At 17, out on my own, I started my working career. I had no experience and was not a high school graduate. I procured a job, for minimum wage, in an engineering department. Truly a crappy job, but my foot was in the door.

At 17, out on my own, I started my working career. I had no experience and was not a high school graduate. I procured a job, for minimum wage, in an engineering department. Truly a crappy job, but my foot was in the door.

I quickly progressed to a draftsman position at twice the minimum wage. From there I progressed to become a detailer, engineer, design engineer, then chief engineer earning seven times the minimum wage. Then I started my own business and eventually ended up at Microsoft, earning 12 times the minimum wage, then retired at 50.

If the minimum wage had been a living wage, my first employer would have hired an experienced high school graduate, not me. In order to survive I would have done something illegal, or learned to work the welfare system.

So I see the minimum wage as an opportunity. If you are ambitious and work hard, you will progress beyond low-wage jobs. The facts are that 4.7 percent, mainly 16 to 19 years old, earn the minimum wage. The solution is to tie it to a true cost-of-living calculation and quit using it as a political football. — Larry Fields, Medford

Who in their right mind would want the food that they consume to be modified genetically? Vote yes on Jackson County Measure 15-119. — Greg Hayden, Ashland

Did anybody catch the article in the Mail Tribune? One-third of the 33,000 or more vehicle accidents in America last year were alcohol related? Everybody know about MADD? Know what happens to your liver? The many side effects of alcoholic drinking? How's about enlarged heart, dehydration and a slew of other detrimental hazards!

Are these politicians aiming to ban medicinal marijuana in our fine state of Oregon drinking too many alcoholic beverages? Because they, the politicians, do not seem to have a clue about medicinal marijuana. Let us face it, I mean, come on people, get a grip! The FDA approves some of the most dangerous drugs around, with a multitude of side effects, which can easily zap our body of vitamins and minerals. Doctors provide these "legal" pharmacy drugs.

What about tobacco? Over 400 chemicals and most of us know what tobacco can lead to. Gasoline vehicles spewing out deadly gases. Nobody seems to be up in arms about all the above, but are about medicinal marijuana, which has nearly no side effects and helps those with severe pain, amongst other medical conditions. Is there something wrong with this picture? — Jeff Kassman, Ashland

Your recent article about a local farmers' group that supports passing family farm Measure 15-119 in the coming May election quoted Ron Bjork saying, "Can you imagine the county trying to set up an agriculture department to monitor this stuff to tell if it's genetically modified or not?"

Nonsense! Measure 15-119 does not require setting up a department. It merely amends existing county code. which requires owners to remove diseased pear trees that threaten existing pear orchards, and gives the county authority to do it and recoup its costs if the owner won't. Measure 15-119 follows the same procedure, with no additions to the staff or budget.

Your readers should know that Bjork directs a political action committee that has received $50,000 in the last week alone from out-of-state sugar companies trying to buy our election. Over 125 local farms support family farm Measure 15-119. Vote yes in May. — Deborah Miriam Leff, Medford

Once it was sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. Now it's money, guns and GMO. — Gib Acuna, Ashland

Talking with marijuana users is like talking to pit bull owners. There's lots of belief and feeling but not a lot of solid data that supports their claims.

With that in mind comes the public policy issue: some communities allow dispensaries and some don't. Forcing a community to allow a dispensary is fraught with issues around things like community standards, fairness to the businesses close to a dispensary, etc.

There are many places in this state that allow this and do OK with it; however, they still run a risk of federal sanctions when the dispensaries began other activities in order to make more money. The temptation to deal is still too delicious, so why take a risk? There is also the question of unanticipated costs as a result of easier access to a powerful psychotropic. Who will pay for the additional needs around treatment?

Legal drug dealing is still in its infancy and needs to happen elsewhere so that risk and case law can be experienced by other folks. Let them find out where the red line is with the feds, not us.

I support the ban of dispensaries in Medford until the federal question is actually answered. — Roger Lemstrom, Medford

I enrolled in a Gold health insurance plan through Cover Oregon in January, but my insurer shows I was enrolled in a Silver plan. Over the last three weeks I have spent many, many frustrating hours on the phone trying to straighten this out (to Cover Oregon and my insurer equally), but Cover Oregon and my insurance carrier can't seem to arrive on the same page, and the problem still isn't fixed.

Although there was an initial typo made by Cover Oregon, their computer system now shows that I am enrolled in the Gold plan that I opted for. But the documentation Cover Oregon sends to my insurer keeps placing me in the Silver plan instead (three times now, according to my insurer). This must be a computer glitch. If I want to take advantage of the tax credit (which I obviously want), the insurer requires that Cover Oregon provide them with the correct enrollment information directly.

Really, how hard should this be? Can't Cover Oregon email or make a phone call to the insurer to straighten this out for me? I wonder how many other people were also enrolled in the wrong plan and don't know it yet? — C. Jensen, Trail

Last summer, in Georgetown, President Obama identified the main criterion for Keystone is that it must not significantly exacerbate our climate crisis. The State Department has just released its analysis of Keystone.

Despite being viewed in the media as an endorsement of Keystone, the executive summary states very clearly: "The total direct and indirect emissions associated with the proposed project would contribute to cumulative global greenhouse gas emissions."

We know that the atmospheric carbon dioxide level has reached 400 parts per million, higher than it has ever been while humans roamed the planet. The consequence of the pollution we are imposing on ourselves is a continued trend of warming and deepening climate chaos.

We also know that we must leave over 50 percent of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground if we are to protect the livability of our planet. The World Bank and International Energy Agency concur. Deciding which fuels should be left requires that we assess their energy returned on energy invested. Tar sand and shale oil, barely breaking even energetically, should be left alone. For many of the same reasons, natural gas extracted by fracking should be rejected.

Inter-generational justice demands that President Obama reject Keystone. — Kathy Conway, co-facilitator, Southern Oregon Climate Action Now

Utilizing our natural resources without compromising future generations should not be controversial if we care that our descendants will enjoy a decent life.

The obvious reality is that our planet possesses limited resources. Concerns remain that mismanagement/wasting of both our renewable resources (forests, water, air, food, etc.) and non-renewable resources (coal, oil, minerals, etc.) will bring a future where these fall to such desperately short supplies that human suffering, international conflicts, and war result.

The United Nations Conference on Economic Development published a set of non-binding recommendations ("Agenda 21") to encourage rational resource management through the 21st century. The proposals were adopted by 178 governments to encourage sustainable resource management. In 2013 a related U.N. report entitled, "Wake up before it's too late," encouraged similar sustainable practices in agriculture for food security in a changing climate. The latter report clearly urged developed nations (that's us) to move away from high energy, high fertilizer input, (GMO) monoculture agricultural practices because they are just not energy sustainable as we continue to waste our renewable resources. There are less energy intensive ways to feed ourselves and not destroy the environment. Want to know more? Go to — Ramon Seidler, Ashland

The recent council meeting in Ashland (to study a proposed gun regulation ordinance) scared me.

First I feared what the young children attending might hear, things that could worry them far too soon in life.

Then a tall young man entered the room and fear engulfed me. Two firearms, including a rifle, were slung across his body and his T-shirt read something like, "Come and take them." (Photo in Tuesday's Mail Tribune.) It was the same fear I experienced when such a man came into an Ashland pizza parlor where I had taken my little granddaughters recently. (We left immediately.) I stayed at the council meeting, but must ask, what justification could there be for appearing this way at a community gathering or at a family restaurant?

We do not allow guns in airports, courtrooms, schools or other "sensitive" places. How was a man toting visible firearms allowed to come into a public gathering inside the police station? How is it OK for any citizen to intimidate or frighten families in pizza parlors or concerned attendees of a meeting to discuss reasonable (and obviously needed) guidelines regarding public safety? — Suzanne Fretwell, Ashland

Getting a college education and earning a degree is extremely important in order to be successful in today's job market. Not only is higher education integral for a career, it is an opportunity to become a well rounded and productive citizen of society while gaining the necessary skills to be a professional and help make the world a better place.

Unfortunately, over the past few decades there has been systemic divestment of higher education in the state of Oregon. Public universities in Oregon are receiving less and less state funding which has resulted in a barrage of issues such as schools in debt, students graduating with the highest amount of debt ever seen, tuition increases, program cuts, and many more. Tuition is the highest its ever been and has been increasing at a higher rate than the CPI for the past several years. Oregon provides 44 percent less funding per college student compared to the rest of the nation.

Nelson Mandela said, "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." With all of the problems the world is facing, shouldn't Oregon, a progressive and opportunity-laden state, provide a public commodity for its citizens? — Austin Roberts, Ashland