Letters, April 12
Rein in city spending
Despite over a 150% increase in our water and sewer bills since 2009 and sitting on tens of millions of dollars in cash, Ashland Public Works is requesting yet an additional 4% increase in 2019 for both water and sewer utility rates. Ashlanders already spend a base amount of $90 month or over $1,000 per year before using a drop of water or kilowatt of electricity.
Over the years, the city has been accumulating cash in Public Works for future projects. Information provided to the Budget Committee last week revealed that in fiscal year 2018, the city collected $4 million more from water, wastewater and storm drain ratepayers than needed to cover operating expenses and debt service. Most of these funds go underspent and none get returned to ratepayers. Fully funding future projects has been the norm for a number of years but doesn’t represent best budgeting practices in Oregon. That policy has resulted in a huge cash hoard that sits on the books of the Public Works Department.
Affordability is a threat to Ashland that our city has yet to comprehend. Why wouldn’t Public Works just reallocate idle cash and use it to supplement the funds they expected to generate for these rate increases? Or better yet why wouldn’t Public Works use the interest income generated from idle cash to help pay for the rate increases? That would at least temporally ease the burden on Ashland citizens.
It’s a shame that Ashland isn’t more affordable. If it were, the 70% of city staff that live outside the Ashland zip code might be able to afford to live here. It’s about time these departments begin to understand what is at stake. They need to rein in their spending or enough will never be enough..
The real false narrative
Chris Honore’s commentary in the April 8 issue Tidings (“In the parlor with a false narrative”) points to the false narrative proffered by Trump and the Republicans that the Mueller report fully exonerates our current president of collusion.
Be that as it may, the conveniently overlooked larger false narrative is the whole idea that the Big Bad Russians significantly influenced the results of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
This much grander false narrative, in my view obvious to anyone who was paying attention in 2016, was concocted by those involved in the blatant domestic subversion of democracy in that election and is a distraction designed to draw attention away from the various practices of our American political duopoly in “rigging” elections.
No, it was not the Russians who compromised us in 2016, but a corrupt shill of a pre-ordained candidate who literally owned the DNC.
Neither the dastardly Reds nor the Republicans were responsible for blacking out Bernie Sanders in U.S. media and daily splashing Trump stories on page one.
The Rooskies didn’t hold closed primaries, or flip parties on voter registrations or purge them altogether.
Putin didn’t write the DNC/Clinton/Podesta emails or feed HRC the debate questions.
None of Trump’s Russian comrades closed U.S. polling places, or had the Clintons illegally campaigning at polling places, or caused six coin tosses in a row behind closed doors to favor HRC, or perpetrated the Nevada caucus outrageous display of fascism, etc., etc.
Enough of us know all too well that if we lived in a real democracy, Bernie Sanders would already be president.
But what he represents, has been fighting for his entire adult life and, especially since 2015, has been hammering into the national dialogue, poses a clear and present danger to the status quo.
Our own political establishment has been hiding their shenanigans under their dirty white hats long enough.
Unfortunately for sane lovers of democracy, the Republicans have more experience and are better at stealing elections than the so-called “Democrats”... (See 2000 and 2004.)
Drivers’ licenses for all
The ability to drive legally is a core need in Oregon; people need to drive to get to work and to take their children to school. Increasingly, immigrants with no criminal records who are unable to produce a driver’s license during a traffic stop are being flagged for deportation.
To remedy this, Oregon legislators, including Sen. Jeff Golden and Rep. Pam Marsh, are proposing the Equal Access to Roads Act (HB 2015). This bill would expand eligibility for a standard (Class C) driver’s license to all Oregon residents, regardless of proof of citizenship. Applicants would still have to pass tests, pay fees and provide proof of identity and residency. (They would not, however, be able to vote or get on an airplane.) Passing this bill would also put Oregon into compliance with Real ID (an enhanced ID that requires proof of citizenship), which was mandated federally after 9/11 to protect restricted areas such as air travel.
This proposed bill would also help other Oregonians who might not have birth certificates to obtain drivers’ licenses, including people without homes, victims of domestic violence and victims of natural disasters.
Thirteen other states, including California and Washington, have passed similar legislation. Multiple studies have found that these states’ rates of hit-and-run accidents decreased and the number of insured drivers increased. So laws like HB 2015 make roads and communities safer. Let’s have Oregon join these states. Encourage your representatives to vote yes on HB 2015.