Local Schmocal: By Zoe Abel — According to the survey, about half of Jackson County's 179,000 residents would come to Ashland at least once a month to eat if there were no meals tax. Is that really something I want to get behind?
In the last month I have not eaten out in Medford. This is because of Medford's meals tax ... wait, that's not true (nor does that tax exist). Actually it's because of parking. That's right, there is not a single parking spot in all of Medford. I also don't eat out there because I've heard Medford is windy. Mostly I don't eat out in Medford because I live in Ashland.
Even if I heard that really excellent food was being given away in Medford restaurants for free, I still wouldn't go. I am an Ashlander. I grocery shop, go to movies, buy my hemp clothing and go out to eat all in Ashland.
I am not questioning how scientific the latest poll was that stated millions of dollars are lost in Ashland due to the meals tax. To someone who has taken one college-level math class in my entire life, the methods sound excellent and I have no reason to doubt them. I simply believe that people will say anything to a phone survey. If someone called me at my home and asked if I would go out to eat more in Medford if the buses ran on weekends I would say, "yes." I would also say "yes" if they asked if I would go out to eat more in White City if the entire seven course meal was free. Honestly, neither of those things are really true — I'm just an agreeable person on the phone, and I think I might as well err on the side of being positive. Really, I'm always looking for more reasons to stay in town rather than brave the 10-mile drive to Medford.
I can imagine the conversations being had at dinner time all over the valley: "Honey, want to try that new Mexican restaurant in Ashland tonight?" says Mr. Potential Customer. "Oh honey, I don't know. After we spend a couple bucks in gas to get into Ashland in the first place, we'd have to add a whole dollar and 50 cents to our 30 dollar bill!" exclaims his wife, Mrs. Pennysaver. "Well dearest, I think we could just leave the waiter a 15 percent tip rather than a 20." "No! Totally unimaginable! Beyond thinkable! Let's just stay in our undisclosed location outside of Ashland!"
According to the survey, about half of Jackson County's 179,000 residents would come to Ashland at least once a month to eat if there were no meals tax. Is that really something I want to get behind? I like that I can occasionally find a parking place within a 10-block radius of downtown. I like that I can cross the street in Ashland's traffic without ducking and weaving for my life. I also go out to eat all over Ashland. I really appreciate someone else cooking my food and cleaning up after me. My mother would argue that this already exists at our house, but I do like my meals without a side of conversation regarding life plans and goals. I try to tell my parents that they're cutting into my time that I've allotted to sink myself down into the depths of despair, but they just ignore me.
Something else that I love about Ashland is the city parks. The millions of dollars raised by the meals tax in Ashland has helped to buy land for parks. I like a tax that creates grass I can lay on while I read a magazine, play structures I can watch my son fall off of and trees I can beat my head against while I debate whether or not I am a good parent regardless of my lackluster skills in supervision. Parks draw people into Ashland. Parents from other cities within Jackson County come to Ashland to let their kids play in Lithia Park; how many of those parents also grab a quick meal downtown while they're here? Really, if there's two things we really want to impress tourists with, it shouldn't be our Shakespeare Festival and our university, it should be our city parks and our lovely sewage treatment plant.
I will be voting to renew the restaurant tax in November. Some things are worth an extra 15 cents on my $3 pizza.
Zoë Abel, formerly a Bored Ashlander, is now simply a Local Schmocal. Contact her at email@example.com.