Guest Opinion: Don't defund grant programs

    In response to Dave Kanner's recent guest opinion, "City can find the money," on Oct. 10, I would like to comment and add some additional information.

    First, I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Kanner and have worked with him in the past. However, in his most recent guest opinion I have a differing view point. Kanner suggests that instead of putting a $1 million general obligation (GO) bond on the ballot next spring to fund the final phase of building the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) that we "find the money" somewhere else and he suggests eliminating grant programs. First, I agree with Kanner on placing the $1 million GO bond on the ballot and was the councilor who stated at the most recent council business meeting that I would be opposed to placing a GO bond on the next spring ballot. I suggested instead that we look at the issues of upgrading or moving city hall in concert with the building of the EOC.

    Secondly, here is where I wholeheartedly disagree with Mr. Kanner's statement that "council could easily find $75,000 per year in the existing city budget" for the EOC by eliminating our grant program to many local nonprofit groups. This means as a city we would not support with any funding things like Rogue Valley Farm to School, Science Works, Ashland Food Project, Mt. Ashland Association, Lomakatsi Restoration Project, Ashland Gallery Association, Southern Oregon Film Society, Southern Oregon Film Festival, Lotus Rising and many other organizations.

    Ashland is different than many other municipalities in that we invest in things such as those mentioned above as well as things like Maslow Project, St. Vincent De Paul, Options for Homeless Residents of Ashland and other crucial social safety net services. I think most Ashlanders would favor continuing grant funding for services to homeless teens, home visits and casework support for our most vulnerable senior or disabled citizens, the arts, music and cultural education.

    Yes, we must be prudent with the use of tax dollars — I agree. But defunding our limited grant programs should not be the first place we cut.

    As for his editorial comments on health insurance for non-paid, volunteer city councilors, I would again suggest that we as a society look at ways for all citizens to have access to quality, affordable health care. Let's raise the bar, not lower it.

    — Traci Darrow is a member of the Ashland City Council.

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