Finally someone acknowledges that boosting salaries for public
employees when the economy is floundering feels like a slap to the face
of the taxpayers who foot the bill.
Or like a hand clutching for their wallet.
What surprised us was who made that admission: Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski.
It was just last year, after all, when the governor approved 33-percent
pay raises for about 60 state agency directors over the 2007-09
Last week Kulongoski decided to trim those raises, but only slightly.
Agency directors will not get the 3.2-percent cost-of-living raise scheduled for Nov. 1.
“The governor recognizes families are tightening their belts, and state
government needs to as well,” said Anna Richter Taylor, the governor’s
Baker City already has one of the nicer parks in Oregon.
A bandstand would make Geiser-Pollman Park better.
We’re glad the City Council voted unanimously last week to allow a
1,200-square-foot bandstand to be built near the center of the park.
Our only concern about the bandstand was the possibility that it would
degrade the qualities that make Geiser-Pollman such a great place — its
bounty of shade trees, its expanses of well-tended grass, its picnic
tables and playground.
But the drawings the bandstand committee showed the City Council eased our fears.
Steve Ellis, the supervisor of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, is
slated to decide late in 2009 how severely to limit where motor
vehicles (except snowmobiles) can go on the 2.4-million-acre
Wallowa-Whitman starting in 2010.
Now, on about 1.3 million of those acres, they can go just about anywhere.
But four years ago then-Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth decided that
such unfettered access by motor vehicles posed a threat to wildlife
habitat and other resources on national forests. Bosworth ordered all
forest supervisors to revamp their travel policies. His message was
succinct: Wide open policies such as the Wallowa-Whitman’s will not
Ellis’ decision comes down to two main matters: first, how many of the
forest’s 4,261 miles of rarely maintained roads should remain open, and
to which types of vehicles; and second, should any part of the
Wallowa-Whitman stay open to cross-country travel via motor vehicle?
A team of Wallowa-Whitman workers has drafted several options for Ellis to consider.
We prefer Alternative 4.
We’re glad some in Congress seem so eager to spend $700 billion to try
to save the country’s economy, but we wish lawmakers showed even a
smidgen as much interest in helping Baker County and dozens of other
For what it’s worth, Congress, helping the counties is a whole lot cheaper.
No golden parachutes to worry about, either.
Last week, while legislators were fretting about the financial crisis
and debating the $700 billion bailout, Democrats in the House deleted
from a bill — which the Senate passed by a 93-2 vote — a pair of
programs that are crucial to counties such as Baker.
The cost of continuing those programs is $3.3 billion — slightly less than one-half of one percent of the bailout total.
Apparently it takes a whole lot of zeroes to goad Congress into action.
Lawmakers’ inability to continue the county payments and
in-lieu-of-taxes programs is especially galling because the victims in
this case — in contrast to some of the irresponsible high-rollers who
got us into this credit mess — are innocent.
The good thing about Oregon’s double-majority law is that it encourages people to vote.
The bad thing about the law is that it also discourages people from voting.
We think the latter factor outweighs the former, which is why we urge voters to approve Measure 56 on the Nov. 4 ballot.
Measure 56 would partially overturn the double-majority law that’s been in effect since voters approved it in 1996.
Here’s the situation now: Except during general elections in
even-numbered years, any measure that would raise property taxes —
whether statewide or in an individual city, county, school district or
special district — can’t pass unless two things happen (hence “double
majority”): half of the eligible voters cast a ballot, and at least
half of those who do so vote yes.
Measure 56 would eliminate the double-majority rule for all property
tax-raising measures on ballots in May or November. Double-majority
would still apply to tax measures that go before voters in other months.
The $700 billion bailout bill Congress is debating is the legislative equivalent of an inoculation.
It hurts, but it’s necessary.
Congress should pass the bill because the consequences, should lawmakers dawdle, could be disastrous.
That said, the public must demand that Congress tailor this bailout so
that, to the fullest extent possible, the people being bailed out are
those who didn’t contribute to the financial morass in which America’s
economy, and much of the rest of the world’s, has gotten mired.
The reality, of course, is that many people who are partly responsible will benefit from Congress’ intervention.
People who signed mortgages they couldn’t afford — a fact which anyone
with the math skills of a second-grader could have calculated.
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.
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
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.
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.
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