OPINION: The False Choice Fallacy – APR’s “BIG LIE”

The Ashland Parks and Recreation held a study session on February 2, 2022.  The meeting packet included the staff report from department Director Michael Black.  In it, we find the following:

The City Manager’s office is also attempting to define which General Fund services are mandated, or required by State Statute, City Charter, Memorandum of Understanding or Contracts. By defining the “required” services that are funded through the General Fund and the resources essential to provide those services, a picture will emerge of the remaining resources. These remaining resources will not be enough to cover all of the services that are traditionally funded through the General Fund. In determining how to deal with the budget shortfall for those services that are not “required,” but are traditional, I think the following questions will be key:

– Should the City of Ashland reduce the resources provided to its departments and APRC, which will have the effect of reducing services to the public that are not mandated, or “required,” in order to address the shortfall in the General Fund? OR,

– Should the Council or APRC attempt to implement revenue enhancements, which could include a special levy, increased fees or special district in order to address the shortfall in the General Fund and continue to provide current levels of service and restore lost services?

This is APR’s “Big Lie”: a variation on the classic false choice fallacy.  The two basic choices are accurate: reduce funding or increase revenues.  But the ”effect” noted that would result from reducing revenues is not the only option.  There are many other ways to deal with reductions in funding.  Governments, companies, and individuals have to deal with these issues all the time.

Some of the other options available should be obvious to any competent manager or management team.  Some of them include:

  • Improve efficiency
  • Reduce Waste
  • Review Staffing Levels
  • Review Employee Productivity
  • Cut Energy and Resource Usage

All of these areas must be examined by APR if they want to maximize the utility of their funding.  They are also areas that must be examined by the Council when evaluating the appropriate level of APR funding.  And ultimately, they may need to be examined by the taxpayers.  I have been investigating APR’s finances and spending extensively, and will be reporting specifics in the coming months that should shed real light on the situation.

A good analogy is a spoiled child who is accustomed to a very generous allowance.  For whatever reason, his family’s income takes a turn for the worse.  In that case, the spoiled child will have to take a cut in his allowance.  But the spoiled child won’t stand for it, and wails and moans and complains and cajoles… but to no avail.  The adults in the room- his parents- lower his allowance somewhat to ease the strain on the budget.  They don’t cut him off; they just lower his allowance to a level that the family can sustain.  If and when things get better for the family, the child may find his allowance increasing again.  Or perhaps not.  Either way, the spoiled child has to deal with it.  He has to spend less until the funding returns.  He doesn’t necessarily have to lose anything, he just needs to cut back.  He needs to make choices.

APR is in a similar position.  The City’s income is insufficient to cover the City’s overall needs.  APR is just going to have to cut back a little.  Last year they were pretending that they were going to be cut off, left out to dry.  Unless they received guaranteed funding for 2023 and beyond, they cried, they would be in an untenable position, unable to operate, and would have to slash programs and services.  Of course nothing could be further from the truth: thus, the Big Lie.

This attitude is just one of the many reasons that APR needs to be brought back into the city organizational structure as a normal department with a change in the City Charter.  When that happens, APR will not be able to act like a spoiled child: thinking that it is entitled to special consideration that other departments are not, unable to understand the bigger picture of the City budget as a whole.  That is one more topic that we will cover in greater detail in the months ahead.

The other aspect of APR’s Big Lie is the reality of the level of its actual funding, and the reasons for any cuts in programs or services that we may or may not have seen in the past few years.  I will be presenting facts and figures that demonstrate that the sky is not falling at APR.

Keep reading the Ashland Chronicle to keep up to date on these vital issues and more.  This is the news outlet that is willing and able to do the in depth investigation necessary to discover the facts that go beyond the talking points of our city staff and Councilors, the facts you need to make informed decisions.  We at the Chronicle also welcome Ashland.news.  Our community is fortunate to now have two great local digital print sources for news.

Dean Silver