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Cheers and jeers

Cheers — to negotiators for the Medford School District and its teachers union, for reaching a tentative deal on some of the issues dividing the two sides as they try to hammer out a new contract. The two sides met Tuesday and were scheduled to meet again today. Still unresolved were the major issues of pay, pension system contributions by teachers and the early retirement benefit. Most important, the progress offers hope the two sides may be able to avoid a potential strike by teachers that could shut down schools.

Cheers — to the community response over the Christmas holiday that made up a shortage of turkeys for Salvation Army Christmas baskets. A miscommunication in the ordering process left the organization 800 turkey shy of what it needed, but the community answered an appeal to fill the gap, and local residents more than made up the shortfall. As usual, this community showed its generosity in a big way. Cheers to all who stepped up.

Jeers — to the administration of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie after top staffers and appointees were found to have orchestrated toll-lane closures on the George Washington Bridge carrying commuters from Fort Lee, N.J., into Manhattan last fall, causing days of snarled traffic, to punish Fort Lee's Democratic mayor for failing to endorse Christie's re-election bid.

On Thursday, Christie fired one aide and apologized for the incident, saying he neither knew about it nor directed it. It's worth asking, as many are, whether Christie's reputation for thuggery in his political dealings created an atmosphere in his administration in which staffers felt empowered to pull such a stunt.

Cheers — to a rare coalition of tea party Republicans and Democrats in Congress who are working to enact major reforms of mandatory minimum sentencing laws that cost taxpayers billions and take away discretion from judges in determining appropriate punishment. The result is unjustifiably lengthy prison terms for nonviolent drug offenders, among others. Roughly half of the nation's 218,000 federal inmates are serving time for drug crimes, nearly all of them mandatory minimum sentences.

Cheers — to Ashland artist Betty LaDuke, who has agreed to donate design work and images for a proposed mural on the Talent Liquor Store at the corner of Highway 99 and West Valley View Road. The project, which has gained charity status with the IRS, will highlight the valley's farmers and agriculture workers with images LaDuke created for the baggage claim area at the Medford airport.

Cheers — finally — for at least a little rain to dampen the ground and clear the smoky air after a prolonged dry spell marked by a temperature inversion. Heavy rain is expected this weekend, which is long overdue, but enjoy it while you can. The extended forecast calls for dry conditions to return after the storm.