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Historic district petition falls short

MEDFORD — Six months after launching efforts to create a historic district, proponents have gathered less than a third of the needed signatures for Thursday's deadline for filing general election petitions for the November election.

Our Heritage PAC, sponsor of the drive, is holding a series of meetings to decide how to proceed, and plans to announce its decision today.

The group needs 16,632 signatures to put the measure on the ballot and has collected 5,772 unconfirmed signatures.

Tam Moore, co-chairman of the political action committee, said the group may continue the campaign and shoot for the May 2010 primary, or just throw in the towel.

He said with more time and more volunteers, the group could have reached their goal.

Lynn Newbry, campaign spokesman, said the signatures are not coming up short due to lack of support.

"We're not finding any reluctance to sign the petitions," he said.

"We've not been able to get to the people."

Newbry said after hearing in the news billions of dollars going for this or that, 16,000 doesn't seem like a lot. But when you're gathering signatures, 16,000 is a lot.

"That's three times the population of Talent," he said.

Stephanie Butler, education and programs director for the Southern Oregon Historical Society, said supporters want to extend the time period for gathering signatures to the end of September, by which time they would try to get 20,000. She said if the initiative passes in the May 2010 election, the museums and societies would see funds in November 2010.

Moore said the historic district initiative must be in a primary or a general election, hence the long wait.

The ballot measure would have asked voters to pay 7 cents for every $1,000 in assessed valuation annually to support the financially strapped historical societies in Jackson County.

That would add $11.69 annually for a house with an assessed value of $167,000. Assessed values in Jackson County have been about half the market value in recent years.

The Rogue Valley Heritage District would be governed by a five-person board of directors that would support the 15 local and regional museums and history-related research libraries.

Public funds for the history-related activities were cut from the budget in 2007.

All of Jackson County except the city of Shady Cove is included in the proposed district. Shady Cove's City Council in February declined to approve the petition.

Reach reporter Meg Landers at 776-4481 or e-mail mlanders@mailtribune.com.