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Leave MURA as a separate entity

The agency has done well so far; there is no compelling reason to change

In the world according to Medford City Councilman John Michaels, city urban renewal projects ought to be masterminded by city government itself ' not by an independent agency, as they are now.

Renewal agency staff members ought to answer to the city manager and City Council, Michaels says, instead of to an urban renewal board. And people like Michaels ought to have more control over what they see as misdirection of the agency.

Or not ' and our vote is not.

Michaels' criticism of the urban renewal agency, known as MURA, seems to revolve around his feelings that the agency ought to spend more time and money on projects outside the downtown core and not involving businesses.

That's both a possible direction for the agency to go and not reason enough to change the way it is structured.

Why? A better question to ask is why it should change.

— MURA has, since it formed in 1988, been responsible for significant improvement downtown, from fancy streetlights to landscaping to new-style sidewalks and renovated fa?ades on businesses. You can dismiss many of the changes as frosting on the cake, but the fact is that businesses are moving downtown and people are following them. A number of related projects have as well: the renovated Craterian theater, the reworked Vogel Plaza, a parking structure, the new central library.

The process as it is set up today ensures substantial communication between city leaders and members of the MURA board. Medford's mayor and the council appoint MURA board members, and two council members serve as regular liaisons to the MURA board. MURA representatives regularly update the mayor and council members on projects.

Michaels thinks the whole thing would work better if MURA became a city department and staffers answered to City Manager Michael Dyal and the council, as other departments do.

That move would inevitably politicize urban renewal, which was never intended to be a tool of elected City Council members. We also think that melding it into the mix of city departments would dilute urban renewal's impact, which has been significant.

As the 2013 deadline for MURA's demise nears, we think it's natural for the council to want a say in what a second urban renewal effort ' son of MURA, one called it ' might look like. It might even make sense to move the focus off downtown and to neighborhoods in need.

Nothing in the system as it exists now need keep that from happening.

Michaels and other council members ought to have an ongoing role in MURA's productions, but the agency ' not city government ' should keep running the show.

Buckle up

Oregon may be well above the national average for seat-belt use, at 90 percent. But that won't deter local police agencies from participating in the national Click It or Ticket program, which will run through June 6.

Under the program, officers will ticket any motorist who does not properly use a seat belt, child safety seat or other type of safety restraint. The fine is &

36;94.

Despite the 90 percent success rate, the 10 percent of motorists not obeying the law is more than most of us would like. Certainly it is a figure that reflects danger on Oregon roads and highways.

So, buckle up for safety. Doing so will reduce the possibility you will be injured in an accident someday.