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Just politics'

Mail Tribune editorials

The city's insistence on keeping its own 911 center has that aroma

If it walks like politics and talks like politics, is it no more than a case of politics? Medford residents ought to insist city leaders answer that question in coming weeks as the City Council prepares to approve a plan to build, at taxpayer expense, a new Medford dispatch and 911 center.

— — — — — Also on this page:

? . — — The emergency communications building, if constructed, will replace Medford's Central Communications center, now housed in City Hall and vulnerable to earthquakes.

But that's far from the complete story.

The unabridged version would include the fact that the city is pushing ahead with the center despite the possibility it is about to lose state funding for 911 services. And that the city has eschewed an opportunity to work with a competing center on a consolidation plan.

The state is requiring all 911 centers to submit plans by Sept. — to combine services so one agency provides them in each county. In Jackson County, that agency will receive &

36;800,000 annually from the state.

But consolidation talks between the Medford agency and the larger Southern Oregon Regional Communications, which provides 911 and dispatch services for 28 agencies, fell apart this summer. Each will ask the state to choose it as the county's 911 provider.

Common sense would dictate that Medford would stop here and wait to see where the state money will go. Instead, the city has moved forward with its plans for the new center ' a project, by the way, barely mentioned so far in public session. The council is set to approve it Sept. 5.

The public might more easily get behind the new center if it appeared there was a good reason for the split from SORC. If there is, we haven't heard it.

City officials say they don't want all communications in one center in case of an emergency, and they worry that joining SORC would leave Medford with too little voice in communications issues. But if it joined SORC, the city could easily set up basic emergency communications elsewhere. And as for its voice, that's more a control issue than one that has anything to do with service.

The goal of the state's direction in this is clear: to provide service at a lower cost. In short, to make government more efficient. And the goal of Medford's?

If it's not just about politics, now's the time to let us know.

Gateway makes sense

Jacksonville is working on plans to fix up the North Fifth Street gateway to the city. This makes sense. Now this entrance is little better than a commercial strip and doesn't fit in with the historic nature of most of the rest of the city.

The project would include sidewalks, bike lanes, setbacks and big leaf maple trees. The project area runs for about a half-mile along North Fifth, from G Street to the city limits near the Texaco station.

Most of the downtown area of Jacksonville is part of a historic landmark district that attracts tourists and shoppers from out of the area and from other Rogue Valley cities.

It would be nice if this gateway was up to the standards of the rest of the town. The project would go part-way toward achieving that goal. It deals with traffic issues, design issues and safety issues all at once, according to city officials, and includes street designs, standards for new developments and realigning the Schaefer Lane intersection.

If you want to have some say in the outcome of the project, the council will next discuss it at its Sept. 17 meeting.

Jacksonville is one of the premier attractions for visitors to the Rogue Valley. Now this north gateway doesn't offer the allure that most of the town does. Jacksonville city officials should proceed with plans for a new North Gateway.

Guest opinionRVTD board's behavior troubling to veteran

Our recent scene of events regarding the Rogue Valley Transportation District is not indicative of the way the district has been run in the past. While RVTD has been a part of the community that has gone from an eyesore to a pleasant service we seem to question, I feel it necessary to step forward and inform the community of a district which has tried to focus on serving the community.

During the years 1993 to 1998, I served on the budget committee for RVTD. During this involvement I worked with the previous general manager in attempts to obtain information for my decision making. These attempts were met with quick, double-talk answers.

In addition, I was briefed and attended public meetings regarding union contract negotiations. For those of you who do not remember those times, the tension between the union and the RVTD management was tremendous. It was than I found great respect for Ed Chapman. I am convinced that without his involvement during the negotiations, RVTD may very well have collapsed.

In 1998, I was elected to the board of directors of the Rogue Valley Transportation District. I served until 2001. During this time, I watched the district completely turn around under a new and invigorated general manager.

I watched RVTD go from an eyesore to a public display of our youths' art. I watched the current general manager help solve the parking problem in downtown Medford when Rogue Community College first developed the campus. With her desire and efforts, a partnership was created between RCC and RVTD. I was proud to be a part of RVTD when Sherrin Coleman was presented with awards at the state level for outstanding achievements.

I was personally inspired when I attended an RVTD employee banquet in which the state transportation union leader, RVTD management, RVTD drivers and RVTD administrative staff shared laughter and now fond memories.

I was amazed at the promptness and honesty when I asked questions at board meetings. If the general manager was unknowledgeable about an answer, she called on an administrative person who had the expertise. Should that not be available, the information was mailed to me within a matter of days.

When I left the RVTD board of directors last year, due to other personal commitments, I personally thanked Sherrin Coleman for the inspiration and the wonderful working relationship we have had.

Therefore, as you will imagine, I find it extremely curious how a board of directors could consider terminating this vital person without public explanation.

I find it extremely interesting how Ed Chapman does not agree on this decision. For a board member with such RVTD history as Mr. Chapman to object to something of this nature causes me to wonder about the others.

To watch as community leaders, who once were not involved with RVTD because it was an eyesore, stand up in public for a general manager they respect causes me to wonder.

To watch as union and nonunion employees in our communities gather petition signatures and carry signs of support leaves me curious.

To hear that a somewhat newly elected board of directors has contemplated terminating Sherrin Coleman on the spot causes me to become extremely concerned.

While I am curious about the future of Ms. Coleman with

RVTD, my greater concern is when will the residents of the Rogue Valley believe this board of directors is not acting in their best interest?

From 1993 to 2001, I watched RVTD grow and mature. I watched employees begin to work together, with a focus of servicing our communities. I have watched union negotiations become a discussion rather than a bidding war. I watched as the leadership of one woman inspired people of this community to stand up and support a transportation system we are all only now beginning to see the need for.

And now I have seen a board of directors decide to throw that aside, with no explanation. Do we, as residents of the Rogue Valley, sit here hoping it all works out for the best?

Or do we simply admit we made a mistake in electing this board, ask that they quietly leave their positions, and elect a board of directors who seem to understand what our community is looking for?

J.R. Holtz of Medford wasa member of the RVTD budget committee from 1993 to 1998, and a member of the board of directors from 1998-2001, serving as vice chairman from 1998-2000.