My wife and I were lounging by a pool in Sedona, Arizona, when she arrived. She unpacked her sun-bathing gear, removed her cover-up, spotted my bright yellow U of O Duck cap and inquired. “I’m from Bend. Are you from Oregon?” I put down my Coors Light and responded. “Yes, we’re from Medford.” She quipped back, “Oh, Dreadford.” It took less than a second for my internal detonation and I fired away. “Well then, you should have left that bathing suit in the Deschutes or given it to someone half your age.” We never became Facebook friends.
Anyway, I like it here. Lived here over 35 years, raised my family here and I’m a little protective. Yep, we don’t have a river running through it, or glitzy boutiques on every corner, but we have industry, living wage jobs and wonderful community of people that care about each other.
But there is a new demon hovering in the sky. For the last few days we’ve had the worst air in the U.S. Concerts have been canceled, tourism is in the tank and football teams travel hundreds of miles to practice in clean air. I also know of one real estate deal that went south when the couple arrived by plane, took a whiff of our smoke-filled skies, boarded the plane and blew out of here and passed on closing on a $600,000 home. Welcome to Smokeford!
Our local leaders have a decision. Pot sales have garnered $664,000 of additional tax revenue and the question is where to spend it. Although there is always need, and a homeless shelter seems to float to the top of the list, I suggest they do something for the rank and file: the taxpayer, the worker, the everyday citizen and the kid that is raised here. Whether it is seed money to start designs on a top-notch aquatics park or a Bill Bowerman sports and event arena, use the money to make a difference. We need a shot in the arm, folks, and the USA Today report that Medford is the third worst place to raise a child isn’t helping. We need something to get excited about. Something to make us proud to live here.
My forestry friends tell me that even if forest management practices changed tomorrow, it would be years, maybe decades before we would see a difference, so the smoke may be our new normal. So, let’s use the funds to start something special so Smokeford doesn’t become Deadford.
Buzz Thielemann lives in Medford.