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Trip is vital

Mail Tribune editorials

Criticism of the legislative leadership's trade mission to China is misplaced

Oregon legislators have a plate full of issues before them this spring. Why stir up new and pointless trouble with continuing questioning of seven members' trade mission this month to China?

First, critics jumped on the timing of the trip, which started May 22 just as the state learned it would likely face a deficit of as much as &

36;1 billion in the last year of the budget period.

Then came the nit-picking this week that four of the legislators on the trip are lame ducks, set to leave office in January. How effective could they be as ambassadors of Oregon?

What's next, an attack on their choice of airline food?

This falls under the category of making trouble where none need exist.

The timing of the trip is less than ideal, to be sure, but the trade mission was planned months ago, before anyone knew a special session to deal with the budget would be required in June. Canceling at the last minute would have been a diplomatic blunder.

As it is, the bipartisan delegation will be home June 4, the week before the session is set to begin and in plenty of time for Gene Derfler, the Senate president, and Mark Simmons, the House speaker, to understand what they face in the session.

And it's not as though they've been in the dark on Oregon's troubles while they've been away. Simmons talked with Gov. John Kitzhaber by phone the day Kitzhaber proposed raising the state's income taxes to close the budget gap.

It's true the lame-duck legislators won't be around to nurture relationships with Chinese officials they meet on the trip, but that shouldn't diminish the opportunity they have in this trip to make lasting connections between China and Oregon. The group set up meetings with a slew of officials with the power to send business Oregon's way.

Which raises perhaps the most obvious rationale behind the trip ' that Oregon's economy needs help. Creating connections with China is an essential step in that direction.

Already, according to state analysis, Oregon exports to China will have grown from &

36;17 million in 1997 to an estimated &

36;170 million by the end of this year. The legislators' trade mission, on the other hand, will cost the state about &

36;14,000.

It's not hard to see why they consider it money ' and time ' well-spent.

Here's to you, Cleve

We can't let today go by without noting the retirement of Cleve Twitchell, the longtime editor of the Mail Tribune's Tempo and an even longer-time newsman in the Rogue Valley.

Cleve came to the Mail Tribune in December of 1961 after working as a copy boy at the San Francisco Chronicle. In the next 40 years, he wore many different hats, including reporter, news editor, Lifestyles editor and, of course, Tempo editor.

His support for local arts, music and entertainment was matched only by his support for community events. For more than 30 years, beginning with the founding of Tempo in 1969, Cleve managed requests for that most-prized of all positions in the paper, the Tempo cover. Far more often than not, that selection would be a community event or a feature on a local performer or artist.

Cleve's dining column and reviews of local wines, music and theater were, like the man, gentle and honest. His restaurant reviews were compiled in a book, as was a series of Day Trips, featuring local points of interest for visitors and residents alike.

The good news is that Cleve will continue to write in his retirement, reviving the Day Trips columns and offering occasional wine and entertainment reviews.

The bad news ' from our selfish point of view ' is that Cleve won't be here in the newsroom with us every day. He leaves a big hole to fill. But he also leaves behind a newspaper and a community that are better places, thanks to his commitment to both of them.