Sunday, June 17, 2012

One (?) Step Backward in Medford

I have avoided writing of the multi-faceted disaster that is surrounding the JPR Foundation projects in Medford because, frankly, I can’t believe the lack of vision of the State Board of Higher Education and keep hoping that saner minds will prevail.  This is beginning to look doubtful.  In short, SOU and the Chancellor’s office, despite having reviewed and approved JPR’s purchase of the Holly (and their acceptance of a local businessman’s generous donation of a second structure to solve their decades-long studio needs) has now launched what appears to be something of a vendetta against JPR, Medford and my eldest brother.  You can read the latest here: MT June 14

It may be a long time before there is any more progress like this at Medford's Holly Theater
Basically, SOU and the Chancellor have determined that JPR, despite its nearly 10 years of successful operation of Redding’s Cascade Theatre (a structure that was actually purchased with Higher Education bonds) shouldn’t operate anything other than radio stations and shouldn’t be in the business of renovating theatres (like the Holly) or donated buildings (like the Medford Grocery Warehouse).   That JPR has been doing exactly that, with Higher Ed’s agreement, for some time, hasn’t stopped SOU from terminating JPR’s longtime director, threatening to personally sue the entire JPR Foundation Board of Directors, and undermining the future of the Holly and its potential to help revitalize downtown Medford.

For those of you in southern Oregon, you will not be remiss in thinking this looks like narrow-minded, parochial Ashlanders trying to quash good things in Medford.  From my vantage point I wonder why the Chancellor’s office suddenly became so opposed to JPR’s plans for the Holly and I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to connect the dots to the only entity in southern Oregon that has ever voiced opposition to the Holly Theatre.  Holly Position Statement There seems to be no shortage of shortsightedness in some quarters.

There is, however, vision in southern Oregon. Mayor Gary Wheeler and the City of Medford have been incredibly supportive of the Holly (and so, in truth, has the City of Ashland and most of Ashland and other southern Oregon residents).  Only SOU President Mary Cullinan (who originally congratulated JPR on the Holly and the Jefferson Square project) and the Chancellor’s office (generously) appear to be hell-bent on keeping JPR on campus or at least keep it out of Medford.  Not so generously they appear to be set on wrecking one of our region’s most important, and most successful, cultural institutions.  You have to wonder why.

If this mess is allowed to continue there is, I fear, a very good chance that not only will Medford lose the Holly and the Jefferson Square projects, but that southern Oregon and northern California will lose the quality public radio system that it has come to enjoy and expect.

The Holly, something of a dump before JPR, could remain shuttered for years under SOU

Just two months ago more than 1000 people assembled in downtown Medford and cheered the re-lighting of the Holly's brilliant neon signs and the completion of its beautiful façade renovation. Sometime next week we’ll remove the scaffolding and the truss repairs will be complete, returning occupancy to the Holly auditorium for the first time a decade.  If the Chancellor’s small-minded, short-sighted, unwarranted, and nasty attacks on Medford and the JPR Foundation Board of Directors stand, it will almost certainly be a very long time before anything else good happens at the Holly Theatre.  That would be just one of the serious results of this curious and unfortunate situation.


  1. Here is another link, to the Mail Tribune's 6/17 editorial on this issue.

  2. George, so sorry to hear of this, and thank you for posting. OUS appears to be getting some mileage out of bullying visionaries these days... I don't get it.

  3. Nor do I, Liz. There has been good coverage of this sorry state of affairs in the local press. From today's Mail Tribune