Letters to the Editor October 26

Meals tax is fair

Vote yes on the meals tax to allow Ashland's visitors to share a small fraction of the cost of keeping Ashland beautiful and livable. It is not fair to expect Ashland property owners and renters alone to bear the entire cost burden of maintaining the infrastructure our visitors come here to enjoy. Visitors love our many cozy bed and breakfasts and they love strolling around our friendly downtown. They are attracted by our wealth of entertainment, fine theaters and wonderful restaurants. Visitors are drawn here by our beautiful surroundings and the varied recreational opportunities afforded by our parks and trail systems, and they are happy to share a small portion of the cost burden with us.

Mail in your ballot today, and vote yes to extend the food and beverage tax.

John Fisher-Smith


Tax costs lost revenue

In response to the Sept. 30 letter by John and Judy Kloetzel concerning the meals tax, the issue is not whether "x" number of people don't mind paying the tax. There are thousands of Ashland residents, and some outside Ashland, who have been very supportive of local restaurants over the years, and they are to be commended.

The real issue, however, is the "y" number of people, both in Ashland and especially those outside (Medford, Phoenix, etc.) who absolutely refuse to eat (and shop) in a town with a sales tax. It's just a fact of life in a state where the voters have regularly defeated sales taxes by a two to one margin over the last 30 years. Some are philosophically oppsed to a sales tax and others just don't want to pay the extra money. Either way, they make the decision to no longer visit Ashland.

It is undeniable that this sales tax is costing the local economy untold millions of dollars in lost revenue, and too, causing the loss of jobs for countless working families.

Please join me in voting no on the extension of the sales tax on food.

Charles Tobey


Help by paying in cash

While I continue to weigh the arguments for and against renewing the meals tax, I realize that there is a simple and effective way for Ashland residents to support our locally owned restaurants easily, without ballots and without delay.

Use cash.

By paying your restaurant tab with cash instead of credit cards you immediately put more of your money into the restaurant and into the local economy. Credit cards (and debit cards) may be convenient, but they burden the business owner with added expense. Card service companies charge restaurants (and all businesses) for your convenience. Those charges leave the restaurant as well as the community.

Credit and debit cards have an unusual fee structure — two fees are charged to the business. A fixed fee is incurred on every transaction — typically 20 to 40 cents. Additionally, a percentage of the total sale is charged — typically around 2 percent. For a $50 meal, between $1.20 and $1.40 goes directly to the processor. Sorry, but I'd rather tip the staff.

Estimating that the total size of the restaurant industry in Ashland is around $32 million per year, I would guess that about $1 million annually leaves Ashland. This is money that is not spent on wages, not re-spent in our community and that will never come back to town.

Now, it's impractical for restaurants to refuse to take credit cards, but it is practical for almost every Ashland resident to carry enough cash on date night to pay the tab with good old greenbacks!

Support your local businesses! Pay in cash!

John Fricker


Few pay for many

If we like our parks and we want parks, then we, as a community, should pay for the amenity and not depend on a "sales tax" collected by one segment of our business community.

The meals tax is collected on one group of people for the benefit of many.

The meals tax is a government-designed plan to have a few pay for the benefit of many.

I left California mostly because of earthquakes and the damned sales tax. There are a lot of people who resent the sales tax and stay away from dining in Ashland. I do not like the negative image, personally or professionally.

What do you suppose would be the outcome if we put an option on the ballot for all of the Ashland residents to pay more city taxes for parks. Do you think it would pass? I don't.

We don't find out how many of the city's residents, tax-paying residents, are willing to pay for the amenity and how much they are willing to pay. If the tax-paying residents would like the amenity and are willing to pay for the amenity, then maybe that wish will find a way of becoming a reality without causing such a community-splitting matter.

Should our city government take a position on this matter? The city works for us. We should be guiding them, not them guiding us. Their position in this matter should be to educate the residents and not attempt to persuade.

If we can't afford it, then we shouldn't have it.

Tom Kennedy


Tax is reasonable

Ashland is a destination of choice for thousands of Californians and other out-of-state visitors each year, not to mention those from other countries. We can safely assume that the meals tax goes largely unnoticed by these groups for two reasons: 1) Ashland, its theaters and restaurants are the primary draw, not the notion of saving on a service tax; 2) The Ashland meals tax is reasonable, often less than what visitors from other regions are used to paying at home.

Have meals tax opponents considered that a significant infrastructure feature is actually largely funded by people who don't live here? If the meals tax is voted down, the entire sewer expense would be absorbed by Ashland residents only and not the many visitors utilizing our infrastructure. Nothing is free in this world, but the meals tax gets fairly close to it when one considers that outside visitors each year (more than 100,000 for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival alone) noticeably outnumber the population of Ashland at roughly 23,000. Very conservatively, that's 4 to 1.

We're happy to pay a few cents extra for a sandwich or to contribute more (in direct proportion) if dining in one of Ashland's unique downtown restaurants. We feel this way because we know where the tax money is going, and it's a discretionary decision on our part. If the meals tax is voted down, we can all say "goodbye, discretionary spending when eating out" and "hello, increased mandatory taxation."

Andrew Kubik and Mary Cody


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