The Voters Have Spoken... LOUDLY

Now that Measure 18-193, the $8.2 million Deferred Maintenance Bond, has failed overwhelmingly at the ballot, it is time to move on. The Mayor and those members of council who pushed hard for this measure, Graham, Jensen and Rosenthal, need to acknowledge their mistake and be more responsive to the community. It surely seems as if the City of Ashland, between its pre-existing budget issues, only made much much worse by the current pandemic, is going to be scrambling for revenue in the coming months unless there is a sudden infusion of state or federal incentive money. I don’t see that happening without a change in White House and Congress. So, what should happen now?

FIRST, the city needs to act as if the threat to move everyone out of city hall and into The Grove due to liability never happened. It was a scare tactic, one among many, from a few members of Council. Spending public money on moving staff would be not only dumb, but petulant.

SECOND, the city needs to get serious, really serious, about cutting spending, including cutting staff, delaying any unneeded expenses, and developing strategies to maintain essential services for the near future. This will involve staff reductions. It must. The city needs to cut without any effort to increase revenue and it surely needs to tighten its belt hard, really hard, before it even THINKS about any new utility surcharges, fees, or other strategies that are not subject to a vote of the people. Consider this a warning… if the City Council tries to raise utility rates or fees before cutting expenses to the bone there will be hell to pay. I guarantee it.

THIRD, we still have three beloved city owned buildings that are needed by the public. Let’s work together to find common-sense, affordable, solutions to reopen Winburn Way and the Log Cabin, using a portion of the discretionary funding the city set aside for design fees, plus a mixture of community donations and labor, and get those buildings back into service. City hall can wait until better times, or a massive New Deal level infusion of Federal support. Council needs to do a much better job of listening to the community on that issue.

FINALLY, let’s take whatever is left from the $500,000 in design fees the city is sitting upon and use it to support the local business community that is taking a huge blow from this enforced shutdown. Let’s use that money to leverage landlord concessions, reduced utility costs, and putting our neighbors back to work where we can. It won’t be enough to make a huge dent in the problem, but it will go a long way toward showing a good-faith effort on the part of City leadership.

The DMB was, unnecessarily, incredibly divisive and for little reason. I hope Council and the Mayor take note and do a better job working with the community in the future. That will be hard, during a pandemic, but it is critically important.