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This is in response to the article "Proposed pay raises anger road crews." Commissioner C. W. Smith commented that he had to make huge cuts to his department when he was Jackson County sheriff in the early '80s and union negotiations forced the county to give raises.

Smith forgot to mention that the Jackson County Sheriff's Employee's Association gave up a bargained raise of approximately 4 percent when the county proposed that it would prevent layoffs in the Sheriff's Department. JCSEA also wanted to save jobs, so we agreed to give up the pay increase.

JCSEA also voted to go to overall department seniority from divisional seniority. At the time, most new employees were hired for the new jail, which needed more staff than the old jail had. The threat of layoffs meant patrol might suffer as the jail was mandated to be staffed. The county laid off roughly 30 sheriff's employees anyway. Be careful. — Michael K. Szpak, Medford

I recall the first time I was aware of oleo. I was about 9 years old and it came in a sealed plastic bag, was white and had a bright orange dot on the side about the size of a nickel.

The idea was: You pressed on the dot until it burst (inside the bag) and then you squeezed and squeezed until the color was worked all through it, making it yellow. And voila, you had imitation butter — cheaper and better for you (per the sales pitch).

Now I'm almost 69 and we've learned that artificial fat — trans-fat — clogs arteries. So, for about 60 years we've been sold the idea that hydrogenated vegetable oils are good for you, when the reality is they are good for the food industry's bottom line but not human vascular systems. Animal fat still suffers that industry's disparagement, despite logic.

And now we're supposed to buy into the idea that bioengineered crops are good for you.

Are there long-term tests to prove that? Or is the rush to market them really about greater yields, which translates into more money in the food producer's pocket?

No thanks! I'll stick with God-made food, produced organically. — Hartley Anderson, Medford

I was offended by the Ramirez cartoon on Wednesday, April 18, following the tragedy at Virginia Tech. I wonder who on the Mail Tribune staff made the decision to include such a thoughtless and insensitive piece. Your heart should be your moral compass. Listen to your heart. — Laura Marshall, Ashland

Congratulations to Cynda Rickert for being selected for the Eagle Point superintendent of schools. I had the opportunity to work with Cynda in the Booster Club and Rotary Club during her progression in the Medford school system. She impressed me with her enthusiasm for the teachers and students, while always looking for ways to improve learning processes. Eagle Point will soon come to realize what a gem they have selected. — John Yaple, Medford

Regarding the political cartoon that was in the April 18 paper: At a time when Virginia Tech has just barely begun the healing process for the terrible tragedy which happened on their campus, when they are pulling together as a campus community and trying to be supportive of who they are, their emblem has been transformed into a capital V and a semi-automatic pistol in the shape of a capital T. What a disgrace.

Where's the compassion in that? You should take a page (literally) from the Ashland Daily Tidings who had a much more appropriate political cartoon in Tuesday's (April 17) edition. — Paige Jensen, Ashland

The Rogue Valley was high on our "future home" list when we decided to leave the Bay Area four years ago. The new libraries nearing completion were part of the attractive package. We even donated 121 books for Alameda's annual book sale, feeling copies could always be checked out of a library here when references were needed (I am a newspaper columnist).

Now they are closed. Unbelievable!

To those people who may be thinking of withholding a yes vote because they don't want a few hundred dollars added to their yearly property tax — that's skimpy wise and big-time foolish. When your property values drop by $50,000 or more because less folks will want to locate in a community without a library, it will become all too obvious that it was a bad trade-off. — Joe King, Central Point

You have until May 15 to decide whether you want to reopen the 15 county public libraries or not. The outcome, if positive, assures openings rather than waiting for an uncertain federal bailout for county funds.

It is probably unfortunate but quite real that Oregon's tax structure relies heavily on property taxes. So you need to decide how important is it that the public have access to libraries and whether you are willing to spend a modest amount of dollars on that service rather than something else you might like or feel you need.

Tax dollars go for some services that as an individual you might not use or use only once in a while. But if the service is absent neither you nor anybody else can benefit from it.

Please mail in your ballot and vote to reopen all 15 branches. Give it up for public libraries. — Steve Haskell, Ashland

Don Rist's error-laden diatribe (an advertising insert in Saturday's Medford Mail Tribune) against funding the Jackson County library system is a very effective argument for supporting our libraries. — Mike Hayes, Medford

In my broken Spanish, I told my host mom in Spain that they had closed down the library in my home city of Ashland. She asked me why, and I said we didn't have the money to keep it open.

"Why?" She asked again.

I didn't know.

Outraged (as only a Spaniard can be) she announced to the small kitchen that there was no reason a library should ever close; it was kept open by the public, she told me, and people need to read, they need to learn. What would we do without it?

"No sé," I said. "I don't know."

So for a woman who has never set foot in America, let alone Ashland, and who couldn't conceive of a life without the chance to read, I'm writing to everybody in my home who can make that difference and can help keep the library open. — Danielle Myers, Ashland, studying in Spain

I'm not feeling confident that when the libraries reopen, their doing business as usual will put them in any better financial position. In three years, when this proposed tax subsidy by property owners is used up, then what? So far I've heard no viable solution from the leaders of this county to convince me that this levy is temporary.

Let's look at the population of Jackson County (182,000) and the city of Medford (63,000). We have one central library serving 63,000. The other 14 serve an average of 8,500. Take out Ashland (20,000), the average drops to 7,600 per remaining 13 libraries. What kind of economy of scale is that? Where is the business plan? How will we be better off in three years? Can we afford 15 libraries?

Most of us manage our personal finances by living within our means. That translates: If you don't have the cash, you don't buy it. — Myrdith King, Medford

It is known that libraries contribute to community economic growth. It follows that the absence of libraries will eventually contribute to economic decline.

When we consider that libraries are an integral part of our educational system, contribute to community literacy, human understanding and intellectual clarity, it is easy to appreciate the economic leverage of a functioning library system. It is also simple to calculate the negative economic and social consequences of growing illiteracy, cultural and historical ignorance and a compromised public educational system. This concept is succinctly captured in the expression "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance!"

We now have the opportunity to positively impact the lives of tens of thousands of children and many thousands of adults. Let's all step forward with a "yes" vote for the levy supporting Jackson County library operations, restoring our community to its social, economic and educational leadership position in Southern Oregon. — Jim and Anne Kelly, Medford

I have volunteered in the Outreach Department of the Jackson County Public Library for the past 17 years. In the beginning, at the old building, one staff and two volunteers delivered books to a handful of retirement homes and shut-ins. Due to demand, we expanded and moved to a building three miles away on Hazel Street.

When we moved to the present library site, we had grown to delivering about 4,000 books each month to over 850 individuals, foster homes, retirement homes or living opportunity facilities. We needed three staff members and 10 volunteers to accomplish the job.

During this time I met very many enjoyable senior citizens and two disabled Army veterans, all of whom spent each day reading instead of watching TV. Now they are left with nothing to occupy their time. These deserving citizens need your "yes" vote on the library bond issue. — Paul Draper, Medford

A recent letter to the editor stated that we still have nail salons, tattoo parlors and taverns while our libraries are closing. It's an interesting point and I hate to see the public libraries closed. But, the library is supported by the people's tax dollars and the taverns and nail salons are private businesses.

If any private business ran its finances without thinking of the future, it would be bankrupt, with no one crying any tears, other than maybe the owner.

The public library seems to spend money without proper planning and then blames the voters for not caring when it runs out of money. I don't want to see my rent go up — again. I don't want to see people on fixed incomes suffer for the mismanagement of the county's funds. I would rather purchase books at privately owned local book stores than vote for another tax increase. — Susan Pinkham, Ashland

I urge voters to support the public library system by voting for the library levy. I grew up in a small town with a poor school system. School and textbooks were boring and I could not afford to buy books, but reading library books fired my desire to learn and helped me excel.

Think about the children warehoused in a poor school system. Too many children think that they aren't smart enough to learn. With libraries, children can develop learning and research skills.

Access to books is access to information, skills and power. Closing libraries means that only those with money get that access. That is tragic, and not just for children lost along the way. We all lose when bright minds give up and earn minimum wage instead of meeting their potential. Please keep the library system open for this generation and the next. — Jackie Decker, White City

Regarding the upcoming ballot measure 15-75 (the library levy):

There are many "what ifs" that one can focus on related to something that could have prevented our current situation. However, here we are. Our library system is closed.

Financially this library system is a bargain. Our system operates at prices lower than average throughout the state, serves more residents than many and has an amazing volunteer support system.

The financial return to the community is multiplied several times over for each tax dollar spent in support of a library system.

I am a recently retired pediatrician and am in the process of trying to recruit a young physician to the community. This young family is very concerned about moving to a community that does not support its library.

I urge support of Ballot Measure 15-75. — Lee Murdoch M.D., Medford

As severe as the impact of library closure is to our citizens, the reality of insufficient funds and competing demands for public services should be recognized through reorganization and cost-effective management.

Unnecessary duplication of buildings, personnel or materials might be relieved through one central library serving peripheral satellite reading rooms with frequent book shuttles, increased use of digitized electronic information, a restriction of video or audio products to that which may be streamed over the intranet, minimal staffing of reading rooms and salary caps for top library staff.

Placing a greater economic burden on property owners through a library levy is short-sighted and will create further financial hardship for many low-income and retired property owners. As a retired academic with over 50 years of frequent library use and a keen appreciation of the need for library services, I will be voting against an increase in property tax. — Don Adams, Ashland

Tired of your elected representatives not managing their budget and wasting your taxes? Just say no to Measure 15-75.

Everyone dislikes closing the libraries, but our elected officials have to learn there is a limit to how much property owners can take. They knew their income was on limited time but did nothing to resolve the problem. Now they want the property owners to bail them out again.

Just say no! — Gary Endicott, Trail