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Letters, Feb. 28

Reset our egos

Over the past several years I have appeared multiple times before the Ashland City Council and the Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission. I have addressed agenda issues and goals, made my preferences known, and asked for certain decisions to be made. On every single occasion, the vote either went against my point of view or no action was taken.

While I may disagree with the decisions made or votes cast, I would never accuse the council or the commission of being corrupt or in cahoots with any person or entity for any purpose other than they are making their decisions based on what they think is the right thing to do for our town. They do this after hours of study, listening to the community, and thoughtful deliberation. The votes are not always unanimous, but members of the council/commission respect each other.

While I have no doubts as to the corruption, political agendas and power grabs at the federal level, to believe that local level elected officials are doing anything other than serving their community as best they can is to show a complete misunderstanding of what true democracy looks like.

We should all be concerned about the lack of civil discourse in our country, but especially so in our own town. The women and men who serve on the council and commissions of Ashland are citizens making great sacrifices to serve our community. Just because one may disagree with a decision made is no reason to accuse them of malfeasance. They can have a different opinion than you and not be corrupt.

When I first came to Ashland in 1982, what appealed to me most was how people were not judged based on what they drove or what they believed in. We were a community of diverse opinions but we tended to respect one another, accept one another as equals. How do we reset our egos and acknowledge that we are a community with diverse opinions, all worthy of respect?

Just because 100 people who inhabit the same echo chamber of a Facebook page agree on something does not mean it is the one-and-only valid point of view. Stop thinking “win/lose” and “us/them” and start thinking of respectfully engaging in community.

Arnold Bleicher


Parks, not walls

I just found out that the National Park Service has an annual budget of only $3 billion to support and maintain all 61 sites across the country, now with a $12 billion backlog of deferred maintenance!

I shouldn’t be shocked, but I am, because currently people are saying it’s “only” $5.7 billion that the president wants as a down payment on his medieval wall, mere peanuts from the national treasury. Those peanuts could go a long way in infrastructure jobs for restoring and repairing our priceless national parks. Our parks and wildlands have added immeasurably to our economy since inception, and yet Congress has been starving their budgets for years.

Might this so-called national emergency mean taking a billion dollars more away from our national parks? Or the butterfly wildlife refuges at the Texas border slated to be destroyed by building the wall along the Rio Grande? It’s totally unjustifiable by any measure.

Congress must stop this now, and truly defend our American heritage. Fund our parks and public lands, not a blighted structure that will hurt us by harming nature forever.

Bonnie Johnson


A better shelter

Thank you for the editorial on Feb. 21 about the county planner’s denial of the permit for a new semi-permanent winter shelter for unhoused people. You’re right that this move could set back months of effort by the growing number of volunteers (I am one) and activists who want to see a place where people without homes or who are living out of their cars can spend seven nights a week in one place, rather than moving among the four sites that exist now.

And thank you for pointing out the misconceptions that presumably have led the planner to deny the permit. OHRA has taken great pains to be scrupulous with the application. The guests are being housed safely in the temporary shelters, there is a designated fire watcher, and OHRA’s new policies have led to a dramatic drop in the number of police calls.

The editorial however got one thing wrong. It said: “Options for Helping Residents of Ashland applied to the county for a permit last fall, and began operating the shelter in anticipation.” The new shelter isn’t in operation yet. OHRA is working on getting the building ready to be used, but the guests are still in the four temporary shelters.

Catherine Foster


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