I attended the Ashland town hall meeting Monday and came away feeling that the city councilors will be like the six blind men describing the elephant they’re touching as they try to divine the meaning of the green sticky-dot poster data. It can be whatever they want it to be.
Let me offer them my impression: the real issue — the elephant — is that the city is dying! Kaput! The pandemic may have been a catalyst, but the pandemic has lost its importance as a current cause. The city has historically relied on the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) to fill its hotels, restaurants, and shops with patrons. That isn’t happening anymore and isn’t likely to happen again anytime soon. That ship has sailed, as they say.
So what will bring the moneyed tourists to spend their time and treasure here? Ashland will. This beautiful woman-of-a-city just needs some makeup and community support.
If you were downtown during the holidays and saw the lights on most of the buildings, you know what she can look like dressed up: like Disneyland’s Main Street after dark! Imagine Ashland with every building — from the Lithia-Main Street “Y” to the library — outlined in lights. Lithia Way and the connecting streets, too. And we have beautiful Lithia Park already here! We would have to restrict panhandlers and tent encampments from this tourist zone. If these low-cost steps were taken, this town could become a magnet for people trying to get away from the rot and filth of the once-beautiful towns to our south. It wouldn’t happen overnight, but it can happen, with or without an OSF.
Our councilors just need to see the big picture and stop focusing on the small green stick-dots.