Russ rustles feathers; Local trend favors growth in Christian churches

Russ rustles feathers

I've lobbied Ashland's councilors for years [on the issue of tethering]. I feel a moral obligation to share my experience with voters.

Councilor Russ Silbiger — who runs again in November — has smirked at citizens speaking in council meetings. I've seen two speakers fuming. I've also endured his look of ridicule and hostility. Recently, I left him a non-abusive voicemail.

Soon Russ e-mailed: "I am not interested in pursuing this matter on a Council level. Please do not call me regarding this anymore."

Since then, I haven't been able to talk to him about tethering, which over 7,000 people signed a petition asking council to limit. Even before Russ voted on tethering in Jan. 2007, I, the campaign director and probably the Valley's top tethering expert, couldn't dialogue with him.

It hurts the democratic process when a decision-maker won't discuss an issue with someone representing 7,000 people. Can that legislator really serve constituents by making the right decision? I suspect that Russ' boycott of me is why he's repeatedly given inaccurate information to the public.

After he told an inquirer that he wanted a three-hour limit, she sent me his letter and thought I mistook his position. But Russ only advocated a limit on tying dogs to fixed objects like trees, not to running lines. My associate wrote Russ, asking him to clarify that to inquirers. She got no response.

Russ stopped answering my personal e-mails, but communicated with me after I addressed council:

1. He e-mailed, "I know you believe that continually coming to public forums will help your cause, but I will tell you the opposite: Every time you speak before us, I will ADD 1 hour to the minimum time I am willing to consider in a dog chaining ordinance." I responded courteously. No answer [from Silbiger].

2. Russ posted a May 15, 2007 scathing e-mail accusing me of lying to council (I hadn't). He wrote, "And, though we have a City ordinance to deal with continuously barking dogs, you get to keep going on, and on and on." I responded politely. No answer [from Silbiger]. Another councilor posted, asking Russ to "Refrain from using this forum for personal diatribes against individual citizens."

3. After I spoke to council about Russ' tethering position, he roared privately: "You're telling lies about me!" I said I'd made clear that I had to guess at his position because he wouldn't dialogue. I asked what falsity I said. He stormed off, saying he'd never speak to me again.

Ambuja Rosen

Ashland

Local trend favors church growth

Nearly three months have transpired since the Daily Tidings initially published the story titled "Shrinking Sanctuaries" (June 30). Because this topic is important to me, I needed several months to gather my thoughts for this reply.

As the title suggested, the main theme of the story related the fact that some Evangelical churches in Ashland have been shrinking and closing. The rapidly expanding value of Ashland real estate was cited as one of the main driving forces of this trend. Although this story was very well written, I feel that five additional points also needed to be included in the story:

1). A key reason for the shrinking of Ashland church congregations (beside aging parishes and real estate trends) is that a significant percentage of Ashland Christians have been choosing to travel outside of Ashland to enjoy "mega-church" type fellowships. Examples of these would include Table Rock Fellowship, Rogue Valley Fellowship, Applegate Fellowship, Bear Creek Church, Mountain Christian Fellowship, etc.

2). Due to the recent increase in gas prices, I anticipate a definite reversal of this trend ... where Christians residing in Ashland will start to plug in to local churches much more (to reduce fuel-related expenses).

3). A key point that was omitted is the fact that Ashland currently has a number of Evangelical churches which are fairly large and growing!

4). I anticipate that these two trends will tend to make these healthy Ashland churches grow even more (which will further push them toward the mega-church size and status)!

5). I predict that the net effect of previous church closures (combined with the re-emphasis on local church attendance in Ashland) will tend to UNIFY the Evangelical Christian community here!

We will wait to see what happens.

Scott Spalding

Ashland