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Protest, but don’t destroy


Some people contend that the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin illustrates an inherent injustice of the American legal system —- one that’s racially motivated.

We disagree.

We agree that Martin should still be alive.

And we agree that he probably would be alive, had Zimmerman chosen to stay in his car rather than pursue the teenager that night in February 2012.

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Problems, potential profits


Two weekends ago, bicycles were the most common sight on certain Baker City streets.

Starting today, and continuing through Sunday, the two-wheeled conveyance of choice is the motorcycle.

We support both the Baker City Cycling Classic and the Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally. Both bring hundreds of people to town, most of whom spend at least a little money while they’re here. 

We recognize, though, that neither event is universally beloved.

To be blunt, both can cause hassles of varying degrees.

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HBC’s deal a bad one


We’re afraid that Historic Baker City Inc. has let a financial windfall slip away.

Half of it, anyway.

We were initially elated to learn last year that the unfortunate closure of Bank of America’s Baker City branch, which was located in the 126-year-old Ison House, had one beneficial side effect.

Kate Dimon, HBC’s director, secured from Bank of America officials a deal by which the company would sell the Ison House, at the corner of Washington and Resort, to HBC for $1.

That’s a single buck.

Which is a good price indeed for a property which has a market value of $320,000, according to the Baker County Assessor’s Office.

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No-spray map is a good idea

Although opinions vary widely about the use of pesticides, we’d wager that everyone agrees that these toxins should be used as sparingly as possible.

People who dislike pesticides obviously want the use minimized.

But so do the farmers, ranchers and others who rely on pesticides to control insects, weeds and diseases that can harm their businesses. For them, pesticide sprayed where it’s not needed amounts to a waste of money.

Which is why we endorse the idea, proposed by organic farmer Dick Haines, to create a countywide map showing properties whose owners don’t want pesticides getting onto their land.

In making his pitch to county commissioners, Haines emphasized that he’s not trying to prevent anyone from using pesticides.

His idea, rather, is to make it possible, by means of a computerized map, for people who do need to use pesticides to see which properties could be affected negatively.

Ideally, pesticide users would be able to tailor their spraying plan to reduce the potential effect on other properties, while still dealing with the pests.

Haines encourages people who’d like to have their property added to the map to phone him at 541-523-3554.

 

Eat your fill, tiger muskies


We wish good hunting, and good eating, to the newest residents of Phillips Reservoir.

Tiger muskies.

These are the little fish — little for now, anyway; they can grow to 3 feet or more — with what Oregon fish biologists hope is a big appetite for yellow perch.

This latest tactic in the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (ODFW) anti-perch campaign is elegant in its simplicity.

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Cleaning up at Ash Grove


It wasn’t cheap, but a deal announced recently between Ash Grove Cement Co. and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will greatly reduce the company’s pollution footprint, including from its Baker County factory near Durkee.

Ash Grove, which is based in Kansas, must pay a $2.5 million penalty, as well as spend $30 million in pollution controls at nine factories.

EPA officials said the changes will reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide.

This agreement follows Ash Grove’s voluntary decision to spend about $20 million to install equipment that, since it started operating in July 2010, has cut the Durkee plant’s airborne mercury releases by about 90 percent.

Ash Grove has shown that it will take responsibility for the environmental effects of its business.

Now, with the nation’s economy beginning to improve, the company should be well-positioned to take advantage. And that would be good news for Baker County, because Ash Grove is one of the county’s largest private employers.

 

New way to gauge teachers


The Baker School District had no choice but to revamp the way it evaluates teachers.

A 2011 state law requires districts, starting July 1 and for the first time, to include students’ test scores among the criteria administrators use in measuring teachers’ performance.

This is a good idea.

Test scores should not be the only measuring stick, of course — and we’re not convinced that scores should even be among the more important criteria.

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Welcome, Oregon cattlemen

Gold was responsible for Baker County’s birth, but beef is truly the place’s most lasting economic legacy.

It’s wholly appropriate, then, that the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association was founded here, and most fitting that the organization will celebrate its centennial here this weekend.

The miners arrived in 1861, and, given the prodigious appetites miners tend to work up, and the utter absence of supermarkets, cattle herds soon followed.

Raising beef has been a mainstay of the county’s, and the region’s, economy every since.

Which is hardly surprising, because this is good cattle country.

There’s ample water, flat ground suitable for growing hay and alfalfa for winter feed, and hundreds of thousands of acres of rangeland for spring, summer and fall grazing.

Baker County, with an inventory of 123,700 head in 2012, has the fourth-largest cattle herd among Oregon’s 36 counties, trailing Malheur (276,000), Klamath (187,000) and Harney (161,000).

Gross sales of beef cattle from the county totaled $53.6 million in 2012.

Ranching is, as always, a tough and tenuous business. But the past few years have been good ones, in general, and Oregon ranchers picked the right place to have their big celebratory bash.

 

Legislature needs to make deal


Compromise is a necessary ingredient in the messy business of making laws, but too often, it seems, legislators act as though that word is a synonym for capitulation.

This misses the reality of a true compromise, which is that each side gives up something, in exchange for gaining something else.

The Oregon Legislature has a chance to forge just such a compromise, but the opportunity seems to be slipping away in Salem.

This deal, which Gov. John Kitzhaber proposed this month, has the potential to achieve two goals vital to the state’s future.

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Action needed on drought


Oregon and federal officials need to respond quickly to the Baker County Board of Commissioners’ June 5 declaration of a drought emergency.

The need for state and federal aid, which the county’s declaration is intended to summon, becomes more likely with the passage of each dry day.

On Wednesday evening a range fire near Huntington forced the temporary closure of the westbound lanes of Interstate 84.

The blaze indicates how dry the county’s rangelands already are, a week before the solstice.

Those rangelands are a vital source of summer forage for the county’s beef cattle herd — a $53 million business in 2012 — but even places that don’t burn might be useless for grazing.

The county’s only commercial fruit-grower, Eagle Valley Orchard near Richland, has already suffered a major loss due to a hard freeze in April.

And a looming shortage of irrigation water could cause big problems for farmers and ranchers throughout the county.

It could well be, of course, that Baker County will get by without any assistance — we’ve certainly done so before during difficult circumstances.

But the commissioners were wise to take action before the situation turns into a crisis.

Now their counterparts at the state and federal levels need to do the same.

 
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