Action needed on 'travelers'

In the recent article titled “Downtown issues have slackened from last year,” Chief O’Meara notes that initial feedback from concerned parties suggests that downtown issues have improved since the city enacted ordinances earlier this year. If this is true, then additional policies should be put in place to continue this trend, and further tackle the challenges that our community faces from “travelers.” I would suggest an ordinance that expands the panhandling prohibition at restaurants to all businesses downtown.

Citizens are still faced with aggressive panhandling and negative behavior from travelers. Businesses suffer from the results of a mixed reputation given to Ashland and reduced willingness of locals to visit our downtown to shop and eat. On any given day one can’t walk more than two blocks downtown without finding people sleeping on benches, asking for money, or blocking sidewalks.

These travelers strain the system and social services needed to provide resources to our homeless population, who suffer from mental and other issues. The Food Bank is likely stretched thin as a result of providing supplies to this new group of visitors, while police must appropriate additional officers to areas where travelers are most prevalent, and strain police response time to local emergencies. As the recent Tidings article titled “ ’Travelers’ are not necessarily ‘homeless' ” points out, many of these travelers are part of a counter-culture movement who don’t believe in working typical occupations and are not interested in becoming integrated into society. A visit to the railroad park in the evenings will find the same travelers who spent the day asking for money playing computer games while charging their laptops on the city-provided outlets at the park table.

It’s shocking to hear that Councilor Carol Voisin not only discourages additional steps to deal with these challenges, but apparently believes these ordinances should be removed. Councilor Voisin fails to grasp that these travelers have an impact on the livelihood of many citizens, and with reduced tourism our city would suffer a significant financial hit. Additionally, the lack of understanding in the acute difference between travelers and the chronic homeless suggests that Councilor Voisin is certainly not equipped to lead our city in the capacity of mayor. We need a mayor whose number one interest is improving the lives of Ashland citizens.

John Warrington