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Make it work for us, not Wal-Mart

Local editorials

The city of Medford should demand better than a 600-foot concrete wall

Wal-Mart's Portland attorney, speaking Friday before a city commission, would have us believe all is well with the retailing giant's plan to build a 200,000-square-foot Supercenter at Miles Field.

The big store, he told members of the Site Plan and Architecture Commission, will provide an appropriate monument, if you will, as an entry to this community.

We can't imagine a Wal-Mart Supercenter as an appropriate entryway monument to any community, and we're especially reluctant to picture it in that role in Medford. The structure, as eventually approved Friday, will present its enormous backside to drivers along Highway 99, filling about 600 feet of the gap between the Medford Armory and the Rogue Federal Credit Union with a solid concrete block wall.

Changes stipulated by the commission to improve the look of the structure include a few new decorative gables on the building and walls and trees to block drivers' views of storage containers.

That's not enough to satisfy us this will be a good deal for Medford, and we don't think it should be enough to satisfy others, either.

As approved, the store remains a low, long, ugly structure ' something like the backsides of the strip of big-box stores near the airport, but without the breaks between buildings.

— Even if it can't stop Wal-Mart altogether, we're not convinced the city has fully explored the effect it might have on the proposal. One commission member noted that requiring Wal-Mart to make the building two stories instead of one would immediately halve its footprint. Although that hasn't been Wal-Mart's approach in most other places, it does have at least one two-story supercenter in Los Angeles, according to opponents.

We also wonder whether it might help to require a landscaped berm between the store and Highway 99, further shielding the store and its collection of storage containers from people entering the city.

Citizens for Responsible Development, a group opposed to the project, plans to appeal the site plan commission's approval of the supercenter to the City Council, which could begin discussing the project in April.

Others with concerns about Wal-Mart's proposal should raise their voices here as well.

Whether you're for a supercenter in Medford, against it or neutral on the subject, it's not right or necessary that we allow the retailer to build something that works better for it than it does for us.

Honor well deserved

Cynda Rickert, principal of South Medford High School, deserves the accolades she received Monday when school patrons, fellow educators and students honored her for receiving the 2004 Oregon Principal of the Year Award.

Rickert, 49, said she doesn't handle surprises very well as she received the prestigious award in the school auditorium. She may not like surprises, but she's certainly deserving of praise for the excellent work she has done as principal of South for the past six years and three years as principal of McLoughlin Middle School.

In recommending Rickert, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Susan Castillo cited several achievements of her administration, among them creating highly successful transition classes for incoming freshmen. A program to help students stay in school and a schoolwide program that reduced discipline referrals 77 percent are two more.

Characteristically, she insists on sharing credit.

It's not ever about one person, she says. It's about a team that comes together and works hard for kids.

We know who is in charge of this team. It's Rickert, who has brought her brand of leadership to South, and along with it a better education for South students.