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Activities levy deserves a 'yes'

Ashlanders can do what the Legislature won't by backing schools

Ashland Daily Tidings

Since 1994, Ashlanders have repeatedly proven they're willing to invest in the future of their children and their city by supporting a series of youth activities levies.

The levy was created in response to legislation in the early 1990s that sapped funding for schools. The past two years have seen even more drastic reductions in support for education, with funding cuts approaching an additional 20 percent. As a result, programs, staff and even school days have been slashed, along with the imminent closure of Briscoe Elementary in Ashland.

State leaders won't come to the aid of schools, but Ashlanders can.

The Ashland Youth Activities Levy has been a consistent litmus test, gauging the community's resolve to support children, education and commitment to the future. In the past, it hasn't been a hard sell for levy backers to drum up support, with the main challenge being hitting the 50-percent voter turnout mark for double-majority elections.

— But the city is changing and it's anyone's guess if the Ashland of today cares more about its pocketbook than its kids.

The city's shifting demographics point to an increase in older, retirement-aged residents, particularly compared with the numbers of children and young adults. Since 1990, there has been a 21 percent drop in people ages 35 to 44 ' about 700 fewer Ashlanders typically involved in settling down, starting families and getting involved in community activities.

Many suggest Oregon is becoming a retirement state, and that Ashland is on the leading edge of that transformation.

Why should a newly transplanted retiree vote for the levy? Someone who moved here a year ago to enjoy their golden years in the quiet but stimulating splendor of Southern Oregon ' someone on a fixed income, whose children are long out of school and whose grandchildren live in another state? Why put up the &

36;1.38 per &

36;1,000 of assessed property value to support the education of unfamiliar children?

To support and participate in the community in which they chose to live.

Last year, the levy provided more than &

36;670,000 to programs at Ashland High School such as orchestra, choir, Brain Bowl, club sports, the school yearbook, Model United Nations, drama, leadership classes and athletics. At the middle school, more than &

36;250,000 funded foreign language classes, band, orchestra, athletics, outdoor education, Brain Bowl and other programs. At elementary schools, more than &

36;430,000 made music and physical education activities possible.

The money makes a difference for the children. The children make a difference for the community. Vote for the levy, vote for the children, vote for the community in which you choose to live.

Raising the bar

Congratulations go out to the Ashland and Central Point police departments, both of which in April received accreditation from the Oregon Accreditation Alliance.

Accreditation reduces liability insurance costs and brings enhanced credibility in court and in the eyes if the public. Because of these benefits, insurance companies for both Ashland and Central Point paid the accreditation application fees.

The two departments have spent the past year reviewing and rewriting policies to ensure they conform to OAA standards. Changes to some policies were minor; other policies were completely overhauled, such as the Central Point department's guidelines for using force.

Again, congratulations are in order to both departments for showing the professionalism to go through the lengthy procedures required to become accredited.

The Eagle Point Police department also is pursuing state certification, and the Medford department has set its sights on more rigorous national certification. Other police departments in Jackson county should follow suit.