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Author: Lyndon Zaitz

Honoring multi-taskers

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The Keizer Chamber of Commerce held its annual First Citizen banquet last Saturday and they hit it out of the park with the four who won awards.

Joe Egli was announced as Keizer’s First Citizen Award to sustained applause. The creators seemed to have Egli in mind when they conceived of the award. Few First Citizens have had their fingerprints in so many different areas of Keizer life. His resume is dizzying.

A life-long Oregonian and a long-time Keizerite Egli has served in public capacities, committee member; he served one term as a Keizer City Councilor.

A born leader, Egli has served as president of both the Keizer Chamber of Commerce and the Keizer Rotary Club. But it is in his role as resident he has displayed his most far-reaching influence. Every major project in Keizer over the past two decades has had Egli as a cheerleader. His gift for rallying support and volunteers for projects as diverse as The Big Toy, the artificial turf at McNary High School, leadership of the Iris Festival and his the Salem-Keizer Education Foundation is legendary.

Egli and his wife Shelly comprise one of the most productive teams when it comes to their home. He does what is needed to be done without seeking the spotlight or credit. As he said himself as he accepted his award, it’s all about the people in Keizer. Yes, it certainly is, Mr. Egli.

The pattern to the awards seemed to be multi-tasking. The Merchant of the Year award was presented to Larry Jackson of Jackson’s Body Shop. When volunteers are called for, Jackson is one of the first in line. He serves on the board of directors for the Chamber and volunteers as one of the Men of Action in Keizer (MAK). Christmas displays? Does it. Iris Festival? Does it. Big Toy? Did it.

Larry Jackson was very deserving of the Merchant of the Year award and he will continue his good civic works and continue to inspire others to pitch in and help in his community. For that the community thanks you, Larry.

Another multi-tasker honored Saturday night was Jason Flores who was presented with the Service to Education Award. Over the years this award has been bestowed on teachers, administrators, coaches and boosters—all of whom have had a positive impact on Keizer’s school kids.

A residential builder (Celtic Homes, LLC), Flores devotes just as much time to Keizer kid’s sports as he does to his own business. For more than 15 years he has coached baseball, softball and football for youth teams. Along with coaching and mentoring he has also been deeply involved with projects such as the Keizer Little League fields, the turf, refurbished scoreboard and softball dugout projects at McNary High School.

Like all good volunteers he puts money where his heart is. He and his wife Keri sponsor students in their chosen sport through the McNary Athletic Booster Club’s Adopt-an-Athlete program.

Youth sports in Keizer are a success due in part to community volunteers like Jason Flores.

At their discretion, the Chamber of Commerce leaders present their President’s Award. The recipients of this award over the years have been a varied group who have made indelible impacts on the Chamber and the city.

Nathan Bauer, president of the Chamber’s board of directors, made an impassioned speech before announcing he was honoring Matthew Lawyer, who was stunned by the announcement.

Matthew Lawyer is the future of Keizer volunteering and leadership. A man who doesn’t know how to say no, can be found involved with community projects as well as projects that are his personal passion—he is a board member of Keizer Homegrown Theatre (he has quite the stage presence).

On the public side he serves on the Keizer Parks and Recreation Advisory Board where his passion for the city’s parks is evident at every meeting. He has a young family and his concerns mirror those of most Keizer households, which is important.

He is also a member of the Keizer Planning Commission, one of the most important bodies in the city. The commission is the first stop in the process for developers and contractors to get green lit by the city council for their projects. His sober, realistic views will be valuable when time comes to seriously discuss future growth in the guise of an Urban Growth Boundary expansion.

What does any of this have to do with the Keizer Chamber of Commerce? Everything…when you help make the city a great place to live and run a business, that’s the Chamber’s mission. Full stop.

Congratulations to all the recipients of this year’s awards.

  —LAZ

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No more soap

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Don Vowell, a long-time contributor to this page with his A Box of Soap column passed away on Dec. 15. His irreverant writing will be dearly missed.

Vowell, who retired as a carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, enjoyed mixing things up and making people think. His frequent columns certainly did that. His writings amused many but some of his writings also rose the ire of others. That’s what writing should do: elicit emotion.

In his retirement years he turned to natural photography. He had the patience of a saint, waited for hours to get just the right photograph. He posted many on his Facebook page. You would be hard pressed to tell the difference between a Don Vowell wildlife shot and a wildlife shot in a National Geographic magazine.

Don had a whimsical look on life and shared it widely. With tongue firmly planted in cheek he considered running for mayor back in the 1990s. He even had a campaign logo: Join the Vowell Movement. Needless to say, his political career never got off the ground.

We enjoyed his columns because we never knew what he was going to address. He covered a myrid of subjects over the dozens of columns that ran for more than 20 years.

Don Vowell’s voice will be missed, but his columns will live on in our archives and our hearts.

  —LAZ

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No crystal balls, no wishes

At the end of each year media outlets use news space to predict what will happen in the following 12 months or run a list of wished-for headlines in the coming year.

In this space we don’t utilize crystal balls or predictions—they are nice parlor games—we prefer to look forward by relying on trends and the words of those who can affect the future. We will focus on what is happening rather than write about hoped for events.

While we don’t do predictions we are confident in our desire to hear words that can help all live better lives—that is the goal of most every man and woman.

We want to hear the words compromise, moderation, solve and everyone.

Compromise is not a dirty or treasonous word, though that is what many in Congress have suggested or acted on. Politics is the art of compromise—shifting one’s position slightly to achieve part of one’s goals. In recent years politics has meant stand firm in your position and don’t give in…ever.

Just as extremism is no virtue, moderation is no vice. Winners and winning ideas live in the middle, the space between the extremes of the ideological spectrum. Former conservative icon Ronald Reagan certainly understood the art of moderating some of his long-held beliefs to achieve a score in the win column.

Every problem that America, Oregon and Keizer face has been solved somewhere in the world. A look to Europe and Asia will show how countries on those continents have managed their traffic and transportation issues. Travelers returning from those places marvel at the infrastructure that get people from one place to another. Other nations have also addressed housing and density issues that can be an example.

Hippocrates said it best more than 2,000 years ago. In part, he wrote primum non nocere.  Its translation is one of the most well known sayings on Earth:  “first, do no harm.” It was part of the oath that those who dispensed medical service gave to the gods.

Though modern day doctors do not use the oath, its premise is an important guide. Everyone knows the Golden Rule and some may even live by it. Hippocrates rule, while originally devised for doctors, would be a good complement to the Golden Rule especially by those who have sway over others: governments, employers, legislators and business.

Doing no harm would mean passing laws that are friendly to our environment—the only one we have. It would mean not imposing regulations or doing away with regulations that relate to the well-being of people or their livelihoods. We should all endeavor to do no harm to the world on which we live or to harm those who are different than us.

When we compromise, moderate our positions we can find solutions that benefit everyone. That’s a heck of a plan, one to adopt and help others, all without the services of a crystal ball or made-up headlines.

We’ll do our part.

  —LAZ

The promise

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Few things hold such promise as the dawning of a new year. When the calendar turns to January 1, we shake off the old year and look to the new with a sense of optimism; all that we want to achieve in the next 12 months is as doable as any of the best laid plans.

Schools, governments and business generally have their own new year without benefit of the calendar. The school year begins anew each September; governments operate on a fiscal year that start in July or October; and businesses can choose to begin their year whenver they wish.

At the end of each year media outlets compile lists of the top stories and events of the previous 12 months, scrapbooking the year into neat little boxes and stories. We feel it is more important to look forward to what may be and what could be coming. The past is the past, all that man can do is learn from it.

Looking forward, Keizer residents and voters will have a busy year in 2018. The first election, for Measaure 101, is on January 23 when voters will be asked to retain the Oregon legislature’s temporary tax on hospitals, insurance companies and a few other groups to make up for a Medicaid funding shortfall in order to keep low-income Oregonians insured. Keizer and Oregon residents are like those in every other part of the nation—no one wants their taxes to increase or their health insurance premiums to go up.  Measure 101 could result in that.

In May voters will pass judgement on the $620 million bond for the proposed Long-Range Facilities Plan for Salem-Keizer School District. The Long-Range Facilities Plan is aimed at meeting schools’ long term needs in areas such as capacity and building safety.

The May election is also a primary for state and county offices.

In November’s general election, the city of Keizer will be voting on its mayor and three councilors.

It may seem like a lot of election ballots to peruse throughout the year, but the election results will shape the way we live here in Keizer. That is true especially regarding the growth of Keizer; there is a very good chance that the councilors who are serving starting in January 2019 will have a big say in whether or not our Urban Growth Boundary will be expanded.

The future belongs to those that plan for it. It is easy to conclude that 2018 will be a big year for Keizer. The opening of the Waremart grocery store at Creekside Shopping Center will herald a revitalization of that faded retail development. Keizer households have been counting the days until Keizer’s second grocery store opens its doors and offers prices that budget-minded consumers want.

The addition of a cinema at Keizer Station will bring entertainment choices to the city that residents have been clamoring for years, especially after Keizer Cinema closed in the 1990s.

The new year promises to be very good for Keizer and its residents. We have the amenities we need: streets, sewers, parks and schools. A former Keizer mayor used to say when it comes to spending money on public projects it comes down to ‘must-have’ and ‘like-to-have.’ If there is no money available after paying for the ‘must haves,’ then it falls on the city’s private and philantropic organizations to work on the ‘like to haves.’ A good example of that is Keizer’s public art program, led by the Keizer Chamber Foundation.

A case can be made that Keizer has what it needs. If nothing was added or changed, most Keizerites would be happy with the status quo. That’s a good situation for those who want to retain Keizer’s quaint atmosphere.

Just as many wildlife animals are deep in hibernation until the thaws of spring, we humans will also hunker down in January and February, recuperate from the hectic holidays, recharge and get ready to attack life with gusto again come March. There is high school to graduate, colleges to apply to; many will seek new employment or buy a new house.

As we turn the calendar to a new year, each person will remember the good in the past, overlook the bad while planning and hoping for a year of personal prosperity for themselves and achievement for their school-age children. It’s a promise the calendar makes to us and a promise we have to work at to make happen.

  —LAZ

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Preparing students for work

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It has been a few years since we first visited the Career and Technical Education Center (CTEC) on Portland Road in north Salem.

Initially, there was residential construction and welding classes only in the massive building. Now, hundreds of students from Salem-Keizer high schools are taking classes in manufacturing, engineering, cosmetology, auto body repair and painting, and—most stunning—drone technology, robotics and video and game design animation.

These are classes that prepare our students for tomorrow’s jobs. Salem’s CTEC is the first public-private partnership of its kind. Dozens of tours each month show off the center to educators from around the state and around the nation. Innovation, thy name is Salem-Keizer.

The Career and Technical Education Center is preparing students for high-skill, high-wage, high demand careers while developing the skills, technical knowledge, academic foundation and real-world experience to assure their success once they graduate.

At full strength CTEC will educate about 1,100 students. The students will travel from their home high schools. Aside from the technical classes students are also taking classroom courses in science and math that correlate to the skill they are learning. For example, home construction students take math to learn about angles and ratios, the type of math used in construction.

The Career and Techinical Education Center is exciting for everyone. Students are engaged (their graduation rate is above average), the teachers are focused and committed. Principal Rhonda Rhodes and the other CTEC leaders can hardly contain themselves when discussing the center.

The school district and the developers of CTEC deserve huge kudos for making their vision come to fruition.   —LAZ

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Keep the net neutral

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The Federal Communications Commission is on track to end neutrality on the world wide web in December. The public needs to rise up, contact their Congressional representatives and demand that net neutrality be maintained.

Net neutrality may be a term that technical folks understand; the term itself is not Average Joe friendly. What is it? Why does it matter?

Net neutrality is the principle that internet service providers must treat all data on the the same, and not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or method of communication

For instance, under these principles, internet service providers are unable to intentionally block, slow down or charge money for specific websites and online content.

Those who get internet service have access to the web and its millions of sites for a monthly fee from a provider. Access speed to any web site is the same regardless of content. This is the way the open internet has worked for more than 10 years.

Under the open internet, the full resources of the internet and means to operate on it is easily accessible to all individuals, companies, and organizations.

If the FCC does away with net neutrality it will open the door for internet providers to block or censor sites they don’t like or they can charge a premium for access. Currently users have unfettered access to every type of site imaginable—some don’t like that because it allows some very ugly speech and viewpoints. But that is no reason to do away with neutrality—every disagreeable viewpoint can be countered with acceptable views. No single ideology dominates the web; in our current political climate people will always find a site that reenforces their own opinions.

Aside from censorship, doing away with net neutrality would allow providers to charge whatever they wish for access to popular sites. You could pay for basic internet (much like basic cable television) and then pay additional for things like social media sites, sports sites and all the most popular sites on the net.

Millions of Americans have already signed petitions and logged complaints about the end of net neutrality, and yet the FCC seems bent on doing away with it. If it goes away, as expected, on Dec. 14, the public has several avenues of recourse.

The providers of internet service must get municipal approval to operate in a city. The city can certainly dictate terms of operations: give our citizens net neutrality or we’ll go our own way. That own way could very well be a consortium of local governments (counties and cities) to create their own fiber optic network. Some in the free market don’t want to see internet classified as a utility such as electricty or water, but isn’t that what it is?

Cable television subscriptions leveled off and are now falling as more households ‘cut the cable’ and use the internet to watch their favorite shows. One day that may seem like a futile plan.

Aside from contacting Congressional representatives to stop any move to end neutrality there most likely will be a court challenge in the near future. As long as the plaintiffs have standing, such a case would be one of the most important to be decided, as one expects it to eventually land at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Nobody and no organization owns the internet. Every user already pays a monthly fee for access. The net is here and will remain here and it has changed the way we live and communicate. The millions of internet users in the United States should not wake up one day in late December and find their favorite sites blocked or slowed or available only for an extra charge.

The end of net neutrality will affect every aspect of modern life and the public should be aware of it and fight it any way they can.

  —LAZ

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For my holiday tradition I’ll say Christmas

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By LYNDON ZAITZ

We’re in that traditional transition from Thanksgiving to Christmas and other December holidays. On the fourth Thursday of November, many of us gather around a dinner table and solemnly say what  we are personally thankful for: good health, a job, a family, the new Taylor Swift CD and so forth.

Then, on the day after, Black Friday and onward through Dec. 24, the focus is on what we want, not what we have. Wish lists are written and rewritten. Our Christmas would be great if only someone would give us the newest widget or the shiniest whatsat.

How fast we move from thankfulness to gimme. But that’s how the holidays work. We can hold a number of different thoughts at the same time, it’s emotional potpourri. We’re giddy, we’re happy, we’re depressed, we’re blue, we’re envious, we’re romantic. In short, the holidays bring out everything that makes us  humans.

What we accept in children (holding an endless list of presents they want from Santa Claus) we might find a bit unseemly in adults. Christmas loses its element of surprise when we tell what we want for a present. As many say, better to receive something you want than something you have to return.

I have never returned a gift I have been given, except to exchange for a correct size. I don’t view a gift as a commodity, to be traded for something else. When someone offers me a gift I accept it in the spirit in which it was given. I fit that gift into my life and that’s that.

Christmas and I have had a complicated relationship for years. No one loves the traditions of the season more than I. Caroling through a neighborhood (sans figgy puddy)? Check? See a performance of Handel’s Messiah? Absolutely. Enjoy the bustle of the crowds? Sure.

It is the tradition of gifts that is complicated for me. Why am I receiving a gift? What have I done to deserve a gift? Religions, tribes and nationalities exchange gifts to celebrate, be it the birth of Jesus Christ, a good harvest or the sun.  By not having a religious upbringing, I have no connection to Christmas Mass or other church services.

The funny thing is, I enjoy nothing so much as spending a day shopping for friends and family. Each year I decide on a wrapping theme and each gift I give is wrapped similiarly.

In the past I was diligent about sending Christmas cards. I would find the box of cards that reflected me perfectly, I’d write a personal note in each and mail them off. It’s a tradition that is fading as many use social media rather than cards. Time marches on; things can’t always remain the same. But assuring some things stay the same is called tradition. The traditions that we maintain in our lives are generally those we lived with as children. What happened in our homes when we are kids become the traditions as adults.

This week millions of Americans dined at two or more homes for Thanksgiving—more for those with large blended families. That’s a lot of eating and a lot of traveling, but it’s tradition. The Thanksgivings I have enjoyed included the traditional dinner at home with the whole family, then dinner with friends and eventually dinner at a restaurant. My traditions are a little more fluid than most.

The best thing is that in America people can do what they want. They can shop in stores or on line, they can decorate their homes in October for Christmas, they can travel to many different houses for holiday meals. People can celebrate in their own way according to their beliefs and traditions. They can call the holiday Christmas or they can be sensitive and just call it the holidays. The best tradition would be of tolerance, respect and dignity. Not everybody celebrates Christmas, but that is no reason for anybody to stop others from saying and celebrating the day.  Forcing others to take Christmas out of the holiday is not political correctness, it is domestic shaming and it should not be tolerated. December 25 is Christmas; it can’t be changed anymore than Tuesday can be changed to Ewokday.

Forcing anyone to celebrate what they culturally do not celebrate is just as frustrating and useless. The holidays, in all their glory, mean many things to many peoples and cultures. The enjoyment and the marking of our holidays should never be changed or altered due to the beliefs of others. Tolerance and respect should always be part of our traditions in regards to others.

I am ready to transition to the holidays and all that it offers: crowds, carols, cooking and Champagne.

(Lyndon Zaitz is publisher and editor of the Keizertimes.)

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A glorious holiday for every home

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Does anyone need to be reminded that next week is Thanksgiving? Television is filled with soft-focus ads showing families enjoying preparing and eating the holiday dinner.

This weekend every store that sells groceries will be packed with shoppers picking the fixings for dinner. Many of us will step back and marvel at the sight of the table with its themed-holiday centerpieces, the ‘good’ china and cloth napkins.

After dinner many will either be cleaning up, suffering a food coma or watching a football game. Some, though fewer of us, will be preparing for the frenzy of the Black Friday sales at stores and malls throughout the region.

Roll back the tape of that Norman Rockwell-esque scene and start over at a Keizer household where abundance is rarely seen and the reasons to give thanks seem to belong to someone else. In a rich nation there are too many families who can’t take part in the great American pageant of our Thanksgiving rituals. The lucky families are able to get to the food bank for generous donations of food. The unlucky families treat Thanksgiving as just another Thursday.

We ask that as Keizer families shop for their Thanksgiving dinner, they add extra items to their basket that can be donated to help every family enjoy the holiday.

Every store has a bin for food donations that will be donated to Marion-Polk Food Share or Keizer Community Food Bank. When we have plenty it should not be a heavy lift to help our neighbors who may not be as fortunate as we.

Other ways to help this season is to volunteer at Wednesday’s community dinner at St. Edward Church from 3 to 6 p.m. Or help out in downtown Salem locations to feed the needy. Thanksgiving will take on a whole new meaning when we help our brothers.   —LAZ

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Sex reporting will do more harm than good

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Salem-Keizer School District’s decision to enforce a standing Oregon law is causing quite a stir. The law the district is instructing its teachers and staff to follow is Oregon statute 163.315, which says a person under the age of 18 is incapable of consenting to a sexual act.

The child abuse mandatory reporting guideline requires teachers and other school employees to report if they believe two students under the age of 18 are having sex, even if one of their own children is involved.

The renewed focus on this issue came after a member of the community  asked for clarification of the statute.

Every story has two sides. The school district responded to a question and decided that the existing state law needed to be heeded. Teachers were informed by the school district that they would need to take additional mandatory reporting training.

The response from teachers and students alike was swift and generally opposed to the school district’s focus.

Rightly, some teachers expressed that many students turn to them or school counselors to discuss intimate details of their lives including sex. That’s because some households do not welcome discussions of sex, especially discussions of gender identification.

Teachers invite and welcome discussions with students because they understand how home life can be for some kids. Some parents think the schools should take the lead on sex education; others think that sex education should stay at home. The point is moot: what some think should happen is not happening and everyone needs to adjust accordingly.

Many students feel that their teachers, coaches or counselors are the only adults they can discuss topics such as sex with. That trust should not be shunted aside so the school district can tell the community they are following the letter of the law.

What would a reasonable person think? Kids shouldn’t be having sex? That train left the station centuries ago—heck, even Romeo and Juliet were in their early teens, you can bet no medieval adult was reporting them to the throne.

Underage people having sex with each other is not new. The parents of every generation dating back 75 years have lamented their children’s lascivious ways. For a reasonable person who is concerned about teen pregnancy, statistics show that rates are down sharply over the past decade. Research also shows that the Millenial Generation is putting off many things that define a person as an adult, and includes sex.

Mandatory reporting laws are good when it concerns victims. An underage person having consensual or non-consensual sex with an adult is illegal and should be reported and prosecuted.

The truth is that in 2017 our kids are facing more deadly issues, especially the nation’s current opioid/heroin problem. We can ask our teachers to report when they hear of kids having consensual sex, but we would rather our teachers report on drug use.

Oregonians may not be dying at the hands of heroin and opioids at the rate of some other hard hit states, but the danger is very real here. It is not just opioids and heroin on which we must remain vigilant—still, too many kids help themselves to prescriptive drugs they find in their home.

We don’t think underage sex is harmless. There are sexually transmitted diseases to be concerned about. There is the shaming and bullying that girls are subject to when words gets around that they are active. There are gender identification issues as well as body issues that can be negative. Those can create long-term, low self-esteem issues that can last for years. No, underage sex is not harmless, but it needs to be put in perspective.

The message, like don’t do drugs, is don’t have sex. We should work very hard to keep our kids away from and off of drugs. Parents and our schools should work in tandem to talk to their kids and their students. That will work best if our kids feel comfortable talking to their parents or an adult, otherwise the whole issue is shoved underground where we can’t get at it.

  —LAZ

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Pick your battles

Many people have found their political voice at every level of government in America. It is easy to express one’s opinion, especially if it is anonymously on social media.

Conversations touching on everything from taxes to schools to the U.S. foreign policy is rife with angry words that leap off the computer screen:  outraged, angry, unbelievable, treason and worse. Either side of any issue its supporters and its detractors. People on both sides of any subject cannot believe that anyone would think opposite of themselves, and therefore are deserving of invectives.

It is impossible to read through Facebook  or Twitter on any day and not see the words that people use to show their displeasure on the opinions or actions of others. This poster is outraged, that poster is angry. To what end?

Most people know their rights when it comes to speech, religion and guns. Rights are one thing, societal responsibility is another. Even though we have the right to say and write that we are outraged over something, it doesn’t foster understanding, it only hardens people into silos of righteousness.

It is our right to express anger at things we don’t agree with; it should be our responsibility to attempt to be part of a solution to the problem at hand.

If neighbors disagree and throw verbal tantrums, disinterested spectators can be concerned about the level of the argument. The public should be even more concerned about the on-going social media battles undertaken by our political leaders.

There are two sides to every issue—both sides believe they are correct. The arguments take a toll when positions are hardened and compromise seems to be out of the question.

There are issues in Keizer that cause divisons: parking issues on Newburg Drive or new fees to support city parks. Everyone has an opinion on things happening in our city. To express outrage does not move the conversation along.

Social media has allowed millions of Americans to join the national or local political debate. It is important to remember that those millions of people had the ability to let their views be heard all along. It’s called an election. If one doesn’t like what their elected representative is doing they need only take the slight effort to vote in their party primary or a general election.

We are all for sharing opinions and views. We promote conversations that help reach solutions. Everything can’t be worth a fight. There are too many problems and crises in the world to be riled up over a small kerfuffle. If one is to go to battle with words, be sure it’s worth it.

There is power in words and when a social media poster expresses outrage, for example, we tune it out. Most people will respond better to a thoughtful, invective-free opinion.

We know we do.

  —LAZ