Guest Opinion: Ashland council vote on travelers accommodations was less than transparent
Yes indeed, the City Council is to be praised for its dedication to listening over two long years to the transient visitor guest accommodations in residential areas! (Tidings, March 25). I was proud to speak to my town's council, a feeling that democracy is still in some places intact. I cherish living in such a town.
But there is a "but," a critique I must add. There was, in the final voting, a lack of transparency by each council member about why they chose still to exempt R1 — when they had written a very clear and useful set of definitions they then applied only to R2 and R3. It boggles the mind that the council members did not articulate why each thought R1 should not be included.
I want to speak about a very silent minority inside this whole discussion. The Planning Commission told us there are 5,000 residences in R1. Yet there were only some 70 shut down by the city — only about 70 of 5,000 chose to try guest accommodations to try to make ends meet! Twenty or so of those spoke out publicly.
What of the other 50? What about them? Did they not care? I was the only speaker who had the courage to talk about personal money hardship. It took courage for me to express my shame about not being able to make ends meet, to struggle to stay in my home after a lifetime of productive work. I was beyond shame; I had to speak. I am in my 80th year, handicapped, with few new resources available. Gratefully, Airbnb.com became came a very safe help. I got to vet everyone who asked for a reservation, plus I had very interesting guests willing to tell me their own stories of handicap and ill health. I am ashamed that I am in these money straits, but it is essential that someone speak the reality of why we open our homes to guests.
I submit that I speak for some large portion of the 50 who chose not to speak out — out of some money shame. Money is more taboo than sex.
Kevin Flynn, the compliance officer, spoke to each of the 70 he shut down, at great length. He knows our stories, but did the council hear them? Do they know the real hardships of a few good people in our midst who were doing something they could do? It is a tempest in a teapot.
Does any one really think that allowing these 70 to continue with guests is actually going to overturn the tourist economy for commercial bed and breakfasts? Does anyone really think the floodgates will open in R1? It didn't before, and won't after, and it won't affect the beauty and ease of our neighborhoods.
I ask the council and the community to remember what this is really all about: a few people in hardship trying to be resourceful. Is everyone going to forget how a truly human community actually works?
My daughter reminds me that there is national precedent for taking people in during times of need. In World War II, people took in "boarders." I replied to her that my family and many others took in whole families, yet others took single people into their homes. They made a go of a common economic need. I was a youngster, and some of these people were important to me in what they gave me of their personal gifts. It made our families and our community.
Now is much the same as then; the economy then was not so good for many people, so sharing was one of the things they did. We want to pretend our economy is OK, but it isn't, yet. What we are doing in Ashland is a variation on that theme. It is not so much about tourists as a business as people taking in others to stay afloat. Everybody benefits.
Nationally we are a people of sharing and giving. As human beings we are people of sharing and sheltering.
Ashlanders are growing food in their yards and raising chickens for eggs. In World War II, we had "victory gardens" and brought a salt shaker to eat the first ripe tomatoes. These are our roots as human beings, to take in strangers. This will not endanger R1.
Ruth Resch lives in Ashland.