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A good Samaritan, defined

In a moment when Markeith Reese had ample reason to be thinking only of himself, he instead focused on people he had never even met.

The 21-year-old Baker City man might have saved four lives as a result.

Reese was driving home about 2:30 a.m. on Jan. 3.

He had just lost his job.

Police cameras: good idea

Americans have been acutely interested recently, in the wake of highly publicized cases in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City,  in the interactions between police officers and the public.

Thousands of words, many of dubious value, have been written and uttered by people who condemn police and by people who support police.

But what we need more than words from people who didn’t even see the events happen, are pictures.

Moving pictures, in particular, which is to say video.

Good news on groceries

We can’t predict the future of the grocery business in Baker City in detail, but it appears that the most important issue has been decided.

We’ll still have two stores.

Our biggest concern with the pending merger of Albertsons and Safeway is that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) would require the merged company to close either the Safeway or Albertsons store in Baker City to avoid a single company monopolizing the local market.

Freedom wins on the big screen

We figured the news had penetrated even the dimmest cracks of the world, where the cretins lurk who know how to threaten but who couldn’t create a coherent argument if you gave them a script.

In America, freedom is more than a word.

Yet some anonymous people apparently believed that threats of violence could keep a movie from showing up on American theater screens.

For a couple weeks the thugs seemed to be right.

But in the end, as it almost always does in America, freedom prevailed.

Baker’s best-ever tree?

Now THAT is a Christmas tree.

We don’t mean to disparage the donated trees that have graced Court Street Park in downtown Baker City during Christmases past.

Each was a fine and fetching tribute to the season.

But this year’s version sets a new standard.

Forestry by tape measure, not science

Environmental groups often chastise the Forest Service and other agencies for failing to use the “best science” when planning timber sales.

Yet some of these groups are employing a wholly arbitrary, and thus utterly unscientific, standard to thwart logging on public lands in Northeastern Oregon.

The dividing line is 21 inches.

Specifically, the width of a tree’s trunk about 4 feet above the ground.

About 20 years ago the Forest Service, to stave off a lawsuit from opponents of old growth logging, agreed to stop cutting live trees that exceed that 21-inch limit. This restriction was part of the so-called “eastside screens” that affect federal forests east of the Cascades in Oregon and Washington.

No torture, but killing is OK?

Torture is a nasty word, and deed.

It has a certain medieval flavor, conjuring images of thumbscrews and iron maidens and other barbaric practices.

The notion that America would resort to torture naturally troubles citizens, ourselves included.

Yet we’re also troubled by some of the statements Oregon’s U.S. senators, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, made last week after a Senate committee released its report regarding the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” of terrorists following 9/11.

What counties actually need

The Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program was supposed to be a temporary source of money for counties, including Baker, that suffered when logging in federal forests plummeted starting in early 1990s.

Counties receive 25 percent of revenue from timber sales on federal land within their borders.

Fourteen years after it started, SRS still exists, but barely. A pending federal budget bill doesn’t include SRS payments for 2015.

Traffic signals & 10th Street

The Oregon Department of Transportation’s plan to remove the pedestrian-controlled traffic signal at 10th and C streets in Baker City makes sense.

The purpose for installing the signal in 1973 — students going to and from nearby North Baker Elementary — went away when the school was closed in 2009.

Indeed we wonder whether the signal isn’t more a threat than a safety measure. Considering how rarely the lights were activated, it would seem likely that drivers are accustomed to driving past that intersection on 10th Street without stopping.

That said, we’re not convinced that ODOT’s advice to pedestrians — to use the signal at Campbell Street, three blocks south of C — adequately deals with the public’s needs on that busy stretch of 10th Street.

In particular we’d like to see ODOT study traffic volumes at the intersection of 10th and D streets. D Street certainly has had more use since the city built a bridge across the Powder River several years ago, creating another cross-town route.

And with Baker High School just two blocks east of the intersection, there’s still considerable pedestrian traffic.

ODOT spokesman Tom Strandberg said the agency will be “looking at” that intersection. That’s a good first step.

No secrets at City Hall

We don’t object to the Baker City Council giving City Manager Mike Kee a 2-percent pay raise.

He hasn’t had a pay hike since he was hired in September 2010. That hardly makes him unique in the current economic climate, of course, but 2 percent in four years is hardly exorbitant.

We agree with Councilor Kim Mosier that the city should make it clear that city managers can earn more money only through their performance, and that the city won’t automatically give them cost-of-living raises.

But we disagree with Mosier on another point she made during Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

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