The commentary in the October issue of the Sneak Preview written by City Councilors Stephen Jensen and Paula Hyatt requires scrutiny. Although it had a number of factual statements that were helpful in understanding the funding issues related to ballot measure 15-211, there were also misleading statements.
Their commentary stated “… Food and Beverage (F&B) funds can now only be spent for Ashland Parks & Recreation Commission (APRC) Capital Improvement Projects (CIP).” That is correct but then they followed with “It is highly unlikely that APRC is in a position to launch $2 million worth of CIP projects. Subsequently, this revenue is effectively stranded in the F&B fund because, by ordinance, it cannot be used for anything else (besides APRC CIP projects) in the General Fund.”
Actually, there are a number of potential CIPs that Park Commissioners have been working toward, including Lithia Park infrastructure improvements and a replacement pool. Planning and public meetings have occurred. The F&B tax was originally for “acquisition, planning, development, repair and rehabilitation of city parks.” With only a few minor exceptions, land acquisition is not needed, but repair and rehabilitation at city parks is an obvious need. Using this “stranded” money for park CIP projects would be totally consistent with the original intent of voters and would move cash-starved projects forward without resorting to property tax dollars. Voting “no” on measure 15-211 supports Ashland’s park infrastructure.
They also said if measure 15-211 passed, “The balance of (75%) of F&B revenues can be allocated to the General Fund for public safety, wildfire prevention, and other essential city services.” Then they go on to say “APRC will be able to use the funds for maintenance and operations if they chose.” That is only true if the city manager and City Council allocate those funds to parks after their wish list of “essential services” is satisfied. Although Jensen and Hyatt imply that APRC gets the funds, based on City Council’s recent disproportional cuts to APRC relative to police and fire, while adding new permanent positions elsewhere, it is unlikely APRC would receive the funds. They could have made an argument that measure 15-211 provides more money for City Council pet projects, but to imply that this measure would be good for parks because parks would get the money is deceptive at best.
Please join me by voting “no” on measure 15-211.
Rick Landt is an Ashland Parks & Recreation commissioner; this letter represents his personal viewpoint.