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
The four-team Greater Oregon League is hardly an ideal situation for athletics.
But it’s far better than the idea that a committee from the Oregon School Activities Association might propose.
“Far” is the most relevant word in this case.
The committee has discussed doubling the GOL to eight teams starting in
the 2010-11 school year. The current contingent of Baker, La Grande,
Mac-Hi and Ontario would be joined by four schools from Central Oregon:
Crook County, LaPine, Madras and Sisters.
Except it seems silly to describe as “joined” two quartets of schools that are at least 210 miles apart.
Distance is why the committee’s proposal won’t work, and shouldn’t happen.
More specifically, adding thousands of miles to GOL teams’ travels each
year would cost schools thousands of dollars. At a time when many
districts, including Baker, are trying to trim costs, those extra
dollars aren’t readily available.
We think the views around Baker County are pretty stunning now, but Oregon officials contend the vistas ought to be clearer.
Well, we won’t complain if that happens.
Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality believes it can happen.
The DEQ recently wrote a report that calls for cutting airborne
pollution by 80 percent in the next decade at Portland General
Electric’s coal-fired power plant in Boardman.
That, combined with a reduction in emissions as cleaner cars replace
less-efficient models, could rid parts of Oregon of the unhealthy haze
that casts a pall across the horizon.
We could notice a difference within 10 years at places such as Hells Canyon and the Columbia River Gorge, according to DEQ.
The agency’s longer-term goal is much more ambitious, though.
That goal is to eliminate manmade haze by 2065.
Sen. Gordon Smith’s campaign ads accusing Jeff Merkley of ignoring
rural Oregon weren’t persuasive enough to win Smith another term.
But the spots seem to have gotten Merkley’s attention.
Merkley, the Democratic Senator-elect who will replace Smith next
month, told The Associated Press last week that he will advocate for
two issues crucial to rural regions.
First, Merkley said he will draft legislation to continue the “county payments” program.
That program, which Ron Wyden, Merkley’s soon-to-be senatorial
colleague, helped to create eight years ago, supplies about half of
Baker County’s Road Department budget.
Second, Merkley told a reporter that he wants the federal government to
increase logging in publicly owned second-growth forests to sustain
what’s left of the timber industry and to reduce the risk of wildfires.