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Ho, ho humbug

Holiday celebration is a good idea, but cut length, commercialization

We'll bet the crowds huddled in the cold in downtown Medford Tuesday night loved the idea of a city ceremony celebrating the holidays.

They loved that Santa would make a stop ' atop a fire truck, no less ' to greet kids. That the towering tree in Vogel Plaza would come aglow with lights. That people would gather to mark the start of the season that is for many a symbol of peace, joy and community.

Thanks to the volunteers who labor to put on the downtown event, they got all that Tuesday night.

Unfortunately, they got a little more as well ' a gathering at times long enough, noisy enough and commercial enough to make the most jolly among us grumble bah, humbug.

We hope organizers won't say that about what could be a fun event for all. Instead, we offer this wish list for next year's celebration:

Less time between Santa's arrival and the tree lighting. This year onlookers waited 45 minutes in near-freezing temperatures between the two. We like the sound of 15 or 20 minutes, enough time for a song or two from the choir, a sing-along and a meaningful comment from the mayor.

Less time acknowledging merchants. Merchants help make the celebration happen, but the event itself should be about the holiday, not about business. Drop the running commentary about the people who made the celebration possible. Acknowledge them less obtrusively and use the time to bring the crowd together.

A better focus for the festivities. The tree was at one edge of Vogel Plaza, the announcer and people singing along another, Santa at a third and festively attired llamas at a fourth. No one on the ground could see any of it but the tree, so the atmosphere was less one of coming together and more one of milling about.

Making a great event of this kind of evening is no simple task. The people behind the celebration deserve the gratitude of everyone who came to watch.

There's room for progress here, though.

A better celebration would be shorter. It would be less blatantly commercial. Most importantly, it would be an opportunity for Medford residents to come together and share a feeling of community.

Bad policy, good apology

Gov. John Kitzhaber did the right thing when he apologized for Oregon's eugenics laws under which hundreds of Oregonians were sterilized.

Obviously, in a free society, those in power should not be allowed to decide who in that society will be allowed to have children. But under the eugenics laws, which became popular early in the past century, that's exactly what was going on.

Girls in reform schools, people in mental institutions and poor women selected by welfare workers were among the more than 2,500 Oregon residents subjected to sterilization under a law in effect from 1917 to 1983. Kitzhaber was on the committee that helped repeal the law in 1983.

The laws eventually fell into disfavor on constitutional grounds and, after 1967, Oregon's law was chiefly used to sterilize those with mental illness or mental disability.

Repealing the law was clearly right, as was Kitzhaber's apology. Things were different nearly a century ago. Today a proposal to institute such a law would be shouted down from every quarter.

Or at least we'd like to think that would happen.