South Albany High School’s campaign to, in effect, scrub with soap
the mouths of students who cuss in the halls has spawned more publicity
than we’d have guessed.
South Albany’s principal, we’re confident in claiming, isn’t the
first school official to notice that teenagers’ language is not always
But even though we’re a trifle amused by the attention South Albany’s cursing crackdown has gotten, we’re more pleased.
As a policy statement, Baker County’s draft Natural Resources Plan contains much that we like.
The 47-page document emphasizes how important the million acres of public land in the county are to our economy and to our quality of life.
Those acres, which comprise slightly more than half the county’s land, contain, among other vital resources:
• the bulk of the water that we drink, use to grow crops and that sustains fish and wildlife;
• the grass that nourishes many of the cattle that are a mainstay of our economy;
• the majority of the forests, meadows and mountains that attract hikers, hunters and other visitors whose patronage benefits our local businesses
Yet, because two federal rather than local agencies — the Forest Service and BLM — control the vast majority of those million acres, it’s possible that the interests of Baker County residents won’t be taken into account when those agencies decide how to manage the land.
Baker City building and store owners, along with local government
officials, have devoted countless hours and millions of dollars to make
the city’s downtown historic district a jewel among Oregon downtowns.
A small, but meaningful, part of that effort is the campaign to ensure that downtown sidewalks look the same.
For more than 20 years a city ordinance required that all new
sidewalks in the historic district have two-foot squares scored into
That design matches the sidewalks on both sides of Main Street.
Those were built when the state repaved the street (which is part of a
state highway) in the late 1980s.
The mandatory design was effective. Over the past two decades,
sections of sidewalks elsewhere in the historic district were replaced,
and downtown sidewalks gradually took on a more uniform — and in our
view more attractive — appearance.
But then last year, as part of a broader project to overhaul city
ordinances, Public Works Director Michelle Owen proposed changing the
So why are we pleased by the news that Baker City’s personnel costs will rise by $70,000 next fiscal year?
Because PERS is involved.
And although $70,000 is no trifling sum — that’ll get the city a
police officer or a firefighter for a year — it’s a much more shallow
gouge in the city’s general fund than some people had predicted.
PERS is Oregon’s retirement system for public employees.
And for workers who were hired before 1996, it’s a shockingly generous system.
Unfortunately, that generosity, at least for those long-term employees, is guaranteed even if PERS investments implode.
Which they did, along with much of the rest of the economy in 2008-09.
Although the stock market has rebounded considerably since, some
analysts still predict that for the state, along with the cities,
counties and school districts that keep PERS solvent, the worst days
For instance, Phil Keisling, the former Oregon Secretary of State,
wrote a report late last year that within five years, some public
agencies could have their PERS bill double.
Anyone who succumbs to frustration while trying to figure out how to
raise money for a worthwhile cause ought to remember these two words:
If the licking predilections of the bovine can bring in thousands of
dollars for research into Parkinson’s Disease, then pretty much
anything is possible in the realm of fundraising.
The idea of auctioning salt licks, the brainchild of Baker County
raconteur Whit Deschner, ought to inspire everyone who aspires to do
Which is not to say that every scheme will succeed the way Whit’s has done.
Rare is the crime which seems to lack any reason.
The reason might be specious.
It might be ridiculous.
But it can be understood, if not condoned.
We’re perplexed, though, as to what would motivate someone to first
damage, and then steal, a cross marking the place where a 17-year-old
girl was killed in a car crash.
In March, Kayla Petty of Baker City died in the accident along Highway 7 near Phillips Reservoir.
Sometimes votes that don’t count still matter.
The Union County Commissioners — two of the three, anyway — were wise to recognize this.
Commissioners Mark Davidson and Steve McClure, who were opposed by
their colleague Nellie Hibbert, decided earlier this month to ask
county voters, at the Nov. 2 election, whether they’re for or against a
$600 million wind farm that a company wants to build near Union.
The result of this advisory vote will have no direct effect on
whether Horizon Wind Energy actually constructs the Antelope Ridge Wind
Congressman Greg Walden, the Republican who has represented Eastern
Oregon for almost a dozen years, doesn’t need to debate his Democratic
challenger, Joyce Segers of Ashland, to ensure his re-election.
But Walden should do it anyway.
He has an obligation to his constituents, a group that includes
thousands of Democrats who likely didn’t vote for Walden in any of his
six electoral victories dating to 1998.
Public debates are a vital part of our political system.
Even in the most scripted debate, where the candidates approve the
topics in advance and the sequence of response and rebuttal is strictly
controlled, voters are apt to learn things about the candidates that
they can’t from reading the heavily massaged propaganda of a campaign.
Or, worse still, from watching TV ads.
So it looks as though leaders of that 50-member Florida church, who
attracted international attention for their plan (canceled late
Thursday) to burn dozens and perhaps hundreds of copies of the Quran,
the Muslim holy book, on Saturday not only are experts in vilifying
Islam, they’re also crack military commanders.
Wayne Sapp, an associate pastor at the Dove World Outreach Center (a
place with a singularly misleading name), seems to believe he knows
more about the dangers facing American troops in Afghanistan than does
Gen. David Petraeus.
But then why should Petraeus have any inkling of what’s going on over there?
He’s only the top U.S. and NATO commander in the war, after all.
Petraeus, in an e-mail he sent to The Associated Press this week,
wrote that if the Florida church does torch those Qurans on the ninth
anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the incident
“would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan — and around
the world — to inflame public opinion and incite violence.”
Sapp, though, is skeptical.
We understand that the state’s union employees wouldn’t solve Oregon’s budget crisis even if they gave up their recent 4.75-percent pay raise.
But we’re also pretty sure that Oregonians will continue to be regularly bombarded with dire fiscal predictions so long as the officials who negotiate contracts with the unions go to the bargaining table rather like lambs to the slaughter.
The cycle is familiar and depressing.
Last week the state’s chief economist announced that Oregon’s budget hole, previously estimated at more than half a billion dollars, is $378 million deeper.
Almost simultaneously, the state boosted union workers’ pay by that 4.75 percent. That increase, which is part of the contracts state officials negotiated with the unions, will cost the state about $16 million just through the end of the biennium, June 30, 2011.
So much for those “we’re all in this together” speeches.