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Fabulous fair, and another county fight

By Tony Ahern
   Publisher
   What a great county fair!
   Kudos to the hundreds of people that made the 2006 Jefferson County Fair arguably the best in our history, from fairgrounds director Lottie Holcomb all the way to the volunteers who got their 4-H clubs ready. Fantastic job.
   Of course bringing in a young country music star who signed on before his career caught fire (while he was still affordable) was the biggest coup. Josh Turner brought out country music fans from throughout Central Oregon to Madras for a perfect Friday night, and swelled the crowd to record-breaking levels.
   The biggest local music show since the Collage brought in Brad Paisley -- with an eerily similar pre-superstar booking -- Josh Turner and his solid band put on a fine show, a consensus highlight of the 2006 fair. It was pretty storybook: starlit, perfect night, the crescent moon peeking behind the stage, a couple choosing the night to get engaged only to be invited on stage for a dance.
   Now all the fair board has to do for next year is land another giant country star that no one has heard of yet. Maybe the word will get out: sign on to play a gig in Madras and your country career will immediately take off.
   Again, congratulations to all those who played a role in the 2006 county fair.
   xxxxxx
   Call it Tape-gate.
   In case anyone thought our county commissioners had buried the hatchet, think again.
   Apparently someone who attended the June 15 executive session -- limited to county commissioners and a select number of county staff -- wasn't too happy about the closed-door proceedings. They anonymously took the meeting tape off of the administrative secretary's desk and sent it to the state Government Standards and Practices Commission.
   All fingers, and anyone willing to talk on the record, point to Commissioner Mary Zemke as the one who took the tape and sent it to Salem. She refused to confirm or deny that it was her, choosing not to comment at all.
   The executive session came a day after Ponsford and Bellamy chastised Zemke for a letter she wrote to county residents noting that Ponsford and Bellamy were "subject to recall" for the positions on Measure 37. At that same meeting, Ponsford asked Zemke to resign.
   The tape-gate and the perception of Zemke as a cheerleader for the recall efforts against Ponford and Bellamy have the commission, once again, at a boiling point.
   Maybe, in total, it's all paybacks. Maybe Zemke is simply trying to embarrass Ponsford and Bellamy as they had each publicly embarrassed her.
   Bellamy verbally chastised Zemke during the first commissioners' meeting following his victory over Vern Bowers in the Republican Primary of 2004, a campaign in which Zemke had written a vitriolic letter against Bellamy to Bowers' supporters only to have the letter leak. In the first meeting following his landslide victory, Bellamy said he "had no confidence" in Zemke's capacity to be a commissioner.
   In June, Ponsford asked Zemke to resign primarily because of her overt activities with the pro-Measure 37/recall group.
   It's almost as if Zemke is committed to trying her best to fry Ponsford and Bellamy in retribution, to embarrass them, to outlast them.
   One of the big tragedies is that it didn't have to be this way. Zemke came to office without any government experience, and a lot of detractors before even being sworn in. But she proved to have the energy, intelligence and focus to be an excellent commissioner. I think she could have proven all her detractors wrong. But her efforts to be a champion for those who didn't have enough of a local voice, her capacity to revamp the job of commissioner, were derailed by personal clashes. Instead of rising above the clashes and building bridges, she escalated them. The fallout has been dysfunction, a word that has come to define this commission.
   The commissioners should realize that they have less than six months left in their four-year administration together. Try and a find a way to end with a semblance of strength, unity and achievement, and not with a bonfire of destruction.