Last gasp?

Lo, let me count the ways.

Ashland is not unique in its search for income to support its staff. A lot of communities have slowly reduced staff and benefits to help their municipalities weather the wrath of a recession denied. We are not there yet, as we seem creative in funding and loath to reduce our expenses. Accordingly, salaries and benefits do not reflect the private marketplace, but rather seem to inch up every time you are not looking. It's a vision that is driving many to pack up and mosey toward less expensive climes.

Our town faces many ongoing challenges: Our sewage treatment plant is still not EPA compliant (if I have misspoken, my face is flushed), we experience a water outage every time we have another 100-year flood, Hosler dam needs to be dredged, our unique downtown businesses need more traffic, our gun club (of which I am not a member) seems to be under fire from the McMansions on the ridge, our council struggles to make headway, our home equities are going south while all taxes and expenses rocket skyward, groceries are being treated like bank deposits, motorists tend to speed, pedestrians are likely to be talking on their cell phones when crossing the street, our schools need a financial boost every year, the relationship between the city and Mount Ashland seems a tad slippery, Abe Lincoln has taken a powder and, well, the laundry list is longer than most people's memories.

Yet we have the financial clout and misguided vision to hotly pursue, after a decade of diffidence, some minor sign ordinance violators as if they weaponised anthrax to send only to high-profile Democrats. It now appears that the mayor's Downtown Task Force finds the issues, as funneled through staff, too complex to comprehend and the whole tar baby seems ripe for referral to the Planning Commission.

No wonder Alfredo takes a breather and spends each evening inside, away from the roving eyes of the compliance enforcers.

The meeting room for the task force is within community development on Winburn Way. Unfortunately, this state-of-the-art space apparently lacks proper air circulation as it has now been twice that the windows have had to be opened to a 90-plus degree day as we gasped through the tortuous tribunals, keenly focused on meting out justice to a few parking ticket tricksters. Who is held accountable for the lack of oxygen? If not the city itself, then what dark forces are at work?

Da Bear, the Lion and Alfredo, of course.

Actually most of the oxygen in the room is consumed by the two members running for mayor. They both have a mastery of the smallest detail that brings the proceedings from a gallop to a hobble in a matter of moments. Meanwhile the rest in the room begin to feel light-headed, somewhat confused and hard pressed to follow what staff has thrown on the table.

As an example I will attempt to lay out an effort to spare Alfredo, which goes something like this: "An additional exempt sign is to be allowed in any commercially zoned, non-historic district which must be a movable three-dimensional sign, not part of the regularly approved signage, constructed using durable materials (to be determined by staff and certainly not any McDonald's or KFC contrivance) of a certain volume, limited in height (no Blackbird signs) to be located at least five feet from the public right of way."

The Downtown Task Force also seemed to like the idea of allowing a restaurant to use up to 20 percent of its window (or was it total signage?) as a changeable sign, to be refreshed every seven days. Enforcement, of course, would be problematic, as trying to monitor the menu changes of 100 restaurants would probably require another enforcement officer with a spanking new digital camera to keep track of things.

Why not ask Alfredo to walk the town late at night with the bear, both with their eyes pealed for offenders? We already know that the lion is not into lying, so he could be the pride of enforcement, as long as he does not leave his post of protection. was last seen renting a tank of oxygen for the next task force deep dive. If you think solutions will surface soon, don't hold your breath.

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