Good news and bad from Medford City Hall

Medford residents who attend City Council meetings a year from now will be able to see their representatives face to face — but unless someone steps forward in the next month, one face may be missing.

Sunday's newspaper contained at least one piece of good news: The Medford City Hall remodeling project will include the council chambers.

Unlike other cities, Medford's council sits around a square table in the center of the room. Council members can all see each other, but observers in theater-style seats on the four walls can't see all the council members.

It may seem like a small thing, but it conveys the impression that the council is engaged in important work while members of the public who attend are merely passive observers.

That's not how representative government is supposed to work, especially at the local level.

The Jackson County commissioners sit facing the audience in the courthouse auditorium.

At the state Capitol, the House and Senate floors are closed to the public; visitors watch from galleries above. But in the committee rooms — where the real work of legislating is done and where public hearings take place — committee members sit facing the audience. The same goes for congressional hearings in Washington, D.C.

So making Medford City Council meetings more user-friendly is a good thing — but only if all the council seats are occupied, which brings us to the second point.

Reporter Paris Achen reported in Monday's paper that no one has yet filed for the seat now held by Jason Anderson, who has decided not to seek re-election after five years on the council and five years before that on the Planning Commission. Only the incumbents have filed for the other three council seats and the mayor's position.

That could mean Medford residents are satisfied with how the city is being governed, or no one is willing to put in the long volunteer hours the jobs require, or a little of both.

Either way, its not good for government when incumbents run unopposed and vacancies go unfilled. Issues don't get discussed, and incumbents don't have to defend their decisions.

There is still time: Candidates must pick up a packet and collect 25 signatures by Aug. 26 to be placed on the November ballot.

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