May Ballot: Ashland City Hall: George Kramer Weighs In —

$8.2 Million Bond on May Ballot

While most of us are worried about infection, isolation, and whether or not we are brave enough to go to the market, the gears of government grind on, which in today’s Ashland, usually, means that the city is still trying to figure out how to get more of your money into its coffers so it doesn’t have to make any hard choices. That includes the incredibly tone-deaf request for an updated city hall (held hostage by the deferred maintenance needs for the Winburn Way Community Center and the Butler Log Cabin, both of which have been shuttered for months).

Last week the Democrats of Jackson County (JCDP) voted to oppose the county’s “jail bond” levy but couldn’t rouse themselves to make recommendations for either of Ashland’s city measures, taking no position, and leaving that decision to Ashlanders.

The latest issue of the Sneak Preview wrote an article, amid its Covid-19 coverage, about the pending $8.2 million Deferred Maintenance Bond for city hall and two other historic buildings, somehow managing to interview and quote the council and the mayor, but nary anyone with an outside opinion. This is how local government now works in Ashland. Rally the troops and present one side of the story in the hopes that in between lattes and chardonnay (and now, in between trying to figure out how to stay safe and still buy groceries) nobody will notice.

I strongly hope that voters in Ashland are better than that, and that we are all, with this enforced free time, paying attention. Councilor Tonya Graham is quoted, in the Sneak Preview, by the mayor, as saying that amid all of Ashland’s economic woes, a rebuilding project for City Hall would be “an economic boost and a symbolic one [too] as Ashland recovers from the disruptions of the pandemic and two seasons of fire and smoke.

”A veritable US Capitol dome rising in the midst of the Civil War, providing a beacon “[T]hat this city, conceived in taxation wherever it can find it, never matched by conservative spending, will long endure,” to paraphrase good ole’ Honest Abe.

Councilor Jensen wants us to remember that “if this bond passes it will not increase your property taxes,” since two earlier bonds will be retired. This presupposes that we somehow agreed to pay permanent levies that the city is free to use for its own wishes, as long as it doesn’t “increase” our taxes. Maybe, Councilor Jensen, we are hoping our taxes might go DOWN as the economy tanks?

Bah! Ashlanders are worried about their businesses, their mortgage or rent, food, and health care. Why in the name of all that is right should we dig into our diminishing pockets and pony up funds for the city to do what it should have paid for itself decades ago?

In about three weeks the voter’s pamphlets will come out and the ballots will follow around the first of May. Consider your vote on the Deferred Maintenance Bond carefully. Do your research. The City, and apparently the media, isn’t going to give you anything other than the party line.

I would add that, in case you haven’t noticed, Ashland’s economy is in a shambles and unlikely to rebound anytime soon. SOU is shuttered, as is OSF, along with most of the restaurants, hotels, and other tourism-dependent business that pretty much make Ashland go. 1000s of our neighbors have been laid off and are scrambling for their future. Business owners are facing fixed costs without any or at best hugely reduced income. City receipts will plummet, along with lodging tax, meals tax, and reduced utility demand. And that’s assuming property values remain stable, which is a big assumption.

It might be time for the city to focus on propping up our economy but so far nothing but crickets from our leadership or City Hall. I really don’t think more energy efficient windows in that building are at the top of anyone’s list of priorities. Do you?

George Kramer – Ashland resident since 1982