ACES Holds Councilor Responsible for his Claims Part I

Provided below is Rich Rosenthal’s recent response to a citizen on Next Door.  His comments are in black.  Our response (ACES) to his comments are in Bold. A series in holding councilors’ accountable for their words and actions.

 Hi Sarah,

 I very much appreciate receiving your comments and thoroughly respect your viewpoints. I hope that you accept my comments in the spirit of friendly and respectful dialogue about civic matters.

First, the “Ashland Chronicle” is not a reputable source of objective information about municipal issues.

 As it turns out, the Ashland Chronicle is a much better, reliable source of information than the misinformation Councilor Rosenthal has presented in his letter below.  It is the only independent media reporting on the Ashland scene.  All of the articles are from citizen journalists!

 The City is not spending recklessly, it is merely maintaining the historic levels of service and attempting to maintain and to upgrade its infrastructure.

 Historically, the Ashland budget rose at reasonable rates with the same population, services and resort town status we have today.  However, since Mayor Stromberg and Councilor Rosenthal were elected, the budget has doubled to almost the same size as Medford’s, a city four times our size.

 Unfortunately, inflation makes providing essential and valued services more expensive virtually every year. The City isn’t immune from inflationary pressures.

 Total inflation over the last 10 years has been 17.24% (Bureau of Labor Statistics) compared with an almost 100% increase in the budget over the same period.  The problem is certainly not inflation but rather our city council’s approval of every proposal that’s come forward in the last 10 years with no prioritization or concern for cost.

 The City of Ashland doesn’t operate a jail, but voters certainly should have the opportunity to weigh in on whether a new County facility is necessary.

You referenced City Hall considerations. To keep City Hall in its existing location, the most cost-effective approach is a rebuild of the existing two-story structure in a manner that would retain the existing footprint and restore the building’s original aesthetics.

 The most cost-effective approach is seismically retrofitting city hall (estimated at $1.8 million in 2016) and bringing it up to code (estimated at $2.6 million).  The current proposal, which razes and expands the current building, is estimated at $7.2 million.  There is no need for a new city hall, given our static population nor for increases in staff.  Also, given our dire fiscal situation and the need to pass a bond to build it, we can’t afford a new city hall. 

The City Council recently voted to send this least-expensive option to a shovel-ready level of architectural and engineering preparation.  Constructing a code-compliant City Hall that will last another 100 years is reasonable and pragmatic.

 A retrofitted, rehabbed building brought up to code will last for another 100 years as well.

 Ignoring glaring safety and liability risks and deferring the City Hall issue to future generations is dangerous and irresponsible.

 This is pure political scare tactics and hyperbole.  Aside from the seismic retrofit which could have already been done three years ago when recommended by the city’s Ad Hoc committee, there are no other safety issues or liability risks of which we are aware.  If there are others, they can be fixed without tearing down and rebuilding a new city hall.  If safely and liability risks are major concerns for Councilor Rosenthal, why hasn’t he addressed Briscoe School, a city owned property that is not seismically fit that houses a preschool?  

 A recent opinion piece called the Ashland Canal piping project “unjustifiable” even though both the City’s citizen-derived Ashland Water Advisory Committee and its Climate and Energy Action Plan Ordinance placed high value on conservation of natural resources and adaptation to climate change, which are not always inexpensive or voluntary propositions.

 The Ashland Canal piping project WAS unjustifiable and rightly voted down.  It proposed tearing out 77% of the canal that is in decent condition to replace the 23% that needs fixing at a cost of $5 million versus $1.5 million to repair the canal. 

 Additionally, Councilor Rosenthal should explain how his 100% support of a new $60 million water park in Medford squares with his great concern for water security, conservation and climate change.   How many gallons of water will evaporate from that during the summer months?

 Saving up to 60 million gallons of water annually may not qualify as a worthwhile civic investment for some, but many Ashlanders agree that it is a responsible and justifiable project to consider.

The issue is why would someone think it a “worthwhile investment” to spend $4 million when the canal could have already been fixed for less cost?

 The same can be said about the City’s efforts to modernize its water treatment plant, an antiquated facility that was built in a steep canyon, and as a result, risks the community’s entire water supply to a flood event or a moderate earthquake, let alone a Hosler Dam breach or a catastrophic wildfire.

If the Hosler Dam breached, the whole valley would be out of commission even with a new plant.  Is Councilor Rosenthal aware the city has budgeted $5 million to strengthen Hosler dam?

 The city is not recommending “modernizing” its water treatment plant but rather building a brand new water treatment plant estimated at $36 million. 

 Councilor Rosenthal should understand Ashland citizens’ concern and frustration at 1) having recently invested $13 million in TAP which can deliver drinkable water to Ashland, yet we’ve not used any and have no plans to do so and 2) the fact that one year before, the estimate for the water treatment plant was $18 million and then doubled to $36 million. 

Part II Follows