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Local editorials

Fee waiver would be wrong

Why give Measure 37 claimants something everyone else pays for?

It would be mighty generous of the Jackson County commissioners to waive the fees the county is charging for compensation claims under Ballot Measure 37. It would also be wrong.

Voters passed Measure 37 in November, allowing property owners to claim compensation for land-use changes that limited what they could do with their property and therefore reduced its value. Under the law, if a claim is found to be valid, the county must either allow the requested use or pay the property owner the amount of the reduced value.

It's that if part that is at issue here. Land-use regulations and the requirements of Measure 37 are complicated, and county planning staff must first determine whether a claim is valid. The county has been assessing a &

36;150 fee for filing a Measure 37 claim, plus &

36;44 an hour for staff time to research its validity.

Commissioner C.W. Smith says that's not fair to property owners already harmed by land-use laws.

It may seem that way at first glance, until you realize that many land-use applications in Jackson County carry a fee, even if they are not related to Measure 37. The commissioners themselves ' though not Smith, who wasn't on the board then ' approved those fees in an attempt to help cover the costs of planning and other county services.

As the timber sale revenues that once supported county government decline, the county increasingly has turned to fees to provide services without asking voters for tax increases.

— If property owners not affected by Measure 37 must pay a fee to develop their land, how is it fair to make them pay when Measure 37 claimants get service for free? If fairness is the issue, why not provide all planning services free of charge?

Ah, but how would the county cover those costs?

The same way Measure 37 claims would be covered if the commissioners waive the fee, we suspect. By shifting the cost to all county taxpayers.

A light goes out

We join the family, friends and fans of Ashland entertainer Joanie McGowan in mourning her passing.

Those who knew her describe a person of talent, wit and energy, one of those people who could fill a room merely by walking into it. Larger than life was one description heard in the Mail Tribune newsroom. Those who didn't know her may have heard her distinctive voice during pledge breaks on Jefferson Public Radio, where she worked in fund raising, or enjoyed the improvisational comedy of the Hamazons, a troupe she co-founded.

As is sometimes the case, a funny, effervescent personality can hide inner struggles from all but the closest friends. McGowan had apparently battled depression recently, and friends say she was deeply disappointed when her one-woman play didn't succeed.

We were deeply saddened to hear that those struggles apparently led her to take her own life. Ashland's arts community has lost a spark that burned bright, but too briefly.

We'll miss you, Joanie.