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Council made right choice on guns in parks


The Baker City Council was wise Tuesday to not tinker any more than was necessary with the city’s parks ordinance and its reference to visitors who carry guns.

The matter came to the Council at the behest of City Attorney Brent Smith. He noticed recently that the city’s current parks ordinance is in conflict with Oregon law.

The city ordinance prohibits people from having a gun in a city park. Yet state law allows some people, including those who have a concealed carry license for a handgun, to have a gun in most public places, including parks.

The Council simply removed the conflicting clause.

Councilors had also considered replacing that clause with one restricting certain people from carrying a loaded gun in a park, but Police Chief Wyn Lohner recommended against doing so.

Lohner’s concern is that someone might choose to test the city’s legal authority by openly carrying a gun, whether loaded or not, in a park.

Lohner, in a memo to councilors, emphasized that though he opposes adding a clause restricting openly carried guns, he doesn’t want to possibly entice people to openly carry guns in parks. We agree with the chief — There’s no reason for the city to create a potential problem where none exists now.

 

Is UV light enough?


Baker City Manager Mike Kee said recently that the city’s water supply could be protected against cryptosporidium within 12 months with the installation of an ultraviolet light treatment plant.

That’s good.

Our question is whether it’s good enough.

Although crypto has been the focus of the city’s efforts for the past several weeks, and rightfully so, the parasite is hardly the only water-treatment threat the city faces.

And UV light, though effective against crypto, is no defense against some of those other threats.

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Time for a special session


Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber is ready to try again where he failed, by a single vote, earlier this summer.

Kitzhaber called this week for a special session of the Legislature to convene Sept. 30 with one goal: Approving the governor’s “grand bargain.”

That two-pronged plan includes cuts in Oregon Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) beyond what lawmakers passed this spring, bringing the total paring to $900 million, as well as $200 million in new taxes.

It’s the second part of the package that doomed the grand bargain earlier this summer.

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Water talks in the open


In the wake of Baker City’s crypto outbreak, our elected city councilors have a responsibility to make sure that city employees responsible for the water system are doing their jobs competently, in order to prevent another public health crisis.

Unfortunately, the City Council’s public “work session” last Thursday accomplished little except to further confuse city residents who already have more questions than answers about this summer’s unprecedented contamination of their drinking water.

During that meeting councilors talked about the tone of emails they have received, apparently written by other councilors, dealing with alleged mistakes made by city staff.

Councilor Kim Mosier described the language of these emails as “hostile.”

Councilor Barbara Johnson deemed the missives “mean-spirited."

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Stay out of Syria’s civil war


After more than a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, we’re distressed that Americans need even to consider the possibility that a single member of our military will die or be injured while intervening in Syria’s civil war.

The notion that an attack in Syria by the U.S. and other western allies is the only, or even the best, way to prevent the further use of chemical weapons in that war seems to us an illogical one.

To be sure, diplomatic alternatives offer no guarantee of success, either.

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Crypto: Next steps


We might never solve the mystery of Baker City’s cryptosporidium outbreak.

Which is to say, we might never know where, and when, enough of the parasite got into the water to make hundreds of people sick.

That’s just the nature of this tiny beast.

The problem is that crypto is potentially present in many kinds of mammal poop. And given that the city obtains its water from a 10,000-acre swatch of forest which is home to thousands of animals, all of which defecate, finding the smoking gun, as it were, is rather unlikely.

But of course city officials are hardly powerless.

There are tasks the city can undertake that would either reduce the risk of future crypto outbreaks, or protect the water in case another big dose of the protozoa enters the system.

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A tale of two cities & crypto

 

Baker City has little in common with Portland.

Except for cryptosporidium.

When it comes to that pesky waterborne parasite, we run in the same circles as Oregon’s largest city.

Well, sort of.

Both cities get their water from surface streams that flow through a forested watershed where access by people is severely restricted, but where elk, deer and other wildlife roam free.

Both cities are among the four in Oregon that do not have to filter their surface water to meet federal drinking water standards (the two other cities qualifying for this rare exemption are Bend and Reedsport).

The attitudes of officials in Portland and Baker City toward crypto, and the threat it poses to their constituents’ health, however, is rather different.

Baker City officials certainly hadn’t made crypto their top priority until hundreds of people were sickened with crypto over the past few weeks.

But the city did, a few years ago, pretty much settle on installing an ultraviolet light treatment plant, and in fact had started the preliminary work on the project.

Portland officials, meanwhile, have consistently argued that their city shouldn’t have to do anything to protect Bull Run water against crypto.

Portland even convinced the Oregon Health Authority’s Drinking Water Program, in 2012, to grant the city the first, and so far the only, variance to the federal law that requires Baker City to begin treating its water to remove the crypto threat by Oct. 1, 2016.

The 10-year deal allows Portland to avoid building a treatment plant, in exchange for doing regular testing for crypto in its water supply.

What strikes us as especially interesting, though, is that until the crypto outbreak that has caused so much trouble in Baker City this summer, our experience with crypto had been similar to Portland’s.

In 2010 and 2011, three of 24 samples of Baker City water contained a small amount of crypto — two oocysts in one sample, and one oocyst in each of two samples. No cases of infection were reported during that period.

In late December 2011 and early January 2012, three samples of Portland water also contained crypto, and at precisely the same amounts as Baker City’s samples — two oocysts in one sample, one in each of two others.

Portland, unlike Baker City, has continued to test for crypto since its positive tests, and has not found any oocysts in several hundred other samples.

We’re more than a little surprised that, so far as we can tell based on media coverage, Baker City’s crypto outbreak hasn’t attracted much attention in Portland or the other cities that buy Bull Run water.

We’re surprised because the similarities between the two cities’ water supplies, and their vulnerabilities to crypto, are so striking. If nothing else, Baker City’s experience is compelling evidence that the potential for Portland’s water to be contaminated with infectious levels of crypto probably is not so remote as Portland officials have argued.

And for sheer numbers, Portland has us beat in a big way. Close to 1 million people — about one in every four Oregonians — drink Bull Run water.  That’s a lot of potential illness.

 

 

City still needs answers


That there are more questions about Baker City’s crypto outbreak than answers is frustrating, to residents and city officials alike.

This is, unfortunately, the nature of the microscopic parasite.

It is difficult, and perhaps will prove impossible, to ever trace this outbreak, which has sickened several hundred people, to its source.

Yet there are other vital questions for which answers should be more readily available.

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Jubilee can have a future


The Baker County Chamber of Commerce has decided to end its role in organizing Miners Jubilee, but we’re confident that Baker City’s annual July event will persist.

There is a cadre of dedicated volunteers, from service clubs and other groups as well as individuals, who are capable of taking over the Chamber’s tasks, such as signing up vendors for Geiser-Pollman Park, organizing the parade and coordinating the Jubilee button design contest.

We hope too that other organizations which coordinate aspects of the community festival will continue to do so.

These include Historic Baker City Inc., which handles the duck and beaver races, the bed races and other events, the Eastern Oregon Mining Association’s popular displays and contests and the Lions Club’s breakfasts.

This evolution of Miners Jubilee could also result in changes that benefit the event as a whole.

Baker City has an active art community, including the Baker Art Guild, Crossroads Carnegie Art Center and several galleries. We’d like to see more local artists and crafters displaying their works in the park.

And we’d welcome a revival of scheduling local musicians to perform in the park during Jubilee.

Miners Jubilee has some momentum, in part because it’s become the weekend when Baker High School graduates gather for class reunions.

And although public drunkenness and other problems were unusually common during this year’s event, Police Chief Wyn Lohner has been talking with officials from the bull and bronc riding events that, although not officially part of Miners Jubilee, share the weekend and have become mainstay events.

We think this year’s rash of incidents will turn out to be an anomaly.

Ultimately, Miners Jubilee is a community celebration, and as such it can’t last without the support of the community.

We believe that support exists, and that it will show itself in the 2014 Jubilee.

 

City failed its citizens


Until Thursday afternoon, we were generally pleased with Baker City officials’ efforts to get important information to the public about the crypto crisis.

We’re not pleased any more.

Quite the opposite in fact.

With probably the most important fact yet revealed in this episode in its hands between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. Wednesday — that a water sample taken Sunday from Elk Creek contained a vastly higher amount of crypto than any previous sample from any source — the city didn’t post the information to its website.

As of 10 a.m. today that was still the case.

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