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Latest News

APRC Meetings:

Mar. 26, 2018 Parks Commission Regular Meeting, 7pm, Council Chamber, 1175 E. Main Street

City Council Meetings:

Mar. 19 and 20, 2018 7:00 PM, Council Chamber, 1175 E Main Street


watch for announcements - dates to be determined

Read the Latest News Articles

Daily Tidings 10/6/17 article: Protesters air Senior Center grievances on the Plaza

It’s telling that APRC Director Black is not directly addressing the concerns of replacing expert staff with regular recreation staff who have little or no experience with seniors. Below are Black’s statements (in italic) and our corresponding comments (indented):

“We will not be moving any of the core services we provide at the Senior Center,”

"Core services" are undefined.

“It’s not cutting, but expanding to make sure our most vulnerable populations are reached.”

Putting inexperienced staff to assist seniors who come in for information and referral services is cutting services to our most vulnerable elderly seniors. It also eliminates the ability to do outreach required for our most vulnerable seniors.

“It became clear there is room to improve and reach more of the constituents who need this type of service.”

Based on what study, survey, community needs assessment? Black cannot define this need. The Performance Audit clearly stated a community needs assessment was critical.

Meantime, Black maintains that the intention is to leave current programs intact, add to programs currently at the center and additionally create occasional outreach clinics and services in other buildings around town. “As a community we’re made up of a bunch of neighborhoods,” he said. “There’s got to be people who don’t find it convenient. For those people we would duplicate it in other parts of the city. I’m not saying move, but duplicate where we already have facilities for those who don’t have the mobility or ability to get there.”

Black’s definition of outreach appears to mean seniors coming to APRC facilities rather than senior program staff visiting the seniors in their homes when necessary

The outreach, the informational/referral services, and the efficient/effective holistic approach is not intact … they have been scaled back and/or transferred, and made ineffective by inexperienced staff replacements. To put such services in other neighborhoods and keep the programs intact would mean hiring more personnel who specialize in senior services. If Black plans for regular recreation staff to handle such services as he has recently done at the Senior Center … this comes back to our main concern. Ashland is not a large city, and there are telephones (and the website) for those in need to reach out for help. It was working. Why change it?

Black acknowledged her (Christine Dodson) work. “The manager did a good job at what she did,” he said. “It will be hard to replace her in the compassion she showed. But there are people out there that are just as caring and able to move in the direction we want to go. That’s the reason why. I don’t feel comfortable that the former management had the ability to move it in a new direction.”

Black said “able to move in the direction we want to go.” He did not say ‘able to deal with the serious issues affecting our most vulnerable seniors.’

Dodson had much more than compassion. She had 28.5 years of experience working with seniors … in eligibility, case management, communications, protective services, foster homes, outreach, senior program/center director. She started the free bus program in Ashland, initiated Valley Lift vouchers and designed the senior program website. In the recent APRC’s senior subcommittee meetings she showed a willingness to explore new ideas for expansion. Based on her experience with Ashland seniors she gave input to consideration when proposing new recreational activities with cost recovery targets. It was apparent that Dodson had no problem with expansion if the core program was maintained to help the most vulnerable seniors …. and additional space and staff was funded for the expansion effort. If there were no additional funding, then the core programs were threatened. APRC did not understand, respect or fully consider this input. APRC commissioners and director did not spend time at the Senior Center to learn how it operated in an efficient and effective synergistically (holistic) manner. The replacement staff has had little or no training in providing fundamental senior services.

That new direction, says Black, is adding to the current services while keeping what they have. As to budgeting it, he says the Parks and Recreation Commission suggested he first create the programs they see as serving the most people, especially those most vulnerable, then look at the budgeting. “We aren’t cutting services. I think we’ll have money to pay for the expansion. I don’t see that as a problem.”

This is the first time Black has indicated that he was willing to put more money into the Senior Programs. It was never mentioned in the senior subcommittee meetings. Instead, it was stated that the subcommittee thought the current staff and budget could readily handle expansion. The subcommittee continually focused on new programs for cost-recovery, that is, new activities that could charge fees for more than the activities' cost to offset other program costs. In fact, Black stated that the Senior Program/Center could be terminated if cost recovery was insufficient.

Black assures them, “We will not cut senior services.”

There he goes again. Repeating it … does not make it true. Eliminating the entire experienced senior staff and replacing them with general recreation staff cuts the scope of effective social services that have been developed over 43 years to meet the needs of the most vulnerable senior citizens. It essentially shreds the senior safety net.

The Senior Program/Center had a staff of 1.7 full-time equivalent employees and $175,000 budget which is 2% of Parks and Recreation’s total budget. Seniors 65 years and older represent 18% of Ashland’s populations. They certainly deserve to have more than 2% of Parks and Recreation’s budget dedicated to them.

Ashland SOS response to October 25th Daily Tidings "Message from Ashland Parks & Recreation Commissioners":

“APRC unanimously voted at our Aug 9 meeting to retain all vital programs for low income seniors.”

     Not true. The Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission (APRC) actually voted to lay off all Senior Center staff and to replace with untrained general recreation staff, which is why all vital programs have not been retained.  (e.g. in-home outreach, information and referral, etc.) There was no justified rationale for causing disruption of vital services by laying off all Senior Center staff.

APRC has “responded  to public feedback by ensuring no disruption of vital services, by creating an ad hoc committee that provides public participation...”

     Not true. APRC appointed a committee that is not allowing public input at every meeting. Discussion at the first meeting included how to limit public participation to “informed input” only.  The meeting was held at the Grove, inaccessible to many seniors, not at the Senior Center.

The Senior program is the “one of the most expensive recreation programs in our system.”

     Not true. At $175,000 per year and 2% of the APRC’s total budget, the Senior Program is actually the least expensive program in APRC. It is less expensive than the  golf course, which projects a $297,000 subsidy, or the Nature Center, which projects a $278,000 subsidy.* The balance of the Recreation budget, which includes the swimming pool, skating rink, operation of the Grove, and recreation administration and is not transparent enough to analyze precisely, but it clearly receives a larger subsidy than other APRC programs.

“there had been minimal movement towards... creative ways to increase revenues”

     Not true. The Senior Program Manager submitted her own recommendations to the Parks Director, but      they were not considered or even presented to the subcommittee.  

“the Senior Program had an advisory board that was not responsible to APRC”

     The Senior Program Manager and the Recreation Superintendent worked together in 2007 to create and define the Senior Program Advisory Board. Through the years meetings were attended by both a Parks Commissioner and a City Council liaison, as well as the Recreation Superintendent, and on occasion the Parks Director.  

“identifying revenue positive programs... was... unevaluated”

     Huh? The Senior Program staff processed the more than 400 Ashland Low Income Energy Assistance Program (ALIEAP), heat assistance, and senior utility discount applications that the City received each year. The City did not recognize those services rendered on behalf of the electric funds in their cost accounting. If it did, those Senior Program staff services would be revenue positive. Nevertheless, the Senior Program staff processed those applications without reimbursement because it was an avenue of identifying citizens in need of other information and referrals, which supports the Senior Program mission.  

Why would the APRC continually spin the facts and dodge responsibility for our older citizens' needs? It is time for them to restore the proven and robust Senior Program, and bring back the trained, experienced staff.

These five elected commissioners are called to serve the community, not manipulate the decision-making process. They have shown a blatant disregard for public welfare and an appalling condescension toward public input. In fact, the initial decision to approve these recommendations was so egregious that it warrants recall. They have broken the public trust.  

     *     based on cost recovery rates provided by Mike Gardiner to Sneak Preview in it's Oct. 2017 edition and the City of Ashland's final budget documents for fiscal year 2018.

SFGate October 24, 2017 article "Americans are retiring later, dying sooner and sicker in-between. We need Ashland's integrated social service program now more than ever. PDF

The Oregonian October 5, 2017 article regarding an audit that found a state program for the elderly failed to fully protect them from potential harm. We need Ashland's integrated social service program now more than ever.

Ashland SOS Endorses the Recall

Ashland SOS endorses the recall of APRC Commissioners Gardiner, Lewis and Landt.  

Go to for more information.

Ashland SOS gives public input at 11/13/17 APRC Senior Advisory Committee

For Public Record at APRC Senior Advisory Committee 11/13/17

Over a month ago we asked Commissioner Gardiner:  Has there been any attempt by the commission to generate data about the underserved senior community? That was the phrase the commission had used - there are underserved seniors that they want to reach by expansion.  Do you have any data?  Have you done the research, a needs assessment, a survey to establish this need? The answer was no.  So the idea that the senior program needs expansion is APRC’s idea and it has no statistical or factual support. It is a generated need.

One of the things that we’ve heard from the commission in recent meetings is that they are listening to the senior community. The proof of their listening is they have changed some of the things that people objected to. They are backpedalling. What is indicated is that their recommendations were ill-conceived, ill-considered, formulated with no context within the community, and with seemingly no awareness as to the consequences to our vulnerable senior population.

I believe Ashland SOS group is largely responsible for making them backpedal. But it does not make APRC look good. As a bone to the public, they created this ad hoc advisory committee. You have been chosen by the APR staff and tasked with formulating a new improved expanded program. But the first thing APR has done is taken two things off the table.  First: restoring the laid off employees to the senior center program.  Second: any review of APRC’s entire process and recommendations. APR admits they made some errors and there was a little bit of poor communication involved but they contend we need to go forward from here and reformulate the senior program. Those two items ARE the issues. They are what broke the successful, state recognized  Senior Program. As such, this makes the senior advisory committee just window dressing.

This committee has talked about wanting public input to be “informed listening” or “informed input”; trying to massage the public commentary.  You should know that we are very informed.

Our issue with the committee is that you are held to the standards of impotence. You do not have decision-making abilities; you can only make recommendations which APRC then considers.  Your recommendations can be completely overridden by the commission. You are bound by the very action that started this mess in the first place.  If this committee cannot and does not address the underlying problem, this nothing more than a drawn out attempt to normalize serious wrong-doing.

A senior recently asked Ashland SOS “What was the problem in the first place that led APRC to get into this?”

Great question. The initial statement of what they were doing was based on financial concerns, the need to generate more revenue, and an underserved population which they never established or identified.  Again, the problem is something they created. Responsible public servants should proceed by first identifying the problem and the need.  Then they design goals and specific objectives.   That’s followed by the creation of a plan to carry out the objectives to solve the problem. They did not do any of that. They still don’t have clear goals and objectives, and they never defined a problem. APRC has lost the public’s trust.

Video of Dec. 11, 2017

Senior Advisory Committee

Public Input/Demonstration

Laid-off staff responds to APR Director Black's Opinion piece

12/28/17 Guest Opinion: Opinion misrepresents what happened

By Dorothy Parsons, Loretta Wright, Darlene Templeton and Susanne Severeid

In response to Michael Black’s guest opinion of Dec. 22, he does anything but “set the record straight.” Since he has misrepresented our actions, we — as the former temp/part-time staff of the Senior Center — feel it is our duty to tell the facts as they actually occurred.

Black states: “On Aug. 30, the part-time employees notified the Human Resources Department they were quitting. The next day, with no notice to me, the four part-time employees turned in their written resignations and walked off the job.”

This is false. On Aug. 30, 2017, our letter of resignation was turned in, at City Hall, by our program director, Christine Dodson. We had handed our letter directly to her, and she accepted it on our behalf. If Black’s own department failed to inform him that the entire staff had just resigned in protest of his actions, then perhaps he should take that up with those at City Hall or Parks. For him to state otherwise in a public forum like the Tidings is irresponsible.

Interestingly, also on Aug. 30, at the same time our letter was being hand-delivered, Black appeared at the Senior Center telling the staff member on duty that she was no longer needed, collecting her keys, and escorting her out the door.

He states, “I did not fire anyone at the Senior Center. There were plans to ask a few of those who quit to stick around during the transition — I even extended this offer to one of those employees who said she would get back to me and never did.”

In Black’s own “layoff notice” dated Aug. 23, which he sent to Christine Dodson, he stated, “To accomplish transition to a new senior program, lay off current staff (1.7 FTE) and temporarily reassign duties among other Parks employees to maintain core services.” Further, he writes, “All paid program staff will be laid off effective October 1, 2017 in order to accomplish the action of reorganization.” (emphasis added)

So, while he didn’t “fire” the staff, his clear, written intention was to lay off the entire staff of the Senior Program. Of course, he might have preferred if we had stuck around to help him dismantle this program until his arbitrarily selected date of Oct 1., but what reasonable person would wish to do that? We wanted no part of his so-called “recommendations,” which essentially gutted this 43-year-old program, and the institutional memory and expertise of same, and the working environment created by his actions with such a guillotine hanging over our heads was untenable.

Black’s statement that he was waiting to hear back from a staff member is not true. Our letter of resignation states that we resigned en masse in support of our program director, Christine Dodson, whom Black summarily permanently laid off while she was on family and sick leave. We felt that his “recommendations” were in opposition to the mission statement of the Senior Program and we did not intend to be used during his “reorganization” period and then be canned by him on Oct. 1.

Black and the APRC commissioners (three of whom are now part of a recall effort) have made a mess of what was previously a robust and compassionate program serving all seniors, including lower income.

We are very proud of our work on behalf of the Senior Program and it has been an honor to work and serve in this wonderful community. We will not stand by and let Black distort our actions or our motivations. We will continue to speak the truth.

— Dorothy Parsons, Loretta Wright, Darlene Templeton and Susanne Severeid live in Ashland.

More response to Director Black's opinion piece 12/22/17

This is in response to Ashland Parks and Recreation (Parks) Director’s opinion on 12/22/17 regarding another Dec. 14th opinion by the public. It included many misleading statements that need clarification.

Did the Director specifically address the Dec 14th letter’s concern regarding Park’s lack of respect for seniors in its August actions?

No. Instead, the Director’s response reinforces the letter’s points. The Dec. 14th letter talked about lack of respect for seniors when the Director laid-off the highly qualified staff … and did not have qualified replacement staff to seamlessly take over.

What priorities did the Director have?

The Director puts concerns about the perception of elected officials over concerns about senior services. How the public thinks about elected officials is not tougher than a senior and/or their family facing a crisis and having no local qualified people to contact who could properly assess their situation to make a customized plan that helps them, and then monitor the situation to ensure that it does.

Did the Director address the public’s main concerns?

No. The Director talks about an obvious misstatement to avoid talking about the main issues of concern. In fact, reviewing all the letters to the editor, not one stated that the senior center was closed. This closure misunderstanding by a few people arose by the incompetent manner Parks initiated their changes. During its Aug. 8th meeting, the Director threatened that the Senior Center may close if cost recovery was not improved.

How does the Director judge employees to be “qualified” for the center?

The Director misleads one about the replacement staff qualifications. The Director appears to believe “qualified” people include those who have little or no prior experience running dedicated senior centers and/or senior social services.

What has the Director done to counter the damage the Commissioners and he did to the senior program?

The Director points to a one-day a week (non-local) referral service recently implemented at the center. It  is a temporary bandaid that provides referrals on a much more limited impersonal basis than previous local staff. Outreach services at the center are still unavailable.

A “personal affront” or constructive public input?

The Director puts blame on constructive public input to cover his own staff decision failures. The new staff member did not have experience in running a dedicated senior center and/or its social services. As a result, problems occurred. Pointing out failure to properly maintain confidential information and a safe environment at the senior center is not a “personal affront.” This input allowed immediate training of staff in such issues; yet it still remains problematic. 

Why is the Director giving inaccurate information about the laid-off staff’s leaving?

On August 23th, the staff learned that they were to be laid-off starting Oct. 1. The laid-off staff refused to stay to provide training to regular park employees who had little or no experience with seniors. They felt it would be a dis-service to seniors to assume that this level of training was adequate to perform the social services that they rendered.

Do the Director and Commissioners value the senior social services provided by the laid-off staff?

The Park’s actions that gutted senior social services speak louder than words. Eliminating the Senior Program manager and the part-time staff showed no concern for seniors going without adequate social services.

Will the new ad hoc advisory committee help make a better program?

The Director's mandatory limits on the advisory committee cripples its effort to make a better program. The Ashland Senior Program Advisory Committee has been told that they cannot consider re-hiring the laid-off staff, and to not return to the way the center was previously run. The former Senior Program was an outstanding recognized model program. Parks gutted it when it laid-off the highly qualified local senior program staff. Taking out the option for the best example of local senior social services around and attempting to recreate it with new employees cripples its effort to make a better program.

It took 43 years to develop the excellent Senior Program that Ashland had. It will take years to build it back up without the previous staff … and only if it is directed by people committed to the past’s high standards of helping seniors live safely and independently in their homes.

Response to Daily Tidings Guest Opinion by Anne Bellegia

The 1/2/18 guest opinion by a member of the senior ad hoc committee actually makes a case for why it was irresponsible to layoff the entire senior center staff with no established reason, goals, objectives and plans in place. What is concerning is that this ad hoc member does not acknowledge the outstanding social services that were in place at the Ashland Senior Center before the layoffs. The 43 year old integrated social service program was administered by staff who were long-time Ashland residents and seniors. The staff had personal connections with Ashland seniors and resources throughout the community that provided the "human element" required to be effective in their assistance.

Below is Christine Dodson's, the laid-off Senior Center Manager, comment to the guest opinion.

"Where have you been Anne? The former Senior Program staff provided all the 'connections' you mention and many, many more. Past networking included: OLLI, SOU, RVCOG, City of Ashland, United Way, YMCA, private Geriatric Case Managers and specialized RNs, the Ashland School system - at all levels, RVTD, a plethora of community volunteers, local service groups, Alzheimers Assoc., Boy Scouts, Ashland at Home, regional grant organizations, churches, St. Vincent de Paul, Jackson County Fuel, ACCESS, Jackson County services, AARP, Habitat for Humanity, Asante and Providence hospitals, the food bank, various senor housing facilities, various providers of in-home services, elder law attorneys, and on and on. Most of these connections were on a first name basis with the former staff. The Senior Program was not a shell of a program waiting for restructuring by an Ad Hoc committee or a Parks and Rec Dept., although adding additional resources was always a goal and would have been welcome. As it stands now, it's been heartbreaking watching the dissolution of those former connections, and almost Alice in Wonderlandish watching those trying to recreate them as if they hadn't existed. The dismissal of the importance of institutional memory and community involvement, as well as the lack of an accurate reflection of the former program is disappointing.


Ashland Sneak Preview's 27th Annual Readers' Survey


"this year it was a runaway, as the Parks and Rec's Commission's handling of the Senior Center was viewed unfavorably by a lot of people."

Watch RVTV's Tough Times with AshlandSOS - a half hour interview by Therese Swenson.

Available online at (click on RVTV Voices), (or in archives

KSKQ broadcast 89.5 fm  

Hear an hour interview with AshlandSOS by the Brain Labor Report.

Available online in archives here


APRC latest actions as of 1/22/18:

Concerns about the direction APRC and the ad hoc senior advisory commission is going includes:

          Ad Hoc committee recommendations may sound positive; however, they are mostly conceptual. How APRC implements them down the road is what matters. APRC has already showed their hand in wanting to scale back (and outsource) social services (information/referral and outreach services) and expand recreation programs where revenue generation from younger seniors is more possible. 

          APRC has passed the ad hoc committee’s initial recommendations without doing an adequate evaluation of the budget implications. If the budget is not increased, everything is certainly window dressing.

          The ad hoc recommended administration, record keeping and structure are geared toward a large city (over 100,000 population) rather than a city of Ashland’s size (21,000). APRC and the ad hoc committee have not considered the costs of building the bureaucracy, supporting computer program technologies and additional staffing it will require. It will direct staff to do paper/computer work instead of dedicating time to provide direct services to those most in need. 

          APRC enhanced the senior program responsibilities, position, and manager’s role without review of APR’s overall structure in order to cut back personnel in other areas that used to have such responsibilities, e.g., recreation department. 

          APRC adds highly paid staff to its organization which is already top heavy. 

          The program and job descriptions are all set up to outsource the information/referral and outreach to regional agencies that have slim staffing. Local staff for such services are more efficient and effective. 

          The community survey is not statistically sound, slanted toward desired results and under-represents social services needs.

          With the current legal actions against APRC - senior manager wrongful discharge and contract violations, age discrimination, and ethics violation - APRC should not rush (delay) re-organization actions until outcomes of such actions become clear. 

Signatures Verified! Recall Election is on!

Recall now so that we can get three new commissioners who will: 1) seek, listen and respect community input before making changes, 2) manage the budget much better to ensure Ashland's financial stability, 3) maintain well what we have before expanding or creating new programs, and 4) restore the local senior social services' safety net

New Video - Here is what was lost by Commissioners' actions

The video below shows an interview with Christine Dodson that describes the local integrated social service program that the Ashland senior program lost when the Parks commissioners laid off the entire senior center staff, including Christine Dodson. The senior program was considered successful for 43 years. The laid off staff had a combined experience in senior social services totalling 72 years. They were all Ashland residents and knew the community well by residing in it over ten years each and 130 years combined residency.

The layoff action by the commissioners dismantled the effective and cost efficient local services rendered by the senior program. Since the layoff social services have been scaled back and no local outreach services are available by the senior center staff. This, in part, led citizens to initiate a recall effort on three commissioners.

We can immediately restore the lost social services by rehiring the laid off staff. By endorsing the recall we hope to replace the majority of commissioners to increase the chances for rehire.

APRC's actions exposes taxpayers to liabilities

Cease and Desist letters and Supplemental Notice of Tort Claim

Read for yourself the tort claim notice and "cease and desist" letters sent to City behalf of laid off senior manager

Recall not passed by approximately 70% against and 30% favored. Low turnout, 5,804 out of 15,197 eligible voters (38%) casted a ballot.

Read Ashland Recall and Ashland SOS March 13, 2018 press release here.



Rally and Public Input at the last meeting of the APRC Senior Advisory Committee meeting, March 12, 2018

APRC Ad Hoc Senior Advisory Meeting, March 12, 2018 for public record

The recommendations are out and you have reached the end. What have you done? You built a big bureaucracy that costs almost twice as much to start and achieves no more than the prior program did in its low budget way. In fact it does away with crucial outreach services by senior center staff and allows the outsourcing of information and referral services to a regional agency.

The standard and practice criteria downloaded from the internet and used to develop your recommendations are only met by two cities in Oregon - Salem which has 7.5 times more people, and Lake Oswego which has almost twice as many people and twice the median household income. Implementing such an organizational structure with a far lower budget than those centers means increasing administration costs at the sacrifice of direct services to seniors.

Jackie Bachman, on August 9, 2017 spoke out in strong support of the prior senior program saying “what a jewel we have in our community right now.” What made it special, what few other senior centers had, was its highly skilled staff with its institutional knowledge of 43 years and the local social services it could perform.

The senior manager ran the whole senior program. She had over 28 years experience in conducting senior social services. A part time employee who had 16 years experience in senior social services performed most of the outreach services to Ashland seniors. Three other part time employees, who had over 30 years combined experience helping seniors, assisted in the senior center operations including information and referrals. All staff were long time Ashland residents ... they knew the community and its resources well.

The staff gave personal customized local service that a regional phone system and website could never come close to. Nowhere do you recommend a staff position to have social services experience to be able to provide local outreach to Ashland seniors. It is evident that APRC did not value the local services that made Ashland’s senior program special, and neither do you.

The prior qualified staff also made daily judgments in the center operations and activities that made seniors feel safe and comfortable. This is not happening with the current staff who have no experience in social services. Core services have not been maintained. Outreach services are no longer conducted and skilled information and referral services are limited to one day a week by a non-local contract individual. The current staff have had instances where seniors’ confidentiality and privacy have been violated. A senior has fallen and broken his hip at the center. Accidents like this never happened while Christine Dodson was manager for eleven years. A center employee offered a senior over the counter medicine which the prior staff would never do because of liability issues. A center employee offer a senior a space heater ... another liability issue.

Your long laundry list of job and program descriptions allow APRC to select ones that fit its original plans, and still claim that it is consistent with your recommendations.

Ashland’s “jewel” has been tossed away by APRC and the committee has buried it.