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Showing posts with label talent. Show all posts
Showing posts with label talent. Show all posts

22 February 2021

Little League parents meltdown

To some parents, ballgames are more important than families

By Brad Smith

TALENT, Ore. -- Ryan James declared that he would fight for the Phoenix-Talent Little League.

"If it means that I have to get a picket sign and block (FEMA) equipment from going into the field, I'll do it," he said.

A number of people cheered and applauded afterwards.

That was the scene at a recent emergency meeting of the PTLL board meeting, held in response to an emergency Talent city council session held last Friday. Talent's interim city manager Jamie McLeod-Skinner signed off executive orders, having the city working alongside FEMA to create temporary housing for residents displaced by the Almeda Fire. FEMA would study a number of possible locations to see if they are viable for temporary housing.

One location is the south side of Chuck Roberts Park and two of its baseball fields.

"We have to move fast," McLeod-Skinner said during the Zoom meeting. "We have a window of 18 months to get this done and we're nearly six months into having our families displaced. We had to fast track this."

Should FEMA feel that the park is suitable, the agency would place power, sewer and other infrastructure in the park then move in approximately 29 trailers for the displaced families. Once the trailers aren't needed, FEMA will rebuild or replace everything removed and the park reverts back to the city.

Enter the PTLL parents.

During the Friday night Zoom meeting, some parents and "concerned" individuals -- some of whom not living in Talent -- voiced opposition to the proposal. While most claimed they were concerned about the displaced families, they were upset that kids wouldn't be able to play their games.

During the meeting and on social media, there were insinuations that Talent was doing this for money and that it wanted to get rid of the PTLL. When one media outlet released a badly written article on the situation, Mayor Darby Ayers-Flood went on social media with this post:

The purpose of the meeting (the first of several) was to begin the discussion, let everyone know that of the several contingency/back up sites, one of them could be the back parking lot/2 of 4 diamonds at CR Park. The council wasn’t “prepared to vote on this” because we can’t vote on this. There is only a discussion on the table of all the sites we need to look at and a council decision isn’t on the table, which was made clear both in the agenda as well as verbally at the meeting. FEMA hasn’t even evaluated any of the CONTINGENCY sites, of which this is only one possibility... possibility to become a backup site, one of a few back up sites. It was said at the meeting that FEMA has looked at over 300 sites. Erin Parent was there, spoke and asked questions. It was said that we would have several discussion about this among the other sites. It was said that the two mobile home parks are likely going to be used but that FEMA needs several back up sites. It was said at the meeting that are more discussion to have with neighbors and Little League. Working together seems like a better approach than taking a stand. That seems premature or someone is stoking misinformation.. It was said at the meeting that FEMA restores what they demolish. I can understand with only 4 years left on the lease, they have concerns but wouldn’t that be a more positive place to start the lease renegotiations around brand new diamonds? I feel like that is not likely because my money is on FEMA never needing them, but if they do, a petition war, which side has the biggest petition seems unproductive.

And in an email to media outlets:

I hope to add clarity when I say that The City of Talent hasn’t chosen any site with FEMA yet. We are viewing several sites with FEMA, one of which is just two of the four diamonds at Chuck Robert’s park. We will also be showing FEMA another site at Chuck Robert’s park, while we continue to look for more site, all of which will serve as possible contingency sites. Contingency in case any of the two mobile home parks, which actually are chosen, don’t fill the need or fall through. I appreciate the concerns but we are pretty far from “chosen” at this point.

Please accept this email as an introduction to Jamie McLeod-Skinner who is Talent’s Interim City Manager. She is working her heart out to provide FEMA with as many “back up” sites as possible so if something falls through, we can still bring our families home without losing more time. I particularly appreciate that she is sharing her work with the community, so we can prepare every contingency for our people to be safe and sheltered in their hometown.

However, some of the PTLL weren't having it.

It should be noted that a number of parents did say that of it came down to a choice between kids playing ball or families coming home -- they would choose the families.

James and others weren't so gracious.

"They can go somewhere else," he said. "I played ball on these fields. So will my kids. I'm going to fight for that!"

As a number of others spoke out against the FEMA proposal, one person noted: "It's like a parade of middle-aged men who have lived mediocre lives and Springsteen's 'Glory Days' is their personal anthem. It's sad."

However, a representative from the Medford Little League was on hand. She said that it could be possible the PTLL could use their fields. It was something the two organizations could talk about at a later time.

Some parents said that if they had assurances that the park would still be accessible to the PTLL, they were fine with the proposed plan.

Meantime, scores of Talent residents are scattered throughout the Rogue Valley. Some are in motels and temporary housing. Others are living in cars or have been camping in tents the last few months. Some are struggling with red tape as they deal with insurance companies and government bureaucracy. It's shocking that as the six month anniversary of the Almeda Fire nears, there are elements in Talent determined to keep families from returning.

Months ago, people were declaring "Talent Strong."

Now, it's "Talent NIMBY."

10 February 2021

Dirty tricks afoot in Talent UPDATED: AFC's Emile Amarotico responds

By Brad Smith

TALENT, Ore. -- Dirty tricks are still afoot in Talent.

They stem from a deceptive advert placed in local publication. Thanks to vetted anonymous sources, The Rogue Free Press has the identity of the individual who allegedly placed the suspect ad.

"We did not take out that ad," said Ashland Food Co-Op's general manager Emile Amarotico. "While it does not clearly indicate that AFC posted the ad, it certainly didn't mention anyone else associated with it."

Since last September's Almeda Fire, Talent's Mayor Darby Ayers-Flood and the TURA Board have been working on a plan to bring home those displaced by the devastating fire. To do so, the Talent Urban Renewal Agency Board and the Phoenix-Talent School District have developed a plan for transitional housing at the publicly owned Gateway site at the corner of 99 and West Valley View for more than 50 households who lost their homes and aren't eligible for FEMA assistance. Eventually, the location will be home to those seeking permanent housing.

However, some have been resistant to the idea, namely Mallory and Nancy Buono -- it should be noted that neither of them lost their homes during the Almeda Fire. During a Feb. 3 virtual town hall meeting, Mallory had been scheduled to speak during public comments but opted out for some reason. Buono, however, did. For the last few years, Both Mallory and Buono have been vocal if not openly hostile opponents to anything put forth by Ayers-Flood and any of Talent's more progressive councilors. During Buono's spiel, she used her few minutes of comments to insinuate underhanded dealings made by both the mayor and councilors.

Some balked at the notion.

"Nancy's comments were at times ridiculous, extremely callous and, at times, overtly racist," David Hampton said in a response to a Facebook post. "This idea of some underground Talent conspiracy led by the Mayor is so laughable, it's just sad."

Also during the virtual town hall, the Ashland Food Co-Op's Julie O'Dwyer spoke. The Co-Op is planning an eventual expansion in the Talent/Phoenix area and she mentioned it in comments. "The Co-Op is fully in support of the communities of Talent and Phoenix in developing transitional housing as quickly as possible for all of the community members who have been displaced by the Almeda fire," she said. "The Gateway Project is by no means mutually exclusive to the intention of the Co-Op to establish a store in Phoenix or Talent. Our timeline (for expansion) is in no way in conflict with this project.”

Then, the dirty tricks started.

A few days after the virtual town hall, the Talent News and Review ran an unsigned advert that appeared to be from the AFC. The advert stated that there were plans to place a store on the Gateway land -- there was also a link to sign up for updates and take part in online surveys that required a person's address, email and phone number.

Then, a day or so after the advert appeared, O'Dwyer sent out this email to concerned individuals:

“We were just as surprised as you to see the ad and the related survey link. This ad and survey are NOT associated with the Ashland Food Co-Op. It is disturbing that our name and organization are being co-opted. No pun intended. Thank you for your concern and please assure anyone you speak with that this is not associated with the Co-Op.”

According to vetted anonymous sources, Buono was the one who placed the fake Ashland Food Co-Op ad in the TNR. At presstime, it's not known what the datamined information would have been used for. The Rogue Free Press attempted to contact Buono but she hasn't responded.

"We have been in touch with the TNR," Amarotico said. "We don't believe the TNR is at fault.  They merely posted a paid ad. At this time we are not planning any public response in the TNR, but likely will do so on our website for those looking for more information."

Amarotico said the AFC has let "the ad purchaser know of our displeasure at having the Co-Ops name and goodwill used in this misleading way."

As for legal actions, he replied:

"I do not believe we would have much to pursue. Had an AFC logo, or other explicit indication that it was the Co-op taking out the ad been used, then I believe we'd have no choice but to pursue."

Meantime, Hampton took a look at the fake ad and its link. "I traced the link to its source and it didn't take me long to learn a number of things." He posted his trace on the Talent News and Events Facebook group he created.

In less than two or three minutes he claimed, Hampton traced the source to servers operated by Prismatic Media Group. From their website: "Founded in 2018, Prismatic Media Group represents  the culmination of  23 years of dedicated experience in the field of web-design and digital marketing plus 8 years of experience engaging in local civic issues here in Lane County."

"Through the use of strategic partnerships, Prismatic is able to offer the wide array of professional services of a traditional large corporate advertising agency without the traditional price.

"No matter the size of your project, Prismatic is dedicated to providing top-level service and support to our clients."

Prismatic is owned Michael Weber and Kevin Prociw. Since 2018, both men also oversee the Oregon Crime News website, which provides mugshots for various groups. Prociw started as an IT worker for Symantec Corp and since then has worked for a number of city governments as a system analyst. 

In an email, Prociw explained that the link shortening URL was "a free public service" provided by their  media company.

Weber issued this statement:"We have nothing to do with the politics involved with anyone who uses our link shortening website."

Since the link redirected data to another location, Weber said it wasn't in their servers.

He added that use of their site does not in anyway mean (Prismatic) align with the users' political believes or agendas.

"In no way are we involved in any political messes down there," he said.

A few IT experts looked at Hampton's trace and Prismatic's setup. they told The Rogue Free Press that it was "highly plausible" that Prismatic's owners were "on the level."

However, one still questioned the quality of Prismatic's work.

"Call me crazy but it's my opinion that if I offered a free link shortening URL, I'd be watchful on where it's going," they said. "I feel that you can't be too cavalier about this sort of thing, especially with phishing and data mining."

As of presstime, Buono still hasn't responded to questions. The Talent News and Review hasn't responded either.

As to why the fake ad was placed, a number of sources have agreed on this possibility: The purpose was to collect people's contact info in order to flood them with misleading and false information meant to derail TURA's project.

"Listen to what (Buono) said during the meeting," one source said. "Just listen to what she said. She made comments about illegal immigrants and that they wouldn't feel safe being so close to Highway 99 -- since it'd be easy for ICE and other law enforcement agencies to swoop in. What kind of person says that? It's clear to me that someone doesn't want certain displaced families back in the community and I feel that's reprehensible."

The article was updated with the AFC response as well as Prociw and Weber's comments and claims they had nothing to do with the fake ad and alleged phishing. This is a developing story and updated as new information is discovered.

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