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The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised


Medford News 1973

Energy Crisis: Top 1973 News Story
    The energy crisis and sewage disposal problems in Jackson County were the top two news stories in Jackson County during 1973.
    The staff members of the Mail Tribune's news department were asked to select their choices for the top 10 stories of the year. The top votes went to these two stories--both of which will continue until 1974. The energy crisis is new to the list while sewage disposal in the county has been among the top 10 stories in past years.
    Of the 18 staff members voting, all of them voted for these two stories. All of the votes for the energy crisis except one placed it among the top three news stories.
Previous Major Stories
    The top news stories during the previous four years were downtown redevelopment and pornography in 1972; financial problems experienced by all entities in 1971; the economy in 1970; and approval of the Bear Creek Valley Sanitary Authority in 1969.
    The other top vote getters in 1973 were fires--including 60 set by arsonists--and the economy, 16 votes each; inflation, 14; county adopts land use plan and zoning, community-wide effort backs Providence Hospital's expansion plans and the Bear Creek Greenway, 13 each; and problems at the Medford-Jackson County Airport and Rogue Basin Project, 10 each.
    Seven other stories received more than one vote, with the hassle about the future of the Jackson County Fairgrounds getting eight votes.
Weather Way Down List
    The weather--the third most important story during 1972--slipped to 12th place this year, with the drought receiving six votes.
    The energy crisis--long talked about, but with little actually experienced--became a reality in 1973 with shortages first experienced at the gas pumps. Later the drought in the Pacific Northwest raised concern about power supplies during the winter, and Gov. Tom McCall banned outside lighting. Fall rains eased the situation, but Christmas lighting was subdued.
    To save gasoline and diesel, Oregon set its recommended maximum speed at 55 miles per hour.
    The federal government rationed propane, standby fuel used by much of the wood products industry, and the threat of massive layoffs loomed. Mild weather, however, eased the situation, and surplus propane was made available for industrial uses.
    Jackson County residents seemed to adapt to the situation.
One of Angrier Issues
    Subsurface sewage disposal was one of the angrier local issues of 1973.
    The clash between two different viewpoints on the topic appeared each time the county's Sewage Disposal Ordinance Appeals Committee met to consider appeals by property owners whose septic tank permit applications were denied.
    State and county regulations became more strict during 1973. Jackson County declared a moratorium on any new septic systems in certain areas where a high rate of septic tank failures was found. And the state banned the "engineered" and "non-standard" disposal systems which had created some flexibility for property owners in previous years.
    Jackson County Commissioner Marjorie O'Harra phrased the problem in terms of land use choices.
    Soils in the county's farming belt along the valley floor usually met state and local soil standards for septic tanks, and permitted easy disposal of sewage effluent. But the county plans call for large lots and farms in those areas, and the hillier and less productive areas were often poor septic tank locations. As the county's growth rate remained high, the pressure to allow residential development in the farming belt continued to grow.
    Property owners whose land would not meet septic standards formed an organization, LORE, or "landowners rights exploited," to protest strict enforcement of disposal standards.
    Progress was made to expand the Bear Creek Valley Sanitary Authority lines, with the contract awarded for the West Medford trunk line.
    The year was one of the worst fire seasons in 17 years in the Southwest Oregon District, State Forestry Department. There were 372 fires--226 of them man-caused, including approximately 60 set by arsonists, and 146 lightning fires.
    The season ended with investigators hard at work on their attempt to apprehend the arsonists. The $5,000 reward offered by the Rogue Protective Association and the Secret Witness Program launched by the Mail Tribune failed to lead to any arrests.
    One-third of the 1,276,000 gallons of retardant dispatched from the Medford base was dropped on Southwest District fires.
National Forest
    The Rogue River National Forest fared better with a total of 97 fires, the lower elevations seeming to take the brunt of the arsonist campaign. A total of 33 Forest Service fires were man-caused, six of them of incendiary origin, and 64 were lightning fires.
    The Forest Service Inter-Regional Fire Crew also had its busiest season, fighting 17 separate fires.
    The one redeeming feature, according to Curtis Nesheim, Southwest District forester, and Carl Juhl, Rogue Forest fire control officer, was the acreage burned. The Hillview fire, much the largest in Nesheim's protective zone, burned 387 acres. The largest on the Rogue Forest burned 15 acres. Considering the volatile season, precipitated by heat, wind and low humidities, the two men considered the containment accomplished by firefighting crews "remarkable."
    The economy had its ups and downs during 1973. Unemployment was at a low 4.9 percent in September, but 7.8 percent of the work force was unemployed in January and 7.7 percent in November.
    The county received $1.2 million more in O&C funds than anticipated, which eased the tax burden with some diverted to school districts. Major construction job under way was the $10 million fiberboard plant at Medford Corporation.
    A number of businesses were sold, including the Mail Tribune, sold by the Robert Ruhl family to Ottaway Newspapers, Inc., Campbell Hall, N.Y. Other sales included Burch's Store, Morse Motors, Mark Antony Hotel in Ashland, Jackson County Title Co., Bell's Gifts and Homewares, and Perl's Funeral Home became affiliated with Uniservice Corp. in Portland. Plans for phasing out the last grocery store in the downtown area were announced when the Jackson County Intermediate Education District made plans to move into the Groceteria building at Sixth and Grape streets.
    Scarcity drove prices upward on items in addition to oil and gas. Among the staples hit by inflation was milk. Beef, if available, was expensive, and some switched to horse and buffalo meat.
    After years of discussion, Jackson County adopted a land use plan and a zoning ordinance in 1973. The ordinance became effective on Sept. 1, and zone change requests became the major business of the county planning commission almost immediately.
    The county's board of commissioners became the final arbiter of zone change requests, and planning matters jumped from an insignificant portion of its work load to a major business item.
    The county-wide zoning ordinance, mandated by state law and designed to control development in the rural areas of the county, was written after a long process of citizen involvement, including countless local meetings of citizens' advisory groups. The ordinance shows promise of remaining a major news item for many years as growth pressures focus increasingly on rural areas.
    Jackson County residents rallied to support Providence Hospital's plans to expand its facilities by 75 beds. Petitions carrying more than 23,000 signatures were sent to the Oregon Health Commission after the hospital had been denied a certificate of need earlier in the year.
    The denial was based on estimate cost per bed was too high [sic] and the need for the additional beds was questioned.
    However, expansion plans at Rogue Valley Hospital and Ashland Community were approved.
    A public hearing on the Providence request will be held by the commission in Medford Jan. 9.
    Jackson County, the City of Medford, state and possibly federal funds have been earmarked to preserve land along Bear Creek between Emigrant Lake and the Rogue River for park and recreation purposes.
Park Corridor
    The Bear Creek Greenway Committee is working to involve the public in the plan to develop the park corridor.
    The Medford-Jackson County Airport was in the news with financial problems after President Nixon ordered the discontinuance of boarding fees--Medford's was $2. However, sheriff's deputies continue to screen boarding passengers in the anti-hijacking program.
    Efforts continued to obtain a third-level carrier, but financial problems plagued those who tried. A gift shop was added in the terminal. The airport commission and city officials continued to study open space zoning in the area of the airport.
    The Rogue Basin Project--an Army Corps of Engineers project of three dams within Jackson County--continued in the news.
Meetings About Dam
    Three public sessions were held on the Applegate Dam as persons opposed its construction. The $100,000 for that dam, included in President Nixon's budget as a carry-over figure, was eliminated by Congress.
    However, work continued at the Lost Creek Dam on the Rogue River north of Medford, with the river diverted through a tunnel in late May. Construction, ahead of schedule at that point, came to a halt the following month due to a strike.
    The President's budget had included $35.6 million for Lost Creek and $1.1 million for Elk Creek, a companion dam of Lost Creek. These funds were approved by Congress.
    Seven other stories received more than one vote as major news happenings of the year.
Fairgrounds Complex
    --Jackson County and Medford officials continued their efforts to solve the controversy over future development of land in the fairgrounds complex. The city has adopted a land use plan calling for relocation of the Bureau of Land Management facilities, believing they hinder any development of the site. Jackson County is working to relocate the fair activities.
    --The City of Medford gets a new mayor--D. Lorin Jacobs--and a new city manager--Richard Stevens. Stevens initiated reorganization of city agencies, combining Parks and Recreation, Building Safety and Planning departments into [a] Department of Community Development, headed by David Bassett.
    --The drought was broken by fall rains.
Sports Events
    --Sports activities making major news included the death of Art Pollard, Medford race car driver, during the Indy 500; Medford Senior High School was named 1972 district football champion after appeals court declared Grants Pass High School player ineligible; Butte Falls won state football title, and [a] drive got under way for an all-weather track.
    --Southern Oregon College continued to have financial problems due to declining enrollment; faculty voted in favor of collective bargaining.
    --Politics entered the news with both political parties in Jackson County getting new chairmen, and Floyd (Hank) Hart, Medford, resigned his chairmanship of the state GOP central committee prior to moving to Hawaii. Candidates start filing, and two of the county's commissioners announced that they did not choose to run.
    --Jackson County was voted a new circuit court;  District Court Judge Mitchell Karaman became circuit court judge, and Ross Davis was named by the governor to the district court judgeship.
Received One Vote
    Six other stories received one vote each. They included crime (vandalism at two Medford schools, two bank robberies in Ashland, 160 windows broken in downtown stores, Ashland couple kidnapped in extortion case, two murders occur, and Medford appointed first crime prevention officer); Jackson County Board of Commissioners had long-time member, Earl Miller, resign, and Marjorie O'Harra named to succeed him; Vietnam (for the first time in many years no Jackson county residents were killed in action, three POWs released had local relatives, but local MIA was not on list); Squaw Lakes was not opened to the public; Central Emergency Dispatching was discussed; and the Community Action Council was phased out.
Medford Mail Tribune, December 30, 1973, page C1



Last revised April 27, 2010