Public Comment at the monthly Parks & Recreation Commission Meeting on 9/25/17
These are the voices of community members in Ashland and their public comments about the Senior Center recommendations recently approved by the APRC. They are unanimous in their opposition to same. I will submit these for the public record. As a retired Social Worker, family caregiver, support for friends, and a senior, I add my voice to theirs. Some have spoken; many more will be speaking.
This process is tainted by meetings earlier this year with no public notice. Now, an Ad Hoc Committee, hastily formed, stacked by APRC and City employees and officials, is set to begin. In adequate public notice was given. No notice was printed in the Tidings to apply. Only three of the nine members are slated to be qualified, professionals or dedicated volunteers. There was an unrevealed vetting process to determine qualifications, which may not have been equally applied to participating city employees, officials, or staff. Michael Black advocates hiring a facilitator; he states he has one in mind. Usually facilitators are expensive. Three months of ad hoc meetings going into the holidays doesn’t seem plausible that everyone will be attending these meetings.
This process violates the broad based, multi-pronged approach recommended in the Performance Audit. It stressed reaching out to the entire community, especially Seniors. It noted that special efforts must be taken to involve Seniors who do not use computers to ensure their full inclusion. This is a primary concern to me.
No such process is being implemented. Seniors at the Center say that no one from this body, ever come to speak to them. The damaging and disruptive changes since early August were totally avoidable had the APRC followed good professional standards: fact find and plan first; change after discussion with citizens. What’s the rush with the ad hoc committee meetings?
Stunned Ashlanders are asking why? For those of you who use computers, please read the public record on the APRC website. The audit and minutes might shock you as they did me. For those who do not use computers, a process must happen that allows them to hear, digest, and respond to any changes and participate fully. That is going to take some time.
The senior community requests and deserves better access to meetings. Let’s repair the damage done and proceed in a mindfull, respectful way. These are our elders; we may all be on our way to that status. We all deserve better.
Just before my opportunity to speak, Michael Black announced he had gotten so many applicants to be on the ad hoc committee, that he was expanding the number of citizens to 5. We were given no other information about their identities. It is some indication of community concern. The Commission also approved the hiring of a facilitator; Mr. Black says he knows him. I wonder how well he knows him and what their connections are? Rick Landt assured us the facilitator would be truly neutral, not working for the Commission, who will be paying them, as often happens. I am not reassured by that statement one little bit!
I urge all Ashlanders to get very involved and active now…..attend meetings, speak, email and write, into the public record as well as newspapers, and on line……to ensure a true, thorough public process of many public meetings, extensive discussion of the public record, and a true process of democratic input….based on the principle: “of, by, and for the people.” To the Parks & Recreation Commissioners and all staff: Stop playing poker with the taxpayers of Ashland!