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Expand drug court to juveniles

Baker County’s Journeys Recovery Court program has helped a dozen adults defeat their drug or alcohol addictions during the past four years.

But addiction is an affliction that’s not limited to adults.

Which is why we support Circuit Court Judge Greg Baxter’s campaign to start a similar “drug court” for juveniles.

New Directions Northwest contributed a $5,000 grant from the Oregon Community Foundation for the new program.

Baxter admits that he was at first skeptical of the drug court concept. The judge, like many people, wondered whether the program gave criminals an avenue to avoid punishment.

Baxter soon learned that drug court isn’t like that at all.

First, the people who enroll in the program must first plead guilty to a crime.

Then, before sentencing, they have to tell Baxter they’re interested in drug court.

Kulongoski sees the light on salaries

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 biennium.

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 spokeswoman.

Build the bandstand

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’ choice

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 continue.

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.

Congress leaves counties in the lurch

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 rural counties.

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.

Yes on Measure 56

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.

Bailout bitter pill to swallow, but. . . .

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.

Training helps protect all of us

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.

Who’s out of order?

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 personalities.”

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.

One day’s ‘losses’

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.

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