The great thing about snow is that it melts.
Glaciers are rather more persistent, of course, but there aren’t any of those in Baker County.
Yet the temporary nature of snow is small consolation to anyone whose
car is marooned behind a chest-high wall of congealed slush.
Or to someone who lives along a street where the blacktop hasn’t been visible for a couple of weeks.
Both situations have happened this winter in Baker City.
Both have happened in plenty of winters past and, barring a radical shift in climate, both will continue to happen.
On balance, though, the snow that accumulates on our streets is more an
annoyance than the near-disaster that some critics of the city’s
snow-control strategy seem to believe it is.
In general the city deals with snow and ice in an appropriate and competent way.
The Wallowa-Whitman National Forest has been nibbling for close to two
decades now at the problem of overcrowded timber stands that are
abnormally susceptible to wildfires.
But now Wallowa-Whitman officials want to take a big bite.
They’re proposing a series of five timber sales on the southern flanks
of the Wallowa Mountains that would constitute the largest logging job
on the forest since the early 1990s.
The Snow Basin project, which is near Eagle Creek north of Richland,
could start in 2010 and result in as much as 70 million board-feet of
timber being sold over five years.
The Wallowa-Whitman hasn’t sold more than 30 million board-feet, with
all timber sales combined, in any single fiscal year since 2001.
For a guy who frets frequently, and publicly, about climate change,
pollution and America’s thirst for petroleum, Oregon Gov. Ted
Kulongoski has a funny way of showing his concern.
Kulongoski’s latest idea might actually discourage Oregonians from driving fuel-efficient cars.
If you’re partial to full-size pickup trucks and similarly hefty rigs, however, you’ll probably second the governor’s motion.
Kulongoski announced this week that he’ll lobby the Legislature, which
convenes next month, to jumpstart his plan to replace Oregon’s gas tax
of 24 cents per gallon with a mileage tax.
The governor hasn’t suggested an amount. A 10-month experiment last
year that involved 300 drivers in the Portland area used a tax of 1.2
cents per mile driven.
If your car gets more than 20 mpg, a mileage tax at that level probably would cost you more than the gas tax does now.
So much for that Prius purchase penciling out.
To be fair to the governor, we’re not suggesting that he’s a hypocrite.
We don’t care whether the Baker City Council calls its get-togethers “meetings” or “work sessions.”
We care a great deal, though, about whether councilors get answers to
all their questions before they vote on matters such as how they’ll
spend our money.
Or how much of our money the Council thinks the city needs.
And so we endorse City Manager Steve Brocato’s proposal to change one
of the Council’s two monthly gatherings from a “meeting” to a “work
The idea, which the Council probably will discuss during its annual
goal-setting session in early 2009, is that councilors would benefit
if, once a month, they scheduled a work session to talk over topics but
agreed beforehand that they wouldn’t actually cast any votes during the
Work sessions would be public meetings, of course, so long as at least four of the seven councilors attended.
During work sessions councilors could not only debate issues, but also
query Brocato and other city officials about the purposes and potential
effects of items on the Council’s agenda.
For most people an old, obsolete TV or computer monitor is trash, albeit heavy, space-occupying trash.
Trouble is, tossing such stuff into a landfill can cause problems more serious than clogging your closet capacity.
Polluting groundwater with poisonous heavy metals, for instance.
Televisions, computer and computer monitors contain toxins such as mercury and lead.
Americans threw away about 232 million of these devices in 2007, but
just 18 percent were recycled rather than landfilled, according to the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The agency estimates that 235 million more are taking up the aforementioned closet space.
The Baker School District needs to save money.
The Oregon School Employees Association wants to protect its members
who work for the district as cooks, bus drivers and in other
Both goals are reasonable.
What’s also reasonable is to expect that district and union officials will work together to try to achieve both objectives.
Their relationship is hardly amicable now, though, and we hope they try to mend it before it erodes any further.
The animosity dates to the summer, when Superintendent Don Ulrey, in an effort to curb costs, cut one cook position.
Although the affected employee was transferred to a different job in
the district, the decision prompted OSEA to file an unfair labor
practice complaint against the district. Union official Mary Kay Brant
contends Ulrey should have told the union before transferring the OSEA
Perhaps, but considering the district moved, rather than fired, the employee, the complaint seems unnecessary.
We hope some of those dollars land in Baker County.
Equally important, we hope those dollars not only boost the local
economy, but also make the county a better place to live and to visit.
To achieve those goals, local officials will need to compile a list of projects that lack only the money to get them going.
Officials will have to hurry, though.
The decades-old disagreement over managing America’s public forests has not been fertile ground for compromises.
But occasionally such a chance comes along, and we despair when the rare opportunity seems to be slipping through our grasp.
That appears to be the case, though, with the federal government’s
campaign to reduce the risk of summer wildfires by logging and
lighting prescribed fires in overcrowded forests.
What frustrates us is that the basic idea behind that campaign appeals
not only to the Forest Service and the timber industry, but also to
many environmental groups that have vehemently opposed other types of
Groups such as Oregon Wild and the La Grande-based Hells Canyon
Preservation Council agree with Forest Service officials that millions
of acres of national forests in the West are sickly and vulnerable.
There’s general concurrence, too, on research that shows historic
logging of the biggest, healthiest trees, combined with the exclusion
of lightning-caused fires, is largely responsible for the problem.
The Bush Administration’s and Congress’ chief strategy for solving that
problem was to ease federal environmental laws so the Forest Service
can get the trees cut and the fires lit sooner.
Oregon’s Environmental Quality Commission has decided you shouldn’t be
able to have your car’s fuel tank “topped off” at any service station
in the state.
Topping off, though a common practice, is a wholly unnecessary one.
Oregon’s a big state, sure, but it’s hardly the Gobi Desert.
The longest fuel-less stretch on Oregon’s highway system is about 70
miles — well within the range of the most voracious gas guzzler with a
tank that’s been filled but not topped off.
That extra half-gallon that the attendant can cram in after the pump’s
automatic flow shuts off equates to at most an extra 25 miles or so.
Government has a reputation for spending millions of dollars to try to
solve some social problem, only to have the problem persist.
Or get worse.
Sometimes that reputation is deserved.
The government’s lackluster progress over several decades of combating
poverty and drug abuse, for instance, lend credence to the criticisms
But in some cases the government’s habit of doling out dollars actually
achieves results more valuable than spawning a bureaucracy and giving
politicians fodder for campaign speeches.
The $2.5 million that the federal government will give to Baker, Union
and Wallowa counties over five years certainly isn’t going to waste so