Let Them Eat Peanut Butter
The continued crisis of conscience at City Hall
By Ashland Confidential
A Slightly Snarky Columnist
(Ashland, Oregon) Isn’t this a nice thing?
“A quick message to let you know that the Adopt a Neighbor Ashland website is now live at www.adoptneighbor.org. It’s a public/private effort of sorts with the system and website built by a team of us (Cathy Shaw, Chuck Keil, Blaire Finney, Mica Cardillo, Dylan Rosalito, and me), but being managed jointly by our team and City of Ashland staff led by Isleen Glatt. It’s been up in tester mode for two days and we’ve received over 50 volunteer sign ups and 10 or so requests for help. “
The note jotted out by City Councilor Tanya Graham is nice. Doing something good is always a right choice.
It’s all so “sunny side of the street” with blue birds chirping until you see the part about two (2) city staff dedicated to help with this. Huh? Aren’t there volunteers already doing this? Yes. Yes, there are. All over the globe and Ashland is included in that movement. It’s a zero cost proposition–so why is this how we decide to spend money?
Meantime, on the wrong side of the Ashland tracks precisely no staff have been dedicated to assist the poor and unhoused who are being asked to shelter in no place and wait for a promised sack lunch of peanut butter and left over jail food from a team of folks who’s mission and efficacy remain in doubt. “Don’t come out for this food,” they say, “it will show up.”
Luckily the people at Peace House, The Methodist Church and Southern Oregon Jobs with Justice are still cooking up food and are doubling down on making more. Sometimes people gather with social distance for this blessing. Those do-gooders are such scofflaws, eh?
They have asked for city help, but the answer is no. No we cannot use an empty public building to triage and shelter the unhoused in place. No we cannot use any grants to secure hotels. No, we cannot use unused city land to have a campground. No we cannot open showers anywhere. No. No. No.
Now Ashland has not been a particularly friendly place to the poor nor people of color, nor young people, nor anyone who just has to work for a living. That’s a given on a regular day.
But now we have an actual crisis. Not a “how will we ever solve more parking at the coop?” kind of crisis but one in which tens of thousands of people are dying from a pandemic because it spreads quickly and our only hope is good hygiene.
Let me be clear. Our only shot of surviving this C-19 crisis, according to the Centers for Disease Control, is good hygiene and social distancing. How do you do that when you’re out on the street in the rain 24 hours per day with no open showers or even bathrooms or regular laundry options?
Is the City of Ashland dedicating people to figure out how to get vulnerable homeless people a place to shelter in order not to spread the virus which will surely affect us all?
No need to assign staff to that. There are so many public buildings to keep empty and patrolled. Imagine the amount of dust from no one being in them. It’s a big job.
Is the City of Ashland working hard to figure out how to create a way to roll back high utility fees and taxes for when citizens come out of this nightmare with a lot less money? No.
Is the City of Ashland cancelling its bond measure for 8 million dollars for a new city hall? No.
Is the City of Ashland Parks Commission still going to launch its bond for a fabulous new pool? It appears so.
Is it working overtime to figure out how we recover from a crisis that may shut down this tourist town while we are losing an estimated five million dollars per month from in tourism revenue? Maybe, but I’ve yet to hear about it.
So what are we doing? Well, there are closed public buildings and parks. There are lots and lots and lots of portable toilets which are also probably expensive. I don’t know. No one will say. And we are creating a buddy group to look in on each other which volunteer groups already created. It’s absolutely free. No staff needed, but okay.
It’s not that the City of Ashland is doing nothing. It’s just continuing to honor its own priorities.
The question is–is that the priority of Ashland residents?