I am troubled by what I see happening in Ashland, as I see it become much more autocratic than I feel is acceptable. I recently read the Mail Tribune (1/29/18) article entitled ‘Ashland Council should work with, not against, citizens’ about the City council/Mayor (City) circumventing the citizens on the CBC, abruptly changing the process without notifying the citizens on the CBC, and denying them public information. Apparently, the citizens had been asking ‘too many questions’ resulting in two citizens up for reappointment being passed over. One would think “institutional knowledge” would be welcomed for a complex budget document.
On February 9, 2018, I viewed a live RVCT televised program, Ashland Chronicle Forum featuring Julie Akins interviewing two citizens appointed to the Budget Committee. What an education!
To summarize, the City of Ashland is in dire financial condition. In a clip of the May 11, 2017 Budget Hearing, Bev Adams (former Interim Director of Administrative Services and Finances) who compiled the 2017-19 budget document, states she was surprised that Ashland didn’t have more available reserves. Ashland acts as if it has a lot of extra money, but Ms. Adams stated quite clearly; “I am here to tell you, you don’t.”
Regardless of the dismal financial situation, the Mayor and Council approved hiring five police officers at a cost of 1 million per biennium. They then simply increased our property tax, and added a surcharge to our monthly utility bills. Even former budget committee members commented that five officers was excessive considering state of the budget. The City later decided an existing officer could be reassigned to total hiring four instead of five officers.
At the January 2, 2018 council meeting, where the City increased additional surcharges to pay for two of the four police officers, “Mayor Stromberg explained that the City has 1.7 million that already needs to be backfilled in the General Fund.” This translates into the city having a deficit that he and the councilors need to find additional funds to cover in this biennium, ending June 30, 2019. I have concerns over the direction this Mayor and City Council is taking the City of Ashland. We need new leadership in Ashland; one that is responsible, transparent, and democratic. We need them NOW!