Essentially Ashland: By Lance K. Pugh

I walked around Ashland's downtown recently and reveled before the display windows, which, for those of you who just drive through and do not pay appropriate attention, are beacons of taste.

Thanksgiving seemed an afterthought and Christmas hovers like a Grinch, which, I believe, is a good thing, considering what has been handed down to us by the Beneficent Bush Clan, where sport fishing looms large as global warming poaches the perch even before the gills go airborne. Our entire country was caught, then released into a free-fall of financial mayhem.

I trust that most of you will shop locally, though the swarms of FedEx trucks will tell the real story. It is a long row to hoe to return underwear halfway across the valley, even if only to upgrade to the once-prospective First Dude's silken shorts, which, if I am in possession of the latest facts, will be recycled into naval semaphore flags as the good ship GOP attempts to bilge-pump its way out of a most moist mission.

As I walked past a branch of Washington Mutual, recently acquired by JPMorgan Chase, all the spare change in my pocket was suctioned out by the revamped ATM and instantly transferred into one of many golden parachutes currently being folded and packed as corporate jets taxi for takeoff from responsibility and into the open arms of an endless federal bailout.

I spoke with a handful of merchants, each with a common concern. Rents keep escalating, even as business volume screams downhill and costs pelt profits like golf-ball-sized hail. The Festival broadcasts losses and belts are tightened as basements are stocked with beans and water.

So, folks, what is the most responsible course of action as the howling winds of a new Great Depression threaten to remold our business community? Convene a townwide discussion to elicit solutions? Prune expenses? Lose the Meals Tax and warmly welcome our fellow Rogue Valley friends?

Not very likely.

After a long walk with my dog and careful consideration, I feel that our only option that will receive the blessing of existing political/financial forces is to apply to the Federal Treasury for a bailout. Just this morning Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said the $700 billion government rescue program will not be used to purchase troubled assets as originally planned. Now he wants to bolster credit card companies who weep while their onerous pawn shop interest rates are all the rave on Wall Street.

Why do we not simply apply for a $3 billion bailout to keep us current in currency, even if the bills are still wet? If the past is any guide to the future, the Festival will get a billion, the city another billion and the rest tucked under the municipal mattress, leaving zip for those who struggle to make house payments, stock beans in the pantry and hoard hot dogs. Is there another road to take?

Well, yes. We could band together and stockpile emergency provisions, encourage landlords and tenants to work together toward a win-win compromise during this crisis, gather together the most creative minds available and ponder, then act to position Ashland as to deflect the thrust of the downturn.

We could encourage citywide health coverage, jump on the clean, green, renewable energy wagon like an elephant on a tricycle, ensure that none of our elderly, sick or despondent residents misses a meal or is evicted from their home or rental. Heartily encourage electric vehicles, bicycles, scooters and, yes, walking where and when you can.

Shopping locally is like putting money in your back pocket and we should take great pride in this or go the way of a 6,000-year-old dinosaur, which were, of course, used to build the pyramids.

Lance@journalist.com was last seen stockpiling sardines while molding pointed hats out of tin foil to ward off reality.