If it ain't broke...
Questions I would like answered:
1) If Ashland restaurants compete with each other, why is a meals tax a problem? Do they really compete with Medford and Jacksonville restaurants? Talent? Phoenix? Yreka?
2) Does paying a meals tax of 5 percent affect your decision as to where to dine?
3) What would you like to see on the Imperatrice property in the hills across the valley? Choose one: a) Twinkling lights of condominiums? b) Strip malls and gas stations? c) Residential sprawl? d) Cows and grassland?
4) If you chose a, b or c, who do you think will provide fire, police, water, sewerage, streets and schools, and who will pay for them?
5) If it ain't broke, why fix it?
Objections to tax
There are so many things wrong about extending Ashland's infamous, regressive, longtime and already overly onerous meals tax for an additional 20 years. But I'm only going to discuss some of the most egregious ones here.
First and foremost, in my opinion, is the profound unfairness these taxes inflict on our city's waiters and waitresses, busers and janitors. These are some of the hardest-working, most dedicated people in Jackson County. Why do they earn so little?
Based on Jackson County's actual compensation rates, we are one of the 10 lowest-paying counties in the U.S. And unfortunately, most of these service workers' incomes come from customers' tips — not from their base salaries or possible benefits.
As other surveys both old and new show, prospective customers around the Rogue Valley are very unlikely to eat here in the first place. If and when they do, they're more likely to tip less. Because if they tip the now-standard 20 percent and then add on our additional, nearly unique 5 percent city tax, they're paying an additional 25 percent of their bill for the "privilege" of coming here to eat and drink.
Note to the rest of you Ashland retailers and realtors: Your businesses, too, are being hurt by this unnecessarily burdensome tax that is causing so many outsiders to shun us.
Most of us are deeply feeling the increasingly heavy financial squeeze coming from every direction during these increasingly long and hard times. What we need now is to have our town's tax-and-spend bureaucrats quit intentionally waging their decades-long, maliciously misleading and false, fear-mongering campaigns to scare us into voting for wrongful, misspent taxes such as the so-called "meals" tax.
Lee A. Perlman
Tax makes sense
My vote is to extend the meals tax, which pays off the debt for the sewer treatment plant and provides the city with funds to purchase land for open space. When the tax was first brought up it made sense to me — 350,000 tourists can help pay for treating sewage and also contribute to an open space program. The situation has not changed.
If you want open space preserved, then you'd better be ready to buy it. That's what has happened and for the good. I've read lots of columns and letters, and I still see the meals tax as the way to go to get the job done.
Friends who travel here do not mind the tax. They get the connection between what they pay and what they get. Whether a particular restaurant survives or changes hands or goes belly up depends on much larger forces than the meals tax. Ashland has wonderful places to eat and the competition is keen.
I've seen the wastewater treatment plant being built and have walked down the bike path along the creek, and I say good on Ashland for passing a measure that taps into the tourist trade for funding the mandated installation.
Please consider the alternatives to not renewing the meals tax — a negative impact on the ability to purchase open space and a big cost shift to us locals for payments on the treatment plant. Much more harm than good I'd say.
Visitor supports tax
As a frequent visitor to Ashland, I personally am fine with a meals tax. I use many city services when I'm visiting, and I believe those of us who utilize those services should contribute our fair share of support to your city.
I would suggest that bona fide Ashland (or even Jackson County) residents be given "tax-exempt" cards, which would then ensure that we visitors would be paying our way. With a "captive meal audience," I don't believe that the meals tax causes visitors to eat elsewhere. If locals were exempted, the tax would serve a real purpose.
I am sorry to see opposition to a tax that should be beneficial to your city. I'll tend to not patronize those restaurants and businesses which are opposing the tax when I do visit Ashland in the future.
It's a matter of equity
Each year, the Ashland City Council and budget committee face difficult choices balancing the city budget. This is in part because Ashland accommodates not only city residents but also hundreds of thousands of visitors. Although tourists contribute to the city's economy, they also add demands to our parks, water and wastewater treatment needs. In return, visitors help us by paying meals and lodging taxes. By including visitors in financing our city services, we spread the cost among a broader base of users.
Parkland and infrastructure upgrades are not frills. Without the meals tax there is no identified revenue for parkland acquisition or development. Without the meals tax, retiring the debt on the wastewater treatment plant upgrades falls entirely on Ashland's businesses and residents.
The meals tax is fair. This renewal continues an existing levy: same rate, same purposes. Please support its renewal and vote by Nov. 3.
Ashland City Councilor
Tax makes it tougher
As the former food and beverage director at the Ashland Springs Hotel, I have seen firsthand the difficulties in running a restaurant operation in Ashland. Not the least painful was having to lay off great employees every winter when the tourists were gone. The meals tax only makes a tough business tougher and puts undue pressure on locals every winter to fund businesses who struggle without their support. Those who claim that locals don't or don't have to pay the tax ignore the businesses who close because of those choices. There are other solutions to the sewer treatment payoff. I believe in the creative minds and just spirits of Ashlanders to find an answer that is fair to all. Take some of the pressure off of Ashland restaurants and keep the culinary community — the ones that feed us during our feasts and fundraisers — vibrant.
Letters to the Editor October 30
If it ain't broke...