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Measure 25: Yes

Mail Tribune editorials

Minimum-wage workers need some stability, and employers do, too

The milk your kids drink, a ticket to a Britt concert, your fitness club membership: They cost a little more every year. Most of us cross our fingers and hope our annual pay increases will cover it.

— — — — — Also on this page:Two views on forest thinning

? . — — There's no reason people making Oregon's lowest wages shouldn't be able to do that too.

An annual increase to cover inflation is one of the aims behind Measure 25 on the Nov. 5 ballot. It would give minimum-wage earners a yearly raise tied to the Consumer Price Index while hiking the wage for 2003 from &

36;6.50 to &

36;6.90 an hour. The Mail Tribune urges a yes vote on the measure.

Oregon's minimum-wage earners, once the nation's highest paid, haven't gotten more money since 1999, when the wage grew from &

36;6 to &

36;6.50 an hour in the last increase in a series of three approved by voters in 1996.

The measure now before voters addresses that flaw by making sure the minimum wage grows enough every year to reflect the rising costs all wage earners face. In practice, anything less amounts to a pay cut.

Not that minimum-wage earners make enough to live on. A person working full-time in a minimum-wage job in Oregon makes &

36;13,500 a year, barely enough to skirt the government's definition of poverty.

That fact apparently has had little effect on the Oregon Restaurant Association, which employs thousands of minimum-wage workers and predictably has organized against the increase. It says any growth in the wage will have one of two results ' fewer hours or jobs for restaurant employees or higher prices on the menu for customers.

We've heard that before. But a 1999 study by the Oregon Center for Public Policy concluded minimum-wage increases had no significant effect on job losses, and the Oregon Employment Department in 1998 said wage increases have had little or no adverse effect on employment.

And consumers? Along with more for milk, concert tickets and fitness club memberships, we already pay more every year for restaurant food. Most of us accept paying more because of restaurateurs' rising costs.

Measure 25, because of its inflation provision, actually would help the industry by holding annual raises to inflation levels. Past increases in the minimum wage haven't come every year, but they've often been big when they have appeared ' 16 percent in 1997, for example.

A more stable system makes sense for everyone ' certainly for workers, who deserve to keep up with inflation just as much as any of us, but also for industry, which should compensate workers fairly but shouldn't have to shoulder huge increases all at once.

Measure 27: No

We'd sign up for labels designating genetically engineered food in a jiffy if it was clear the food was unsafe.

It's not, and that's just part of the trouble with Measure 27 on the Nov. 5 ballot.

It's not clear that genetically engineered food is unsafe, even if its name is less than appetizing. It's not clear what the label law would cost consumers or industry. It's not even clear a label bearing the words genetically engineered would help buyers make better choices.

The people behind Measure 27 hope to make Oregon the first state in the nation to require labeling of such foods, which include hundreds of thousands of the products on grocery store shelves today.

What is genetically engineered food? Any product that contains an ingredient produced through genetic enhancement. Most corn, for example, is modified to be more pest resistant, so corn syrup would require labeling under the law.

Proponents of Measure 27 point to suspicions that such foods could cause allergies and other health problems, but so far no link has been established.

We agree with backers of this measure that consumers need more information about they food they buy, but changing Oregon's law now is not the best way to get it. Too much evidence exists that the law would be costly for government and industry and confusing to consumers, all while accomplishing little.

Any effort to label products should start on a national level. In fact, federal legislation similar to the Oregon proposal is making its way through Congress now. The government also plans to begin labeling organic food soon. That will be an assurance that those products, at least, are free from genetic engineering.

That may not be enough in the long run, but it is a better place to start than with an Oregon law that raises more questions than it answers. Vote no on Measure 27.

Guest opinion

Ski 'alternative' too little, too late

I serve as a board member for the Mount Ashland Association. In my five years of service to this nonprofit organization I have drawn upon my experience as a field sanitarian/soil scientist and planner for Jackson County and the Rogue Valley Council of Governments; as a 14-year member of the Ashland City Council; and as an assistant professor of geography, teaching physical geography, conservation and land-use planning, among other things, at Southern Oregon University.

During this time our environmentally aware staff, consultants, and board have worked diligently, refining the expansion plan now being analyzed by the U.S. Forest Service in preparation for the publication of a second Draft Environmental Impact Statement. We believe our proposal represents the best of the many comments and compromise suggestions presented since the issuance of the Record of Decision / Environmental Impact Statement on the Mount Ashland Ski Area Master Plan, which determined the current boundaries of the ski area.

The decision to move ahead with expansion plans was made before I joined the board. I am supportive for many reasons. One is the result of my awareness of the long-range planning process of the ski area because of my participation on the City Council before and during the fund raising and public acquisition of the area.

I knew that the expansion was consistent with the land-use allocation of developed recreation that is applied to the ski area in the Rogue River and Klamath National Forest plans. It is an expansion of a permitted use within this forest zone where management strategies, according to the first Draft EIS, are to provide outdoor recreation opportunities within a forest environment that is modified for visitor use, visitor satisfaction, and accommodation of large numbers of people.

It is consistent with the vision of the Mount Ashland Ski Area Master Plan adopted in 1991. I believe it is pertinent to point out that there was no appeal of the programmatic Master Plan in 1991. In a process of negotiation, the ski area operator (then a private corporation) and the Sierra Club agreed to a compromise where the club would resist filing an appeal if the permit area for future expansion avoided the south side of Mount Ashland. Our expansion plan is not proposed for the south side of the mountain.

Our proposal reflects strong consideration of environmental issues and the best advice of environmentally trained professional ski area designers. The proposal is based on our first draft plan, which was developed through a process that involved not only diverse and numerous scientific studies to which new study data has been added, but also through on-site consultations with interested board and staff members from concerned local environmental groups.

Locations of lift towers and ski runs have been altered to meet the concerns of many of these participants and through comments received after the publication of the first Draft EIS. A new draft will eventually be published by the USFS that addresses more of these compromises and suggestions. It will also include analysis of more alternatives for expansion, one of the major criticisms of the first draft.

It seems that design compromises made with input from these individuals and groups during expansion planning may have been premature. Now, as the USFS nears completion of a second Draft EIS we are presented with the Community Compromise Alternatives.

I hope you will forgive me for feeling a bit cynical about the timing of these proposals and their introduction by seasoned environmentalists who know well the National Environmental Policy Act legal processes and time frames. To receive serious and timely analysis by the USFS, these proposals should have been submitted long ago, not in the eleventh hour of the publication of the second draft.

More importantly, however, the proposals do not address the purpose and need of the proposed expansion, which is to provide more ski and snowboard terrain that is safe and accessible to beginning and intermediate children and families in our community, creating a recreation facility which provides for our winter recreation needs in concert with the natural environment.

Pat Acklin lives in Ashland.