Overruling the voter
What a slap in the face to the majority of Ashlanders who voted for change in the November election. Last Tuesday night, our mayor and Councilors Slattery, Jensen, Rosenthal and Steffinger voted to appoint Mike Morris to the Citizens Budget Committee.
Morris’s long-term service to the city is commendable, and Ashlanders admire and thank him. However, he was defeated by a margin of 2-1 because of his perceived lack of competence around the budget and deference to the status quo.
A Daily Tidings editorial on Nov. 8 states, “Incumbent Councilor Michael Morris was shown the door in Position 2, as challenger Tonya Graham seized 61 percent of the vote, a clear signal that voters want new blood. The city’s budget was a point of contention, and Morris and (Jackie) Bachman represented the status quo, for good or ill ”
The “clear signal” from the community was obviously not heeded. There were three other viable candidates. Significantly, the four councilors who voted for Morris didn’t interview or even contact these candidates prior to the selection.
Our mayor and Councilors Slattery, Jensen, Rosenthal and Steffinger did, however, clearly signal they are digging in ahead of the upcoming 2019-2021 budget process. To appoint someone to the Budget Committee who was defeated because of his positions relative to the budget is an affront to the Ashland community. It underscores this mayor and City Council’s serious flaw: not listening to its citizens.
Ashland Citizens for Economic Sustainability (ACES)
Repair, don’t replace
I urge the City Council to adopt alternative 4 for the canal project. None of the other alternatives are appropriate, all of them cost far too much, and all provide far too little benefit.
Alternative 4 is not to do “nothing,” but to maintain the canal properly. This has clearly not been done in recent years, and is why we are facing this choice today.
The piping will only improve the e. coli entering Ashland Creek from the canal by about 20 percent based upon the latest testing. Reducing e. coli is a laudable goal, but piping is an extremely ineffective way to combat it. Most of the e. coli in the canal originates upstream from this project, and will not be affected.
Evaporation over the two-mile portion of the canal under consideration is minimal, and is not an issue.
Seepage is an important issue, but it should be addressed by ongoing annual maintenance. Most of the seepage can be eliminated by patching at a far lower cost.
The canal is in terrible shape. That is only because adequate maintenance has not been performed for many years. This is a problem of our own making. We can correct this problem easily at low cost. Repair, don’t replace.
Construction will be horribly disruptive to anyone who lives near the canal. And the loss of trees proposed is egregious. The argument that they will all die anyway is bogus. Some will die sooner, some later, but they will not all die immediately. Many will survive, perhaps exhibiting less vigorous growth, but many will adapt.
It is guaranteed that the council will encounter strong pushback from some of the property owners along the canal, and with good reason. The legal defense of this project is another cost that has not been considered.
It was apparent at the last community meeting that the vast majority of attendees were opposed to the piping project. Council members should respect the wishes of their constituents, show fiscal responsibility, choose alternative 4, and direct Public Works to maintain the canal properly!
Keep trees and garden
I understand why the proposal to remove two stately old Douglas fir trees from Lithia Park has brought such heated opposition.
Ashland, as a city, has a critical mass of people who cherish the natural environment and view many of its manifestations as entering the realm of the “sacred.” To these folks, the thought of removing healthy trees that have endured over a century brings true pain.
I also understand how a well-planned Japanese Garden can provide peace and tranquility for those whose everyday lives may seem chaotic and frenetic.
The two need not be in conflict. It is certainly possible to have both.
Last year, when my wife and I visited Japan, we saw numerous examples where old trees were incorporated into formal gardens and sacred sites. In the Kenrokuen Gardens near the Kanazawa Castle Park, poles were lashed under large branches to prevent breakage from heavy snows. On Mount Koya, near Koyasan, stately but leaning 800-year-old cyprus trees were held up by thick cables.
If ancient trees can be preserved for their splendor in Japan, there is no reason we cannot do the same here. I would strongly urge the Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission to work with the Mangin and Marachel families to design a Japanese Garden that enhances and preserves the stately Douglas firs that now exist. Doing so would give us a sanctuary that could benefit many future generations of Ashland residents.
Just fix the van
I’m not sure if it’s a trend or a habit or a philosophy, but the city is proposing a lot of expensive projects recently without presenting a basic maintenance option.
The three City Hall proposals are: (1) All-new City Hall in the Plaza — $12 million. (2) Turn Briscoe School into City Hall — $15 million. (3) Civic Center City Hall near the police station — $19 million.
The three Ashland Canal proposals are: (1) Remove the entire ditch and build a new ditch — $2.4 million. (2) Pipe and cover every exposed ditch — $3.1 million. (3) Pipe every inch beginning to end — $4.6 million.
Repair and maintenance don’t seem to be in the conversation lately.
I liken it to someone bringing their van in for repairs and going to the dealer. But the dealer is now selling Teslas. And all the salespeople descend with all the great Tesla options. And they offer three differently priced models for sale. And they are all good people and really believe in the Tesla, but
You just brought in your van to fix a leak. You don’t have the money for a Tesla. Teslas are nice. But you love your van. You just want to fix your van. Maybe, you’d consider a solar panel on the roof? But the salespeople believe that you don’t understand how old your van is and how important a new Tesla is.
In Ashland, most of us are here because we love an old van. And we want to keep it running for the memories it holds. And we’d overpay for repairs for the charming old van because it’d still be way cheaper than that new Tesla.
So let’s focus more on redesigning the old City Hall (which is a great old van that does need a lot of work), and aggressively repairing the Ashland Canal (because that thing is indeed leaking all over the driveway).
Repairing rather than replacing these cherished city landmarks doesn’t just save money, it shows our community’s commitment to something money can’t buy: Ashland’s character.