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Re-elect Tim Kerns

Tim Kerns has earned another four years as a Baker County commissioner.

Kerns and his colleagues, chairman Fred Warner Jr. and commissioner Carl Stiff, have in general done a good job overseeing county operations the past few years and we don’t believe there’s a compelling reason to tinker with that formula.

Kerns’ greatest asset is his advocacy for issues vital to Baker County’s economy.

In particular, Kerns’ expertise in his own profession — farming — is valuable in a county where agriculture is the biggest sector of the economy.

Kerns, a Republican who has served as a county commissioner since 2001, also will strive to ensure that the Forest Service’s pending decision on closing roads to motorized vehicles will take into account that retaining a certain level of access benefits retail businesses that rely on recreationists.

We share Kerns’ concern about the threat of catastrophic wildfires in the county — especially on the east face of the Elkhorns, which shelter the headwaters of streams that supply much of the irrigation water that Baker Valley farmers and ranchers depend on.

Kerns contends, and we agree, that the Forest Service should strive to protect those streams just as the agency did with its forest thinning and other work in Baker City’s watershed during the past several years.


John McCain for U.S. president

We don’t subscribe to the notion, which we hear from certain quarters, that America’s very survival might well rest on the result of this presidential election.

But the condition of our economy for the next couple years sure does.

And that matters a lot to all of us.

After comparing the two candidates’ prescriptions for our ailing financial system, we’re convinced that Americans would fare better under a John McCain administration than under one led by Barack Obama.

That’s why we urge voters to cast their ballots for McCain.

The most significant difference between McCain’s and Obama’s economic platforms involves their tax plans.

McCain thinks all Americans should turn over a smaller percentage of their income to the federal government.

Obama thinks people who make less than $250,000 per year should pay a smaller percentage, but people who earn more than that should pay a larger percentage — about 3 percent more of their income, from 36 percent to 39 percent.


Re-elect Sen. Smith

Oregonians have a good deal going with their two U.S. senators, and we’d like to see it continue.

Which is why we urge voters to give Republican Gordon Smith six more years in Washington, D.C.

Smith, along with his Democratic colleague, Ron Wyden, exemplifies the sort of thoughtful politician whom Oregonians have long preferred.

Most politicians proclaim, of course, that their allegiance rests with their constituents rather than with their political party. But Smith’s record proves  beyond any question that he’s no blind partisan.

The senator has spearheaded legislation that toughens penalties for hate crimes. He supported bills that require higher gas mileage for new vehicles and that offer incentives for companies to build renewable energy plants.

Those aren’t central planks in the Republican Party’s platform.

But then neither are Smith’s concerns about the Iraq war.


Our endorsements for City Council

Voters can change the roster of the Baker City Council a little or a lot in the Nov. 4 election.

We recommend the latter.

Nine candidates are vying for four vacancies on the seven-member City Council.

Three of the four members of the Baker City Herald’s editorial board had half-hour interviews with eight of those candidates during the past few weeks (Bill Todd declined our invitation).

Editorial board members who attended those interviews are: Kari Borgen, the newspaper’s publisher; Jayson Jacoby, the editor; and Chris Collins, the police and schools reporter. The board’s other member, reporter Mike Ferguson, did not attend candidate interviews because he writes news stories about the City Council and so, in the interest of preserving his objectivity, he was not involved in the board’s decision about endorsing candidates.

We urge residents to give their votes to this quartet: Aletha Bonebrake, Clair Button, Jeremy Gilpin and Milo Pope.

Voters will quickly notice, we suspect, that we are not endorsing any of the three incumbents: Sam Bass, Gail Duman and Terry Schumacher.


Economy of the future

The future of Baker County’s economy is already here.

We just need to start tapping it.

The term you hear most often is alternative energy, but why don’t we just delete the “alternative?”

Energy is energy.

Your light bulbs don’t burn brighter if the electricity was generated by burning coal rather than flowing water or gusting wind.

Semantics aside, energy sources such as wind and biomass bring so many potential benefits, and pose few if any pitfalls, that there’s no legitimate reason why local officials and residents should not pursue them vigorously.

The planned hydroelectric plant at Mason Dam is a good start, and the iron is quite hot now for more — the $700 billion financial bailout includes $17 billion in tax credits for renewable energy.


Here’s a deal: Trees make money just standing around

Selling carbon credits sounds farfetched, but the process could be one of the best things ever to happen to Baker County’s private forests.

It could benefit a somewhat larger area, too — the Earth.

Oregon is one of three states picked to participate in a carbon credits pilot project through the Chicago Climate Exchange.

Here’s how the market works:

Companies and other entities that emit airborne carbon, and thus contribute to climate change, can buy credits from people who own forests, which absorb carbon and hold it in the trees so the element doesn’t foul the atmosphere.

Or to paraphrase, polluters pay people to counteract the effects of pollution.


Election’s coming

If you intend to vote in the Nov. 4 election, there are two crucial dates during the next week that you ought to jot down

The first date is this Thursday, Oct. 9.

That’s when the American Association of University Women will conduct its candidates’ forum in Baker City. The Baker City Herald is a co-sponsor.

The event is scheduled for 7 o’clock that evening in the Baker High School Commons, 2500 E St.

Candidates for Baker City Council and the Baker County Commission are invited to the forum, and everyone else is invited to ask the candidates questions or just listen to their answers.

The second red-letter date is Tuesday, Oct. 14.

That’s the last day you can register to vote in the Nov. 4 election.

You can register at the County Courthouse, 1995 Third St. If you don’t remember whether you’re registered to vote in Oregon you can check your status online, via a link at the Baker County Clerk’s Web site: www.bakercounty.org/Clerks/Elections.html, or go to www.oregonvotes.org.


The ESD debacle’s expensive lesson

There is much to learn from the several-year saga of the Union-Baker Education Service District.

Unfortunately for several Northeastern Oregon school districts, the lesson will be an expensive one.

Oregon’s Department of Education wants 41 school districts to repay the state $2.2 million they received.

That’s a preliminary figure — the final amount could be determined after a meeting scheduled for today in Pendleton to which officials from all 41 districts were invited.

State officials say the districts owe that money because the UBESD, between 1999 and 2004, reported that those districts had more students in their alternative school programs than were actually enrolled, and that employees were working with students for more hours than they really were.


Expand drug court to juveniles

Baker County’s Journeys Recovery Court program has helped a dozen adults defeat their drug or alcohol addictions during the past four years.

But addiction is an affliction that’s not limited to adults.

Which is why we support Circuit Court Judge Greg Baxter’s campaign to start a similar “drug court” for juveniles.

New Directions Northwest contributed a $5,000 grant from the Oregon Community Foundation for the new program.

Baxter admits that he was at first skeptical of the drug court concept. The judge, like many people, wondered whether the program gave criminals an avenue to avoid punishment.

Baxter soon learned that drug court isn’t like that at all.

First, the people who enroll in the program must first plead guilty to a crime.

Then, before sentencing, they have to tell Baxter they’re interested in drug court.


Kulongoski sees the light on salaries

Finally someone acknowledges that boosting salaries for public employees when the economy is floundering feels like a slap to the face of the taxpayers who foot the bill.

Or like a hand clutching for their wallet.

What surprised us was who made that admission: Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski.

It was just last year, after all, when the governor approved 33-percent pay raises for about 60 state agency directors over the 2007-09 biennium.

Last week Kulongoski decided to trim those raises, but only slightly.

Agency directors will not get the 3.2-percent cost-of-living raise scheduled for Nov. 1.

“The governor recognizes families are tightening their belts, and state government needs to as well,” said Anna Richter Taylor, the governor’s spokeswoman.


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