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Not another bureaucracy

Editorials

Renters deserve help, but not at great cost to the city or to landlords

Medford's renters ' every one of them ' should have safe homes in working order. And the city should play a role in making sure it's so.

But should it create another layer of bureaucracy to deal with problems between landlords and tenants? No.

The city is wrestling with the question of how much renter protection is enough this month as the Housing and Community Development Commission considers new rental regulations. The commission is scheduled to discuss the issue again at a meeting on Tuesday.

Among the proposals to improve accountability among landlords: to require landlords to provide the city with their names and contact numbers, to require city inspections of all rental property and to require out-of-the-area landlords to hire local property managers.

A Jan. 7 Mail Tribune story on the issue used as an illustration a Medford woman who pays close to &

36;500 a month for housing that is falling apart: She and her children were living with a broken window, a leaking roof and a rotting bathroom floor, she said, until she finally complained to the city. An inspector posted the place as uninhabitable.

The question before Medford now is how best to deal with such situations without also unfairly penalizing landlords who try to do the right thing. By all accounts, that is a huge majority.

— We support changes that hit bad landlords in the pocketbook and that ease a tenant's ability to get help when it's needed. The city should hike the &

36;150 fines landlords face for violating the housing code, and landlords should be required to keep an updated name and contact number on file with the city.

Besides that, Medford ought to require that landlords provide tenants with several phone numbers when they sign rental agreements: the landlord's, the city building inspector's and the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group's. OSPIRG publishes a handbook on landlord-tenant laws and can help a renter get a landlord's attention if necessary.

We think Oregon's already-effective laws make other costly changes unnecessary. Requiring inspections of all property would be expensive for the city. Requiring property managers for out-of-area landlords would be expensive for landlords. Neither would necessarily prevent dangerous living situations.

That, ultimately, has to be up to the tenant. Medford should change the rules to give tenants a helping hand but stop short of unnecessarily adding to the city's or landlords' costs.

Another Measure 30 fact

One in a series of facts voters need to make an educated decision about Ballot Measure 30

The defeat of Measure 30 would jeopardize public safety and we're not talking just about the loss of police officers and court functions. We're talking about the public's safety in walking its own streets.

Here are two examples of how budget cuts are making our communities less safe:

Faced with a 34 percent cut in state funding, Jackson County's sobering unit has been closed for two days each week. County officials say if Measure 30 is defeated, new cuts to health and human services programs will make it hard to justify keeping the detoxification center open at all. There will be no place to lodge drunks who have committed no crime.

Defeat of Measure 30 will mean the elimination of mental health and addiction services for all low-income adults. Those folks will be left to their own devices and in too many cases will be left to wander our streets.