I want to express my gratitude for Sen. Alan Bates and his leadership in passing a bill that will place sensible limits on suction dredge mining in Oregon's rivers.

I want to express my gratitude for Sen. Alan Bates and his leadership in passing a bill that will place sensible limits on suction dredge mining in Oregon's rivers.

Ten years ago, permits for suction dredge mining were few, but with California's recent moratorium on the practice, the removal of Gold Ray dam and current gold prices, the activity has increased by more than 500 percent. Where there were once four dredges on the Rogue near Gold Hill are now upwards of 30. This activity is harmful to our already dwindling salmon populations and it now crowds sections of river that are used by rafters and fishermen while also creating noise and air pollution.

Senator Bates has remained strong in helping to ensure protections for our local rivers and streams so that activities such as suction dredge mining are properly regulated and sensibly limited. Please join me in supporting Senator Bates and his courageous leadership to ensure that our rivers and streams are quiet, healthy and enjoyable for all. — Robyn Janssen, Ashland

I told my husband today to call a Realtor about selling our house in Central Point so we can move to Medford. Apparently everything in Medford is so perfect that the City Council has nothing better to do than harass merchants about their signs.

This latest moronic action is obviously directed specifically at Verizon. My first question is: Who brought this before the council and why do they have an ax to grind with Verizon? What about signs where the message scrolls along so slowly that you're still reading when the light turns green?

If anyone finds that colorful, animated sign at Verizon so distracting that it interferes with their driving maybe they shouldn't have a license to start with. Are they also confused by two arrows at two-lane turns? What about a blinking yellow arrow? How do they function if the traffic lights are out completely? I'll bet when dreary, foggy winter days and nights are upon us people will find the sign a cheery sight.

I personally find the people standing at busy intersections waving signs and playing air guitar much more distracting. — Elaine Wheeler, Central Point

Every time we decide to buy something, we have a choice between a locally owned company or a franchise. It may be a more important decision than you think.

Every time we support a local business we support each other: Al goes to Rob's Fish and Chips restaurant to eat local fish, Rob goes to Mike's Small Town Cars and buys a car for his daughter. Mike hires Nick to put a double vanity in his bathroom, Nick talks to Adam's Realty about buying property so he can go to Gold Hill Lumber for supplies to build a home and hires some other carpenters to help him.

Point is, right here in Medford, Ore., we have the services and talent to whet any appetite for anything we might need! It's important to remember that behind the helpful smiles and the personal service we get from local staff, there are people making sacrifices to keep their doors open.

Forget the franchises, and make acquaintances with our locally owned vendors. — Nicholas Torrano, Medford

Martin Luther King must be spinning in his grave. Dr. King spoke that all men are created equal, but that must not apply to Republicans in the eyes of the organizers of the 50th Anniversary.

No black conservatives were invited, be they Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court or Sen. Tim Scott, the only black senator.

Then we have the speeches; the NAACP said that the disintegration of the black family, 73 percent of black children born out of wedlock, the 500 black young men killed by other black men in Chicago, was somebody else's fault. Jimmy Carter proved he is still incompetent, President Obama gave his usual divisive speech, blaming the "rich" for everything, even though blacks are suffering most under his mismanagement of the economy.

What a travesty! My condolences to Dr. King. — Lee Topham, Talent