Medford Mayoral Campaign: An Interview with candidate Clay Bearnson
Rogue Valley Messenger: Stepping into the mayor’s role right now seems like a very daunting task. It seems like there is more opportunity for blame than for fame. Why do it?
Clay Bearnson: Medford continues to grow and change along with our demographics, and our governing body should accurately reflect the makeup of our constituency. Although the mayor/city council are nonpartisan positions, one would be remiss to believe partisan politics don’t influence our local public policy. The mayor is the presiding officer and should always be void of political persuasion and personal bias during policy consideration, and sometimes breaking a tie vote, in order to effectuate the most neutral and objective legislation. I am proudly registered Independent, and if my campaign is successful, I will preside over the council with consummate objectivity offering equal consideration to all sides of the issue, and then, I will vote on the merits of the information presented if ever called upon to break a tie. I believe this is the type of leadership we need on every level of government and I will always strive to practice this philosophy as an elected representative. Objective leadership will be imperative to maintain progress as we address homelessness, our housing crisis, and the myriad of other issues that come before the council.
RVM: Can you provide a brief economic forecast for Medford—and one or two policies that you would want to first implement?
CB: The unfunded PERS mandate and COVID-19 pandemic are definitely a blight on the city’s administrative economic forecast, however, both are going to require some state and federal resources to help mitigate the detriments. Medford’s hospitality and tourism industries will take a few years to recover from the pandemic. The good economic news is local development and the construction industry remains strong.
As for a couple of policies I want to continue to move forward are the housing shortage and homeless population. They both adversely affect Medford’s economic growth. I will continue to encourage the council to move forward with these policies as solutions are integral for a vibrant community.
Our Homeless System Action Plan has been in place for the last several months. The collaboration around this plan needs to continue as a priority for our economic growth and vibrancy of our community. It will require the type of persistent leadership that will invite all regional stakeholders to participate in the planning and implementation of remedial policies. We succeed when we collaborate and focus on what we have in common.
RVM: What is it like campaigning during COVID?
CB: I can’t speak too much to this right now as my campaign is still in its infancy. I’d imagine it’s going to be a stark contrast to the 1500 doors I knocked on in 2014. With that in mind, we are humans and capable of adapting to change. Regardless of whether or not we agree with the state’s recommended social distancing guidelines, throughout history, the American thing to do when facing a crisis is come together to support each other. Which is exactly what I will do as my campaign moves forward with social engagements.
RVM: You are running against the former police chief. With so much interest in city police departments, what is your assessment for how the police have done in Medford—and what is a priority to change?
CB: My opinion about the Medford Police Department has come full-circle in the 35 years I’ve lived in Medford. As a child, I had a deep respect and admiration for the police. Then I became a teenager and my contempt for authority began to shape my opinions. The next couple of decades consisted of the maturation of my philosophies and perspectives which brought me to respect the overall need to work together for the common good, which is ultimately the reason for my civic participation. Shortly following my election to the city council, I participated in the Citizen’s Police Academy, and by the end of the ten week program my deep respect and admiration were restored. That being said, every population has a small faction of insurgents that attract the interest of what the media chooses to sensationalize. The oversight and discipline of said insurgency is one of the many systemic failures of our two-party system that people are protesting. I supported that message when I peacefully marched with protestors the Monday following the senseless murder of George Floyd. I do not support senseless destruction of private/public property.
Allocation of resources would be a priority to change. The scarcity of federal and state resources to help combat the two most-prevalent scourges in our community, mental health and drug addiction, foist the role of social worker upon our sworn officers. Treating these societal issues with punitive and carceral policies continue to be counter to addressing the issues themselves, and to the detriment of those seeking help and recovery. As Mayor, this is a change I would embrace and encourage the council to pursue.
RVM: Can you pay a compliment to your opponents?
CB: Kevin Stine and Randy Sparicino are dedicated to serving our community. Randy has many strengths working with a team and I respect his public involvement. Kevin and I have agreed on many local issues and over the past several years, he has worked hard to develop consensus among the council. Other than political philosophies, Randy and Kevin are two individuals I enjoy working with and respect.
RVM: And what sets you apart from your opponents?
CB: Our personal lived-experiences in this community and our political affiliations are the two most notable differences between us. I am an Independent who is emotionally and economically invested in our community. The culmination of my experiences living in Medford throughout the years is what impassioned me to become civically engaged as I am currently serving my sixth year representing Medford’s second ward as a city councilor. I believe all citizens of Medford need objective, accountable, and transparent leadership to ensure responsible and inclusive growth.