Jacksonville gears up for elections

JACKSONVILLE — The location of a new public safety building may play a key role in November elections, when voters will choose a mayor, three City Council members and perhaps indicate their preference for the building's site in a referendum.

Councilman Bruce Garrett will challenge 13-year incumbent Mayor Jim Lewis for the city's top spot. Both have picked up the paperwork required to run for the four-year term. Garrett voted in December against locating the public safety building on a site that houses the public works building. Lewis voted with the 4-3 majority that selected the site.

City Council members in March informally agreed to put a referendum on the November ballot to choose a preferred location, allowing voters to express their opinions. A citizens group had voiced strong opposition to the selected location, but the referendum may be in question.

"At this point, I'm not sure whether that (referendum) will come together quickly enough to get it on the ballot," said Donna Schatz, who is undecided whether she will seek reelection. Schatz, who has served on the council since her appointment in 1995, has won successive terms.

"I need to make that decision (to run) fairly quickly," she said.

A referendum from the council would need to be filed with the city recorder by Aug. 26, the same deadline candidates have for submitting paperwork. The council has meetings Aug. 5 and 19. Citizens also could file a referendum for the ballot.

A council majority, which includes Lewis, Bill Leep, John Dodero and Dick Ames, have asked the minority, Garrett, Schatz and Chris Gillman, to propose a second location. Garrett says there is reluctance to do that because the majority could reject a minority recommendation.

Council members Leep and Ames have indicated they will not seek reelection.

Paul Becker, Dan Winterburn and Planning Commissioner David Jesser have completed applications and are certified for the ballot. Roy Eyman and Trish Murdoch also have taken out election packets.

Winterburn, Jesser and Murdoch have all been involved with the citizen's group that opposed location of the public safety building at the public works site. Becker says he would like the public to weigh in on the issue.

"I've never found anything I wouldn't trust the voters to have a say on," said Becker, who serves on the city's budget committee and was previously chair of the Shady Cove Planning Commission. He ran for the council in 2006 but lost to Dodero by 16 votes.

Garrett, the council president, was elected to a four-year term in 2006. If elected mayor, he would resign his council seat and a new member would be appointed by the body.

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboom8929@charter.net.

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