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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.


Unintended effects of the ethanol law

Ethanol was supposed to boost Oregon’s economy and clean our air — a pretty neat trick.

Turns out ethanol knows a couple other tricks that aren’t so neat.

Lowering your car’s gas mileage, for instance.

And raising your food prices.

And, possibly, dissolving plastic or rubber parts of your vehicle.

No wonder the Oregon Legislature was so enamored of ethanol.

But that was last year.


City’s tough choice on nuisances

Baker City officials should enforce, as fairly as possible, every ordinance that’s in effect.

Baker City officials should not use those ordinances as the pretext for writing as many tickets as possible.

Shannon Regan, who as the city’s community service officer enforces the city’s ordinance that prohibits people from piling trash and other “public nuisances” (as the ordinance defines them), seems to understand this.

When Baker City Herald reporter Chris Collins went along with Regan for a couple hours earlier this month, Regan stopped to talk with a man who had kindled a debris fire.

The man inadvertently put a plastic milk jug in his burn pile. Burning plastics is illegal in the city because they can produce poisonous vapors.


Failures canhide successes


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