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Our View: Bearnson, Stine, Lane for Medford council

Medford voters have some interesting — and good — choices to make in filling three council seats on the Nov. 4 ballot. This election provides an opportunity not only to bring new faces and ideas to the council, but also to add some badly needed diversity.

In Ward 2, representing southwest Medford, our choice is Clay Bearnson, who would bring the perspective of a downtown business owner to the position and who also stepped up when challenged to get involved in city leadership.

One of Bearnson's opponents, Tim D'Alessandro, would bring some interesting insights because of his 31 years of employment with the Rogue Valley Transportation District, but it seems like a relatively narrow niche compared with Bearnson's involvement. The third candidate, Marlene Nuckols, became involved with city politics as the owner of would-be medical marijuana dispensary that was shut down by the city and we worry that her focus and background would be limited.

Bearnson was among the candidates for an appointment to the council in 2012. He didn't get it and was advised that he needed more experience. So he took up that challenge and is now serving on both the city's Parking Commission and Arts Commission — and was recently elected chairman of the latter. The owner of a bar/restaurant in downtown, he says his priorities would include finding ways to help small businesses survive and to create more ways for residents to have input into city decisions.

In Ward 3, northwest Medford, our nod goes to Kevin Stine, who would bring another view to the council as a nine-year Navy vet now going to school on the GI Bill while raising a young daughter with his wife. He is well-spoken and was encouraged by current Councilor Dick Gordon and others to run. Stine says joining the Navy helped him to escape poverty and that his early life in a low-income family would help bring a different — and needed — perspective to council discussions.

His opponent, Don Libby, 31, is also young and to his credit already owns a security company. Perhaps because of that, his focus seems to gravitate toward law enforcement. He says he would reach out to the public through social media, a decent idea, but one that would potentially leave out a lot of people. Stine, meanwhile, references talking with neighbors and people in the community who are frustrated about obvious problems not being dealt with.

The name of a third candidate for the position, John Travis Hardey, will be on the ballot, but he has said he is withdrawing from the election.

The most difficult call comes in Ward 4, southeast Medford, where four candidates have put their names in to replace retiring Councilor Bob Strosser. In the end, it's a gut feeling that leads us to support Donna Lane, a professor and chairwoman of the School of Business at Southern Oregon University and a former small business owner. Lane's obvious determination and focus on developing business and the city's workforce won us over.

Of all the candidates, Lane delivered the most forceful statement for economic development, calling for a workforce development plan that would make the area more attractive to businesses and make local residents more employable. She says the city must welcome new business "like a 5-star hotel" and push to continue downtown improvements, including to Bear Creek.

There's definitely more than one good candidate in this race. Andrew (John) Watson, an administrator in the county Community Justice department, makes a strong case, with a major emphasis on supporting law enforcement, and says the budget cutting his own department has undergone prepares him for dealing with city financial issues. Mike Zarosinski, chairman of the city Planning Commission, has a background in land development and civil engineering, all of which would prepare him for the many land use issues facing the city. George Schroeder, a 52-year city resident, is a downtown business owner and would bring that perspective to the council.

But we feel Lane would bring the strongest voice to the council — and a voice, it should be noted, that also would add to the diversity of the current all-male council.