Election Guide 2016: Ashley McMurray Q&A
Bio: Ashley McMurray holds a bachelor of arts degree in political science and Japanese/international affairs from the University of Michigan. She moved to Steamboat Springs in 2004 and to Hayden in 2008. She is the owner and operator of InSite Media. Her past political experience includes: serving on the Hayden Planning Commission, January 2016 to present; various local, regional and national political campaign work; and the Center for Strategic & International Studies, Washington, D.C., 2003
Q. As a town council member, what would be your top three priorities?
A. 1. Focus on better serving the needs of our community members and families. The most common “complaint” I hear from Hayden families is the current lack of resources right here in Hayden. To name a few: “Hayden needs a community/recreation center;” “There is no childcare/preschool;” “I wish we had another restaurant or two.” In short, we need to develop a community so that our families don’t need to leave Hayden to find the things they need and want — such as recreation, childcare and leisure; they should be able to live a quality, fulfilling life right here in Hayden. Although this is a longer term goal with Hayden’s future in mind, we need to start doing the research and taking action now if we want to get this done. 2. Determine the best ways to draw healthy businesses and industry to Hayden to promote town revenue growth. This goal goes hand in hand with my first. While the town needs to better support its current residents, those same improvements will also encourage businesses to locate here. We also need to have more transparency about our governmental policies to encourage, rather than discourage, new business in Hayden. I would advocate the town to research “best practices” to accomplish this. 3. Balance the various needs and concerns of our community members with those of the town government. Simply put, this should always be a top priority of a government representative. As your Town Council member, I will listen to you — and take your feedback, and measure that with the needs of the town. An excellent example of this is the current issue involving commercial marijuana grow operations in Hayden. We need to find a balance between the large population of residents who oppose commercial growing here, and the Town of Hayden, which views those businesses as a means to increase revenue without putting undue tax burden on citizens.
Q. The Town is forecast to run through its savings by the end of 2017. Do you support asking voters to pay more taxes? Why or why not? Please explain.
A. In short, yes, but only within limits — let me explain what I mean. To set the background, the town has not raised property taxes in over 25 years, which has contributed to the current financial shortfall. Compounding this problem is the fact that Hayden property values have decreased significantly between 2011 and 2015. This means that the town consistently has an annual shortfall of $260,000 to $300,000 per year, which in turn has led to our town’s inability to properly provide needed services and to a rapidly deteriorating infrastructure. The mill levy on this 2016 ballot will add about $250,000 in revenue per year, which will generate enough income to pay for the services our residents actually need. I believe that, at least in the short term, this levy must be approved. That said, in the long run, the council must take responsibility to work to remedy this financial gap, without putting the entire burden on its residents, by “opening its doors” and encouraging businesses to develop here, which would in turn generate that revenue we are lacking. On Town Council, I would advocate for a longer term strategy of determining the best ways for the town to do this – to market the town of Hayden as a viable location for new businesses to thrive, which, in turn, will reduce the tax burden on each of us as we move forward.
Q. As a town council member, what would you do to encourage economic development?
A. I would focus on policies and outreach programs to encourage businesses to choose Hayden. Hayden needs to focus on the ways to draw businesses here. What are businesses looking for when determining a location? Businesses want and need infrastructure, good schools, restaurants, community centers and retail to support a good quality of life. Hayden needs to look at smart growth strategies that can help rural communities achieve their goals for growth and development, while also maintaining their distinctive rural character. Looking at rural grant investment programs would be an excellent place to start.
Q. What do you think are the town’s strengths?
A. I see Hayden’s strengths in many of the same terms that I hear from my friends, colleagues, and neighbors: “I love how everyone truly cares and looks out for one another!” “We work in Steamboat/Craig but love to come home to our quiet Hayden home.” And one of my favorites, “In today’s world, how many other places can you actually feel safe letting the kids play outside unsupervised, and walk to school with minimal worry? In Hayden you still can.” We need to preserve these elements that are so awesome about Hayden, while balancing the need to develop and grow in key areas.
Q. What do you think are the town’s weaknesses, and what would you do to address those?
A. The current flip-side to Hayden’s wonderful small-town atmosphere is a relatively stagnant history of growth, one that has placed the town in its current financial position: destined to run out of savings if certain changes are not made. But our residents are not afraid to make changes that will enhance our lives here in Hayden. I will work hard for you, pushing always to make smart, measured moves towards growth, aimed at improving our residents’ quality of life and drawing healthy business to Hayden, while also maintaining the special, unique small-town character we all love.
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