Cheers and jeers

Cheers — to the Hope Mountain Stewardship Project, a stimulus-funded venture in clearing brush and thinning young trees. A joint effort involving the Lomakatsi Restoration Project, the Siskiyou Project and the Forest Service, Hope Mountain is intended to improve the health of a portion of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest near Takilma, reduce fire danger by removing fuel, and produce logs for sawmills and biomass for lumber-drying kilns and generators. This is exactly the kind of forward-thinking, ecologically sound work that can improve forest health and create jobs at the same time. And that's something everyone should raise a glass to.

Jeers — to the jerks who smashed the window of a car parked at a Medford motel and made off with a young couple's wedding gifts. The newlyweds were headed for a Cabo San Lucas honeymoon, with the bride's grandmother planning to hold them until the couple's return.

Besides 40-some wrapped gifts, the thieves made off with hundreds of dollars in gift cards, some of which were used within hours in Reno, Nev. Along with the couple's family, we hope for swift arrest, conviction and punishment of those responsible. And cheers to the bride and groom.

Cheers — with a jeer or two thrown in — to a bill given final approval Wednesday in the Legislature to ban the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. There is no question that the distraction of talking on a cell phone poses a serious safety hazard, but the bill is loaded with so many exceptions that it is unlikely to have much effect. Hands-free devices are exempt, although studies show they are no safer, and the list of exemptions includes anyone whose job requires driving. Oh — and the Senate added amateur and Citizens Band radio operators to the list before the bill's final passage.

Jeers — to Congress, which demonstrated once again last week that its members are woefully out of touch with the struggles of ordinary Americans. With little comment or opposition, the House on Friday approved an 8 percent increase in spending for members' office expenses. This at a time when Americans everywhere are slashing household budgets and doing without.

Cheers — to the HOPE Chest, the continuation of Hank's Bank, a pilot project to help meet emergency needs in the Rogue Valley. And a tip of the bike helmet to Geoff Jensen, the Phoenix High School senior who is cycling 600 miles across Oregon to raise seed money for the new fund. To volunteer or donate, call United Way at 773-5339.

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