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The Barter Fair can work for all

Editorials

County officials and fair organizers should be able to meet in the middle

— Two words: Play fair. That's all anyone can ask of organizers of the Southern Oregon Barter Fair and representatives of county government as they finally leave behind a seven-year legal battle and prepare for the fair's anticipated return in 2004.

The public footed the &

36;105,000 bill last week after a federal jury determined that the sheriff's office and county commissioners discriminated against organizers of the annual counter-culture event, held on private property in the Ruch and Williams areas from 1978 to 1996.

Barter Fair organizers told jurors that retired Sheriff Bob Kennedy was out to shut down the fair and that the county levied unreasonable fees and excessively policed the event, leading to its demise.

For the county's part, Kennedy said at the time that residents of areas near the fair lived in fear of the three-day event, which drew complaints about noise, traffic, nudity, sex, drugs and vandalism.

Surely all this can be avoided in Round 2.

— To the county, first: There is a place here, as the verdict has made clear, for everyone ' even people who stir things up. Large gatherings ' and the Barter Fair became one, attracting 10,000 people in its biggest year ' always have issues. But they usually needn't be a crisis.

In 1996, the year 100 police officers descended on the fair and the sheriff's office set up an incident command post nearby, 10 arrests were made over three days. Police and county leaders shouldn't assume big trouble until it happens, they shouldn't blow the relatively minor out of proportion and they should treat Barter Fair organizers as they would any other residents of the county.

Second, to fair organizers: Acknowledge that yours is a big event, one that does draw complaints from people living nearby. When illegal activity takes place, don't pretend it hasn't.

Work with the inevitable law enforcement to make the situation reasonable for everyone. We'll never know whether the county would have overreacted if there weren't a feeling in the mid-'90s that the fair was dangerously out of control.

Barter Fair backers plan to return in 2004 with an event capped at 3,000 fairgoers. It's an opportunity for everyone involved to find a way to get along, an approach most of us prefer to court-ordered respect.

The right call

A court ruling allowing cell phone customers to keep their phone numbers when they switch services will ' despite what the cell phone companies say ' further competition in this growing industry.

It is obvious that any regulation that frees consumers from staying with carriers with whom they are dissatisfied affords them protection, the federal court ruled. It was reasonable for the FCC (Federal Communications Communication) to conclude that wireless consumers would switch carriers at even higher rates if they could keep their phone numbers.

Consumer advocates say the inability to retain numbers is a major factor in preventing more cell phone users from switching services in search of better service and prices.

The FCC is requiring cell phone companies to provide number portability by Nov. 24.

This is a good deal for the 146 million U.S. cell phone users, about a third of which change carriers each year.

So if you are lamenting your cell phone service and want to get another, after Nov. 24 you will be able to do so without facing the mess that switching telephone numbers entails.

The cell phone companies should be ashamed of themselves for setting up a system ready-made to rip off customers and potential customers of these firms.