>   By Tony Ahern
   It's Christmas time, time for every soul in the greater Central Oregon area to make a trek or two to Bend to do all their shopping. They'll be a few who break that mold, like the smarty pants who avoid the crowds by using Santa's little helper, the internet, to do their shopping, or via the TV by way of QVC.
   But you know what: the local authorities won't arrested you if you stay home to do some of that shopping.
   If you're considering toys, furniture, tools, art, gift store items, vehicles and boats, pet supplies, gardening products, books, computers and TVs, restaurant gift certificates, picture framing, or even a newspaper subscription, you can find it in the Madras area. Though I am admittedly one of the worst present buyers in the tri-county area, even I know there are plenty of great gifts you can get right here at home.
   It's no secret that we don't have a stellar amount of retail in Madras, and a lot of what we have is struggling to survive. The variety and volume of selection is not what we all would like, and is nothing compared to the small-town retail heyday Madras enjoyed in the '50s and into the '70s. In fact, it's dwindled substantially in the last two years.
   But when you go to Wal-Mart, or some other giganto-mart, and come out feeling superior because you bought something for $5 cheaper than the guy or gal in town had it priced at, remember that the big store probably paid $10 less for it than did your neighbors running their store in town. When you drive by the local guy at the local store on your way home from Bend, while they're skipping dinner and working late, try not to feel guilty. Naw, go ahead and feel a little guilty.
   No doubt it can be fun to go shopping and spend a day in and around the capital of Central Oregon. But give it some real thought and you might be surprised how much of your shopping list you fill at home. You'll save time, help your community, and your neighbors.
   The governor's prison support
   Those hoping a state prison gets built in Madras heard good news last week out of Gov. Kulongoski's budget proposal. The governor included the funding of the Madras prison as part of his commitment to public safety.
   With the state facing another funding shortfall, many fear (and many others hope) that the prison will again be left unfunded, just as it was in 2002. Kulongoski's budget was a big step in fear and hope giving way to reality.
   The governor's support of the prison doesn't mean it is a done deal. Far from it. The Legislature, set to convene in January, will have final say. Still, those who support the Madras state prison project have to appreciate the governor's commitment.
   Had the governor chose to omit prison funding, it would have been easier for a Willamette Valley representative, faced with supporting more social services/education spending or a state prison in Madras, to also omit the prison funding. Kulongoski's budget kept the Madras prison project -- and housing an over-flowing prison population, on the front burner.
   A state prison is not going to solve all of our economic or social ills, and we won't immediately blow up like Redmond has over the past decade. But it will have real, substantial benefits: an extensive construction project of upwards of $200 million; about 500 good-paying jobs once built; residual residential expansion and the addition of more local tax-payers.
   While there may be some negatives to a prison, Ontario, Baker and Umatilla-Hermiston have are each stronger communities because of their facilities. There is no reason Madras will not also be.
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