APRC should not be in charge of a social service program for seniors offered by the city. Why? Read Below!

To Citizens of Ashland:

The situation with the Senior Program has deteriorated further.  On October 10th, Mr. Black informed an ad hoc committee that the program director position, previously filled by Chris Dodson, is now a part-time position.  He proceeded to say APR could use some help in finding someone to fill it.  It is ironic that, two months after the announced lay off of all staff, there is still no job posting on the city web site for a replacement.  The importance of dedicated, consistent and informed direction for the senior program within our Ashland community continues to be downplayed.

There have been numerous incidents at the senior center during these two months, from breaches of health care privacy and confidentiality to lack of knowledge of basic information of vital importance to seniors.  These are not imaginations; these are documented occurrences.

Meanwhile city council tells those of us who ask for their assistance in this matter that we simply don’t understand how our city government is run.  Council’s interpretation of the city charter is that a peer relationship exists between Ashland Parks and Recreation and Council and Council has no authority over APRC’s decisions in these matters.  While the city charter does dictate that the Parks Commission shall have control and management of all the lands here dedicated for park purposes and all park funds, the municipal code states The City Council is the final decision-maker on all city policies and the use of city resources. The Council is further charged with supporting a resilient, sustainable community that lives within its means and maintains the distinctive quality of life for which Ashland has become known.  The current “big fat mess” underscores that the current APRC should not be in charge of a social service program offered by the city.  Why does our council not intervene and provide for a healthy system of checks and balances in this very unfortunate situation?

Meanwhile, creation of an ad hoc committee with a hired facilitator is serving as the platform for further erosion of the program.  There is nothing unusual about this technique, one of slowing the process down so the previously made decision (however egregious) can be reinforced or normalized.  APRC can claim, once again, they had meetings open to the public.  They claim the ad hoc committee will be “efficient and thorough” over a period of 3 to 5 months.  Despite the previous recommendations of a $40,000 APR audit, despite public outcry, here we are with a previously robust program that no longer has a program manger nor informed staff and no plan to take immediate action to fix what APRC effectively broke.  And, despite solemn promises by Commissioner Gardiner to the public, the council and the mayor that there would be  public input at every meeting, public input has been closed until “after a number of meetings” of the ad hoc committee at some arbitrary time in the future when “informed input” will be welcome.

Meanwhile the program limps along.  The loss of skilled staff is noticeable to anyone with knowledge or insight as to how the program was running prior to the layoffs when it was a successful Oregon DHS model senior program.

Heidi Gottlieb

I am an RN, specialized in senior care, and a resident of Ashland for 14 years.