Letters at length, November 6

No more whining

In all the whining about the meals tax and how unaffordable it makes eating in Ashland, has anyone done the math to see that a 5 percent tax on a $50 meal is a whopping $2.50? Whoop-tee-do — that would sure keep me from eating out.

I have heard no one whining that the gratuity on that $50 meal is 18 percent, or $9. Why is $2.50 a deal breaker and $9 not even mentioned? To the argument that it keeps people from the Valley from coming to Ashland for a meal — their cost for gas to Ashland is two to four times the amount of meals tax they would pay. Yet we are told it is the tax, and the tax alone, that keeps people from driving to Ashland to eat. $3-a-gallon gas has never been mentioned as a factor.

Some of the newer restaurant owners were well aware of the Ashland meals tax before they opened their restaurant. They should have considered this before they went into business here. They knew they would have to charge the tax and that Ashland was the only place that did so. If it was such a burden, why did they start their business in Ashland? They should have opened it in Talent or Medford or Grants Pass. Whining after the fact is a bit disingenuous.

This is a community, and we are all called to serve in various ways. And one way restaurant owners are called to serve the greater whole is by collecting this tax on all of our behalf. They could feel grateful they can make this contribution to the community instead of whining how it personally inconveniences them. To the restaurant owners who understood this and supported the tax, thank you! Note that 58 percent of the town agrees with you. I'm glad I live in a place where the majority will put service to the whole ahead of personal inconvenience.

Steve Wolfson


Thanks for recycling

A special thanks to all of the participants who came out for our second Plastic Round-up in Southern Oregon. We owe a hearty appreciation to our stellar volunteer community! The Jackson County Master Recyclers guided the way along with local churches, high schools, Southern Oregon University and Oregon State University Extension volunteers.

During the two-day Plastic Round-up, our community diverted 18 tons of plastics at our two drop-off sites at the Ashland Armory on East Main Street and the Jackson County Expo. A total of 712 cars and trucks delivered their sorted plastics to us.

Our regular commingle recycling collections are limited to certain items. During the round-up, we are able to accept things like clamshells, nursery plastics, plastic chairs and other plastics that contaminate the local commingle recycling. Rather than sending this material to the landfill and paying $16 per yard to treat it as garbage, participants spent $5 or less a yard to have it hauled up to Brooks, near Salem. The Jackson County Recycling Partnership teams up with the with Brooks-based plastic recycler Agri-Plas Inc. to handle the plastics, which go for a variety of end uses. Some plastic will be shaped into pellets and sold to manufacturers to create new plastic items, like nursery pots, plastic "lumber" and railroad ties. For hard-to-recycle plastics, Agri-Plas has a new, innovative and clean technology that extracts the petroleum out of the plastics for reuse as fuel.

Events like this remind us how much plastic surrounds us in our daily lives. When we set the plastics aside and watch the mound grow, it can serve as inspiration to select products that have minimal packing material. We consumers speak with our dollar every time we spend it on a disposable or poorly made product or one housed in plastic. Let your retail stores and manufacturers know how you feel about having to deal with the (plastic) byproduct from consuming their product.

Thanks for all the recyclables you have diverted from the landfill and double thanks for efforts you take to avoid the generation of the stuff in the first place!

If you want more information on recycling, please check out www.ashlandsanitary.com and www.jcrecyclingdirectory.org.

Risa Buck

recycling coordinator Recology Ashland Sanitary Service

Public option solution

The League of Women Voters of Ashland supports health care reform that includes a "strong" public option. The league believes that in order for all citizens to receive quality affordable health care, a robust public option needs to be part of the solution. A public option will insure that the insurance companies will have real competition forcing them to reduce the profit they make at the expense of American lives. With more than 45 million uninsured people across the country, including more than 650,000 Oregonians, lives are at stake each day. According to Health Care for America Now, 44,000 Americans die each year because they do not have health insurance, with 558 of those Americans being Oregonians.

According to HCAN, Oregonian insurers refuse to sell insurance to one out of every four people. I have been part of that statistic. When I moved to Oregon and applied for private insurance, I was turned down for a "pre-existing condition." Unlike many others, I was lucky enough to be accepted by a second insurer, but with a $5,000 deductible. I feel fortunate.

When people have an option to purchase publicly funded insurance coverage at a lower cost, they will. In the past seven years my insurance premium has gone up 72 percent, 20 percent in just the last year. Many people cannot afford to pay these excessive increases and drop their coverage. They take their chances, self-medicate when they can, and go to the emergency room when they can't. Those of us with insurance underwrite their trips to the emergency room.

No Americans should be refused health care because they cannot afford it. The League of Women Voters of Ashland believes that we have to drive the cost of being healthy in America down. The public option is the most efficient, effective method to do just that.

Call Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Representative Greg Walden to voice your support for the public option. The more they hear from us and the more we demand they make decisions based on our best interest, the sooner we will have affordable, equitable health care in Oregon.

Regina Ayars

president, League of Women Voters of Ashland

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