Cheers and jeers

Cheers — to Medford and its sister city, Alba, Italy, celebrating half a century of friendship and cultural exchange. The two cities share many things in common, including climate, population, topography and an agricultural tradition. Over the decades, delegations have visited back and forth, including a popular exchange of high-school students every other year. Here's to many more years of connection.

Cheers — to the Heart of Medford Association and Rogue Valley Transportation District, which are providing free bus passes to downtown employers in an effort to encourage downtown workers to take the bus rather than drive. Each pass provides 20 free trips, and employers may request them once a month as long as they last. The program will continue until the end of the year or until the passes run out.

If enough workers try riding the bus, they may decide to buy their own passes, reducing congestion downtown.

Jeers — to the Department of Homeland Security, where officials apparently took it upon themselves to look into the political affiliations of those requesting information and in some cases delay releasing information deemed politically sensitive.

After the hostility to public disclosure displayed during the Bush administration, this is especially disappointing behavior by an administration that took office vowing to shine the light of day on the workings of government. The Freedom of Information Act is supposed to make public records available in a timely manner, regardless of the identity or intentions of the person making the request.

The department stopped diverting requests after The Associated Press investigated, obtaining copies of internal e-mails documenting the practice.

Cheers — to the Legislative Emergency Board, which voted Thursday to allocate reserve funds to preserve Oregon Project Independence and other Department of Human Services programs affecting 16,000 people, including elderly shut-ins, families of severely disabled children, and the mentally ill. The programs had been slated to end as part of 9 percent across-the-board cuts ordered by Gov. Ted Kulongoski to make up a budget shortfall.

Project Independence provides in-home assistance for elderly Oregonians that allows them to stay in their own homes rather than being forced into nursing homes or assisted-living facilities at much greater expense.

The rescue is only temporary, restoring funding until February for some programs and June for others. Lawmakers will need to address the long-term future of the programs when they convene in January.

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