in 1989 in Yachats [...]. I was the oldest of eight farm kids, from Iowa, and my Dad always said, “Get a good education, and then move to the coast.” So once I graduated from college, my wife and I [...] we didn’t make it all the way to the coast right away, we spent a few years in Colorado, [then] Alaska for a two-and-a-half-year project, [and] then we made it on out to Yachats.  [...] I’d always been active in 4-H, as a child ....

TYG: 4-H? What does that mean?
Larry: They have it back in the Midwest. Boys and girls have their own clubs, and it gives you a chance to learn about the way government works—you elect officers, and each meeting you have an agenda [...] it’s just like running a city council meeting! And I was kind of fortunate. I was involved with farm tractors, as a child [...].

TYG: Cool! I bet that was fun!
Larry: You know, they always say you can take the boy out of the country [...]. I have a John Deere tractor in my basement garage, and my wife says she never gets to park the car in the garage [...]. I was fortunate enough to be a state award winner, when I was 17, in the farm tractor program, and then I actually went on to [win] Nationals ....

TYG: What does that mean, the farm tractor program?
Larry: Well, you’re dealing with maintenance, safe operating procedure, applying the right tractor for the task you’re trying to do. It was very broad and general, but it had a lot of important background basic information. It was something that just stuck with me, I enjoyed it.

TYG: I see.
Larry: So—the reason why I told you about the 4-H is because that’s really why I enjoyed the City Council. It’s the same kind of a structured environment, you’re taking problems or issues that are a concern to the neighborhood or to the area, and you’re trying to find a solution, you’re trying to make things work for all the folks that are involved.

TYG: I see. What is your professional background?
Larry: I’m a teacher, for one. I was [teaching] in Colorado, and I had to have a summer job, and I had a friend that did telephone work, telephone cable splicing. And he got me on the crew up in South Dakota, and I made as much in three months, doing that, as I did in nine months teaching school.

TYG: Holy cow!
Larry: And as I always say, it was my calling in life. [...]. My wife would listen to me talking about it at night, [...]and within a year and a half she was doing it with me, and we’ve been working as a husband-and-wife telephone cable splicing team for over 30 years.

TYG: What is your background in government?
Larry: Well, I was telling you about the 4-H, so from 10 years of age until 18, I was very actively involved with that. And once I got to Yachats [...] in March of 1985 I volunteered for a commission—it was the Streets Commission at that time, and now Public Works and Streets are together, as one commission [...] and then I moved up to Planning Commission, and was on some other commissions before I ran for [City] Council. In fact, I think I’ve been on every commission except the Library Committee. Now, what does that mean? I don’t know what that means. [chuckling] I’ve got a very good background, and that was why in 1991, when I ran for City Council, I was ready.   And we were getting ready to do a water bill at that time—we did a water treatment plant, [...] we put new piping in town. So I was involved on the Council at that time.

TYG: I knew that the sewage plant got a beef-up recently [...].
Larry: Well, we were required by the Oregon DEQ [Department of Environmental Quality] [...]. For nine or ten
months of the year, the old plant would process the waste enough that there were no problems. But when we filled the town up in the summer, [and] all the motels and vacation rentals were full, we were over our discharge limits. So they put the conversation to the city that we were going to have to upgrade that. I’m very impressed with what it turned out to be and with the way we funded it. The City of Yachats has always tried to be fiscal about [its financing]. We don’t go trying to spend money we don’t have. That was the way the people that were on the Council, that were on the budget committees, that’s the way they had the town set up and thinking, and once you get into that situation, if the city’s making revenue, you squirrel some of it away, into the budget. Then when things get lean, you can always pull that back out, but you don’t spend every dollar you’ve got.

TYG: What policies would you like to enact, as mayor?
Larry: Well, the mayor does not ... enact. You basically set the agenda for the City Council meetings, but you’re only one of five votes, with the four other Councillors. So to say that I have an agenda, or something that I’m trying to bring in and enact, that’s incorrect.

TYG: Okay. What do you hope to accomplish, as mayor?
Larry: I want to see the city move back to a middle-ground position. As that poster of mine says, “I will listen to and consider input from all sides of an issue.”  [...] Something comes to the City Council, you have people who are wanting to do something on one side, and people on the other side. But the best thing to do is to have everybody present their thoughts, start talking, side to side, take some ideas from this person’s side, take some ideas from this other group’s side, put it together into an ordinance or whatever you need to work with, and no one gets exactly what they want, but everybody buys into the product, and you buy a lot more trust with the community.

TYG: Do you hope to install any new civic services, such as a police department, or a school?
Larry: Well, in ’84, we bought the house across the street from the school here, in about April. And we were excited because our daughter was two and a half years old, and we thought, in a couple of years she’ll be ready to go to kindergarten, and the school was right here across the street, and we were going “All right, this is going to work out good.” Well, that was the summer of ’84, when the Lincoln County School District announced that they were going to close the Yachats school. It still worked out okay because the bus would pick up the kids every day and drop ’em off, so she had the chance to have a conversation every day with the school bus drivers [...]. I’ve been a supporter of the Yachats Youth Program [...] It was just getting started when [...] my daughter was growing up [...].

TYG: [...] Do you hope to change this town very much, as mayor?
Larry: [muses] The town’s changed quite a little bit already! Changing the town [...]. I think the one thing that needs to be changed, and I was involved in this in the early ’90s and we’re still involved with it [...] the Department of Transportation needs to look at—and they are looking at— traffic control through Yachats, undergrounding of utilities along the Highway 101 corridor [...].

TYG: That would be great, if we had stop lights!
Larry: Well, I don’t think stop lights are going to be the answer to any of our problems. They’ve had that conversation in years past [...].

TYG: Are you for city growth, or against it?
Larry: Well, city growth brings certain things to the town with it. You can have more crime, you can have other problems. The city’s done a good job of....  You don’t want to stop growth [...]. The Planning Commission has already got guidelines as far as density [...].  Most of that is already in place, and doesn’t need to be
changed too much. You always need to keep an amount of raw land available, that can be converted into ...

TYG: ...Housing.
Larry: Housing, yes.

TYG: Are you for or against the proposed Renewal of the Local Option Tax for the Yachats Fire District? Why or why not?
Larry: I am a full supporter of the Yachats Volunteer Fire Department, and I have no qualms about supporting what they do.

TYG: Are you for or against the proposed amendment to the Yachats City Charter (which would eliminate the requirement for voter pre-approval of the City’s purchase or sale of real property)? Why do you think it is a good idea, or not?
Larry: I was on the City Council in the early 1990s, when that Charter amendment was brought forward for the first time. And I was new on the City Council, and I thought, “Why are they going to tell me what to do?” And that seems to be the attitude that, why they want to take that off at the present time. They make the comment that there’s no other city in Oregon that has such a charter amendment, which is, before the city can buy or sell property, it has to go to a vote of the people. Remember I talked about fiscal responsibility? If you, the City Council, and the mayor are the only five people that need to raise their hands and say “Yes, let’s go buy this land,” the people, the residents of the city, are still the ones that are burdened with having to pay for it. So it was at that time, in the 1990s, there was talk about buying timber land, south of the bridge, just like they are at the present time.

TYG: That’s a very good idea, because that way it won’t be cut down!
Larry: Well, if it’s cut down—and someone said every 30 to 40 years, actually it’s closer to 40 to 50 years, is the normal rotation on timber sites—due to state law, it says that if you take land that is in the timber deferral program, and you harvest the timber upon it, you have to replant that land, back into trees. Now, we’ve had the hillside south of town taken down, in the mid-80s, and it—it’s a little bit rough for the first year or two, but by the time you get four years’ growth on it, the alders are up a little bit, everything’s fuzzy and green. [...] And, in the 90s—I was talking about finding a middle ground—we made a committee of it. There was a gentleman who was the manager of a plywood mill over in Willamette valley. We had all the different components of people that knew about timber. We had environmentalists that were on the committee. And we sat around and chatted and talked about what Yachats could afford. And at that time we didn’t have much money. I mean, the City of Yachats did not have any kind of money in the bucket, so to say, to go out and do anything, and so the consensus was that we were not going to be able to acquire the little bit of timber property that was available at that time.

TYG: Why is there not enough funding?
Larry: Well, you see this building here? [indicating the shelter behind the Yachats Commons] In the mid-90s, the city had acquired this building here, and we needed a place for the kids to play. And that’s really what this was, a playground space. And the community came together, and we started talking about it—I was on the Council, still [...]. The cement for this was all donated, the beams in the corners were all donated, the roofing was all donated, carpenters came in, construction workers came in, all locals in the community—they built this thing. This structure did not cost the city, as I recall, anything at all. So—you got something, and people took a lot of pride in it. I see that they’ve put in some windows and boarded it in a little bit [...].

TYG: Yeah, that’s really nice, because believe me, before it was very windy in here.
Larry: Oh, yeah! But this right here [indicating the glass] was $97,000, as I recall, this glass and this wooden bit. And then the big plan that the City Council’s working on right now, is they want to put doors, they want to put some more lighting in here, maybe even some heating and all of that [...].They have a proposal that would take this and they would spend about another $303,000. So with the original $97,000, and $303,000 that is proposed, that’s $400,000.

TYG: That’s a lot of hard cash!
Larry: Especially when you’re dealing with a structure that was free to the community to start with. And as soon as you put the doors on, then what’s going to happen—are we going to lock the building down? Keep the kids out of here? [...]

TYG: Are you for or against the proposed Children’s Trust of Lincoln County? Why do you think it is a good idea, or not?
Larry: I think it’s a good program. I’ve been supportive of that for a lot of years. Max Glenn was always very active and vocal about it. And I’ve supported Max and his efforts on that. I don’t have a problem with that at all.

TYG: Are you for or against the proposed Permanent Rate Levy for the Formation of an Animal Services District in Lincoln County? Why do you think it is a good idea, or not?
Larry: That’s an interesting one. You have to have a
humane service, you need to always have something like that. [...] I’m fully in support of that.

TYG: Are you for or against the proposed county Advisory Vote urging a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision and allow restrictions on corporate and union spending to influence elections? Why do you think it is a good idea, or not?
Larry: I don’t have my mind made up on that topic at the present time. There’s a lot of things on the agenda this year for the ballot, and I have not put my mind to that one.

TYG: Is there anything else you would like to talk about?
Larry: [...] I spent a number of years, the last four or five years being very active in the community, with the creation of the Marine Reserves and the Marine Protected Areas off of Yachats’ doorstep [...]. [At one point I saw] a prototype of a wave generator, for making electricity, off of the ocean. I thought, “That might just work!” But I still had a lot of unanswered questions [...] and I started realizing what the impact was going to do to our visual. Now, when people come to Yachats, they take a chair, or they sit in their car, and they look at the ocean. They don’t turn their chair and look at the hillsides—you may glance over there as you’re driving through town, but the people [...] The motel rooms [...] all look at the ocean. That’s what they come here for. We started having unofficial gatherings, on Sundays. I would open the Commons up, neighbors would come in  [...] and we were just talking about it, gathering information, and so that’s really what started the whole process, here, with the Marine Reserves [...]. And it says the crabbing boats can still go out in the Marine Protected Area, which is off of Yachats to the south down to Cape Perpetua, where you get in to the actual Marine Reserve, where there is NO taking, you cannot harvest anything out of the ocean. But you can still troll for salmon here in front of Yachats, you can go out and do your Dungeness crab [...]. Come December, when the Dungeness crab season starts, that’s what people do—they come over to the coast, they rent motel rooms, they open the drapes up, and they watch the crab boats out there! This is what IS Yachats—that is the character of what Yachats is.

Note: these interviews have been extensively edited for length and clarity.