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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.


Traveling travesty


Lean times, these past few years.

But not for everyone.

Oregon state government, for instance, in what seems to us a contradiction of its incessant claims of financial trouble, barely trimmed its spending in areas that could hardly be described as essential.

Unless, of course, you consider it essential that the state pay for employees to attend meetings and conferences in places such as Salishan, Sunriver and, in one case, Gibraltar.


City's challenge


The case of Baker City’s newest cell phone tower raises an interesting conundrum for City Hall.

But the episode also gives the city a chance to possibly mend fences with some residents, and avoid controversies.

Last winter T-Mobile applied for a conditional-use permit to install a 50-foot tower and a 220-square-foot building on Spring Garden Hill.


Thanks, Mr. Silvers


The only trouble with a bequeathed gift is that you can’t personally thank the giver.

A pity, because we’d like to shake Anthony Silvers’ hand and tell him how much we appreciate what he’s done for Baker City.


BLM had to do it

It points to a disappointing trend, but the BLM’s decision to close the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center three days per week this winter makes sense.

What doesn’t make sense is keeping the Center open on days when just a couple dozen visitors show up.

During the past eight Januarys, for instance, the daily average has been 19 visitors.

But no matter how many people paid admission, the BLM had to make sure the Center was staffed and the snow plowed from the access road.

Center Director Sarah LeCompte estimates the BLM will save $20,000 to $30,000 by closing on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays through Feb. 12.

Not a king’s ransom, to be sure. But the savings could be important considering BLM is expecting 5-percent cuts in the Center’s budget each of the next three years.

Fortunately, the BLM will open the Center, regardless of the day, for large tour groups that pre-arrange a visit. That will help local tourism officials who are trying to attract just such groups.

Ideally, as the economy improves, visitor numbers will increase enough to justify resuming the Center’s normal, 7-days-per-week schedule.


Who needs a trial?


Imagine that a U.S. citizen is arrested as a suspected terrorist, on U.S. soil, and then placed in military custody for as long as officials deem necessary.

Oh, and this citizen doesn’t get a trial, so the mere suspicion of complicity in promoting terrorism is sufficient grounds for an open-ended detention.

It sounds like the plot of a novel.

In fact it’s part of a bill that the U.S. Senate passed by a 93-7 vote on Dec. 1.

Greatest deliberative body in history, right?


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