Area residents are surprisingly sanguine about legal pot, somewhat skeptical of a proposed upstate casino, divided on the need for a new swimming pool, and totally in the dark about their representation on the Medford City Council and elsewhere, according to an informal poll.
"We shouldn't waste our money prosecuting pot as a crime," a 29-year-old single mother said of Measure 80, which would permit licensed cannabis stores and personal cultivation. "It gets you in less trouble than drinking."
"Everybody uses it anyway," said Maggie Mathis of Trail. "This way you take it out of the hands of criminals."
The last word on the pot measure may have belonged to BrittanyFaye Mordein, of Phoenix.
"People on pot don't do violent things," she said. "They sit on the couch and say they should go out and get some munchies. Then they just sit there. They don't go."
Others are not so sure. A Central Point woman who didn't want to be identified said, "The way we're handling it is like Prohibition in the 1930s — it's not much better, but I don't think this measure is a way to do it."
Many were less sure about the wisdom of measures 82 and 83, which would amend the state constitution to allow a privately owned casino — the first in the state not operated by American Indian tribes — in Wood Village. The proposal also found some support.
"If there are going to be more casinos, the tribes should have them," said Mike Wolf, 49, of Medford.
Others, however, pointed to what they said would be economic benefits.
"It would create jobs," said Richard Ruff, 41, of White City.
The highly unscientific poll involved a reporter walking around and talking with several dozen people on the streets of downtown Medford Friday. Forget Gallop, think Jay Leno.
Nobody could name their representative on City Council. Candidates for county and state races fared slightly better, although when you're starting from zero there's admittedly a lot of upside. Ted Wheeler and Tom Cox, the Democrat and Republican candidates for state treasurer, were recognized by almost nobody.
"Isn't Ted the mayor?" one voter asked.
That would be Medford Mayor Gary Wheeler.
The candidate at the state level with the most name recognition seemed to be Ellen Rosenblum in the attorney general race, although even voters who knew her name weren't always clear on her job.
Judge Benjamin Bloom and David Orr, Bloom's opponent for the Court of Appeals Position Six, were recognized by a few voters. One who had firsthand experience with Bloom on the bench was Chester Funderburg, who said he appeared before Bloom on drug charges when he was struggling with some longtime addiction issues.
"He gave me three years probation and jail time served," Funderburg said. "I understand what I did was wrong, and I think he's doing a good job."
The names of Jackson County commissioner candidates Doug Breidenthal, the Republican, and Jeff Scroggin, the Democrat, prompted a lot of head-scratching, but they were more likely to be placed by local voters than candidates for statewide office.
One early voter, who gave her name only as Sherry, said she knows both Bloom and Orr through her work.
"That made it more exciting," she said.
The Medford swimming pool measure found a lot of support and some worries about its cost.
"It's a good outlet for kids," said a Medford man who gave his name as Robert. "Keep 'em out of trouble."
"Kids need it," said Sherry Reeves-Fox.
Mike Wolf, of Medford, opposes a new pool because of cost.
"I pay a lot in property taxes already," he said.
"We already got two pools," a 49-year-old Medford man said.
While there were some glaring lacunae in voters' overall political maps, most clearly take their voting seriously. Among the resources they said they used to help them decide how to vote were the Christian Voter Guide, a guide from the Oregon Student Association, the Oregon Voter's Pamphlet, political ads in print and on television, Internet research and websites, the opinions of friends and spouses. Nobody thought that newspaper endorsements were important.
"It's all kind of overwhelming," said Andy Gomez, of Central Point.
Some items people agreed on 100 percent. Nobody knew who James L. Buchal is (the Republican candidate for attorney general).
And everybody who was registered to vote but hadn't yet done so gave the same reason: too busy.
The last word on the whole process may have been voiced by the Medford woman who said she was looking forward to turning in her ballot Monday.
"Then I can quit getting these damn phone calls."
Bill Varble is a freelance writer living in Medford. If you have comments or suggested topics for the column, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.