Letters, May 8
Vote no on City Hall bond
I read with interest Mayor John Stromberg’s letter regarding the facilities bond to upgrade the City Hall and other city facilities.
Stromberg supports raising your taxes (again). Why? Simply because Stromberg and the city have refused to set aside money in a capital improvement fund. Most governmental bodies do so.
This is Stromberg’s 12th year as mayor. He should be held accountable for not doing so.
Instead of setting money aside, like we are all taught to do at a young age, the city continues to spend with a “cavalier attitude” and is “addicted to spending” (Mail Tribune — 2/11/18).
It’s time for voters to say no to another tax increase (though the mayor would like us to believe that it is not a tax increase because other taxes are sunsetting, that is disingenuous).
Vote no on 15-193.
Send a message to the city to start saving money for capital improvements, and to quit coming to the taxpayers with their hand out.
Fix City Hall now
I felt both the April 24 earthquake (magnitude 3.1 just south of Ashland) and the April 30 quake at about 12:40pm (also a 3.1, according to the USGS.
I am not a seismologist, but I am hoping that these smaller quakes are relieving some of the pressures from our subduction zone offshore so that The Big One won’t hit so soon. I am grateful for CERT and all our community’s preparedness for dealing with this potential catastrophe.
But it makes it so timely and important that we seriously support funding the retrofitting of our historic CIty Hall now. We all benefit from the Community Center and our Pioneer Hall and continuing to defer maintenance will not solve the problem!
After careful consideration our city proposes to fund these necessary safety upgrades without increasing taxes. When the library and fire station bonds are retired we can use that same money to fund the necessary repairs to bring back our dynamic downtown and create jobs and a safe future.
We have had four earthquakes in Ashland in this past month, and thank goodness they were small. A bigger quake could tragically make our beloved City Hall just a brick pile of rubble.
The sky is not falling
Oh, the COVID pandemic! But wait, the economy isn’t that great! Not now, it’s the start of fire season! Ten bucks is too much for property owners! Our early settlers could afford to invest in the town, but we’re all too poor!
Some people can always find some excuse to not pass a bond measure. The fact is that small personal sacrifices for the greater common good combined with individual entrepreneurship are what built Ashland, the state of Oregon, and the United States as a whole.
At this time, interest rates are at a historic low, and municipal borrowing (issuing bonds) makes great economic sense.
And unknown at this time, but a potential sweetener, is the talk of an public infrastructure funding bill at the federal level. Last time there was such a bill, after the Bush financial meltdown, the priority was “shovel-ready” projects, i.e., projects that were designed, approved, ready to go, and had local public funds that could be attached to the project, a so-called “public match.”
Passing the bond measure will put Ashland in a good position to apply for federal infrastructure funds, if they become available. Would folks still complain if the feds were going to pick up 50% of the costs? 80%?
Undoubtedly, some will complain if anything is done at all, believing that all government actions are by definition bad. For the rest of us, a couple of bucks a month from property owners is not that onerous, and we’d really rather have functional public buildings rather than vacant, abandoned eyesores.
Shakespeare available online
Your April 30 article, “OSF launches new digital platform” made me realize that I have not missed the Oregon Shakespeare Festival this year for there are many plays available from the Globe Theatre, National Theatre, and the Stratford Festival streaming on YouTube as a gift to people who cannot go to the theater because of COVID-19.
The Globe and Stratford Festivals are naturally concentrating on Shakespeare. A new play is put up each week. This is also true of the National, but about a third of their plays are by Shakespeare and the rest are other National Theatre productions. The recordings are fully professional, using the backlog of plays that have appeared in cinemas around the world. There is no charge.
Some people think that OSF can do no wrong, and there is no reasoning with them. Shakespeare performance scholars know that OSF’s Shakespeare work is not as good as its fans believe. The shows offered by the Globe, National, and the Stratford Festival are excellent. I hope that OSF will have its short season starting in September, but plays offered by these other companies are superior and very satisfying.
Vote yes on Measure 15-189
This community has a great opportunity, right now, to add a significant level of professionalism to the administration of our city by voting to change to a council/manager form of governance.
We elect our mayor to provide political leadership and vision, facilitate public deliberation and set the city’s agenda. Seldom, if ever, do we elect a mayor with the skills, knowledge and experience to run a complex municipality. And yet, our City Charter charges the mayor with making administrative and personnel decisions.
Unquestionably, we should expect Ashland to be administered by a skilled and experienced professional manager, a non-political employee, who reports to and executes the council’s agenda with the requisite authority and responsibility to manage the city staff. This can best happen with a council/manager governance structure, the most efficient, transparent and fiscally responsible form of government.
Effective and responsible government should be a collaboration between the mayor, the council and a qualified city manager. By clarifying responsibilities, Measure 15-189 will strengthen the roles of each, and ensure a more transparent and democratic administrative process.
More than ever, that’s what Ashland needs now!
Our best opportunity to rebuild
Something special happens when we share a profound experience. We connect deeply during a major disruption, and are more forgiving and patient as we emerge from crises. This will be true of our visitors over the next one to two years because of COVID-19.
The best time to remodel City Hall is next year when we will have fewer visitors and they will be grateful just to be on vacation. The project will not impede Plaza traffic and the city will work closely with businesses to minimize disruption and communicate about this project.
Building projects are an indicator of a thriving community and they bring economic activity to an area, which we will need next year. Our visitors will be inspired by Ashland’s investment in its future, not upset.
City Councils have kicked this can down the road for 25 years, and we are out of road. We must decide between some disruption when it will not be a big issue for visitors or having a large, empty storefront in the heart of our business district — and another abandoned civic building a block away.
We can invest in our community without increasing our annual tax bill — it’s a wash because of the library and Fire Station 1 bonds coming off the tax rolls.
This is not a comfortable decision, but anyone who has raised children knows a decision doesn’t have to be comfortable to be right. Yes on 15-183 is the right choice for Ashland and now is the right time. AshlandCityHall.org.