Citizens Speaking to Parks Commissioners – “You have lost our trust.”

Public/written comment  –  Ashland Parks and Recreation Meeting   Sept 25, 2017

To Mr. Black and members of the APRC:

“How to build a more robust and inclusive senior services program”

First you needed to deconstruct what WAS a robust and inclusive program.

You began by doing the exact opposite of the recommendations of the 2015-16 Ashland Parks and Recreation performance audit.

You laid off very knowledgeable and very dedicated senior program staff and temporarily reassigned their duties to staff who are unfamiliar with the served population, who lack the comprehensive knowledge of the senior services provided, let alone the unique needs of seniors or these Ashland seniors in particular. You continue to ignore how very disruptive this is to individuals who may have difficulty navigating for their self interests.  You told the public that the senior center is broken and that your actions will fix and improve it and that frankly, you need “new blood” to run the program.   You disregard public input and tell us we are creating false facts.

Then you change program over site.  You place program management at a distance from the people they serve.   Why?   So they won’t be tempted to personally care for the people they serve?   So they will more closely align and serve the APR administration and the APR commission instead?

Then you create an ad hoc advisory committee, allegedly made up of “program participants and related professional field experts.”  Which SOUNDS good, right? Let’s examine that briefly.   That committee will now be comprised of half or more of the very people who made and support these decisions.  The APC will appoint the members.  They may also select and hire a facilitator that Mr. Black says he  ‘has in mind’ for the job.  Why?  To persuade the public that you are fair and representing the people?  It’s not working.

At council earlier this month, you promised to communicate better, to make sure the seniors are aware of the meetings that affect them at the senior center, that notices would be placed there.  To date, no such notice has been seen at the senior center.  This meeting for example—as recently as this morning, there was no notice to be found at the center.

Next, you plan to revise senior center functions and explore options to increase revenue to offset the costs of running the senior center.   You are targeting the senior program, which I might add has been consistently under its relatively small budget, while the APR budget as a whole for 2015-2017 was more than $300K over budget.  What’s up with that?

Most importantly you repeatedly show disregard for the safety net of social service for seniors who depend on the center and its programs for stability.  And their families, whether they live here in Ashland or not, who rely on the center for a safe haven for their loved ones.  You are either not understanding the ripple effect of these actions or your viewpoint is lacking vision and care and compassion.  Many of us believe the senior center and its programs, as a social service, do not belong under the auspices of the current Parks and Recreation Dept.

You disregard public input.  Four fifths of the park commission voted for this dismantling process in early August.  You four do not faithfully represent the people.  It’s simply wrong.  You have lost our trust.

Heidi Gottlieb