Letters to the editor, Aug. 21
I’ve never written a Letter to the Editor before, but today’s article about Starbucks (Aug. 17) rang a note in me that said Speak Up!
As I understand it, a new Starbucks was approved by the city on Ashland Street because it met all the legal hoops. And they said nobody showed up for the meeting. But a locally-owned coffee shop is situated right across the street.
Soon after I moved to Ashland, Riverwalk was proposed for my neighborhood on North Mountain Avenue, maybe in 2003. I got a notice from the city about it that was in print so small I could barely read it. I knew the old folks in the neighborhood could never read it. So I went from door to door asking, “Did you know this is being proposed?” Most did not. If I had not done that, nobody would have showed up for the meeting.
I realized my neighborhood needed a citizen advocate, and I had just stepped into that role. I followed the process, and we neighbors held an auction to be able to hire a person who knew how to translate our concerns into developer language and city-speak. We ended up with 42 conditions on the developer’s proposal, backed by the city, who appreciated our work, mostly drainage issues and height of buildings next to the old neighborhood and accommodations to those who were impacted the most.
So, what is the value of having a citizen advocate? Does the city employ one? Did anyone from the city knock on doors around the proposed Starbucks and ask, “Did you know this is being considered?” Doesn’t sound like it.
If there isn’t a value to locally-owned businesses, instead of international franchises, in our city plan, could there be one? We know it’s better to keep our dollars in the community. If it is just a matter of meeting the rules about parking and dimensions along the street, we have lost the spirit of a thriving community.
City of Ashland, if you lack a community advocate, I believe there are many of us who would happily fill that role.