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Too many days off


We don’t think it’s a stretch to assume we weren’t alone in expressing surprise, and disappointment, when we learned that more than 3 in 10 Baker High School students missed at least 10 percent of the school days — at least 15 days — during the 2012-13 school year.

A recent study published by The Oregonian no doubt caused similar consternation across the state.

After poring over school attendance reports, the newspaper found that 24 percent of Oregon high school students missed at least 10 percent of the total school days that year.

That BHS students are absent more often than most of their counterparts takes a bit of the luster off another recent report that showed the high school’s graduation rate was 80 percent last year — 13 percentage points higher than the Oregon average.


A timely tire study


Oregon Rep. Cliff Bentz isn’t promising to have the final word on the efficacy of studded snow tires.

But the Ontario Republican, whose legislative district includes Baker County, certainly is justified in saying that a pending study which he helped to inspire “will provide valuable information for all of us.”

Bentz, who has opposed proposed bans on studded tires in Oregon — a position we share — announced this week that the Oregon Department of Transportation will compile several national and international studies that compare the effectiveness of studded and studless snow tires on a variety of road conditions.


Keeping the public informed


Oregon’s Public Meetings Law is designed to ensure elected officials conduct their business, which is to say our business, in public forums.

The law applies to city, county and state agencies, but not to federal agencies such as the Forest Service and BLM. We note this distinction by way of setting the stage for a recent situation in which two of the three Baker County commissioners, Mark Bennett and Fred Warner Jr., met with Forest Service officials to get an update on the planned revisions of management plans for the three national forests in the Blue Mountains.

With a three-person board it takes just two to make a quorum. But the presence of a quorum doesn’t necessarily mean the gathering is a public meeting — one which the board must publicly announce in advance and which the public is entitled to attend.


Langrell: Drop mayor title, stay on as councilor


Baker City Mayor Richard Langrell, who is demanding the city reimburse him almost $15,000 in water and sewer bills he paid over the past nine years, should give up his title.

But he also should continue to serve as a city councilor, representing the people who elected him in November 2012.

In the council-manager form of government that Baker City adopted more than half a century ago, the title of mayor carries no special powers. The mayor can’t, for instance, veto a decision by his colleagues.

Basically, the mayor’s duties, beyond that of a regular councilor, are to preside over meetings and sign ordinances and other documents.


Conflict and Coles


Baker City Councilor Roger Coles should have publicly announced during the Council’s Jan. 14 meeting that his wife, Dawn, works for the Baker County YMCA.

During that meeting Roger Coles criticized City Manager Mike Kee and other city staff for failing to work with the YMCA to plan for needed repairs at Sam-O Swim Center. The city owns the swimming pool and the YMCA manages it.

To be clear, we don’t believe Councilor Coles has an actual conflict of interest in this matter.


A waste of $6.1 million


Government’s ability to obscure simple matters in the impenetrable foliage of jargon is infamous, yet even our cynical eyes can still be surprised.

This would be an amusing trait if it weren’t also so often an expensive one, with tax dollars footing the bill.

As reported in a story in Monday’s issue of the Herald, Oregon is among nine states that have received $6.1 million from the U.S. Department of Education to.....

Well, here’s where that jargon jungle gets in the way.


The GOP challenge


Baker County Republicans had a great chance Wednesday to talk with five people who will be seeking their vote in the May primary, and it was heartening to see a meeting room at the Sunridge Inn filled.

The county’s Republican Party put together the forum that brought to Baker City the five candidates who want to replace Democrat Jeff Merkley as U.S. senator. Although only registered Republicans will get to decide which of the five will challenge Merkley in the general election — Jason Conger, Tim Crawley, Mark Callahan, Monica Wehby and Jo Rae Perkins — the event was a valuable chance for all residents to hear from the group, one of whom might be representing us at the Capitol a year from now.


City staff is sufficient


The Baker City Council last week revived a debate that councilors started last spring.

The issue is whether the city has enough employees to do all the tasks residents expect.

Councilor Mike Downing contends the city workforce is too small. 

He believes the city needs more firefighters, police officers and public works employees.

Mayor Richard Langrell and Councilor Roger Coles disagree.


Consider open primaries


A Union County group thinks all voters in that county should be able to choose among county commission candidates in primary elections.

This is an idea worth considering in Baker County as well.

Both Baker and Union counties are among a minority of Oregon counties — 16 of 36 — where county commissioners are partisan offices.

We don’t mind that, per se.


Events should continue


It would seem at first glance that it’s been a tough run these past several months for Baker City events.

Last August the Chamber of Commerce announced that it would no longer sponsor Miners Jubilee.

And now Historic Baker City Inc., which puts on the Taste of Baker, the Christmas parlor tour and the Christmas parade, is set to lose about half of its revenue through the downtown Economic Improvement District.

Yet we remain confident that there are those among Baker’s business community and volunteers who are numerous and energetic enough to ensure that those events which residents truly value will continue to happen, even if the names of the organizers and sponsors change.


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