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A little competition not a bad thing


Both sides in the referendum petition campaign need to calm down

Backers of overturning the Legislature's tax increase package say their signature gatherers are being intimidated by supporters of the tax package. The tax supporters say petitioners are using misinformation to get voters to sign, and that signature gatherers in previous campaigns had criminal records.

We say, let's everyone calm down. There's room on the street for both sides.

Certainly, backers of the referendum have every right to circulate petitions without being harassed. At the same time, foes of the measure should be able to try to convince voters not to sign.

But those efforts should remain civil and reasonable. So far, there is a lack of those qualities on both sides of the debate.

The Voter Education Project, a nonprofit, union-backed organization that supports the Legislature's revenue package, is stepping over the line when its spokeswoman says a top paid signature gatherer last year in Southern Oregon had a criminal conviction for theft ' in 1994.

— So what? That doesn't mean this year's signature gatherers are liable to commit aggravated assault, or any other crime, for that matter.

The Taxpayer Defense Fund, the group funded by the Washington, D.C.-based Citizens for a Sound Economy working to qualify the referendum for a February vote, says the other side is videotaping its petitioners and trying to scare voters.

So what? It was just such scrutiny that last year prompted voters to ban paying petitioners by the signature, a practice that had led to fraud in some cases.

As for scaring voters, we're not exactly sure what that means, but foes of this referendum certainly should have as much right to urge voters not to sign as petitioners have to encourage signatures. Healthy competition for the attention of voters is, after all, what democracy is all about . Isn't it?

That's really the key here ' healthy competition, not irresponsible allegations or exaggerated claims of persecution.

Put to good use

The Census Bureau reports that nearly one in five Americans used a language other than English at home in 2000 ' up from one in seven a decade earlier. Clearly efforts to help recent immigrants learn English are more important than ever.

That's why it's encouraging to see the former home of Briscoe Elementary School in Ashland being put to good use by the Oregon Child Development Coalition's Migrant Head Start program.

Not only are migrant children getting help learning English before they enter public school, but their parents are learning the language, too. That's exactly the kind of program that will help make a dent in those Census statistics.

Migrant Head Start also helps agricultural families with basic necessities such as blankets and clothing. With winter approaching, supplies of those items are low and donations are needed. To help out, call Donna Martin at 488-6919, ext. 116.

To learn about the Migrant Head Start program, attend an open house scheduled from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Oct. 27 and 28.