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Sound of silence

By failing to listen to war protesters, Walden's staff failed its constituents

The activists arrested outside Congressman Greg Walden's office in Medford Thursday didn't just happen by to chat.

They had a point to make with the representative and the savvy to understand that creating a spectacle would help them get their message to the public.

We are guessing that wouldn't have been a problem for the congressman's staff if the issue were, for example, water for farmers or saving the Medford air tanker base, causes Walden has championed.

Instead it was America's war in Iraq, and the activists wanted Oregon's Second District congressman, a Republican who backs the war, to know they oppose it.

Walden himself was not in Medford, but his staff locked the small group of protesters out of the office. Too busy to talk, they said.

Now that the country is at war, there is nothing they can do to make him not support our troops, said Walden District Director John Snider, sounding more than a little at war himself.

The peace activists, of course, said nothing about not supporting the troops, only that they hoped to convince Walden and others to put an end to the conflict in Iraq.

Their methods ' gathering at the congressman's office with leaflets and banners and trying to draw attention to their cause ' are among the most basic ways Americans have to convey their feelings to the people elected to represent them.

They know Walden disagrees with them, and still our system of government encourages that a variety of viewpoints are heard as part of any debate.

Little was heard Thursday in the tiny foyer to Walden's locked office.

His five-member Medford staff, which says it spends its days dealing with constituents' needs, didn't want to listen to these constituents unless they made an appointment and came back later. Instead, a pair of war opponents stayed until they were arrested for trespassing.

Walden's staff never heard what they had to say.

That should trouble anyone who believes in a representative form of government, the congressman included.

The peace activists weren't violent, nor did they threaten Walden's staff. They simply wanted to talk to the man elected to represent Southern Oregonians in Congress.

That's Walden, and he ' or his staff ' should have been listening.

Ashland's market loss

The Rogue Valley Growers and Crafters Market has been given approval to operate in the parking lot across the street from Lithia Park that accommodates the ice skating rink during the winter months.

But confining the market to the smallish lot puts a limit on the market that could be fatal.

Market members had asked to use Winburn Way from just north of the band shell to the Winburn Way-Nutley Street intersection, but were turned down by the Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission.

That option would have required closure of Winburn Way from the Nutley Street intersection nearly to the intersection with Granite Street from 6:30 a.m. to — p.m. on Tuesdays from April to October.

The parking lot option has room for only 49 booths. The marketers' proposal would have provided space for 84 booths. The parking lot option would require that the crafters sit out during the height of the sales season.

The Ashland Planning Commission will consider the issue at its April 8 meeting.

There has been opposition to the growers and crafters market locating at the park, for fear it would set a precedent for other businesses. We think that is easy to dismiss, for these outdoor markets are not only common, but add to the ambiance of a community. It seems a perfect fit for Ashland.

We hope that the Planning Commission will approve the request and will consider opening the growers and crafters market to a larger number of participants. There is no reason to limit the sales of the crafters when there is ample room on Winburn Way and when the closure would not affect high traffic periods.