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West side story

Mail Tribune editorials

If the city wants to help west Medford, great, but don't stereotype the area

If something rankles in all the recent Medford City Council discussion about problems on the west side of town, maybe it's just that: the fixation on the west side.

Council members last month took a bus tour of the area as part of a discussion of whether the city should prohibit small-lot duplexes on the west side. And that led to the idea of hiring someone to patrol west Medford and make residents pick up their trash, keep their noise under control and park their cars correctly.

It's great that the council wants to work on problems of the area, which has pockets of serious poverty and crime. But as Medford's leaders, council members also ought to turn a critical ear to stereotyping one whole side of the city.

If duplex lots should be a certain size, that standard should apply throughout Medford (an idea that, as the council eventually decided, should wait for a master plan). If a code enforcement officer will pick up litter, he or she should look for violations east of the railroad tracks as well as on the west side. And we bet he'll find them.

The tone of the recent discussion about west Medford implies a boundary around one side of the city that contains all that's ugly for outsiders to see.

Not only is this an image many Medford residents have worked long to avoid, it's untrue.

Unkempt yards, junky cars and trash can be found in lots of parts of town. So can wealth, beauty and strong, lively, historic neighborhoods.

We don't fault the council for trying to deal with the problems plaguing parts of Medford. In fact, that's good leadership.

We just offer this: West Medford is close to half the city. The parts of it overwhelmed by problems, on the other hand, are much, much less.

Keep arts group public

Is a public arts commission really a public arts commission if a private group runs it? — That's a question some Ashlanders are asking after Mayor Alan DeBoer suggested last week that the city's new arts commission might be better off with no connection at all to city government.

The group behind creation of the commission will propose to the City Council as soon as next month that it be an advisory panel to the Ashland Parks and Recreation Department. But DeBoer said he'd favor a private group instead ' one that wouldn't be a drain on the city budget.

The problem with that is that it also wouldn't be a few other things ' most importantly, accountable to the public. A group charged with placing public art on public land ought to be subject to a public process, one that allows citizens to become involved with questions of cost or taste.

Tying the commission to the parks department also would give it an official status of sorts ' it would be the city's arts commission rather than just another Ashland art group. We think that would help it do its job.

Finally, bringing it into the city's fold probably would guarantee it some money to spend on art. And despite the mayor's concern about the potential cost of the program, setting aside money for art is the right thing for a city to do.