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.
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.
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.
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.
We’ve not seen evidence that anyone plans to try to open a medical marijuana store in Baker County.
But we agree with Baker City Police Chief Wyn Lohner that local elected officials should start thinking about the issue, and in particular about whether they want to restrict or outright ban such businesses.
Whether such prohibitions would survive legal challenges is an open question, but that hasn’t discouraged other Oregon cities from taking action.
Since Aug. 14, when Gov. John Kitzhaber signed into law House Bill 3460, which legalizes medical marijuana dispensaries, several cities, including Medford and Gresham, have enacted ordinances that in effect ban such businesses.
The basis for these bans is that marijuana remains illegal under federal law, which does not recognize the Oregon statute, and that cities and counties have the legal right to prohibit businesses that violate federal law.
If every action government agencies take on our behalf, and with our money, happened during a public meeting, there wouldn’t be much need for a public records law.
Obviously this isn’t the case.
Indeed, much of the government action, so to speak, happens outside the public’s purview. These actions almost always produce records, though — emails, memos and the like.
The notion that the public should be able to have a look at these records — “our” records, as we like to think of them — is hardly new. Oregon’s Public Records and Public Meetings laws were passed in 1973.
Yet over the ensuing four decades the trend has been to make it more difficult for people to see public records.
In the grand tradition of federal government documents, the BLM’s draft environmental impact statement (EIS) outlining possible strategies for managing sage grouse habitat in Oregon is of daunting length.
At 900 pages or so, it requires strong arms to heft the paper copy, and a muscled microprocessor to open the pdf version.
But also in common with some other federal treatises of even greater mass — the Affordable Care Act, for instance — the sage grouse plan could have significant effects that aren’t obvious from a cursory reading.
Which, let’s be honest, is about all most people have the time and inclination to invest.
It was inevitable that the tragic bus crash that happened on Interstate 84 near Pendleton, one year ago today, would precipitate a lawsuit.
The 12 plaintiffs, 10 of whom were riding on the bus that careened off the freeway and into a ravine, killing nine people and injuring 38, might have a decent case against the tour bus operator, Mi Joo Tour & Travel Ltd. of Vancouver, B.C., and the driver, Haeng-Kyu Hwang.
(The two other plaintiffs are the estates of two passengers who died.)
But the claim of negligence against Oregon and its Department of Transportation seems to us misguided.
Some people don’t much like the hydroelectric dams on the Columbia River, but even a dam-hater has to admit that the power those dams produce qualifies as “renewable.”
Certainly there’s no reason to believe the mighty Columbia is apt to stop flowing.
Yet according to a law the Oregon Legislature passed in 2007, the Columbia’s hydropower isn’t renewable. That law requires large utilities — our local Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative (OTEC) isn’t included — to get at least 25 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2025.
At least Medicare works most of the time.
In Baker County, where almost one in four residents is 65 or older, that federal health insurance program is more important than in most other places, where the population is younger.
Medicare seems a paragon of governmental efficiency compared with Cover Oregon, the state’s new health insurance exchange that’s supposed to help Oregonians who aren’t eligible for Medicare or another program.
“Supposed to” is the key phrase here, because Cover Oregon is working about as well as a car engine does with half its pistons removed.
And to belabor the automotive analogies, the latest advice from Cover Oregon’s interim director, Bruce Goldberg, is tantamount to a Chevrolet dealer telling a prospective customer that he’s better off heading across town to the Ford outlet.
Earlier this week Goldberg acknowledged that because of Cover Oregon’s inability to process applications — a task being done manually because the organization’s website is dysfunctional — thousands of applicants will need to buy insurance elsewhere if they want to avoid going without coverage until Cover Oregon can get its act together.
Merry Christmas, indeed.
It’s hard to imagine Cover Oregon having a more disappointing debut. We hope the new year brings a new level of competence to a program that a lot of people are depending on.