Cheers and jeers

Cheers — to the voters of Jacksonville, who sensibly trounced the attempted recall of a single City Council member over a vote to keep the city's fire department solvent by increasing a water-bill surcharge.

Despite confident predictions by the recall's organizer, the vote was not close — 64 percent voted no. Now the city's residents and civic leaders can have the conversation they need to have about what kind of fire protection they want and how it should be paid for.

Cheers — to Corey Kahn and Marianna Cooper, a physician and physician's assistant, respectively, who will travel to Haiti next month to provide much-needed medical care to the earthquake-ravaged country. A year after the devastating quake, little of the rubble has been cleared and the population suffers from homelessness, unemployment, hunger and disease. The two professionals are heading to Port-au-Prince with the support of their employer, Rogue Valley Medical Center, which has donated $7,000 worth of supplies.

Cheers — to the Environmental Protection Agency, which has allowed common sense to prevail on the issue of burning wood waste including sawmill scraps and forest thinnings, to generate electricity.

The EPA had been poised to include biomass facilities under the same emission rules that apply to coal-fired power plants. Several members of Congress, including the Oregon delegation, had argued that waste wood that isn't burned for energy releases carbon naturally if left to rot, so burning biomass doesn't add carbon to the atmosphere the way coal does.

Biomass plants are crucial to plans for large-scale thinning of small-diameter logs and underbrush in Oregon forests, which could benefit former timber-dependent communities by creating jobs. Companies wanting to invest in biomass operations have been hesitant to do so for fear the EPA regulations could put them out of business before they even started.

Cheers — and a fond farewell — to Bill Patton, longtime leader of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival who died last week at 83.

Patton started as an actor, then was named general manager in 1953 by founder Angus Bowmer. He continued to lead the festival until 1995, taking on the title of executive director in 1981. Under his leadership, the festival grew from 29 performances and an audience of 15,000 to 752 performances and an audience of 359,000.

Jeers — to us, for two errors in Tuesday's editorial on Southern Oregon's growing influence in the state Legislature. We mistakenly identified Sen. Alan Bates as being from Ashland — he lives in Medford, although his district includes Ashland — and we failed to give Sen. Doug Whitsett credit for representing part of Jackson County. Whitsett's Senate District 28 includes the northeastern portion of Jackson County as well as all of Klamath, Lake and Crook counties and a portion of Deschutes County.

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