Problems and Predicaments

Ashland Town Hall

Yesterday the Town of Ashland held council elections. All four candidates were successful. Congratulations to all.

There was no competition for the open seats so the mood was generally amiable. Depending on the status of the rail project such amicability is less likely to be present in upcoming elections involving the town. By then many residents and business owners who have been rather detached from the discussions so far will begin to understand how this proposed project could destroy Ashland as we know it. They will not be so relaxed.

Prediction #1
Upcoming Ashland elections will be emotional and contentious if the 3rd track option is still on the table.

Prediction #2
Candidates will have to do more than simply express opposition to the project — citizens will demand detailed plans. (A starting point would be to stop using the phrase “High Speed Rail”.)

Prediction #3
The successful candidate(s) will understand that the rail project creates not a problem but a predicament.

The third prediction is worth thinking through. Town Council is experienced at solving problems such as rezoning a building or handling the impact of long-term hotel residency. Problems such as these (a) have solutions, (b) they are not existential (they do not fundamentally change the nature of the town), and (c) the solution can often be reversed if it does not work out.

The rail project, on the other hand, creates a predicament. A predicament (a) does not have a solution. Either the track is there or it’s not. Options such as “Minor Upgrades” are not realistic (see Not Your Grandfather’s Railroad).  Moreover, a predicament (b) is existential — it utterly transforms the nature of the town. Finally (c), the predicament cannot be reversed. Once the third track has led to the destruction of homes and businesses they can never be restored.

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