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Residents should be heard on taxes

Questions remain about sports park and sidewalks despite 'consensus'

To death and taxes, the short list of what we can count on in life, add this: Selling the taxes is going to take some doing.

We don't expect it to be any different for Medford leaders, who attempted to do some homework before the announcement last week that they expect to ask voters in November to approve new taxes for sidewalks near schools and to pay for fields at the sports park proposed along Highway 99.

The City Council announced the consensus, which still must be approved in public meetings, after a retreat Tuesday. In all, the taxes will amount to 30 cents per &

36;1,000 of assessed valuation, or about &

36;60 annually on a &

36;200,000 home.

That will be the end of the story for some people, the ones who'd sooner move into the hills than willingly pay higher city taxes. And that's a shame, because better sidewalks and parks are exactly the kind of improvements that ought to be on Medford's radar as it grows.

What's a council to do?

We have this suggestion: Make sure the public still has significant say in whether either question ' or something else ' actually gets on the ballot.

— It has had some say already. In a survey conducted for the city in April, nearly 400 citizens were asked whether they would support new taxes for any of six possible projects: sidewalks, the sports park, new police facilities, Carnegie Library renovations, general parks development or work on a plan to develop Bear Creek. Sidewalks and the sports park headed the positive responses.

That might mean citizens really would go for higher taxes to fund them, but it also might reflect the fact that the public didn't take part in putting together the list of six survey topics.

Or it may be that respondents' third and fourth choices ' police facilities and general parks development ' would actually be more popular in an election. Each of those received favorable responses from 62 percent of respondents, just — percent less than the sports park question.

And now that survey results are in and the council has its consensus, reached at a retreat not likely to attract the public, it appears citizens also might not play a significant role in determining whether any of this actually appears on the ballot. In other words, the deal appears done.

Meanwhile, we think a lot of questions probably remain ' and not just from the anti-tax crowd. Where would the new sidewalks go, exactly? Which parts of the sports park facilities would city money fund? Wasn't the hotel-motel tax increase approved in 2000 supposed to pay for some?

The public discussion about the requests, scheduled July 15, should be more than a formality that wraps up the council's consensus.

The public needs to have a meaningful say in this. Despite April's survey, it hasn't had it yet.