Vote now and cross one goal off the list

So, what's the hold up?

When Ashland City Council met in July to hammer out a list of goals, it enjoyed rare unanimous support for its top 10 list. The need to put an 11th on the list is where the good feelings ended.

In politics, good feelings are overrated.

The renegade goal kick-starts the ongoing effort to complete a downtown plan. The issue gathered steam in 2006 when hundreds of stakeholders in the downtown gathered for a two-day series of meetings with downtown planning experts. But the effort died under Mayor John Morrison's tie-breaking nay vote.

But, Morrison changed his vote during the discussion of council goals, again breaking a 3-3 tie to add it to the list.

Now it's a goal of the council. So, in the simplest terms, let's get it done.

Count the votes. Four. A majority. Enough to ramrod this thing through and get started again.

Of the 11 priorities the council listed, only two were specific: Generate net increase in affordable/workforce housing by a minimum of 200 units by 2010, and complete the downtown planning process.

Add the affordable/workforce housing goal to the downtown plan &

say a minimum of 75 of these 200 units to be added downtown &

and we're off and running. At least two goals could get accomplished. Make some of these places city-owned for staff recruitment and retention and you're knocking off at least one more.

That is progress.

So why aren't downtown plan advocates pushing the council for a new vote to start the downtown plan?

Few believe the vote to be anything but symbolic.

Support for the plan, particularly among business owners and key city staff, is absent. With the Hardesty, Navickas, Hartzell troika in favor, stiff opposition is guaranteed just as it is with anything they advocate. Such is the polarized nature of this city. Morrison's continued support in the face of the assured white hot angry opposition is questionable at best.

Still, that's how politicians make progress. They don't worry about unanimous approval. They get the votes they need. And right now, based on the council's own stated goals, the votes are there for the taking, or Mayor Morrison is faced with changing his vote yet a third time.

Once approved, the opponents of the downtown plan would be forced to come to the negotiation table. The consultants would still seek out all the downtown stakeholders and the process would still push to develop a plan that has the will of the community behind it. We've already paid the consultants to prepare a plan for how they would accomplish this goal. We only need the council to agree to pay them to finish the plan and they could get started immediately.

While pushing for the vote, reach out to the other councilors. Guarantee a pedestrian and bicycle friendly component to the downtown plan and gain David Chapman's support. Include badly needed code revisions as a primary goal and perhaps Kate Jackson's vote swings as well. Find out what Russ Silbiger sees as vital and toss it in. Then give the list to the consultants and let them get to work.

It may be a hard-fought win, but at least it would be a decision that moves the city forward. At least two council goals would see immediately progress, which is far better than the mostly stagnant effort that has become the signature of this council.

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