Curt Chancler and Jeanne Wollman
- Medford is a beautiful old town in Southern Oregon originally settled
by adventurous, hard working pioneers. From the beginning the timber
industry and farming community provided the economic base. Now, with
the downturn in logging and the loss of the lumber mills; with farming
being continually downsized due to the loss of market and a need for
land to build on; a media that doesn’t report the news in an unbiased
manner; a city government that has become non-responsive to the public
and rapacious in its need for money, changes need to be made. And worst
of all—the public has for too long ignored its duty to demand
the best from elected officials.
Medford it appears that this neglect has resulted in all significant
power being vested in a City Administrator who has little interest in
conferring with others. His method of dealing with subordinates has
been explained as “My way or the highway!”
in 1997, 40 or more of Medford’s most prominent business leaders
formed a loosely-knit group known as the Action Committee. This group
was not happy with the no-growth policy of then city manager, “Andy”
Anderson. These city movers and shakers encouraged several of the City
Council members and the mayor to remove Anderson. From local sources
it was reported that his policies were not considered in the best interest
of Medford businesses. Anderson was removed. His leaving created a storm
of controversy and an acrimonious division within the community.
year later, after much searching and many negotiations, Michael Dyal
of Orem, Utah was hired to fill the position of City Manager. The Medford
paper described him as a gregarious man. The problem that has arisen
since his moving to Medford is that it is now known that he is gregarious
only on his terms.
City Administrator holds the most powerful position in city government
and oversees all departments including the police. He can only be overruled
by a vote of the majority of the City Council. He seems to wield that
power with a heavy hand. Through his efforts changes were made to the
City Charter so he can hire and fire “at will” without explanation.
The only ones beyond his control are the Mayor, City Council and those
in the city judiciary.
City Council, with a “head in the sand” approach, has taken
the position of not asking questions or demanding answers from the City
Manager. They have evidently abdicated their positions and power to
the man from Utah.
city council has consistently either not listened, or actively neglected
to hear, complaints regarding City issues from both the public and city
employees regarding problems with the police and the planning departments,
as well as a recent debacle with retirees over their medical insurance.
All of these strain the city finances and lower morale.
City Planning Department has been decimated by planner after planner
leaving. Some go quietly by exercising their right to early retirement
and others cite the oppressive work environment as their reason for
leaving. One would have to wonder how hard recruitment is going to be
considering the spreading reputation of the city administrator’s
serious accusations of former city attorney, Ron Doyle, and other retired
city personnel, in regard to the City Manager’s action making
it more difficult for them to continue their city health insurance program
must be considered. It appears that once again Dyal has opened the city
to serious (and costly) litigation.
deterioration of the Medford Police Department is notable. The incidents
of clashes between citizens and police, has risen sharply. It would
seem that some of the police deliberately foster a “them against
us” mentality. They insert themselves into situations where other
local law enforcement has vigorously requested that they not interfere.
They promote officers that have been caught by their own cameras behaving
in an unprofessional manner. The appearance of creating revenue enhancement
over good police practice is unfortunate but often true. Officers like
Tim George who have stood silent regarding corruption and even covered-up
the same get promoted. George has even elevated himself to a position
where he will run for Sheriff in the next election.
these situations be explained by a process that filters all problems
through a city manager focused on his own agenda? And what is City Manager
Dyal’s agenda? Could it be a vision of ever expanding power and
an ever pressing need for ready cash to fund that expansion? Does he
use the power and influence of the local “good old boy”
system in controlling public affairs? Is the government being run for
the enrichment of a few over the rights and desires of the public?
next question to arise is—where are the citizens that voted these
people into office? What is wrong is that there is no outcry over an
avaricious, out of control government run by back room deals orchestrated
by those with their own agenda?
matter how great the scenery and how varied the local attractions, city
government under the direction of Michael Dyal can currently only be
seen as a negative for the community. It would appear that if he had
a shelf life it has expired.