OSPIRG’s “March Forth” rally will have to raise its own money, Ashland city council says

The Ashland City Council rejected the Oregon Student Public Interest Research Group’s request for a waiver on the special events fee for an upcoming march and rally during the city council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 7.

OSPIRG has put together an event, scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. on Mar. 4, that will begin with a march from the courtyard of Southern Oregon University’s Stevenson Union to the Ashland Plaza, where a rally with live music and guest speakers will be held.

March Forth, as the event is titled, is “a candlelit vigil to mourn the death of free and fair elections in the United States due to the influence of money in politics,” said Thomas Letchworth, the OSPIRG chapter chair at Southern Oregon University.

“The event itself is primarily an educational and awareness-building event,” Letchworth said. “It is simply building awareness about the fact that money has to a certain extent perverted our democratic process…and one of the final nails in the coffin was the Citizens United v. the Federal Elections Committee Supreme Court decision in 2010.”

The event planned by OSPIRG, which the group predicts will be attract 500 participants, will require one lane of Siskiyou Boulevard to close for the duration of the march, as well as the roads leading into the Ashland Plaza for the hours-long rally. The single lane closure for the march would cost $130, and to close the roads leading into the Plaza could cost $500 or more depending on the size and length of the rally.

By law, the fees can only reflect administrative and other actual costs, such as those for traffic control, of the event. They cannot exceed the costs of the event, and city of Ashland already covers about half the costs of special events, as it did for the parade during the Southern Oregon Pride Festival and the Children’s Halloween Parade.

Since these fees are based on actual costs to the city, the March Forth event fees would not be waived but would be paid for by the city, with taxpayer money.

In a 5-1 vote, the City Council decided not to pay the costs of the march and rally and required the organizers to raise the money to pay the fees themselves. Councilor Caral Voisin cast the dissenting vote.

As Letchworth and members of the Occupy movement funneled out of the Council Chambers and congregated in the lobby, Andrew Kubik, 60, of Ashland, handed $100 to Letchworth to help cover the fees.

“I know it is going to a good cause,” said Kubik. “They’ll make good use of it.”


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