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Taxes vexing Obama

We used to think that failing to pay federal taxes was a pretty sure way to get some attention from the IRS.

It turns out that’s also a way to get put in charge of the IRS.

Actually, until developments on Tuesday, procrastinating on those pesky tax payments seemed to be turning into a prerequisite of sorts for people who aspire to a position in President Obama’s Cabinet.

Last week the Senate confirmed Timothy Geithner as Treasury Secretary even though Geithner admitted that he had neglected to pay $43,000 in back taxes and penalties.

Today Geithner, who paid his bill, is responsible for the IRS, which is an agency of the Treasury Department.

At least he has plenty of people to warn him before April 15 arrives this year.

Stimulus and sand

Democrats in the Oregon Senate tout the $176 million Oregon Jobs Stimulus Plan, which the Senate passed last week, as an “investment in Oregon families.”

But in Baker County the biggest beneficiaries seem to be sheds that keep traction-adding gravel out of the weather until an ODOT truck drives out in a blizzard to spread it on a slippery highway.

We like the basic idea behind the legislation, Senate Bill 338.

Get together, get results

Complaining is easy.

Getting results usually isn’t.

And so we applaud the Baker County residents who have picked the hard way in their quest to influence where Idaho Power Co. builds a transmission line through the county.

The group is called Move Idaho Power. About 110 people turned out for its initial meeting in late January in Baker City.

We don’t know how much clout, if any, Move Idaho Power will wield as the Boise company proceeds with its plan to build the line between Murphy, Idaho, and Boardman. Idaho Power hopes to finish the line by 2013.

Stimulus plan good, but could be better

President Obama’s strategy for reviving America’s economy has a lot of potential.

The president’s proposal, an $819 billion version of which passed the House on Wednesday, would put people to work.

And it would return money to millions of taxpayers’ pockets.

But Obama’s plan also has flaws.

We’re not surprised.

When politicians from either party prepare to spend billions of dollars, they inevitably bloat bills with projects which, though they might be worthwhile, stray far from the purported purpose of the legislation.

Lend the city your vision

It’s one of those questions for which pretty much everybody who lives in Baker City has an answer: “What do you want this place to look like in 20 years?”

Residents can express their opinions in several ways, including writing letters that are published on this page, or speaking at City Council meetings.

But now city officials are looking at a new way to gauge citizens’ views.

Constitution on trial

The U.S. Constitution isn’t on trial this week at the Wallowa County Courthouse in Enterprise, but it sure seemed like a couple of that venerable document’s sacred amendments were in trouble on Monday.

Fortunately the Constitution, as it usually does, prevailed.

But that victory doesn’t assuage our outrage at what happened after the jury was seated on Monday.

That jury will decide whether Donna Dunning is guilty of attempted murder and second-degree assault.

Dunning is accused of hitting Travis Beach in the head with a rock on Jan. 18, 2007.

During the same incident, Dunning’s boyfriend, Shane Huntsman, and her cousin, Dennis Beach, were both shot to death.

After the jurors were picked, Judge Philip Mendiguren issued an order stating that the media could not report on testimony until the trial, which is scheduled to last two weeks, is over.

Mendiguren’s ruling is one of the more egregious assaults on the noble tradition of America’s legal system that we’ve heard about.

A good idea — but no veto power

We favor any reasonable effort to give Baker County officials, and their constituents, a louder voice in the discussion about how to manage the public lands that make up half of our county’s 2 million acres.

And so we were intrigued by the presentation that Nampa attorney Fred Kelly Grant made last week in Baker City.

Grant encourages county officials to write a “coordination plan.” (Baker County has not done so). Those plans lay out what’s important to the county — a steady supply of timber from national forests, for instance, or public land grazing permits for local ranchers.

Federal law requires the Forest Service and BLM to strive to manage public lands in a manner consistent with county plans.

Legislature needs to act on wolf plan

Somebody needs to remind Oregon’s Legislature that wolves have come to the state, and apparently they’re staying.

We understand that lawmakers have bigger problems to deal with — a budget shortfall that could exceed $2 billion over the next 2fi years, for instance.

But Oregon’s wolves are real, too. And the animals have proved, in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, that they’re not averse to snacking on calves and lambs.

Unfortunately, the Legislature has yet to make the changes in state law needed to ensure that provisions in Oregon’s wolf management plan that are vital to ranchers can take effect.

It’s soggy out, but the state’s sluggish

The budget news from Salem is bad, and getting worse.

But what worries us as much as the ever-increasing estimate of the state’s budget shortfall is what seems to be a reluctance among lawmakers and elected officials to make the hard choices that managers of private companies have had to make for months now.

That is, to lay off workers.

State officials say Oregon’s budget deficit, by the end of the fiscal year June 30, could total from $650 million to as much as $1 billion.

Yet according to his spokesperson, Gov. Ted Kulongoski will not try to trim the state’s 45,000-employee payroll.

Contrast the governor’s response with what’s been happening in the private sector in Oregon and nationwide.

Almost every day since late summer another company has announced that it was cutting hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of jobs.

Two boys from Baker

Barack Obama, as most of the world knows, took a historic oath today and became the 44th president of the United States.

Neither Bill Tebeau nor Bruce Klunder is anything close to as widely known and revered as is Obama.

Yet Tebeau and Klunder — Baker boys, both of them — each contributed something significant to the crusade for true equality in American, a quest for which President Obama’s inauguration is, in a sense, the culmination.

Tebeau, who is 83, graduated from Baker High School in 1943.

Tebeau wanted to be an engineer, so he went west, to Oregon State College (now University) in Corvallis.

He had been accepted to the school, which then, as now, was renowned for its engineering program.

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