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Schools panic alarm needs work

The Baker School District’s emergency alarm system is a great addition to local schools, one with the potential to save lives should someone threaten a school.

But as is the case with much new technology, the system has been plagued by glitches.

Specifically, a pair of accidental activations of the system — one on Sept. 24, one on Oct. 23 — at Brooklyn Primary School brought a full contingent of police and other emergency responders to the school, which houses about 450 kids from kindergarten through third grade.

Practice drills are worthwhile, of course, but neither of the events at Brooklyn was planned.

Election ’14: Our choices

The Nov. 4 election ballot is a lengthy one, and we’ve published our endorsements for several races and measures over the past month or so.

Our preferences:

• Dennis Richardson for Oregon governor

• Monica Wehby for U.S. Senate

• Greg Walden for U.S. House of Representatives

• Cliff Bentz for Oregon House of Representatives

• Measure 88 (drivers cards without requiring proof of legal residence in Oregon): NO

• Measure 90 (top two candidates, regardless of party, advance from primary election to general election): NO

• Measure 91 (legalizing recreational use of marijuana for ages 21 and over): NO

• Measure 92 (labeling foods containing GMOs): YES

• Baker City measures 1-59 and 1-60 (authorizing sale of two forest parcels near Salmon Creek): YES on both

Yes on city’s two land sales

The latter two items on the Nov. 4 ballot for Baker City voters could almost escape a voter’s attention who has plowed through local, state and federal races and seven statewide measures.

But these two Measures  — 1-59 and 1-60 — could bring a welcome influx of cash to Baker City’s water department.

We recommend a “yes” vote on both measures.

Voter approval would allow the city to sell two parcels of forest land along Salmon Creek, about eight miles west of Baker City near the city’s watershed.

(The city charter requires voter approval before the city sells real property worth $5,000 or more.)

The city acquired the property decades ago but doesn’t need the land for any aspect of its water distribution system. The county assessor’s office lists the real market value of one parcel at $160,560, the other at $25,230.

This is an opportune time to sell the parcels and put the money in the water department budget. The city will be spending about $3 million to disinfect its drinking water with UV light, a process that protects against cryptosporidium, the microscopic parasite that contaminated the city’s water during the summer of 2013 and sickened hundreds of people.

Moreover, selling the property will get the land back on the property tax rolls, generating revenue for public services in Baker County.

Ebola and travel

We don’t think there’s any reason to get hysterical about Ebola in the U.S.

The virus is frightening, but there’s no reason to believe Ebola, which is far less infectious than, say, the cold or flu viruses, will ever spread widely in this country.

That said, we’re perplexed by the resistance of federal officials to restrict air travel between the U.S. and the west African countries where Ebola is prevalent.

Some of the explanations for this resistance seem nonsensical.

Re-elect Cliff Bentz to House

Cliff Bentz has already proved himself an able representative for Baker County in the Oregon Legislature.

But we might need Bentz’s abilities even more in the future, which is why we encourage voters to re-elect the Ontario Republican to another two-year term in the state House of Representatives.

Bentz’s Democratic challenger, Peter Hall of Haines, is an intriguing candidate. Hall says he’s a different sort of Democrat, one who understands the needs of Baker County residents, including the importance of farming and ranching.

But when it comes to the most crucial element of all — availability of water for irrigation — Bentz’s experience and expertise are unrivaled.

Re-elect Walden to U.S. House

Greg Walden has been representing Oregon’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes Baker County, for a decade and a half, but we don’t see any evidence that Walden is getting complacent.

Indeed, the Republican from Hood River has used his increasing clout in Washington, D.C., to become an even more effective representative for our county and region.

We urge voters to reward Walden with a ninth two-year term as our congressman.

Wehby for U.S. Senate

Here’s a hypothetical, but hardly implausible, scenario: Let’s say that during the next six years a federal action will threaten to significantly reduce the supply of irrigation water to the farms and ranches that make up the nearly $100 million in annual sales backbone of the local economy.

Would you trust U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, or his Republican challenger, Monica Wehby, to best defend Baker County’s interests under that scenario?

We choose Wehby.

And we encourage voters to send her to Washington, D.C., in Merkley’s place.

Richardson for Oregon governor

John Kitzhaber’s second stint as Oregon governor has not gone well.

Two of the signature projects during his third term, which started in 2011, were debacles.

Kitzhaber advocated for building a new bridge across the Columbia River between Portland and Vancouver, Washington. The plan died when Washington lawmakers balked, but by then Oregon had spent at least $93 million in federal money.

The feds, not surprisingly, want their money back.

Approve food label measure

Food packages are larded with labels, many of which employ nonspecific adjectives — “wholesome” and the like — rather than plain fact.

Measure 92, which Oregon voters will decide on in the Nov. 4 election, deals with the factual kind of label.

It would require packaged food to include a label if the food contains genetically modified organisms (GMO).

Don’t give illegals driver cards

To support Measure 88, which would allow Oregon to give “driver cards” to people who can’t prove they have the legal right to be in the U.S., you have to believe, among other things, that most illegal immigrants in the state don’t drive.

We’ve not seen any compelling evidence that this is true.

Most generally, people don’t defy U.S. immigration laws unless they have a job here. Most people drive to work. Given that nobody denies that thousands of illegal immigrants are working today in Oregon, it’s beyond dispute that many of those workers, and probably most of them, are already driving, license or not.

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