Council Corner: A vote against the recall

Residents upset with Ashland Senior Center management decisions are attempting to gather 1,556 signatures from registered voters to recall three Parks and Recreation commissioners. Having background with senior center management in a neighboring community, I understand and appreciate the sensitivity to, concern for and differences in opinion regarding the future of our Senior Center.

Petitioners have every right to attempt a recall election, and I respect this option afforded to voters in our representative form of government. However, this feedback mechanism is the wrong type of referendum at the wrong time.

A recall election divides a community, strains the quality of public discourse on important issues, and needlessly pits neighbors against neighbors. Citizens should reject this divisive strategy.

I am neither defending nor endorsing the circumstances that led to the current Senior Center customer relations problem, but we still have an opportunity to make the Senior Center the best it can be, regardless of what has recently transpired. The problem-solving process going forward needs civil, constructive discourse, not threatening actions.

Folks dissatisfied with decision-making should be engaged in existing public processes and forums designed to improve the Senior Center, most notably the recently formed Ashland Senior Program Advisory Committee that is tasked with making recommendations to the Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission on programs, services and management strategies.

We all agree a vibrant senior program is important, but a recall initiative creates an adversarial dynamic unhelpful to objectivity and pragmatic thought. A more reasonable approach is to follow the ad hoc committee's investigative work to its conclusion, and to judge the commission after it adopts a long-term course of action.

Ashland's Parks and Recreation commissioners are elected volunteers — honorable people trying to make Ashland a better place. Every two years, at least two commission seats are up for election, and this traditional referendum is the normal and best opportunity for advocates to run for the commission or for citizens to issue a report card on the performance of these elected volunteers.

One of Ashland's greatest attributes is the high level of engagement by its citizens in public processes. We're not afraid to speak up, to comment or to criticize. Recall elections are anathema to this spirit of robust civic discourse, and they have a chilling effect on the willingness of residents to serve in the public eye as elected or appointed local government volunteers.

Please join me in refusing to sign recall petitions.

— Rich Rosenthal is a member of the Ashland City Council.

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