Profile: Cave Junction Mayoral CandidateChristopher Hall
RVM: You have an interesting background. You grew up on an apple orchard in Vermont. It is logical to assume that is where the interest to move to the Illinois Valley comes from—and to co-found the Cave Junction Farmers’ Market?
Christopher Hall: Yes, my interest to move to the Illinois Valley is rooted in my sentimental feelings for the small Vermont town I grew up in. I have said to family back east that Oregon is as close to Vermont one can get, but with milder winters. I love the natural setting, the healthy, beautiful watersheds, and the rural heritage of the Illinois Valley. My interest in the farmers’ market is borne from my heritage as a farm kid and wanting to promote the economic development potential for others in our region.
RVM: Your professional career was spent in San Diego, where you started an important dance theater. How does your interest in the arts inform what you would do as mayor?
CH: The mission I had producing the dance theatre company is the same I have had all my adult life: to cultivate compassionate social action. We brought people together around performing arts that had the effect of building and strengthening community, and it was the emotional, spiritual, and soulful content that created lasting memories and feelings that people bonded over. I have seen the same effect watching friends and families come together at the farmers’ market, where folks come out to enjoy each others’ company in a social setting around locally grown food, crafts, and arts. My sincere hope is to inspire economic and community development around various public projects and programs that the city offers and it is my vision to inspire community growth and bonding similar to how the farmers’ market has brought people together.
RVM: Your agenda as mayor has a number of bureaucrat goals—re-writing the Charter, revising the budget. Those are not as sexy as setting up a dance company.
CH: I understand that working under the hood in the engine room is not showy, however, I have seen the importance of such work as a backstage hand in dance theatre, where the mechanics of the stage function. Sure, everyone sees the performers on stage, but there are many technical aspects of the production to support them, and as a designer, producer, and manager, I see it as my job to focus on those elements. The City Charter is a jumble of three types of government, the Strong-Mayor, the Weak-Mayor, and the Councilor–Manager forms of government and they need to be disentangled and clarified. I believe we need a professional City Manager as Grants Pass and other small cities have, and the roles and responsibilities of the elected and appointed officials need to be sorted out for the city to run more efficiently, transparently with openness and accountability. With regard to the budget, the expenses must be brought in line and streamlined in a way that preserves the solvency in the coming years and addresses the aspirations of what the citizenry wants their government to do and not do. Right now, the budget is a 10-year layer stack of post-it notes without much strategic vision.
RVM: Your agenda also says you will review staffing. Is that a euphemism for lay-offs?
CH: No, the staffing review is not about laying off positions, it is about hiring a professional city manager, and revising the jobs of the staff to function efficiently and effectively. The city recorder position is a collection of positions that have been heaped on ad hoc without sufficient review by the elected officials and the disarray of roles and responsibilities is a wonder to behold. Last year, the senior staff position, the Public Works Director, was vacated in one week — virtually no notice — and the position was not ever filled. If anything, I want to make sure the city staff has reasonable expectations for their jobs, that their job descriptions are clear and fair, and that they complement each other in a finely tuned division of labor so that when they work together they are a gestalt, where the sum of their work is greater than their individual parts. I strongly believe the staff needs to be paid competitive living wages that reflect the importance of their jobs and the integrity they have doing them. The city and the citizenry depend on the staff for important services and the dignity of well-paid positions is of paramount importance.
RVM: What prompted your desire to run for mayor?
CH: Cave Junction has a lot of untapped potential — that much is largely agreed upon, however, not everyone is inclined to act in ways that realize those benefits. First, too often, people see our town as an obstacle course to navigate as they try to go to and from the coast. We have the potential to attract visitors to our beautiful region and shop at our stores if we could incentivize more businesses to set up shop and if we could finally move forward on downtown beautification — an ever-elusive goal over the years.
We have the potential to attract urban in-fill commercial and residential development to create jobs for families in the area and housing for them — we have a well-documented housing crisis, and we can attract folks to live in the city and still enjoy the beautiful open lands around us. The existing Comprehensive Plan that provides a vision for this urban development is ancient and out of date and ignored, with the result there for all to see. We should revise it for the next 25 years, as well as the poorly written and ignored Transportation Plan.
The Stormwater Management Plan written 20 years ago was not ever adopted, and back then it was written critically of the aging insufficient infrastructure. As a Salmon stronghold, our Stormwater Management Plan must be up to date and acted upon. Our Vegetation Management Plan lacks focus and rigor and fails to be useful for making reasonable decisions on the extensive greenery throughout our city. And we have no Fire Safety Plan.
I am running for mayor so that the public sector can function more efficiently to support the private sector to thrive, bottom line.
RVM: Say something nice about Mayor Martell?
CH: Meadow is a long-time member of the Illinois Valley community who is beloved for her work in the health sector and for her kind demeanor and big heart. Meadow is well-intentioned and caring and I will support her where I can if I am not elected mayor.