I am writing to you as a former chair of the Parks and Recreation Commission. I was elected as a write-in candidate in 2010 and served with the three parks commissioners who are up for recall, Mike Gardiner, Jim Lewis and Rick Landt.
I found them to be dedicated, fiscally responsible, supportive of staff and diligent in their understanding of the complexity of the many responsibilities of parks commissioners. I was also treated as an equal by these men and felt my opinion as a woman was valued. In this age of "Me Too," this was refreshing.
Recall elections are serious matters costing the taxpayers thousands of dollars. They are an important part of our democracy when used to remove officials who have committed serious dereliction of their duties, theft or violations of ethics laws, for example. This was not the case with these individuals.
Getting citizens to serve on the Parks Commission has been very difficult in past years. It is a position that requires many hours of volunteer work, understanding the budget, park management, maintenance, development of lands, trails and new parks, a strategic plan for capital improvement projects, managing the rentals on the Calle, recreation, golf course, skating rink, swimming pool, serving on the Forest Lands Commission, overseeing the Senior Center, as well as preserving the historic nature of Lithia Park. It would do our park system a great disservice if the three commissioners with the longest history and advanced skill set in managing the parks were removed, leaving the parks in a vulnerable position at a critical time while a master plan for Lithia Park is being developed.
I understand that there were a number of members of the senior community that were very upset with possible changes to the Senior Center. Some of these seniors worked with the Parks Department as an ad hoc group to develop plans for keeping the core services of the Senior Center at its current location while working to add additional programming, staff, outreach services and coordination with community and county services to help seniors. The Parks Commission is listening to this group, and after an extensive public survey of over 700 responses, providing a program that will look not only to the current needs but the future needs of our growing senior population.
Unfortunately, some of the petition gathers said the reason to sign the petition was to save the Senior Center and did not say it was a petition to recall commissioners. I have talked with a number of citizens who feel they were misled into signing it. This type of action causes mistrust and divides us as a city rather than finding solutions together. Ashland is better than this. Please remember to vote no on the recall. Ballots will coming out in February for the March 13 special election.
— Stef Seffinger is a member of the Ashland City Council.