Bryan Holley Speaks Out Again: Response to Councilor Jensen’s Articles

Citizens in Ashland who are watching how well our elected officials are doing in representing their voting constituents should read an essay by councilor Stephen Jensen in the November 2019 issue of the ‘Sneak Preview’ monthly. He suggests that his (and, sadly, probably council’s) upcoming decision to support piping the Ashland Canal will be similar to how courageous village elders in the past made ‘hundred-year’ decisions for us—the humble citizenry—using an old proverb to suggest that it would be ‘the greatest good for the greatest number.’ 

For the first time in my 30 years of living here and participating as a citizen and community activist, a city councilor (Mr. Jensen, due to publication of this essay), has essentially announced his vote on a policy matter that has yet to have its final, public, legal meeting. In this case, when council will decide about piping a short, two-mile portion of a 20-mile canal on November 19. So anyone who was thinking of participating in this important ‘Don’t Pipe The Canal’ meeting to persuade councilors to stop this awful proposal won’t need to direct any remarks to councilor Jensen. You already know how he is going to vote. This raises, at least to me, disturbing questions about adherence to our legal, council protocols and about what Mr. Jensen believes his responsibilities are to the democratic contract he has with his constituents. 

An earlier article in the March 2019 ‘Sneak Preview’ (online) is also ‘must-read’ for anyone who cares about our city as it details the story of Mr. Jensen’s unique relationship to historic water rights associated with Ashland Creek, including his own dispute with the city. His property is downstream of the section of the Ashland Canal in question. Given his essay with its highly unusual, already-announced ‘vote’ and his personal water issues with the city, I ask Mr. Jensen, as a citizen and voter, to recuse himself from voting on whether or not to proceed with the completely unnecessary piping of a short fragment of a miles-long, un-piped canal. 

In his essay, Mr. Jensen used the phrase ‘the greatest good for the greatest number’. This notion, which sounds good at first, is actually scary when you meditate on it and could just as easily be used as justification for any gruesome policy of an authoritarian or power-abusing leader. I respectfully suggest to the councilor that he find another proverb to justify what votes he takes (how about the rarely heard, ‘Because that’s what my constituents wanted me to do.’?). But to use this questionable proverb one final time, I think the greatest good for the citizens of Ashland would be for Mr. Jensen to recuse himself from this vote and for all councilors to rebuke yet another divisive, juggernaut project shaped by city staff whose salaries our maxed-out fees and taxes support. A reminder: we good people who are fortunate to work and live in our beautiful city don’t need a village elder or a nanny, we need partners.

Bryan Holley, Ashland

//inserted by Sharon