Oct. 19, 2022 — In the Nov. 8 General Election, two Florence City Councilor seats will be contested. Florence residents will get to vote for two out of the four people on the ballot: Maggie Bagon, Jo Beaudreau, Robert Carp and Donna Cherryholmes. All four took the time to answer four questions Siuslaw News generated in response to reader comments and after considering current topics and trends.
What is your vision of Florence as it is now, where it should go, and why are you best qualified to help lead the city into the future?
Cherryholmes: Florence has been called the playground of the Central Oregon Coast because of the exciting blend of activities, charm and accessibility. The people who live here are the cornerstone of the community who give of themselves to make Florence the best place to live and raise a family. Whether you are taking in the charm of a walk down Bay Street, sitting on the deck of River Roasters to watch the light change as it flows through the bridge or observing a sunset through the trees, you will be engulfed in the natural beauty of your surroundings.
As the city grows to meet the needs of our businesses, young families and retirees, it is important to use a commonsense approach that is compatible with our infrastructure to preserve the charm, livability and safety of all residents.
I bring to the table 40+ years of experience as a project manager and Change Management Consultant. It has provided me with the background needed to evaluate and understand cause and effect and to implement solutions that meet the needs of the community and are financially sustainable over time.
I am honored to be endorsed by State Rep. Boomer Wright; business owner and entrepreneur, Marianne Brisbane; WLFEA Board Director Sam Spayd; current Florence Mayor Joe Henry; Aero Legends owners Terry and Winette Tomeny; and Florence Chapter of Oregon Right to Life.
Bagon: Florence is a City in Motion, and I know that the staff is amazing; however, I believe that as a city council we can lead in a more positive, inclusive and forward-thinking way.
We are currently looking at growth and I believe it is important that we need to bring our community together on issues such as housing, jobs and the climate.
I believe that I am most qualified because not only have I lived and worked here for over 10 years, but I have been involved — both as a volunteer in the community and as a volunteer with the city.
I started looking at solutions to some of the problems you have listed back in 2014 at a community which led to the creation of the Siuslaw Vision Team, in which I was active for over 6 years. I have also volunteered with Florence Food Share, Florence Area Community Coalition, First Step Transitional Housing and I currently volunteer with the Siuslaw Public Library, Florence Farmers Market and the City of Florence, serving as co-chair of the Public Art Committee and on the Housing Implementation Plan Advisory Committee.
Carp: Florence in the near future will face a series of serious challenges.
Number one is drug addiction. Number two is widespread homelessness.
And number three is a mentally/emotionally disabled youth.
I see it. I will work to mitigate these challenges as best we can to the benefit of Florence. But it's time to wake up.
Beaudreau: My vision is our vision: what the people of Florence want. While we may not always agree on things, we need to be able to express ideas, thoughts, desires, understandings and respect. We are all at different life stages and have important values to share.
Communities and people evolve. The six umbrella areas of importance highlighted by residents in 2016 in the Siuslaw Vision — Working, Educated, Happy, Active, Creative, Connected People — remain relevant today. These ideals, which are also reflected in the city’s vision and mission, are vital in leading our city into the future.
I am best qualified to lead Florence because of my many volunteer activities and community connections made through the years. Combined with my prior governmental experience in policymaking and operations, along with occupational experience as an entrepreneur and university and arts administrator, this provides me with the necessary skillset, motivation and knowledge to serve our community now and to establish a launch pad for our future.
As your next city councilor, I offer positivity, collaboration, partnership and a fresh way to look at our city’s future.
Florence has experienced housing shortages and a decreased workforce. One resident asked: “What are the impediments preventing change, how can those be resolved and how dedicated is the city to making genuine, collaborative change happen?”
Bagon: I believe that we can do more to solve the issues of housing and jobs. The more I look, I see these problems are happening throughout the country.
With regard to housing, I think that we can look at easing the fees charged for multi-unit housing. We can look at land that is owned by the city and use it to create more partnerships with nonprofits like Neighborhood Works to build more affordable homes for working class people to buy. We could look at increasing the city motel tax, as well as looking at limits on short-term rentals. We currently are looking at a variety of solutions to housing as an advisory committee.
Regarding jobs, we could look at working with the schools on apprenticeship programs for trade jobs such as construction, welding and plumbing.
The key to filling some of the non-skilled jobs is having affordable housing. Regarding skilled and professional we have to look at focus on being more than just a "retirement " community. It takes bringing the council together and working as a team to solve these problems.
Cherryholmes: Florence is a city that pulls together in a crisis. Our city is just coming out of a pandemic that shut us down for more than two years. While our businesses and schools were closed, many lost their jobs or were forced to work from home. Many others self-isolated. \I saw the people of this city work in a genuine, collaborative effort to help neighbors, friends and even people they didn’t know. There were two soup kitchens that I personally knew about that fed people who had lost their jobs. The Christmas in June program raised $46K to assist 92 families in financial need due to lost income in Florence. The Backpack for Kids program searched out the children who needed their assistance. Many of the churches provided food, clothing and/or shelter for those in need.
I don’t see impediments that prevent change in Florence. My experience with change is that it is most effective and long lasting when the change is planned and implemented with the greater good of the community in mind. This involves partnering with businesses, keeping open communication with community members and outlining the financial sustainability over time. The city has begun to implement various housing programs that are moving in the right direction for Florence. I hope to be able to assist in helping to expand those programs, as needed.
Beaudreau: The City’s ad-hoc Housing Implementation Plan Project committee has been working hard to address pieces of the housing puzzle that affect so many of us and members of our community. This committee was developed to research and provide recommendations to Council and the City over the next year to create and implement policy changes. You can help now by taking this survey by Oct. 17: bit.ly/HIPHousingSurvey
Having community members — like you — participate, voice concerns and share ideas and experiences, provides meaningful data to develop policy solutions which can be implemented to alleviate housing shortages.
Policy upgrades could include: zoning and building code updates, such as mindful upzoning; clarifying regulatory procedures and removing barriers; building incentives through permits, tax abatements and exemptions; using innovative materials and design/architecture; providing funding for opportunity resources, public education and involvement in policy creation; holding conversations; and creating short-term rental policies. These measures can be taken while being mindful of empowering our community by turning our focus to solutions.
Carp: Ask yourself, just how much housing do you want and how different do you want to see Florence become? Because we can meet all the housing you desire, but Florence isn't going to look anything like it is now.
If we build 3, 4, or 5-story apartments and condos throughout the city, we can meet all our present housing needs, those of persons wanting to move here from Eugene to the coast and hundreds of more from California. Is that your vision of Florence? It certainly is not mine.
The reasons we have a housing problem is hard for some to come to terms with.
For one, we have a totally disorderly federal immigration policy which allows hundreds of thousands of people a year beyond the million plus we legally permit — to flood into the United States — thereby taking up and renting most all of the lower cost available rental properties — pushing the working poor to unaffordable circumstances. Number two, Californians are selling their homes and coming to Oregon with cash in hand ready to buy anything that looks to them like a deal.
And sadly — workforce housing. I wish everyone who works in this town to be able to live here. You are the ones we most need and are getting kicked right in the gut.
We can and will build more housing, but I seriously don't see it getting cheap to live here. We already have nonprofits that have built low-income housing projects in town and another is being built on 101 right now.
Housing of all types are being built. I think it’s important we don't build just one type, for just one income group. After all, someone has to pay the worker and it's usually someone with lots of money.
Another resident commented about housing shortages and the social issues the arise from it. “This has happened because of the disconnect between seniors/retirees that tend to be much better off financially and the younger people of town that are predominantly the workforce here. City government and the ‘powers that be’ have long appeased one group yet ignored the growing needs of the other.”
Do you agree or disagree with the comment? If elected, how would you work to address this viewpoint and build consensus for all in the community?
Carp: Interesting how you framed the question. The rich against the poor. Being retired myself and collecting Social Security — I can say I probably receive as much as someone who works full time in one of our many restaurants. In fact, I know of more than a few retirees here in town who collect a Social Security check, that receive as low as $700 a month, to around $1,300.
Maybe most of us are in the same boat. And it’s just that many of the older folks over their lives worked, saved and bought a home.
Younger folks need to learn you just don't get to have it now. You work and you save — maybe go to school and get a good paying job. And you work and save some more. Then comes the house and a few nice things later. Nobody's going to do that for you, but you. The sooner you learn that the better.
Beaudreau: I do believe there is a disconnect between generations simply due to personal perceptions and where we are in life. Acknowledging there is a disconnect and doing our best to provide equity will bring more balance for all community members.
By being curious, we develop deeper connections, trust and solutions — together. Asking questions, being open to educating oneself and helping others along the way lets us avoid getting caught up in stereotypes. By being curious, we break down stereotypes and expose the kindness and caring that Florence is truly known for.
When discussing hot topics, we sometimes use the same terms in different ways; meanings can also evolve with time. By making sure we are on the same page with definitions and seeking clarification and understanding, we can find common ground. Solutions can also be identified with the help of a mediator, if needed.
Work sessions, open houses, town halls, individual meetings and forums are ways that the council can build community consensus.
Bagon: I personally believe that we need to do more for the younger people in our community. One way to bring people together is to work on creating a community center where people of all ages can come for recreation, not just exercise but other activities as well, with hours that are more flexible. Maybe it could even have daycare, possibly the creation of a daycare cooperative that could serve people working evenings and weekends.
Another thing we could do is try to form a committee that includes both young people and retirees to find out how we can work together on the specific issues that affect both groups of people — because we are all part of the community.
Cherryholmes: The idea that seniors/retirees are better off financially than the younger workforce is a misstatement. Many seniors living here in Florence are living on Social Security and/or small pensions that are considered poverty level by the IRS. Regardless of age or circumstances, all of us are dealing with inflation, gas prices and drastic cost of living increases, while our incomes are relatively flat.
I interact with young people every day and many of their issues are like those of seniors. The City of Florence has taken advantage of many of the available grants from the state and federal governments to move forward on projects to assist with housing shortages. As those are put into place, my hope would be to prioritize the workforce housing to serve the needs of our small business and healthcare community.
In a conversation with Siuslaw News, one business leader said:
“Polarization is just killing us. It's what's killing our economy. If you elect somebody, who actually is willing to work with people across the aisle to get something done — they don't get reelected, because their constituents are pissed off that they crossed the aisle. So then they don't cross the aisle. It's like cutting off your nose to spite your face.”
If elected, will you openly discuss partisan issues with the goal of creating nonpartisan outcomes, ensuring all community members have a voice in the decision making process, and that differing viewpoints are reflected in city decisions?
Beaudreau: Florence City Council members are non-partisan positions. The issues that most community members are focused on are housing, jobs and the environment. These are nonpartisan issues and addressing them will help the entire city.
I believe there are pros and cons, causes, effects and balance to every issue; including creating unintended consequences. The whole picture must be considered to make effective decisions. As a councilor, I will instill a culture of exploring, understanding and dialogue with diverse groups of people, while showing no preference for any specific ideology. When making decisions, I seek information, experiences, options and opinions from others. I am an advocate for more transparency and documentation, beyond financial conflicts of interest, relevant to council, committee and city policies.
Encouraging community members to seek various points of view, provide input and be involved in guiding policy and decision making is what makes a community and local government thrive. I have seen and experienced how local government works for the people when policy makers listen to their constituents. That is what I intend to do as your councilor.
Carp: If you get enough to eat, a place to sleep at night, a job to go to in the morning and a friend to have a drink with on the weekend, you're doing okay. We bitch about things because something's not fair. It's not fair for us, or it's not fair for someone we read about. So, we care. That’s a good thing.
If you are doing the best you can for yourself and for others — you are a good person. Talking with your neighbor, listening to a friend, helping a complete stranger — that's why we're here.
Will I talk and work with someone who sees the world in a totally different way than I do? Sure.
Do I have to agree with them? No.
Can we be polite and we give each other the respect we both deserve? Absolutely.
God bless you all.
Cherryholmes: The position of city councilor is a non-partisan position. My intent would be to listen and hear all aspects of any issue brought before the city that is within its purview and make decisions based on the good of all citizens within the community. Polarization occurs when we choose not to listen to another’s view or when we include some state or national conversation that does not apply to the city’s charter or funding. My background and integrity have taught me that not listening to and examining the opposing view, weakens my own position.
I am seeking your vote because I want to represent all the people of Florence. I believe the city has been working diligently to maintain and improve the environment and living conditions. With your help and support I will be able to help the mayor and city staff accomplish the goal of continuing to strive to keep Florence a “City in Motion.”
Bagon: I believe that no matter our differences, we all love Florence and we need to work together for the good of the community.
I currently and have always believed in working with all people here, no matter what their political views are. Some things that are considered partisan, in my opinion shouldn't be, but I believe that all of us in this community should work together for the good of the community and that is why I am running for office. Hate and distrust don't do anything good, and we need to be able to find that common ground for the good of the people who live here.