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Training helps protect all of us

If you live in Baker City, almost every day dangerous substances pass within a couple miles of your home.

And considerably closer than that, if your address is near the freeway or the railroad tracks.

But we never see the toxic chemicals or other similarly hazardous stuff that rolls through on the road or the rails.

At least we hope we don’t.


Who’s out of order?

Baker City Resolution 3407 states in admirably blunt language how city councilors are supposed to behave during their meetings.

Based on what transpired during the Council’s Sept. 9 meeting, it seems to us that some councilors ought to re-read that resolution.

Section 5(a) of the resolution includes this sentence: “All members of the Council shall accord the utmost courtesy to each other, to city employees, and to public members appearing before the Council and shall refrain at all times from rude and derogatory remarks, reflections as to integrity, abusive comments, and statements as to motives and personalities.”

Section 7 of the resolution reads “A member shall confine discussion to the question under debate, avoid personalities, and refrain from impugning the motives of any other member’s argument or vote.”

Compare those sentences with what Councilor Terry Schumacher said near the end of the Sept. 9 meeting.


One day’s ‘losses’

The television commentator frowned as she dissected Monday’s carnage on Wall Street.

People with 401(k) retirement accounts, she opined, must be plain sick about all the money they just lost.

What money did she mean?

Certainly not the currency most of us spend every day.


More talk, not less

Baker City Councilors are elected to do three main tasks:

1. Supervise the city manager

2. Oversee the city’s budget.

3. Approve city policies.

Last Tuesday Councilor Gail Duman asked a legitimate question about Dan Van Thiel, the city’s contract attorney, representing City Manager Steve Brocato in a personal legal matter that didn’t involve his work as city manager.

Unfortunately, Duman, along with the rest of the council and city residents, received only a partial answer to her question Tuesday because Mayor Jeff Petry was so quick to bang his gavel.

Brocato said he did not spend city money to hire Van Thiel — a statement which Van Thiel’s billing records confirm. That answers the budget question.


Click It or Ticket

On Sunday police agencies across Oregon started a two-week campaign to ensure kids riding in cars are properly buckled in.

The Oregon Department of Transportation will use federal dollars to pay for police overtime during the “Click It or Ticket” effort.

This is money well spent. According to ODOT, about one-third of kids younger than 8 who were killed or hurt in a car crash last year were either unrestrained, or were not sitting on a booster seat.


Weather foils best efforts

Jim Lunders’ job hardly changes from year to year but his approval ratings, for want of a better term, fluctuate as widely as a scandal-prone politician’s.

This is because Lunders’ performance depends largely on the weather.

Lunders gets paid to kill mosquitoes.

This is never an easy task in the 200,000-acre district that Lunders manages. But some years his duty is considerably more daunting than in others.

The past two years illustrate this point perfectly.


Closing roads: We don’t all get a vote

Let’s be clear on one thing: The Wallowa-Whitman National Forest’s road-closure process is not a democratic one.

Only one person will decide which roads on the Wallowa-Whitman that are now open to motor vehicles will be closed.

His name is Steve Ellis. He’s the Wallowa-Whitman supervisor.

But although no one other than Ellis will make that decision, everyone else has the right to lobby him.

This includes residents of the five counties across which the Wallowa-Whitman sprawls: Baker, Union, Wallowa, Grant and Umatilla.


Protect watershed

Whoever started the fire last week in Baker City’s watershed probably figured the diminutive blaze was of little consequence.

Luckily, they were right.

Yet that fire, though it burned less than one-tenth of an acre before four Forest Service firefighters put it out Friday evening, could have left the city’s 4,000 or so households with dry faucets and a hefty bill to get them flowing again.

The fire might prompt city officials to cancel hunters’ privileges to legally walk into the watershed and go after a deer or an elk.


A tough year killing skeeters

I will agree, in part, with a caller who left a message on my answering machine complaining that not enough had been done about the mosquitoes this summer.

However, I must add that I feel the vector control district has done everything within its power to reduce mosquito numbers as much as possible.

At this point in the season, the district has logged 302 phone calls. Of these calls 249 were adult mosquito reports, 16 event fogging requests, 12 dead bird reports, four larval inspection requests, three no-spray list, two for advice on out-of-district mosquito control and 16 miscellaneous calls, including thank-yous. The district has made 381 larvacide treatments covering 9,985 acres as well as 55 adulticide treatments covering 63,939 acres.


A different kind of Congress?

Griping about how the Willamette Valley bullies the rest of Oregon is a popular pastime among residents in the state’s rural regions.

Which is most of them — regions, that is.

When we first heard about the inaugural Oregon Rural Congress, which took place last week, we figured the event organizers had merely put a new name on an event with the same tired old purpose: to complain.

But then we read a couple of quotes that Colleen MacLeod, a Union County commissioner and co-chairman of the Eastern Oregon Rural Alliance, gave to The (La Grande) Observer, our corporate sister paper.


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