Letters: At length

China visit reveals different reality

Has Chris Honor&

233; ever visited China?

In his Monday column, "Green to sepia: China and the 2008 Olympics," he quotes lots of sources and says the European Satellite Agency reported that Beijing had only 11 "blue sky" days in January of this year.

My sister and I just returned from two weeks in China and we were surprised to find it not as polluted as we had been led to believe. Before going, we read lots of books on China including Peter Hessler's book 'River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze,' and were expecting, as he did, when blowing our noses for the Kleenex to come out black.

In fact, we saw blue skies the entire time we were in China, visiting cities such as Beijing (14 million people), Xian (seven million), Fengdu (750,00), Guilin (700,000). Shanghai (20 million) and Hong Kong (seven million people in only 410 square miles!).

We were so worried about what we had read about the pollution that we had purchased small gas masks with which to cover our faces before we left. And my sister was sure she would have to use her asthma medication.

We never used the masks or the medication. We found China to be far cleaner than we had ever imagined and the people very friendly and gracious. My sister says there is a lady sports writer from Ashland over in China right now covering the ladies' soccer matches. It would be interesting to hear what she has to say about China when she returns.

My main reason for writing this letter is to say one really has to visit a country to know if everything being printed about it is true or not. I will admit that the Yangtze River is terribly polluted and China is, supposedly, too reliant on coal. But, when the Three Gorges Dam is finally completed in 2009 hydro-electrical power can be transmitted all the way to Shanghai and this should reduce some of its reliance on coal.

I hope Chris will one day have the opportunity to visit China and compare what he has written today with what he actually experiences.

Susan Bolt


City leaders deserve respect

If Ashland's mayor and council want to lower their stress, improve their productivity, and add joy to their service, they might try trusting staff to do their jobs.

We're lucky to attract and afford a talented staff whose dedication, expertise, and enthusiasm are limited only by our leadership. They serve us daily with guidance deserving our gratitude and attention ... that is too often met with criticism and disdain. We pay them handsomely for their expertise, and if we welcomed their effort and their ideas, we'd probably see some remarkable changes in our town and its spirit.

The examples abound, but Tuesday's micromanagement of Chief Holderness' Taser request is a great example of a group of admitted "amateurs" (Morrison, as quoted in a recent issue of USA Today) pretending to know more about policing than our expert. We issue our officers deadly weapons, but Council wasted nearly an hour debating a tool that demonstrably reduces injuries and saves lives. Is it any wonder they can't make it through an agenda?

But what really ought to raise residents' hackles isn't the $37,000 therapy bill (let's quit playing word games). It's the outrageous cost of our chronic department head turnover. Executive searches, moving allowances, lost productivity, wasted salaries, long-vacant positions, and low staff morale add up to hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions of wasted tax dollars. We'd have a much easier time hiring department heads and keeping them if they believed that Ashland's leadership would work with them instead of against them.

For at least one councilor, micromanaging staff apparently isn't toxic enough. Cate Hartzell recently filed a demand with the City Administrator insisting that Planning Director David Stalheim disclose his personal schedules, e-mail correspondence, etc.

While it's hard to fathom why anyone (much less an elected leader) in their right mind would bully a newly-arrived department head in such a manner, it's understandable that he would refuse to continue to serve people so distrustful and disrespectful. It's hard not to conclude that similar micromanagement and bullying has led to our plague of department head resignations. I sincerely hope $37,000 of therapy will temper some outsized egos and persuade at least one councilor that picking on department heads is not part of her job description.

Tom Bradley

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