the charade is over

APRC Chairman Rick Landt finally admitted what the opponents of Measure 15-214 have been warning all along.

In an interview with JPR’s Roman Battaglia, as reported on the JPR website, he stated:

“Which is the reason we wanted to extend the sunset date,” Landt said. “So there’d be sufficient years for a revenue bond for a new pool.”

What this means is that the purported motivation for the measure—namely that it would provide more money for maintenance—is patently false.

Rick Landt is not only chairman of the Ashland Parks and Rec Commission (APRC), he is also one of the principal directors and founders of the Preserve Our Parks political action committee.  This so called “citizens’” PAC is in fact the political arm of APRC.  This makes Landt a reliable spokesperson for both APRC and the PAC.

This group was not only the driving force behind the attempt to have the city council send this measure to the voters.  It has also been the main source of misinformation regarding measure 15-214.  Last November, this same group worked tirelessly to defeat measure 15-211 which would have assigned 73% of the Food and Beverage Tax (FBT) to the city general fund for any beneficial uses seen fit by the city council.

Instead, APRC wants the entirety of the FBT to be assigned exclusively to them for any uses whatsoever, without restriction, whether it be for operations and maintenance or for capital expenses.

The Pool Issue

Those capital expenses include a replacement for the Daniel Meyer swimming pool, which APRC has allowed to deteriorate over the years.  Instead of maintaining the pool, they have been concentrating on designing a new pool.  That pool, which began life as a $2.5M project, has now ballooned into a $10.5M construction project, with no end to the cost inflation in sight.

In a reasonable scenario, a project of that magnitude would be presented to the voters directly in the nature of a general obligation bond for an up or down vote.

But APRC knows that such a bond would never pass.  Thus they have reverted to this backdoor method to finance the pool.  They’ve been plotting it for years, as evidenced in the minutes of their meetings.

They believe that if they had a more or less “guaranteed” revenue stream, they could source a revenue bond to finance the project, and any others that they might desire.

This funding mechanism could be approved by a vote of just three APRC commissioners with the cooperation of merely four votes on city council.  And it has become apparent that APRC has many followers on the city council.

It would be very likely that the revenue bond would come to pass, despite the very likely opposition of the majority of the taxpayers.  The voters would be powerless to stop it.

It is for this reason that measure 15-214 must not pass.  It is a cynical attempt to bypass the affirmation of the taxpayers to benefit a small group of special interest swimmers.  Most everyone recognizes the value of a community pool and wants to ensure that we have one.

But we already have a fine municipal pool, one that would much better serve the needs of the community than the monstrosity that APRC is proposing.  The operating and maintenance costs of a new pool for several years alone would most likely exceed the cost of repairing and refurbishing the current Daniel Meyer pool.

But Wait, There’s More

The other “feature” of this measure is the extension of the FBT for an additional ten years, to expire in 2040.  This unpopular tax would thus be burdening the residents, visitors, and business owners in the city for seventeen more years.

This revenue would not be available for other essential services, or to finance other city capital projects, such as the $70M (and rising) new water treatment plant, as well as the rest of the $178M worth of projects in the current capital improvements plan for the next six years.  It would not be available for rate relief for the water treatment plant debt, just as it was for the wastewater treatment plant for so many years.

But no, APRC wants it all for itself, unrestricted and unaccountable.

The Bottom Line

Measure 15-214 is a bad deal for the taxpayers of Ashland.  It has been peddled with an unending series of misrepresentations intended to hide the true nature and effects of the measure.

But now, thanks to APRC Chairman Rick Landt, the truth is out.

Now it’s up to the voters to tell APRC, the city manager, and the city council that they won’t fall for the distortions and fantasies they’ve been told by the proponents.

Please vote NO on 15-214.  Vote NO to keep what little control the electorate still has to influence the uncertain financial future of the city.

-Dean Silver