Letters at Length

Region needs a municipal utility

A woman slowly walked into our tiny office, dragging her oxygen tank behind her, and sat down heavily in the chair beside me. She placed her power bill and shutoff notice in front of us.

My eyes widened when I saw the dollar amount in fees owed in front of me. How was she to pay this? Did the power company care that through shutting off her power it would eliminate her air supply and inevitably cause the death of this person?

I work as a utility advocate at the Jackson County Fuel Committee and deal with cases as desperate and time-important as this one each day.

A majority of the people who utilize JCFC services are from areas surrounding Ashland: Medford, Talent, Grants Pass and White City residents make up the largest populations we serve.

Why not Ashland? Ashland residents are lucky in many ways; it goes unneeded to say that we live in an oasis of prosperity amid a region of economic despair. We also have the fortune to live in a municipal electric utility district. This system essentially creates an "electric bill utopia" for Ashland residents by ensuring local control and accountability.

The rest of Southern Oregon utility services are managed by an entirely different kind of machine, Pacific Power. Pacific Power was recently acquired by Warren Buffet, and is run in similar fashion to other monopoly-like corporations: raising costs for citizens, cutting costs for big business, and generating massive amounts of profit each quarter.

The city of Ashland's electric company charges 6 cents per kilowatt of energy, while Pacific Power charges its clients 11 cents per kilowatt. This is nearly double the rate Ashland residents pay.

I am in favor of uniting all of Southern Oregon, with heavy influence and direction from the city of Ashland's municipal electric utility district, to expand the municipal system to all counties. Pacific Power is not a good option for Rogue Valley households and should not be allowed to continue placing corporations before communities.

Kristen Binda


Students lack numeracy

There is more data being thrown at us as consumers of media these days, digital and otherwise, and today's high school students as well as incoming college freshmen lack the sort of numeracy that it takes to survive within the information economy.

Many people think numeracy is just a matter of mastering arithmetic at different stages, building up to the pinnacle, calculus. What they are missing is the ways in which numbers relate to our everyday lives. There seems to be more students who can tell you how to use the quadratic formula than there are who actually understand what a confidence level or margin of error is, let alone what the different kinds of bias are.

So what do we cut if we need to spend more time on these issues in high schools? First and foremost, calculus is already reserved mainly for college-bound students, and I wouldn't tell them to miss out on that, but college-bound or not, all high school students need to learn to be numerate in terms of statistics and personal finance. Students are already not getting enough physical education, and we have all seen the consequences of that, and there is no way that we can cut the sciences any more without risking falling even further behind.

There is obviously no room to cut English any further, as most professors dealing with freshmen will be quick to tell you, even though English could stand to focus a little more on rhetoric and making sound arguments than its present focus on classic literature.

Geometry is important, especially when it is most students' first glimpse into mathematical rhetoric and its basis in logical argument, but there is not nearly enough focus on the kinds of everyday math that people use when trying to understand their credit statement or the national debt.

If anything has to go, I think it should be a bit of a cutback in the elective credits, because there isn't really a single core subject in which American students aren't already lagging behind as it is.

Ariana L. May


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