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Airport should allow ad


We don’t share environmentalists’ concern about a bill pending in Congress that would allow logging to increase on some public forests in Western Oregon.

But we think they ought to be able to buy advertising space in Portland International Airport to plead their case.

The issue involves a campaign by several groups, including Oregon Wild and The Sierra Club, that dislike a proposal sponsored by three Oregon congressman — Democrats Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader and Republican Greg Walden — that would boost logging on about 1.5 million acres.

The groups’ campaign includes color ads with a photo of a clearcut forest and the slogan: “Welcome to Oregon: Home of the Clearcut."

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Behind the numbers

To say there is room for improvement in Baker School District students’ scores on standardized tests is to state what’s not only obvious, but inevitable.

Such room will exist until every student meets or exceeds federal standards on every test.

This, of course, will never happen.

Yet we see considerable evidence that Baker 5J is making a concerted effort to better students’ performance.

And considering the challenges the district faces, we believe there is at least as much reason to applaud that effort as to criticize it.

The latest test results are hardly a cause for celebration, to be sure.

Students’ performance dropped in the 2012-13 year, compared to the previous year, in 13 of 18 categories.

Yet in seven of those 13, the decline was less than 4 percentage points.

Baker’s overall drop mirrored the statewide average, a trend school officials actually predicted due largely to students in many cases not being allowed to retake a test after failing to meet the federal benchmark.

But in several categories Baker students not only improved from the previous year, they surpassed the state average.

As for the challenges we mentioned, half of Baker’s students have family incomes that qualify them for free or reduced-price meals.

Students who live in poverty are more likely to struggle at school. Baker officials have tried to deal with that disadvantage in simple but effective ways, including offering breakfast at school.

The La Grande School District, as a comparison, has a smaller percentage of students qualifying for reduced-price mules — 46.3 percent. Yet Baker students outperformed their La Grande counterparts in half of the 18 categories.

The district has also increased the amount of training available to teachers. Critics might deride this as “teaching to the test,” but the actual purpose is to help them teach students how to better retain what they learn and, in some cases, will be tested on.

That sounds like good practice to us. Tests, however flawed they might be, still are a measurement of how much students have learned.

 

City had to return gift

 


It’s always difficult to reject a gift.

Especially one given posthumously.

But we agree with the Baker City Council’s decision last week to return to the family of the late Anthony Silvers the property he bequeathed the city upon his death in 2012.

 

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Council made right choice on guns in parks


The Baker City Council was wise Tuesday to not tinker any more than was necessary with the city’s parks ordinance and its reference to visitors who carry guns.

The matter came to the Council at the behest of City Attorney Brent Smith. He noticed recently that the city’s current parks ordinance is in conflict with Oregon law.

The city ordinance prohibits people from having a gun in a city park. Yet state law allows some people, including those who have a concealed carry license for a handgun, to have a gun in most public places, including parks.

The Council simply removed the conflicting clause.

Councilors had also considered replacing that clause with one restricting certain people from carrying a loaded gun in a park, but Police Chief Wyn Lohner recommended against doing so.

Lohner’s concern is that someone might choose to test the city’s legal authority by openly carrying a gun, whether loaded or not, in a park.

Lohner, in a memo to councilors, emphasized that though he opposes adding a clause restricting openly carried guns, he doesn’t want to possibly entice people to openly carry guns in parks. We agree with the chief — There’s no reason for the city to create a potential problem where none exists now.

 

Is UV light enough?


Baker City Manager Mike Kee said recently that the city’s water supply could be protected against cryptosporidium within 12 months with the installation of an ultraviolet light treatment plant.

That’s good.

Our question is whether it’s good enough.

Although crypto has been the focus of the city’s efforts for the past several weeks, and rightfully so, the parasite is hardly the only water-treatment threat the city faces.

And UV light, though effective against crypto, is no defense against some of those other threats.

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Time for a special session


Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber is ready to try again where he failed, by a single vote, earlier this summer.

Kitzhaber called this week for a special session of the Legislature to convene Sept. 30 with one goal: Approving the governor’s “grand bargain.”

That two-pronged plan includes cuts in Oregon Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) beyond what lawmakers passed this spring, bringing the total paring to $900 million, as well as $200 million in new taxes.

It’s the second part of the package that doomed the grand bargain earlier this summer.

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Water talks in the open


In the wake of Baker City’s crypto outbreak, our elected city councilors have a responsibility to make sure that city employees responsible for the water system are doing their jobs competently, in order to prevent another public health crisis.

Unfortunately, the City Council’s public “work session” last Thursday accomplished little except to further confuse city residents who already have more questions than answers about this summer’s unprecedented contamination of their drinking water.

During that meeting councilors talked about the tone of emails they have received, apparently written by other councilors, dealing with alleged mistakes made by city staff.

Councilor Kim Mosier described the language of these emails as “hostile.”

Councilor Barbara Johnson deemed the missives “mean-spirited."

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Stay out of Syria’s civil war


After more than a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, we’re distressed that Americans need even to consider the possibility that a single member of our military will die or be injured while intervening in Syria’s civil war.

The notion that an attack in Syria by the U.S. and other western allies is the only, or even the best, way to prevent the further use of chemical weapons in that war seems to us an illogical one.

To be sure, diplomatic alternatives offer no guarantee of success, either.

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Crypto: Next steps


We might never solve the mystery of Baker City’s cryptosporidium outbreak.

Which is to say, we might never know where, and when, enough of the parasite got into the water to make hundreds of people sick.

That’s just the nature of this tiny beast.

The problem is that crypto is potentially present in many kinds of mammal poop. And given that the city obtains its water from a 10,000-acre swatch of forest which is home to thousands of animals, all of which defecate, finding the smoking gun, as it were, is rather unlikely.

But of course city officials are hardly powerless.

There are tasks the city can undertake that would either reduce the risk of future crypto outbreaks, or protect the water in case another big dose of the protozoa enters the system.

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A tale of two cities & crypto

 

Baker City has little in common with Portland.

Except for cryptosporidium.

When it comes to that pesky waterborne parasite, we run in the same circles as Oregon’s largest city.

Well, sort of.

Both cities get their water from surface streams that flow through a forested watershed where access by people is severely restricted, but where elk, deer and other wildlife roam free.

Both cities are among the four in Oregon that do not have to filter their surface water to meet federal drinking water standards (the two other cities qualifying for this rare exemption are Bend and Reedsport).

The attitudes of officials in Portland and Baker City toward crypto, and the threat it poses to their constituents’ health, however, is rather different.

Baker City officials certainly hadn’t made crypto their top priority until hundreds of people were sickened with crypto over the past few weeks.

But the city did, a few years ago, pretty much settle on installing an ultraviolet light treatment plant, and in fact had started the preliminary work on the project.

Portland officials, meanwhile, have consistently argued that their city shouldn’t have to do anything to protect Bull Run water against crypto.

Portland even convinced the Oregon Health Authority’s Drinking Water Program, in 2012, to grant the city the first, and so far the only, variance to the federal law that requires Baker City to begin treating its water to remove the crypto threat by Oct. 1, 2016.

The 10-year deal allows Portland to avoid building a treatment plant, in exchange for doing regular testing for crypto in its water supply.

What strikes us as especially interesting, though, is that until the crypto outbreak that has caused so much trouble in Baker City this summer, our experience with crypto had been similar to Portland’s.

In 2010 and 2011, three of 24 samples of Baker City water contained a small amount of crypto — two oocysts in one sample, and one oocyst in each of two samples. No cases of infection were reported during that period.

In late December 2011 and early January 2012, three samples of Portland water also contained crypto, and at precisely the same amounts as Baker City’s samples — two oocysts in one sample, one in each of two others.

Portland, unlike Baker City, has continued to test for crypto since its positive tests, and has not found any oocysts in several hundred other samples.

We’re more than a little surprised that, so far as we can tell based on media coverage, Baker City’s crypto outbreak hasn’t attracted much attention in Portland or the other cities that buy Bull Run water.

We’re surprised because the similarities between the two cities’ water supplies, and their vulnerabilities to crypto, are so striking. If nothing else, Baker City’s experience is compelling evidence that the potential for Portland’s water to be contaminated with infectious levels of crypto probably is not so remote as Portland officials have argued.

And for sheer numbers, Portland has us beat in a big way. Close to 1 million people — about one in every four Oregonians — drink Bull Run water.  That’s a lot of potential illness.

 

 
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