By Lance K. Pugh — I did my best to avoid the fact that 70 percent of the Meals Tax is paid for by locals, which we were repeatedly reassured would not be the case.
A knock on the door last year signaled that our economy was in deep trouble, though it took me a few minutes to figure it out. I answered the door to be confronted by a uniformed county dog tag enforcement officer, who opened the conversation by asking if I had a dog. It was a loaded question as my dog, Spooky, was trying his best to get through the screen door to lick the hand of the official.
I was asked if Spooky had a current dog tag. I pointed at the 10 tags hanging from his collar and asked which color was appropriate for the year. He asked for the tags and soon announced that he would have to issue a citation, for Spooky lacked the latest medallion and the most recent one had expired the month before.
I asked the animal control officer how many other hapless residents he had visited and he replied that I was his first in Ashland. He went on to offer that he was only "following orders" and that his office need some extra funds to find their way through all the fur. As he wrote the ticket I thought of all the other door knocks that would be generated by the many arms of government, all seeking to fine or tax me into servitude.
It seems that I lacked sufficient imagination, for I currently see a seemingly never-ending tsunami of outreached governmental paws, each reaching for my wallet for a sweet squeeze. Allow me to share a few of these pestering palms with you.
Although the value of real estate has been sucker-punched downward, my property taxes actually went up. Ashland Fire & Rescue wants to collect $80,000 per year in fines for inspections on commercial and apartment complexes, while stressing that they will not inspect private residences at this time, which means another knock on the door sometime soon. Utilities persistently creep up, urged on by an omnivorous general fund that needs to be fed, lest it devour the town and clean its teeth with stripped power poles.
My only defense is to conserve on all things, including the occasional short vacations that once defended my sanity. As gasoline went up, my thoughts turned toward a stay home vacation (staycation), which would allow me to more fully enjoy Ashland in the way, we hope, that our visitors relish. I could then forget that the city refused to spend $8 million to flush our sewage to Medford in favor of spending $46 million and counting for an Ashland facility that still does not meet DEQ standards. I could overlook that the Meals Tax was sold to us as a 1 percent tourist focused collection, while ignoring that our visitors already pay, in addition to the 10 percent rooms tax, through room rates for every flush, shower and gasp, drink of water. I did my best to avoid the fact that 70 percent of the meals tax is paid for by locals, which we were repeatedly reassured would not be the case.
Well, it did not take me long to walk around the house and yard before I became bored with my new vacation plans. I decided to go out to dinner with my wife, Annette, and celebrate our new found wonderment. We went to a favorite restaurant that seemed overstaffed with just two servers. We had a quiet meal, as only half of the tables were occupied. I enquired about the balance of the staff that I usually saw and was told that they had either been let go or were pulling only two to three shortened shifts per week. I took a glance at the newspaper and read, in a letter to the editor, that if I did not like paying the meals tax, I could choose to stay at home. I wondered what sort of arrogant person would condemn the financially challenged to "voluntarily" pay extra for eating in their own town?
I brayed at the thought and walked sheepishly home, thinking why no argument in favor of the tax was in the voters' pamphlet.
Lance@journalist.com was last seen cooking a vegetarian stew in an open-pit fire in his side yard. He was promptly fined, then asked if he wanted platinum, gold or regular fire response to his house, which could be tacked on any future ambulance service, unless he gained five pounds, which would change all his city charges.