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Fuel, not food

Editorials

If a tax is really needed,taxing gas makes more sense than restaurant meals

Medford is on the right track in looking for ways to finance needed street projects, but it's heading in the wrong direction.

The City Council will begin researching the possibility of a 5 percent meals tax ' like Ashland's ' after discussing that idea and a gas tax during the council's annual goal-setting session.

We think a gas tax makes a great deal more sense.

First, there is a logical connection between fuel and roads. Vehicles burn the former and drive on the latter.

Second, Ashland's success with the meals tax won't necessarily transfer to Medford. Yes, Medford has more restaurants. But it also has fewer tourists.

We'd bet that most Medford restaurants depend largely on diners who live in Medford. Ashland, by contrast, is inundated anually with throngs of theater-goers who dine out ' and many of whom are accustomed to paying a sales tax where they live.

What Medford does have is gas stations, many positioned along Interstate 5 and patronized by motorists driving through the valley. If the goal is to tap the pockets of tourists, that strikes us as a better way to do it.

A gas tax of a penny or two a gallon won't cause most of us to go out of our way to avoid the tax. We don't know how the tax would pencil out ' whether a small tax would raise enough money in Medford or whether it would need to be closer to 5 cents, which might cause motorists to buy gas outside of town.

That question should be answered by the city's study of the idea. The suggestion that the other cities in the valley could also enact a gas tax and pay for their own road projects has some merit.

None of this aswers the question of whether a new tax is unavoidable. Certainly it is expensive to maintain streets, and city officials are right when they point out that keeping up with regular repairs will save money in the long run by avoiding major rebuilding work.

One suggestion that came out of the recent goal-setting session was to reduce the street utility fee that residents pay with their water bills to offset the effect of any new tax enacted. That sounds like an excellent way to sell what will surely be an unpopular proposal, no matter what tax is selected.

In any case, council members should be sure they can do the job of convincing city residents that a tax is needed.

Let's do it

We say, let's do it. The ideas are good enough and the architect's drawings attractive enough to make revamping Bear Creek within the Medford city limits a desirable project that should not be put on a back burner.

The project would go a long way toward providing the attractive powers necessary to bring people into what once was a decaying and vacant downtown core.

The city and the Medford Urban Renewal Agency hired a group of Denver architects, who held several public meetings and eventually collected 464 ideas from people interested in the project. The ideas are too many to recount in detail here, but shopping next to the creek, dining near the water and planting trees along the creek's banks were among the top items on the wish list.

Participants in the project wanted to see banners hanging near Bear Creek to give the downtown a festive look, and frescoes painted on the concrete pillars that support the freeway as it crosses over Hawthorne Park. They want to see and hear white water when they dine downtown. Other ideas were enhanced fish habitat, pedestrian creek crossings, adding benches and trails, and creating riffles for kids to play in.

There's a lot here and there will be much more in the completed master plan. The next step is the action plan, picking projects that can be accomplished and bringing the action plan back to the City Council.

Take the time to look at the master plan when it is completed. When implemented, it will enhance the downtown and bring people here who otherwise might have gone elsewhere.

We say, Let's do it.