It seems some Ashlanders — at least many of those who attended a public forum on the future of City Hall last week — are simultaneously able to ignore the threat of a major earthquake and convince themselves they live in a mythical small town.
City leaders are trying to decide how to provide office space for the municipal government going forward. Some city departments are housed in the Civic Center on East Main Street, some in the Community Development Building on Winburn Way and some in the old City Hall, which overlooks the Plaza.
Without major seismic retrofitting, that 125-year-old Plaza building is doomed when — not if — a Cascadia Subduction Zone mega-quake hits the Pacific Northwest. And yet, more people at Thursday's forum wanted City Hall to stay where it is than any of the other options presented. "Stay on Plaza" got 11 stickers on a "priority input" chart; "Move off Plaza" got eight. Despite the earthquake threat, "building safety" got only one sticker.
One attendee declared that City Hall should stay where it is because "we are essentially Mayberry, like a museum of small-town America."
Good arguments can be made for any of the options presented at Thursday's forum. Efficiency and economy should guide the decision — not nostalgia for a 1960s sitcom.
The fictional Mayberry was a tiny town with one stoplight. For all its charms, Ashland is a city of 20,000 with a thriving tourist economy and astronomical real estate prices. Mayberry it ain't.