Measures 15-210 and 15-211 would not help Parks
By Leslie Eldridge
The mayor states that she has no authority over city staff and doesn’t speak with staff without the city manager present. She claims that the same should be true of our Ashland Parks & Recreation Commission (APRC). Actually, the same is true of APRC. The mayor should know that APRC has a system that mirrors the management structure of the City Council.
APRC Commissioners only direct the Parks Director. It was one of the very first things Director Michael Black discussed with me when I came into office. He kindly directed me in proper procedure — to route all concerns and issues through him.
Secondly, the mayor claims that 15-210 is “about money.” APRC “authority,” she says “causes the city’s insurance rates to increase by 36%.” Taken from the July 1, 2022, insurance proposal from Brown & Brown to the city of Ashland, insurance rates have increased 30% from 2022 to 2023. Incidentally, the rates for other cities B & B insures “saw increases for ’22-23 in the 15% to over 40%” range. B&B cites multiple factors: increased property values, a transition from a “soft” insurance market to a “hardened” one, the increased risk of cyber-attacks, increased fire risk and auto liability, as well as employee liability claims. Although convenient, it is misleading to point the finger only at APRC for this increase.
The mayor also said “Parks is funded at a higher level than our fire department.” From the city’s budget book from last biennium, operating expenses for Ashland Fire and Rescue are $10.1 million per year, while operating expenses for APRC are $7.7 million.
In regards to Measure 15-211, the mayor seems to misunderstand the words of the voter-approved food and beverage tax. The mayor claims: “The fact is that the charter leaves financial allocation to the City Council, no matter what.” That may be technically true, but disregarding the language and the will of the voters is not an acceptable way to make policy.
Currently, the F&B tax can onlybe directed towards streets and parks. Street repair is now covered by fees paid by private utilities to use the city right of ways. So, a “no” vote on measure 15-211 would direct the unallocated 73% of Food & Beverage tax revenue for parks capital improvement projects.
Parks can more than utilize the 73% for capital improvement projects, say, for the sorely needed replacement for Daniel Myer pool, among other things.
The mayor says she loves our parks, as do I. Voter-elected APRC Commissioners have been working for more than a hundred years to build this world-class park system. Our parks, like our city as a whole, is imperfect. And I have dedicated myself, with the help of my colleagues and the community, to forming a “more perfect” parks and recreation system. But Measures 15-210 and 15-211 would move us away from this goal. Sticking to the facts, working collaboratively, and respecting the will of the people is what will move us towards a better Ashland.
Leslie Eldridge is a commissioner on the Ashland Parks & Recreation Commission.