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Oppose zoning changeFirefighters around the country are struggling with the problem of how to protect more and more homes dispersed throughout fire-prone landscapes during wildfire. Yet Commissioners Smith and Walker want to exacerbate this problem in Jackson County with proposed zoning changes.

The changes would allow properties zoned Rural Use to be subdivided to 10 acres. Wildlands firefighters are already over-committed and under-resourced. More homes in the wildland-urban interface mean resources are spread thinner and directed away from containment. What's worse is that most areas subject to change support oak woodlands and chaparral, our most eruptive vegetation types during a fire.

The financial burden for these changes will be put on taxpayers through expanding capacity of local, state and federal fire-fighting outfits and more intensive management of surrounding public lands.

Oregon has an excellent fire protection strategy by default through existing land use planning. Residential development is directed towards existing communities where it is easily defended from wildfire, not in a diffuse pattern across the landscape where resources are strained and firefighters are needlessly put at risk. Let's keep fire protection manageable by opposing this short-sighted and politically opportunistic rule change and support existing land-use laws that protect communities in fire-prone landscapes. &

8212; Dominic DiPaolo, Ashland

The next police scandalYour May 6 article on revamping the Phoenix Police Department details the interim chief's plan to hire a "headhunter" to find Phoenix a professional chief. Ashland hired an interim chief while they carefully consider the replacement of Chief Bianca.

Why waste all the time and money — Gold Hill has a quick, cheap formula. Get a group of well-meaning citizens with zero law enforcement background. Call them a "Blue Ribbon" committee.

The Blue Ribbon committee interviews the applicants, asks a list of inane, third-grade level questions, and magically they know who is right for the job. It's durn near a miracle how well it works, it is like a dowsing stick to water.

They never drag out the process unnecessarily with questions like, "Can we see your post service record from Idaho or California?" Or embarrass a candidate by asking why these records were not voluntarily submitted with the application. They never ask why the candidate isn't still working at his previous job.

Using Gold Hill's method, Phoenix can cut through the red tape and forge ahead to the next police scandal as we have. &

8212; Christine Alford, Gold Hill

Outboard engine rip-offI believe that the 4-stroke outboard engine is the biggest rip-off on the public since bottled water.

When the EPA mandated better emissions for outboards most manufacturers caved and went to the 4-stroke. Of course the trade generated a massive advertising campaign that made the engine sound like the best thing since mom's homemade apple pie &

8212; with some success.

As far as I know, there is only one manufacturer that invested the R&D necessary to develop the 2-stroke to EPA standards.

There is a reason the 2-stroke has been the engine of choice for the best part of 100 years. It is smaller, lighter, cheaper, faster, gets a better hole shot and is practically maintenance free.

On the 4-stroke plus side is better fuel economy and they run a little quieter.

Research carefully when considering a new outboard. &

8212; Jim Ross, Medford

Safety over silenceIt seems perfectly reasonable to hear sirens on Barnett Road considering Rogue Valley Medical Center a major hospital and trauma center, as well as numerous assisted living facilities, health care offices, etc., are located on or near Barnett Road. A quick check of the area before establishing residence would make this obvious.

Mr. Snyder compares local ambulance responses with Oakland, Calif., police responses to homicides &

8212; seems a lot like comparing apples and oranges since according to his figures Oakland homicides occur once every two or three days and local ambulances respond to many calls every day.

There is a standardized response for emergency medical vehicles throughout Jackson County, and they run with lights and sirens only for life-threatening issues, such as difficulty breathing, heart-related problems and strokes.

In matters where seconds count, it seems very small to elevate a noise nuisance above human life. &

8212; Alanna Farmer, Medford

Whose English?Would that be nucular or nuclear? "Our children is learnin"? Bush states that we should all be speaking English! The "King's" version or proper English? &

8212; Jason R. Hord, Jacksonville

Geopolitics of oilAlthough Bush claims to be engaged in a global war on terrorism and the extension of U.S. democracy, it's obvious he's pursuing, with the culpable Democrats, a worldwide strategy driven by the geopolitics of oil, and not just in Libya, Venezuela, Iran and Iraq.

Lately, President Bush hosted the president of oil-rich Azerbaijan and warmly embraced Aliev, a less-than-democratic leader whose oil resources and strategic position make him important in US/Exxon politics and plans for regime change in Iran and other unwilling countries.

Then Vice President Cheney went to oil-rich and autocratic Kazakhstan where he warned Russia against using "oil and gas as tools of intimidation and blackmail." Seems only Bush/Cheney are allowed to do that.

And to top it off, Bush has removed the United States from the Geneva Conventions, the World Court, so he can torture and hold people without charges, all in the name of taking over their oil reserves and economies.

Are you better off today than five years ago, seriously? &

8212; Lorne Lundgren, Ashland

Immigrants are differentIn Steve Kerwin's letter of May 18, he describes the immigrants that came to America before 1915, and then asks the question: Do you think it is any difference with Hispanics entering out nation now?

The answer, of course, is a resounding &

8212; yes!

A million people have been added to the world's numbers in the last decade, and global population has more than doubled since 1960. Anyone who cares anything at all about the environment can see that increasing numbers of people place greater demands on resources. Those of us who are concerned about "global warming" do not want to see greater numbers of immigrants coming to America to become super consumers and burn more fuel, use and treat more water, occupy more space and contaminate more air.

As immigrants come to industrialized countries, there has been no indication that the numbers of people are shrinking in most of the places they are coming from. For the sake of the planet, help put a stop to illegal immigration. &

8212; Robert Bennett, Grants Pass

Thanks for clean-upA huge thank you to all the volunteers who cleaned up trash on Bear Creek as part of the Stop Oregon Litter and Vandalism effort. Additional thanks to the Mail Tribune and Jim Craven for covering their good deed so beautifully!

The big rains earlier this season that pounded the shores of Bear Creek with torrents of water and tons of trash left it looking pretty dismal and uncared for. Now it looks gorgeous and ready to welcome spring and lots of visitors. Thank you so very much from the Bear Creek Greenway Foundation and all of us who love spending time on our Greenway! &

8212; Joy Olson, Medford

Protect your petsI would like to remind pet owners about the dangers of leaving their animal in a parked car.

Even in the shade and with the windows rolled down one inch, in 70-degree heat the interior of a car can reach 120-plus in a matter of minutes. Animals regulate their body temperature by panting and by sweating through their paws. Leaving your animal in a parked car can be a death sentence. Doing so is abuse and causing unnecessary suffering is illegal. The following is taken from information on the PETA Web site:

"With only hot air to breathe, dogs and other animals can suffer irreparable brain damage and even die of heatstroke ... learn the signs of heat exhaustion &

8212; restlessness, excessive thirst, heavy panting, lethargy, lack of appetite, dark tongue, rapid pulse, fever, vomiting, glazed eyes, dizziness or lack of coordination...."

Go to or to learn more.

Just as you wouldn't leave your child in a car on a warm day, don't leave an animal in there either. &

8212; Candy Kelly, Medford

Israel demonstrates valuesNorman Solomon's piece "Opening the Israel Debate" in the Sunday Mail Tribune ignores the central issue &

8212; America supports Israel because Israel represents the same democratic, pluralistic values we do.

Israel is a parliamentary democracy in a region of tyrants. It's a nation in which religious freedom is granted to all in an area ruled by intolerant theocracies.

Compare Israel to our other Mideast allies.

Where can an Arab woman walk without having to have her head covered? Israel. Not Saudi Arabia, not Pakistan, nor within the borders of most of our other fair-weather friends in the region.

Where can a Palestinian publish a protest in a newspaper protected by freedom of the press? Israel. Not in Egypt, Jordan, or our new friend Libya. And it would be risky in Palestine, where dissidents are frequently gunned down in the street.

The United States has sponsored more than its share of dictators, shady governments, and questionable allies. Israel is the opposite &

8212; a daily demonstration of the values we hold dear.

Is there room for Israel to improve? Absolutely. Should we encourage frank dialogue about the region? Yes.

But let's not forget the facts. &

8212; Steve Werblow, Ashland

Bill continues tax breaksInsanity can be defined as: "Doing the same thing, in the same way, over and over, and expecting a different result." Thus, the recent bill, passed by the House of Representatives, supported by Greg Walden, to continue tax breaks for wealthy investors, etc., at a time of war and budget deficits is an example. Economists and economic models indicate little benefit to the economy while passing on to our children the burden of repayment and a resulting lower standard of living. If this is not an example of "insanity," what is? &

8212; Frank Hieber, Medford

Weed the sidewalksHas the city of Medford taken a good look at our downtown core area of revitalization with the new sidewalks? Take a good look at all of the weeds coming through the new sidewalks and planters. This is supposed to make us proud of living in a town that does nothing to make our hometown look livable?

There are also other areas that look worse; what and when is the city going to clean this mess up? If I was a business looking at this type of city maintenance, I would not be favorably impressed in moving here. &

8212; Terry Johnson, Medford