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Beef up public records law


If every action government agencies take on our behalf, and with our money, happened during a public meeting, there wouldn’t be much need for a public records law.

Obviously this isn’t the case.

Indeed, much of the government action, so to speak, happens outside the public’s purview. These actions almost always produce records, though — emails, memos and the like.

The notion that the public should be able to have a look at these records — “our” records, as we like to think of them — is hardly new. Oregon’s Public Records and Public Meetings laws were passed in 1973.

Yet over the ensuing four decades the trend has been to make it more difficult for people to see public records.


Sage grouse plan: Long, important


In the grand tradition of federal government documents, the BLM’s draft environmental impact statement (EIS) outlining possible strategies for managing sage grouse habitat in Oregon is of daunting length.

At 900 pages or so, it requires strong arms to heft the paper copy, and a muscled microprocessor to open the pdf version.

But also in common with some other federal treatises of even greater mass — the Affordable Care Act, for instance — the sage grouse plan could have significant effects that aren’t obvious from a cursory reading.

Which, let’s be honest, is about all most people have the time and inclination to invest.


ODOT not at fault in bus crash


It was inevitable that the tragic bus crash that happened on Interstate 84 near Pendleton, one year ago today, would precipitate a lawsuit.

The 12 plaintiffs, 10 of whom were riding on the bus that careened off the freeway and into a ravine, killing nine people and injuring 38, might have a decent case against the tour bus operator, Mi Joo Tour & Travel Ltd. of Vancouver, B.C., and the driver, Haeng-Kyu Hwang.

(The two other plaintiffs are the estates of two passengers who died.)

But the claim of negligence against Oregon and its Department of Transportation seems to us misguided.


Hydropower is renewable


Some people don’t much like the hydroelectric dams on the Columbia River, but even a dam-hater has to admit that the power those dams produce qualifies as “renewable.”

Certainly there’s no reason to believe the mighty Columbia is apt to stop flowing.

Yet according to a law the Oregon Legislature passed in 2007, the Columbia’s hydropower isn’t renewable. That law requires large utilities — our local Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative (OTEC) isn’t included — to get at least 25 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2025.


Feeling uncovered


At least Medicare works most of the time.

In Baker County, where almost one in four residents is 65 or older, that federal health insurance program is more important than in most other places, where the population is younger.

Medicare seems a paragon of governmental efficiency compared with Cover Oregon, the state’s new health insurance exchange that’s supposed to help Oregonians who aren’t eligible for Medicare or another program.

“Supposed to” is the key phrase here, because Cover Oregon is working about as well as a car engine does with half its pistons removed.

And to belabor the automotive analogies, the latest advice from Cover Oregon’s interim director, Bruce Goldberg, is tantamount to a Chevrolet dealer telling a prospective customer that he’s better off heading across town to the Ford outlet.

Earlier this week Goldberg acknowledged that because of Cover Oregon’s inability to process applications — a task being done manually because the organization’s website is dysfunctional — thousands of applicants will need to buy insurance elsewhere if they want to avoid going without coverage until Cover Oregon can get its act together.

Merry Christmas, indeed.

It’s hard to imagine Cover Oregon having a more disappointing debut. We hope the new year brings a new level of competence to a program that a lot of people are depending on.


Defining free speech


We re-read the Bill of Rights and it turns out we remembered the text correctly: There’s nothing in there about the freedom to star in a reality show on cable TV.

We felt compelled to brush up on those first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution after reading about the plight of Phil Robertson, patriarch of the Louisiana family around which the A&E series “Duck Dynasty” revolves.

The dynasty in this case is the Robertson family’s business, which makes duck calls and other products for waterfowl hunters.

Until recently, “Duck Dynasty” had been quite popular but not particularly controversial.


Not all smoke is equal?


Do you smoke cigarettes?

Do you work indoors?

Go ask your boss if you can smoke at work.

The answer, of course, will be no.

Oregon law prohibits smoking at most indoor workplaces.


Courier’s lengthy legacy


The Record-Courier weekly newspaper has been a fixture in Baker County for more than a century.

And we’re pleased that the newspaper, which was started in 1901, will remain one.

But certainly things have changed.

For the first time in more than 80 years the Courier’s masthead doesn’t include the name “Brinton.”

The publication epitomizes the notion of a family newspaper.


Too cold for Baker? Snow way


The wintry storm — “Arctic blast 2013!” if you prefer the hyperbolic approach of TV news — swept across Oregon these past several days, leaving dozens of cancellations in its wake.

West of the Cascades, where many residents react to a skiff of snow almost as though it were radioactive dust, schools closed, highways became parking lots and officials warned people to stay inside lest they come down with frostbite or worse.

We Eastern Oregonians, though, being accustomed to frigid weather, are not so easily daunted.


County clear on gun laws


Baker County’s Republican Central Committee asked the county’s three elected commissioners to approve a resolution supporting the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees citizens the right to keep and bear arms.

This seems to us a reasonable request, although the resolution has little if any legal significance considering the county commissioners have no authority to either write or to interpret the Constitution.

Commissioners do, however, swear an oath to uphold the Constitution and its amendments.


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