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Keep payments coming

The financial storm bearing down on a few Oregon counties has so far raised scarcely a breeze in Baker County.

But although the tempest threatening Curry, Josephine and some other counties with insolvency remains distant, the heavy weather could come to Eastern Oregon as well.


Angry Americans defeat censorship


We were pleased to watch last week as the hot breath of Americans, angry over the possible hobbling of the free-ranging Internet, prevailed over the chill wind of censorship.

A pair of bills, one in the U.S. Senate and one in the House of Representatives, seem destined for failure.


Focus in Salem


Oregon’s Legislature won’t have time to dawdle during the session that starts Feb. 1.

Voters decided two years ago that state lawmakers should convene every year, rather than every other year as was the tradition.

However, the measure that voters endorsed also limits legislative sessions during even-numbered years to 35 days.

(The limit for odd-numbered years is 160 days.)


Crypto caution

We sympathize with Baker City councilors as they grapple with a pending $2.5 million tab to further cleanse the city’s drinking water, which is already admirably pure.

But we urge councilors to be judicious in expressing their concerns about the federal rule designed to protect people from cryptosporidium and other microscopic parasites that can make people sick and, in rare cases, kill them.

We’re not suggesting councilors muzzle themselves.

In fact we encourage them to interrogate government officials about the rules. We’re particularly interested in the possibility, as City Manager Mike Kee told councilors last week, that the current rules could change before the city’s October 2016 deadline to deal with crypto.

That said, councilors would do their constituents a disservice if, as Councilor Clair Button warned last week, the city incurs a fine or other penalty because it misses a key deadline.

We don’t think that’s likely. The city has plenty of time before it totally commits to buying equipment that will subject our drinking water to a disinfecting dose of ultraviolet light.


Not all birds equal

The federal government has shown a curious inconsistency in its concern for wildlife over the past quarter century or so.

Early in that period, the plight of the spotted owl was deemed so dire that, by way of a federal judge’s ruling and the subsequent policies of several federal agencies, it was decided that only a drastic curtailment of logging on public lands could fix the problem.


A holiday lesson


The Baker School District seems to have learned a lesson about having classes on legal holidays.

We understand why the school board decided, last April, to make Monday, Jan. 2 a regular school day even though, as a result of New Year’s Day falling on a Sunday, Jan. 1 was the legal holiday.

This is the district’s first school year with a four-day week. Having classes on one legal holiday gives the district a little more flexibility in meeting its required number of school days.

What officials perhaps didn’t fully account for, though, is the ubiquity of technology.


Moderation, BLM


The Bureau of Land Management’s strategy for managing 428,000 acres in the region, most of them in Baker County, was conceived during the Reagan Administration.

BLM figures it’s time for a fresh outlook. This is appropriate, considering events that have transpired in the past quarter century which directly affect how BLM deals with the vast swathes of public ground for which it’s responsible.

Protecting sage grouse habitat, and a heightened interest in how livestock grazing and motor vehicles affect flora and fauna, are but a few examples.


Do ZIP codes eat?


We reacted to the public service announcement aired on a local radio station with a sensation approaching horror.

Just 33 percent of Baker County “has access to healthy food,” the announcer informs listeners.

The spot concludes with what’s obviously supposed to sound like the voice of a pitiful child who says, in a plaintive tone, “Mom, I’m hungry.”

It is indeed a troubling notion, that two-thirds of us in Baker County — about 10,800 people — can’t get healthy food.

But then we consulted the source of that statistic.


Celebrating safely

And so we bid farewell to 2011.

It was an eventful year — earthquakes, tsunami, debt ceiling debate — but we expect 2011 might seem placid compared with the inevitable spectacle of the presidential campaign.

The economy failed to rouse itself as we had hoped.

But there were positive trends, too. It was a good year, generally speaking, for the agriculture industry, a mainstay of Baker County’s economy.


Watching Vermont


Vermont has gotten our attention.

And it has nothing to do with maple syrup.

Or ice cream.

We’re curious, rather, about that state’s attempt to show that universal health care is attainable in the U.S.

A group visited Baker City last week to promote Vermont’s first-of-its-kind program.

Their enthusiasm, though palpable, doesn’t answer the key question: How to pay for supplying health insurance to people who don’t have it now?

Apparently Vermont is still working on its answer.


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