Council Corner: Happy returns; embrace our differences

It is Saturday morning as I write my first Council Corner. A fresh cup of coffee and a fresh, brand-new day. I love mornings, often getting up at 4 a.m. to prepare for the day.

I am happy and grateful to be back on the council after a two-year absence. I love my community, this imperfect union called Ashland.

We have many challenges and serious issues facing us. However, I am optimistic always and I have this faith in Ashland and the people of Ashland — we have a way of facing our challenges full-on and we search to create a more perfect place at all times.

We have an energy and creativity that other communities hunger for, and is difficult to create when you don’t have it. I think we need to be ever mindful of being positive caretakers of that special quality because it is what makes us distinctive and gives us a better chance at leaving a whole community to the generations that follow us.

I appreciate the opportunity this column provides and I have great respect for what Bert Etling has brought to the Daily Tidings, a community asset that digs into the heart of Ashland and spends time and resources on our issues and challenges. I am taken with Julie Akins’ reporting — while I don’t always agree with her, what she writes is always thought-provoking, speaks to real issues and is a good read. The attention to community is so very important. I hope we will see their continued development with the ownership change.

Over the past month I have met with people considering applying for the open council seat. The first question is always, "How much time do you spend on council business?"

It is a really good question. I think too many people just see the Tuesday council meetings and think that’s the workload. It really is just the tip of the iceberg; it is a labor of love that uses about 20 hours a week in my schedule. Council meetings, study sessions, our liaison duties and, my favorite, meeting citizens on a wide variety of issues, plus prep, prep and more prep! It is interesting and educational work. I love learning environments.

Our contribution is just part of a bigger picture; Ashland has a wonderful volunteer ethic. Counting all the committees and commissions, we get the benefit of literally hundreds of thousands of hours on a community’s behalf. It is what makes Ashland Ashland, and what makes Ashland special.

Finally, I have one thing to ask as we move into the year ahead. As we look to the east, I imagine we are all uncomfortable with the belligerent tone now coming from Washington. We have all gasped in the past year at the things that were said on the road to the election. The questioning of worth of our minority populations, the truly awful words associated with women and the disturbing rhetoric towards an honored and peaceful religion. We’ve been shocked by the demeaning tone used to deal with opponents and people who disagree.

I challenge us to make sure we do not go about our community discussion using the same tactics and lack of respect for our neighbors and friends. I challenge us to find better ways to dispute our differences.

If we believe we are a better community, then we should rise to become that better community. That we might think differently should not be viewed as a weakness or a threat; it should be embraced as a strength, not something to fight but something to embrace and encourage as we seek to find better solutions.

How we deal with each other will determine what kind of community we really are. Let us go about our robust community discussions not reflecting the national model, rather reflecting the best values of Ashland.

I believe in Ashland, the place it is and the place it can become. I am optimistic about our future, because we are we, and those people out there do not determine who we are, we determine who we are. See you in future columns. Happy to be back.

— Dennis Slattery is a member of the Ashland City Council.

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