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Clearing the air

Given the choice between using electricity produced by hydroelectric dams, and burning gallons of comparatively dirty diesel fuel, we’ll take the former.

So would long-haul truck drivers.

Which is hardly a surprise, considering it costs an estimated 70 percent less to use electricity to heat or cool a truck’s cab while it’s parked instead of running the diesel engine to supply the power.

And in Oregon, this issue will soon be a legal as well as an economic one.


No fearing Fridays

The day that parents dread is less than three weeks away.
It’s no longer a school day in Baker City.
The Baker School District’s new four-day schedule debuts Aug. 29. Sept. 2 is the first non-school Friday.
Fortunately, local groups have an array of events that not only disqualify the excuse that students don’t have anything to do on Fridays, but also help parents ensure their kids have safe, healthy activities to keep them busy.
The Baker County Family YMCA, for instance, has designed “Plugged In,” a program that will run at North Baker School, 2725 Seventh St., on Friday and other weekdays when school’s out.
The program, for students in kindergarten through Grade 6, includes physical fitness, pajama parties and field trips.
Volunteers will help kids with homework, too.
Two free options: the Lutheran Church’s Kids Club, which remains a Friday staple; and the Baker County Library, which opens at 8 a.m. every Friday.
Crossroads Carnegie Art Center offers a variety of classes throughout the year.
And in a pinch, you could volunteer at a local nonprofit organization.


That's a crisis?

The word “crisis” pretty well was worn out during discussions this winter and spring about Oregon’s two-year budget cycle, which started July 1.

Turns out we could have just let that word relax.

Considering what state officials have done — and what they haven’t done — in the past six months, describing the state’s fiscal situation as a crisis seems at best exaggerated, and at worst grossly misleading.

First, the Legislature failed to do anything to curb the cost of Oregon’s Public Employees Retirement System.

More recently, Gov. John Kitzhaber, who wasn’t averse to dire predictions about the budget after he was elected last November, negotiated contracts with the two unions that combined represent most state workers.

Those deals, which have yet to be ratified by union members, look a lot more like the status quo than they do the result of a financial emergency.


Hiding test results behind privacy curtain

In the decade since President George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act, schools across the nation have amassed reams of results from the standardized tests that the federal law requires.

Education officials emphasize how important it is that schools make those results readily accessible to the public.

Susan Castillo, Oregon’s superintendent of public instruction, made just that point during an interview with the Baker City Herald’s editorial board a couple weeks ago.

Castillo’s department makes available through its website the test results from every public school in Oregon.

Castillo describes this as “transparency.”

But the view seems rather murky to us.


Keep postal presence in smallest towns

You just have to admire the rhetorical acrobatics required to describe the closure of 3,600 post offices as part of an “expanded access” program.

This is sort of like letting the air out of your car’s tires and calling it an “enhanced transportation technique.”

Yet “expanded access” is the term that’s associated with the U.S. Postal Service’s proposal, announced last week, to close as many as 3,600, mainly rural, post offices.

That list, released last week, includes four offices in Baker County: Unity, Hereford, Durkee and Oxbow.


Thoughtless acts

Whatever compulsion it is that motivates vandals is one of the more perplexing of human traits.

On the roster of crimes, vandalism, because it targets objects rather than people or animals, ranks relatively low.

Yet it is the utter mindlessness of such acts that’s so puzzling.

Annoying, too — especially when the target is a publicly owned park that opened just a few weeks ago.


Wallowa-Whitman doesn't welcome visitors

The Wallowa-Whitman National Forest has a problem with its rules limiting how long campers can stay on the forest.

Two problems, actually.

The first involves the rules themselves.

The second has to do with making sure campers can easily find out what they can and can’t do.

Fortunately, both issues ought to be easy to fix.


Recognizing reality

We understand that several dozen Republicans were elected last November to the House of Representatives in part because they pledged to pursue fiscal sanity in the Capitol.

We recognize too that those lawmakers don’t want to appear, in the eyes of their constituents, as spineless sellouts less than a year later by voting to increase the nation’s debt ceiling.


Getting ahead of the grouse

Baker County ranchers have a rare chance to prepare for, rather than react to, the listing of an endangered species.

We hope a lot of them take advantage.

The species is the sage grouse. About one-third of Baker County, mostly in the sagebrush-rich eastern and southern sections, is habitat for the chicken-size bird.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has decided that federal protection for the sage grouse is warranted, but that other species are higher priorities.


Feds have obligation to counties

There’s a whole lot of hands reaching for a share of federal dollars these days.

But few can make a more compelling case than the one presented by counties in the West, including Baker County.

Here’s why: In dozens of western counties the federal government owns a majority of the land. But the feds don’t pay property taxes on those tens of millions of acres, which deprives the counties, and their public schools, of a significant source of money.

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