Ashland Is an Orchestra of Citizen Voices: This Time Speaking Against the Outsourcing of the Community Center – A First Amendment Right!!

The editor of the Chronicle asked my permission to post my 2nd Public Testimony even though it was for the Dec 7th meeting, which now has happened.  I agreed because it is so typical of the comments from others on discussing Sandler’s proposal that have been shared on other websites.   Many of them look better written to me than mine, but we are identifying many of the same concerns. After last night’s meeting I have more comments to add.

I appreciate hearing from our Mayor on Next Door.  She has an important role to play in this community and  shares information and background that is vital to understand what is going on.Her comments have helped me comment on some issues before the deadlines and be aware of concerns I might have missed. I hope she develops this role.

I avoid other social media, but try to hang in there with Next Door, since our local paper no longer provides meaningful coverage of our City meetings.  It is my best source for what is coming up.  I sift through the comments to avoid the feuds and read the information that is posted. I have often thanked others who also post about meetings, agendas, documents that will be used in meetings etc.  It is not perfect,  but it helps many.    

Mayor Akins is functioning in what often comes across as a hostile environment. She has gotten better at dealing with it and holding Councilors to behavior appropriate in a City meeting.  Last night  Councilor Jensen began to speak, not about the topic at hand, but what was an attack on our Mayor’s communication with Ashland voters on Next Door. I cringed because it was reminiscent of his tirade a few months ago.    This time, a more experienced Mayor stopped him as it was not even the topic at hand.  As far as I could tell it violated Robert’s Rules of Order which rules our meetings.

In his comments, he uttered a phrase that caught my attention. He said she had “orchestrated a cacophony” from the community.  That, folks, is you and me!  That applies to those who offered public testimony as is our right and responsibility as residents of Ashland.  

I do not think my comments were ever a cacophony.  Nor do I think any others’ were either.   I think the public offered cogent, thoughtful, intelligent, and salient comments.  Regardless, everyone has a right to offer public testimony and have it treated with respect……not called a disparaging term. He has no right to disparage the public that way.  If Councilors disagree,  they can converse in a respectful way and clear up anything they think is mistaken.

In conclusion, I  think that his objections to our Mayor talking to Ashland voters on Next Door are baseless, especially since no mention of Hyatt’s and Graham’s blogs on social media were included.  Either all are OK or all are out of bounds.  Actually our Mayor is correct; they all are protected by the First Amendment. I think he was both rude and out of order. 

However, in no reality can he demean the voters’ input. I would  hope at some point in time he can be held accountable. He certainly needs to be told to cease and desist that kind of comment. In the meantime I hope more and more of us will participate in the decisions we must make, saying the truth unflinchingly but with as much civility as possible. 
Thank you for your time and attention.  My 2nd  public testimony is below.

Second Letter:

I am inspired by a comment our Mayor made on Next Door. She pointed out that the childhood activities proposed by Sandler…and I will add the concerns for programs for early childhood “education” …or just plain fun!!…..  that Councillor Hyatt is concerned about…,would be much better placed at Briscoe School.  It is sort of a no brainer.     It is bigger, has parking, the playground, and has been designed for children!!!  It is out of the craziness and traffic issues of the Lithia Park area and competing uses.  IT’S A SCHOOL!     

We have many other settings that are better and groups of folks who would want to get involved: our school system, SOU, OSF,  etc…teachers in training etc for programs for them..so many marvelllous possibilities.  Sandler and others could donate to that kind of effort around town…or explore various leases that serve the public!! This is exciting.  There are so many possibilities around town that are naturals.

The Lithia Park location is the worst place ……can you imagine traffic and safety issues in the middle of tourist season?? It already is rather dangerous there to park and get out of parking spots etc.

I also thought more about the fact we have already voted, assessed, reassessed, had more votes, changed ….etc etc what the process should be with the Commmunity Center. We were beginning to ask for proposals from professionals to address what needs to be done to meet the proper standards.  Numerous course corrections have occurred and may occur again.    I want to know what proposals would come in from professionals after all the reviews.   We might get new ideas or solutions and who knows what they would want to charge…and then the City would choose. Of course the companies would have to know that submitting something to us was worth the time and effort they put into it.  There is every opportunity for someone like Sandler or other folks able to donate to the costs either right now or when a contract has been signed.  They certainly can submit proposals for a lease along with other professional groups too.  Go back to “regular order.”

I want this to continue to be a community center in every sense of the phrase.  Rebuilding the community is vital right now in all the decisions we have before us. I do not think that putting another layer of a private team, and what they may or may not want in the next 20 years, serves us.  

I hope that folks follow up on the possiblitiies of Brisco School or other settings for early childhood activities. Let us stay the course as the CC just voted on a few weeks ago. 

Gwen Davies, Ashland