County's Economy Was Top 1970 News Story
The year of 1970, from a news standpoint, was a busy one, as the majority of news happenings were not of a spot news nature but stories which continued for several months and--in some cases--for the entire year.
The staff members of the Mail Tribune's news department were asked to select their choices for the top 10 stories of the year. Their top votes went to seven different stories, illustrating the wide range [of] events covered last year.
The economy of Jackson County received five first-place votes, as unemployment never dropped below 6.1 percent during the year. Although some major construction projects were under way--Rogue Basin Project and the Bear Creek Valley Sanitary Authority interceptor system--the slow lumber market was reflected in the employment picture.
Some Mills ClosedSome mills closed for extended periods, others such as Medford Corporation took advantage of the poor market to close its lumber division and modernize its sawmill, which had seen 43 years of service.
Unemployment high for the year was in February, with 10.3 percent of the county's labor force out of work.
Out of the 18 news staff members voting, 14 placed the economy among the top 10 news stories.
Also last year the pear crop, cut by late frost, resulted in a crop about one-third of average.
Welfare rolls increased, and surplus food and emergency food supplies in the county were exhausted. Donations to the Jackson County United Good Neighbors totaled 85.5 percent of the goal.
Other stories picked as the top story of the year were the filming of a movie in Jacksonville, Jackson County assuming responsibility for operating the public library system and the local airport, the Bear Creek Valley Sanitary Authority, Rogue Basin Project, ecology and education.
The top vote getters--Rogue Basin Project and BCVSA--received 16 each, followed by the county assuming operation of the airport and library, 15; the economy, movie in Jacksonville and education, 14 each; ecology, 13½; the political problems in Ashland, 13; and politics and festivals (Oregon Shakespeare and Britt), 12 each.
Impact of Filming in AreaDuring the last two months of 1970, "The Great Northfield, Minnesota Raid" was filmed in Jacksonville by Universal Pictures. The impact, actual and implied, extended throughout Southern Oregon.
The picture company came to the area as the result of contacts made through Gov. Tom McCall's office.
After several weeks of set construction in which Jacksonville was made to resemble 1876 Northfield, filming began on Nov. 27 in the Jacksonville Cemetery. The next day crews moved downtown.
While some individual Jacksonville businessmen reported adverse effects because of the necessity of re-routing Oregon 238 and restricting downtown parking, the overall effect to [the] local economy was beneficial.
Many persons were hired to work as extras or behind the scenes. Others rented props or livestock to the production. The picture company headquartered at the Red Lion Motel in Medford, who report that December's business was comparable to July's, with an estimated 40 to 50 percent increase over last year. Other motels gained by absorbing [the] Red Lion's usual customers, displaced by the picture unit.
One major significance of the picture's location here is the implication that others will come.
Interceptor Contract AwardedContracts were awarded about mid-January for the BCVSA interceptor construction and bonds. Aerial mapping and surveying of the project's 23,000 acres proceeded through the spring. Then the groundbreaking ceremony for the first interceptor line was held in May. The BCVSA general fund budget was passed by a margin of five votes.
Some of the controversies involving the authority and other entities included changes made in construction [of] segments of the interceptor line in which the City of Medford was participating; taxation of lands annexed to Medford and out of [the] authority district; legality of the BCVSA tax base election, which required some voters to vote in two locations during the November general election; suit to condemn city-owned property in the Medford Industrial Park to obtain an easement; dispute with Talent over an operating agreement.
The authority's tax base of $189,800 was defeated, and the authority and Medford solved differences when Medford said it would be willing to give the industrial park property easement in return of withdrawal of the serial levy placed on annexed property.
The Talent controversy cooled off with the resignation of Bob Kyle as the authority's manager and the election of two new board members, Karl Kohler and Robert Dunn, who replaced Richard Westerberg and board chairman George Flanagan.
Cooperation NotedThe year 1970 serves as an example of what can be accomplished through cooperation between entities of local government.
Two changes occurred which can be credited to the efforts of governmental officials working together to solve common problems.
On July 1, Jackson County assumed responsibility for operating the public library on a county-wide basis. During the same month, both city and county officials agreed to abide by recommendations of a citizens airport committee and began steps to transfer ownership and control of the Medford-Jackson County Airport from the City of Medford.
It was charged with studying the need for and financing of a major rehabilitation project at the airport--runways and taxiways were deteriorating faster than anticipated.
Work NeededReinard Brandley, Sacramento, consulting engineer, said some work would be required during the summer of 1970 in order to keep the facility in operation.
Brandley was retained by the city council to survey and design the improvements to bring the airport up to standards to accommodate aircraft weighing 110,000 pounds.
The City of Medford was without funds to pay the matching share of the improvement project.
In June, Jackson County Commissioner Henry Padgham suggested that the county provide the estimated $49,000 for the local share of the project.
Emergency ExistedThe report of the committee showed an emergency existed, and recommended that the county budget committee and board of commissioners fund the project and assume operation and control of the facility.
Councilmen and county commissioners both accepted the recommendations, and Medford voters approved transfer of the airport in a special election Aug. 25 by a vote of 1,202 yes to 84 no.
The Federal Aviation Administration approved a grant for half of the repair work, then a supplemental grant when bids for the work were higher than anticipated.
The county's takeover of the public library of Medford and Jackson County marked the bringing together of several systems (Medford's started in 1908; Ashland, 1891; Rogue River 1911; and the extension of service to county residents in 1920).
The new Jackson County Library System is a result of requests received from the cities of Medford, Ashland and Rogue River that the county assume full responsibility.
It was a year of major activity for the $161-million Rogue Basin Project in Jackson County after a slow 1969.
The first construction contract--$1.4 million--for the dam bypass road for Oregon 62 was awarded in March. It was followed in July by the awarding of the largest contract ever awarded in Jackson County--$9.12 million--to H. A. Andersen Co., Portland, for the construction of the Cole M. Rivers Fish Hatchery.
Both contracts are part of the Lost Creek Dam complex on the Rogue River about 26 miles north of Medford.
In August groundbreaking ceremonies were held for the overall project.
Funds ApprovedCongress approved the $6.1 million construction funds for Lost Creek and a construction start for Elk Creek Dam, a companion project, which were included in President Nixon's budget. The Senate boosted the Elk Creek funds by $600,000 to $1 million, which held in conference.
But the project received a setback in December due to national budgetary problems, and $1.2 million of the authorized funds were cut or placed in reserve by the administration.
The major loss--rescheduling of the awarding of the contract for the main Lost Creek Dam.
Orchard HeatingEcology came into the news as a long, early season of orchard heating occurred.
County doctors protested along with a number of other residents. The Rogue Ecology Council established a center in Ashland to distribute literature and provide a speakers bureau.
Burning at dumps was stopped, and hearings were held on the usage of DDT. More wigwam burners were phased out as the state clamped down on air pollution.
Jackson County, noting the concern, appointed a Commission on Solid Waste. The City of Rogue River approved bonds for the construction of a sewage treatment plant.
Concern about the livability of the area was shown by the Jackson County Planning Commission, which denied a subdivision request in the Hilt, Calif. area which would straddle the state line, and the Jackson County Board of Commissioners approved zoning for the upper Rogue River area.
College DefeatedEducation in the news during 1970 included the defeat of the proposed Rogue Area Community College issue for Jackson and Josephine counties.
Eagle Point School District also defeated a bond issue for a new four-year high school, and patrons of several school districts had to return again, again, and again to the polls to pass school budgets.
Also during the year the Jackson County Intermediate Education District got a new superintendent, as did the Rogue River school district.
Ashland was politically torn during 1970 with a bitter recall election, with misunderstandings between the city council, the city administrator and development coordinator, with public meetings that drew as many as 600 persons, with resignations and challenged elections.
In April, the council asked for the immediate dismissal of City Administrator Gary Boshears and Development Coordinator Richard Soderberg.
On May 11, four of the five council members who called for the dismissal of the two men were subject of a recall election. Frank Haines was the only council member recalled. The following day, Boshears resigned, and former city administrator E. C. Biegel was named interim administrator. Harry Skerry, city attorney for more than 20 years, resigned, and the council named Gerald Scannel to replace him.
Charter RevisionA charter revision measure was on the May 26 primary ballot, but three days before the election the council voted to withdraw the measure. Voters approved the measure, but it was June 2 before the council accepted the new charter.
William Roble resigned as fire chief, and was subsequently elected by the council to fill the vacancy created by the recall of Haines.
On Sept. 1, the council voted to consolidate the positions of city administrator and development coordinator. Brian Almquist was hired as administrator, and Soderberg was left without a job.
The Ashland council put six city charter revisions on a special election ballot during the Nov. 3 general election, which would have revised the charter that was updated May 26. The wording of the ballot measures was challenged. Voters defeated all six measures at the polls.
Politics MentionedPolitics made the top 10 stories of the year, as conservatives in the county took over control of the Jackson County Republican Central Committee.
Jackson County saw its first black man nominated for office by a major political party. William Sterling, Ashland, was nominated by the Democrats for a seat in the state legislature. He polled nearly 9,000 votes, but lost to Donald Stathos.
Major upset in the general election was the defeat of Rep. Floyd Hart by Al Densmore, high school teacher.
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival, with the dedication of the new Angus Bowmer Theater, made news during 1970. The first season of Stage II production was considered a success, and a performance was scheduled in the theater for November.
Opening NightBut the news wasn't all good for the festival. Rain washed out the opening night festivities of the Shakespeare festival for the first time in its 30-year history.
Meanwhile Britt Festival in Jacksonville attracted nearly 9,000 persons, and efforts increased to have the festival's site purchased by the county.
Other StoriesTwelve other stories received votes as major news happenings of the year.
--A fire in Central Point in September threatened the town, the Palm Building and part of Howard School were burned in Medford, and the fire season statistics included many man-caused fires.
--Josephine County withdrew from the Rogue Valley Council of Governments, and the appointment of a law enforcement program planning coordinator drew objections. Among the much-discussed items was a proposed western extension of Eighth Street.
Nerve Gas--Two Jackson County residents were among the principals in the nerve gas story. Mrs. Marie Bosworth, Applegate, was among those who filed suit against the Army to stop the proposed shipment of nerve gas from Okinawa to Oregon, and Jack Doughty, Medford, former Army safety director, spoke against [the] plan.
Southern Oregon College students joined the national protest following the shooting at Kent State, and controversy surrounded the lowering of the flag on campus to half staff. A parade through downtown Ashland was peaceful.
Health Made News--Health was also in the news. Inoculations were given after a case of diphtheria was reported. Hepatitis cases increased in the fall. An assistant public health officer, Dr. Robert G. Atwood, was hired only to be dismissed later in the year.
--A blast in Ruch destroyed several log trucks.
--Jacksonville Museum has [its] 1,000,000th visitor.
--City officials complain that federal census figures are too low.
--Internal problems in the Association to Preserve Our Right to Keep and Bear Arms ended up in court.
--Medford city council defines "family."
--Agriculture in the news last year in addition to the small pear crop includes the growing of flower seeds, the Jackson & Perkins rose operations moved here, and the earliest orchard heating on record--March 5.
--Three deaths in a plane crash at the Medford-Jackson County Airport, the first to occur there, included a Medford man.
Medford Mail Tribune, January 3, 1971, page C1
Last revised April 9, 2010