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Letters, March 2

Fortunate to live here

We are so fortunate here in Southern Oregon to have uniquely skilled and accomplished nonprofit organizations working for the future of healthy life on our beautiful planet. I hope many of you were able to participate in the Rogue Riverkeeper & Klamath-Siskiyou Wild Film Festival (virtual) on the evening of Feb. 26.

While it would be preferable to be able to be in person with these accomplished conservationists, still the film presentation was moving and celebratory and completely motivating. I learned so much from their short films about recently protected ancient redwoods, the rare ghost orchid’s moth in Florida, native American fire practices, a Navajo river guide, people of color celebrating mountain biking in Oregon’s beautiful backcountry, and Western farmers acknowledging how drought affects their livelihood and wanting their elected officials to deal with climate change. Even Olympic skiers from Steamboat Springs, Colorado, want their legislators to wake up to do more about climate change.

I wish all legislators would watch these short, creative, inspiring films and then follow through with meaningful commitment to reverse climate change. For all species. For all of us.

Bonnie Johnson

Ashland

A toxic political environment

When I served as city manager for the city of Talent, I had the great pleasure of working with a highly efficient and professional city staff. Sadly, the toxic political environment created by city leadership has caused the loss in the last year of the police chief, two separate city recorders, the community development director and assistant planner, as well as decimating the Police Department rank and file.

When the city, after a unanimous council vote, hired an outside consultant to look into staff morale and employee retention, the consultant found profound issues with staff-council relationships that had a significant negative impact on the workplace environment and productivity. Instead of trying to take steps to address the problems, the council instead voted to bury the report. Now the city struggles to recover from the pandemic and a devastating wildfire with an interim city manager and a truncated staff, partially populated with part-time employees and contract workers.

Given this background, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that current city leadership is now trying to divert attention from its failures by using vicious attacks and blatant lies on social media and in the press to destroy my reputation and to rewrite history. Some of the same council members who issued a glowing public statement when I left the city praising my work and tenure as city manager are now behind a defamatory campaign to discredit me and other colleagues who have also left city employment.

Why would this be happening now, over two months after my employment with the city ended? Is it to distract the public from their economically irresponsible decision to ignore the community vision for the Gateway urban renewal project, long planned as a vibrant mixed-use commercial and residential catalyst that would revitalize downtown Talent and bring desperately needed tax revenue to the city? Perhaps it is to divert public attention away from their latest public relations fiasco, a decision to potentially end the city’s decades-long relationship with the Talent Little League and take away one of the few places in the city available to its children for organized sports?

I am sure this letter will engender more attacks from Talent’s political leadership; their signature style is to tear down anyone who disagrees with them or dares to challenge them. I don’t intend to respond. I am proud of my service to the Talent community and all that was accomplished by me and my extraordinary staff.

Particularly in the weeks and months following the Almeda fire, we worked tirelessly with our counterparts from other cities, the county, state officials, and in countless meetings and phone calls with the federal FEMA team. We all gave 1,000%. I know this, those I worked with know this, and so do those current and former council members who would now try to rewrite history for their own tawdry political purposes. Talent is a great place. It deserves better from its elected officials.

Sandra Spelliscy

City manager, Talent, 2018-2021

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