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Volunteers transform playground

The new playground equipment at Geiser-Pollman park will be installed this week.

The Playground Improvement Project was the brainchild of two Baker City moms, Lisa Britton Jacoby and Megan Fisher, who thought it would be a good idea to have upgraded, safer playground structures at Geiser-Pollman Park.  After asking about how to make that happen, they found that there was no money in the Baker City parks budget for the equipment.

So instead of shrugging their shoulders and walking away, they started doing some research and created a plan for the playground, and researched ways to raise the money and community support needed to buy new play structures.


Mayce, Brian’s legacies

Last week was a tribute to how Baker County residents strive to make something positive from tragedies.

Both examples happened at Baker High School.

On Wednesday, April 30, BHS students and others brought their cars to the school for the annual Brian Sorensen Car Rally.

The event honors Sorensen, a 2000 BHS graduate who died from Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, on June 30, 2000.

The car rally that bears Brian’s name raises money for the Ronald McDonald House in Boise, where Brian’s family stayed while he was undergoing treatment.


Supreme Court right on prayer


The Supreme Court weighed in more than a decade too late to have much influence on Baker City’s controversy, but the nation’s highest court has finally endorsed, albeit by the narrowest margin, the City Council’s longtime practice of opening its meetings with a Christian invocation.

In a 5-4 ruling Monday on a case from Greece, N.Y., the Court decided that invocations made during local meetings, including prayers that are explicitly Christian, are constitutional.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, concluded that “the inclusion of a brief, ceremonial prayer as part of a larger exercise in civic recognition suggests that its purpose and effect are to acknowledged religious leaders and the institutions they represent, rather than to exclude or coerce nonbelievers.”

We agree with Kennedy’s conclusion.


Bennett’s experience gives him the edge


Mark Bennett is the incumbent in his campaign against his fellow Republican challengers Gene Stackle and Dick Fleming for Position 2 on the Baker County Board of Commissioners.

But incumbency isn’t Bennett’s major advantage, and it’s not the main reason we urge registered Republicans to vote for him in the May 20 primary.

What distinguishes Bennett is his experience in helping to run Baker County, and the knowledge he’s gained during more than 20 years as a county employee.

Bennett’s career includes stints in two jobs that give him a depth of expertise about issues that matter to county residents, a depth that few candidates for his position have boasted.


Hire more, spend less?


In most businesses and government agencies, employees’ salaries and benefits are the biggest part of the budget, so it follows logically that the more workers employed the greater the cost.

Not necessarily.

If an organization has so few workers that those on the payroll have to work a lot of extra hours, the attempt to run a lean operation can backfire and lead to corpulent overtime bills.

In some cases an outfit might save money by hiring a new employee and severely curtailing overtime.


We can influence the feds


The federal government, it turns out, isn’t quite the inflexible monolith it’s often purported to be.

Last week the U.S. Forest Service decided to give the public an extra 60 days to comment on the draft version of new forest management plans for the Wallowa-Whitman, Umatilla and Malheur national forests.

This was a welcome concession.

Although mandatory seems to us the more appropriate adjective, considering the various documents the Forest Service released to the public in March exceed 1,000 pages.

And this is not light reading, in the figurative or the literal sense.


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.


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.


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.


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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