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Don’t rush zoning law

Forgive us a brief excursion into exaggeration, but compared to Baker County’s draft zoning ordinance, “War and Peace” is a pamphlet.

Which is to say the ordinance — all 45 chapters — is long and complicated.

County officials have been putting the thing together for five years, after all.

They shouldn’t be in a rush now to make the ordinance official.

We don’t fault the county’s efforts thus far to explain to residents and property owners what’s going on.

Road plan a good start

We don’t as a rule subscribe to the notion that a nation or a state can tax itself out of recession and into prosperity.

But we think Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski is onto something with the tax-hike proposal he unveiled last week.

We endorse much of Kulongoski’s plan because he wants to use the extra money for a specific, and necessary, purpose: Replacing dilapidated bridges and repairing rough highways.

And unlike many tax-raising schemes that politicians devise, Kulongoski’s concept would benefit private businesses far more than it would enrich state bureaucracies.

The governor told legislators last week that his plan would put almost $500 million per year into the state’s coffers, and result in about 2,100 new jobs per year over the next five years.

Most of those jobs would be in the construction sector.

The tax and fee increases Kulongoski proposes are modest.

Voters do bridge rural-urban divide . . . . occasionally

“Baker County votes don’t matter — Portland decides every election.”

This lament is one we hear often.

And it’s not without merit.

Consider, for instance, that President-elect Barack Obama received 57 percent of the votes cast in Oregon, and John McCain 41 percent.

Obama did exceptionally well in Multnomah County, Oregon’s most populous, where he got 77 percent of the votes to McCain’s 21 percent.

Yet in Baker County Obama polled just 32 percent to McCain’s 64 percent.

The returns are similarly reversed in the U.S. Senate race.

Baker County’s big bargain

Rarely is a government agency presented with the kind of bargain that Baker County Commissioners gratefully accepted recently.

Commissioners want to build a hydroelectric plant at Mason Dam between Baker City and Sumpter.

They solicited bids from consultants interested in overseeing the county’s application for a permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Four consultants submitted bids.

City Council made right call on SDCs

The Baker City Council was wise to delay its discussion about possibly adding system development charges to the list of fees it assesses to people who build new homes or commercial structures.

SDCs are, potentially, a big deal — based on a consultant’s report, the charges could add more than $14,000 to the cost of building a home.

SDCs could be a crucial source of money for the improvements city officials hope to make to the water, sewer and street systems — or, in the case of the sewer system, might be forced to make.

More than half of Oregon’s 240 incorporated cities charge SDCs. Baker City never has done so.

Considering all that’s at stake, then, councilors shouldn’t be in a hurry to make a decision.

So far they haven’t been.

It’s time to let feedlot workers vote

Today Americans will decide who they want to lead this country for the next four years.

Voters will make their choice by casting secret ballots.

It seems to us that this method, which we use to fill the most important job in the world, ought to be a reasonable way to determine whether 85 workers at three livestock feedlots want to join a union.

Beef Northwest, the company that owns those feedlots, in Boardman, Nyssa and Quincy, Wash., agrees.

So do the 120 ranchers, including 16 in Baker County, who belong to Country Natural Beef, the cooperative that sends its cattle to the Boardman feedlot for finishing.

Election 2008: Our endorsements

Baker City Council (Vote for 4): Aletha Bonebrake, Clair Button, Jeremy Gilpin, Milo Pope.

Baker County Board of Commissioners: Tim Kerns, Republican

U.S. President: John McCain, Republican

U.S. Senator: Gordon Smith, Republican

U.S. Representative, 2nd District: Greg Walden, Republican

Oregon House District 60: Cliff Bentz, Republican

Oregon Senate District 30: Ted Ferrioli, Republican

No on Measure 58

The opening two sentences of Measure 58 read like the introduction to a rousing political speech.

“English is the language of opportunity in America. Learning English opens doors to better jobs and opportunities.”

It’s pretty hard to argue with those statements.

Unfortunately, Measure 58 rapidly devolves from there.

Although we think Measure 58’s apparent goal is laudable — to help Oregon public school students who aren’t native English speakers become fluent as soon as possible — the way in which the measure seeks to achieve that goal is terribly misguided.

Yes on Measure 60

A solid majority of Oregon’s public school teachers, we feel confident in asserting, are dedicated people who do a good job.

But teachers, even the successful ones, are not clones.

Some teachers are just plain better at their job than others.

This hardly makes teaching unique among professions, of course.

Not every lawyer, after all, can deliver an eloquent closing argument.

But as we know, the silver-tongued attorneys command bigger fees than their colleagues who tend to get tongue-tied in front of jury or judge.

We think teachers ought to be treated the same way.

The best teachers should earn more money, and have more job security, than the merely adequate teachers.

That’s the basic idea behind Measure 60, and we urge voters to support the measure on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Unfortunately, Measure 60 has been tarnished by the reputation of one of its chief petitioners, Bill Sizemore.

Re-elect, Ferrioli, Bentz

Although neither of Baker County’s representatives in the Oregon Legislature has an opponent in the Nov. 4 election, we urge voters to remember to cast their ballots for Sen. Ted Ferrioli and Rep. Cliff Bentz.

Both are strong advocates for issues vital to Baker County, including preserving water rights for farmers and ranchers, promoting renewable energy, and managing public forests both to produce timber and to reduce the risk of wildfire.

Both Bentz and Ferrioli also are Republicans who supply at least a little balance in the Legislature, in which Democrats hold majorities in both houses.

We count on Ferrioli and Bentz to remind their colleagues about what’s important on this side of the state.

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