Holt is sincere but ineffective; the county needs and deserves better
In the end, it's not any one failing that does in Ric Holt. . Not his dogged focus on narrow-interest issues such as commuter rail. Not his unrealistic ideas, such as a plan to save &
36;1 billion by salvaging fire-area timber. Not his fly-off-the-handle responses that sometimes leave onlookers with dropped jaws.
No, a county commissioner is a package deal, and it's the Ric Holt package that leads us to recommend that voters replace him Nov. 5 after 12 years on the board of commissioners.
Holt, a Republican, is being challenged in his bid for a fourth term by Democrat Dave Gilmour, a physician who has served on the Central Point City Council, on the school board and as longtime county health officer.
Gilmour has some refreshing views. He joined the race supporting a proposal to restructure the board so it has four part-time commissioners and one full-time member instead of three full-timers. He wants to cut commissioners' pay by half. He suggested moving meetings to the evenings so more people can attend.
Importantly, he's aware that a number of county residents view today's board as inaccessible and uninterested in hearing what they have to say.
Holt has played like a passionate but broken record on a handful of projects: preserving Elk Creek dam, promoting commuter rail and pushing to ban a fuel additive known as MTBE. Meanwhile, too little thoughtfulness has gone into some of the commission's biggest issues: the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument east of Ashland, commissioner pay raises and land use.
Constituents can't help but wonder at some of what comes out of Holt's mouth, including a plan he's been touting to raise &
36;1 billion by salvaging timber from the Biscuit fire area. The plan is too vague to work and unrealistic to boot, something nearly everyone but Holt seems to understand.
Gilmour is smart, but it is fair to ask how easily he, as a critic of the board, would work with other commissioners. As his blunt and unrestrained campaign exchanges with Holt have shown, he can be outspoken and tactless. Sometimes he'd be better off keeping quiet.
Voters also might wonder whether Gilmour has time to be a commissioner, a job Holt says takes 60 hours a week. Gilmour admits he wouldn't spend that kind of time in the office but insists he can make time to do a good job. He says he will make the work a priority.
That, ultimately, is what Jackson County needs: someone who will take the top concerns of the county seriously and treat them thoughtfully and with consideration for a range of constituent views. Ric Holt is sincere in his desire to serve, but he is ineffective.
The Mail Tribune recommends Dave Gilmour for county commission Position 3.
We don't always agree with Jackson County Commissioner Jack Walker. But in this year's primary, we picked him over his challengers because he showed us that he's learned a great deal on the job and has become an effective commissioner.
We still believe that, and we recommend a vote to retain him. But challenger John Hallett has some valid criticisms of the current commissioners, and we hope that if Walker is re-elected he will heed that criticism.
We're still unhappy with all three commissioners' behavior over the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, when they took it upon themselves to lobby Washington, D.C. on behalf of only a portion of their constituents and played fast and loose with public comments to make it appear that opposition to the monument was overwhelming when it was anything but.
We also are concerned with the perception among many county residents that the commissioners are inaccessible and not interested in hearing the concerns of ordinary residents.
But Walker has demonstrated leadership, especially on the issue of keeping the air tanker base in Medford, a success he can be proud of. He's worked hard to give Southern Oregon a greater voice statewide on issues affecting counties. And he speaks convincingly about the need to make sure state land-use laws make sense for the unique soils and terrain in this part of the state.
Hallett has a record of public service, including 16 years on the Medford City Council, where he was an often divisive presence. Hallett had a tendency to shoot from the hip, and to get into personal battles with colleagues that detracted from the often sensible things he had to say.
This race is a tough one to decide, because both candidates bring solid credentials and practical ideas. We lean toward Walker because he has shown he is willing to learn the ropes and be effective.
Walker should pay attention to the criticisms, and make more effort to listen to the public. But he seems dedicated to continue doing a competent job in office, and we recommend that voters retain him.