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Elect Fred Warner to another term


The Baker County voters who will decide between incumbent Fred Warner Jr. and challenger Bill Harvey for the position of Baker County Commission chairman have a tough choice.

Harvey is a strong candidate.

We’re impressed by his passion for Baker County and by the amount of time he has devoted to his campaign. Harvey has traveled throughout the county over the past couple months. He has attended a bunch of public meetings. He has talked to many dozens of residents.

And Harvey brings more to the ballot than enthusiasm.

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All this over some cattle?


We’re not convinced that the federal government’s roundup last week of a Nevada rancher’s cattle, an operation carried out with guns and helicopters, is the best way to resolve this two-decades-old dispute. 

Although hundreds of people who support rancher Cliven Bundy and his family showed up to protest the cattle roundup, we don’t believe the situation, which has more to do with cattle, public land grazing policy and an endangered species of tortoise than it does with protecting the public, warranted such aggressive tactics.

Bundy’s situation isn’t a case study in private property rights. The land where his 900 cattle have been grazing belongs to the public and is managed by the BLM.

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Options for voters


Election season is upon us, and ballots for the May 20 primary will be mailed April 30.

Fortunately, voters will have multiple opportunities not only to hear from the candidates but also to pose questions themselves.

Two candidate forums are scheduled.

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Keeping a road open to vehicles


A Wallowa-Whitman National Forest official’s recent statement that the forest intends to keep the North Powder River Road open to motor vehicles, even if Congress designates new wilderness in that part of the Elkhorn Mountains, was welcome.

That’s a popular route into the Elkhorns and it should remain accessible by motor vehicles.

But the Wallowa-Whitman’s stance is not the definitive word on the matter.

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Celebrate clarity on the ballot


Nowhere is clarity in writing more important than on a voter’s ballot.

And so we’re pleased with the Oregon Supreme Court’s decision last week regarding the wording of a ballot measure that Oregonians likely will vote on in November.

The measure has to do with the state’s plan to give four-year driver’s licenses to people who can’t prove their living legally in the U.S.

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Extend studded tire season


Nature, as usual, thumbed its frost-nipped nose at calendars, including the Oregon Department of Transportation’s.

On Tuesday, the first day studded tires were illegal on the state’s highways, a snowstorm slickened highways in Central and Southeastern Oregon.

Baker County, fortunately, was spared this storm.

But as anyone knows who has lived here for more than a few years, it’s hardly uncommon for heavy snow to fall in April (and, let’s be honest, in May or, occasionally, in June).

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Don’t punish all renters


We don’t like that Baker City had to hire a collection agency to try to recover about $25,000 in unpaid water/sewer bills during the most recent fiscal year.

But we like even less the prospect of forcing many residents — most of whom pay their utility bills on time — to pay higher rents because a relatively handful of renters are irresponsible.

We’re concerned, though, that the latter scenario would result if the City Council goes along with the proposal City Manager Mike Kee unveiled earlier this month.

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Walden’s bill has promise


Rep. Greg Walden has gotten right to the heart of the debate over managing national forests, and he only needed to write a four-page bill to do it.

Which must be some sort of record for legislative brevity.

Walden, the lone Republican in Oregon’s congressional delegation, thinks residents ought to have a louder voice when the U.S. Forest Service proposes to restrict motor vehicle use on national forests.

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Raises OK, but drop the charts


Baker City Manager Mike Kee’s proposal to give the city’s 16 non-union employees a 1.5 percent pay raise, retroactive to Jan. 1, is reasonable.

That’s comparable to the contracts the City Council approved last year with the city’s three unions. Those deals include annual raises of either 1 percent or 1.5 percent.

Moreover, the non-union staff, which includes department heads, three public works supervisors and three assistant fire chiefs, hasn’t had an across-the-board pay hike since 2011.

The non-union raises would cost the city about $19,000, a modest amount as part of the city’s overall budget, and one that would not require the city to reduce any services.

We were not, however, persuaded that pay raises are needed based on the comparison chart that Kee gave to councilors to bolster his argument.

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Paying for a cat fix


We agree with Suzanne Fouty that there are too many feral or otherwise unwanted cats in Baker City.

We also agree with Fouty, who coordinates the Mollie Atwater and Friends Spay/Neuter Program, that an infusion of cash to deal with the problem would improve our quality of life.

But we think there might be a way to achieve that goal without requiring residents to help pay for a project some of them might oppose.

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