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Home arrow Opinion arrow Letters

Letters to the Editor for Dec. 7, 2012


Weigh the facts before voting on school board recall

This is the last weekend for fellow parents and taxpayers in the 5J School District to turn in their recall ballots. On a local election such as this, every single “yes” vote will count. 

Emotions are running high on both sides, and voters have likely read more opinions and seen more ads than they ever cared to. It would be easy to throw up one’s hands in confusion, but I hope each voter will instead take their ballot into a quiet room alone and set all those opinions and emotions aside. 

The clearest vote will be cast after simply weighing the facts in the ballot statements and then reading the statements of justification below them on the ballot. I’ve, of course,  voted “yes” on this very important recall. Tuesday is the deadline.

Kerry McQuisten

Baker City

The author is the chief petitioner in the recall campaign.

School district is doing well; vote ‘no’ on the recall

Having been public school teachers for over 30 years in both Oregon and California, we are very aware of how things operate in the public school system. As we pointed out in a previous letter, this whole recall situation is wrong and based on wrong issues. Mrs. Burroughs and Mr. Henderson both have outstanding credentials as educated professionals to serve in this capacity. Their goal is to provide the best education possible for the students of the 5J school district. Current school ratings plus a balanced financial status indicate that they have been accomplishing this goal.

In addition, we would like to comment on the ongoing debate regarding the legality of Mr. Knight’s press leak. While his supporters proclaim his innocence, Mr. Knight has not made that claim. He maintains that he had every right to release the information about the investigation. He stated that it was his “First Amendment right” to leak the superintendent’s email. In The Oregonian, he said “When it has to do with the taxpayers’ money, it’s not confidential.” Hardly the “I didn’t do it” we hear from the recall backers. Oregon Legislature has deemed that certain information is to be kept confidential. Mr. Knight’s “Freedom of Speech” does not supersede Oregon Revised Statute 192.660 or 332.061 in regards to what school boards discuss in confidential executive session. If Mr. Knight doesn’t like the laws, he is free to lobby Salem to change them. What he is not free to do is to decide which laws he will follow and which he will not.

Vote “no” on this unnecessary and wrongful recall.

Alden Keith Taylor

Nancy Ann Taylor

Haines

Recalls are bad for Baker County; vote ‘no’

I have been curious as to how the two newspapers in Baker City might endorse this upcoming school board election. No word yet. 

In this current recall election, two school board members are being recalled for alleged wrongdoing against another school board member. There has been lots of noise made by a few people with grandiose charges and even a lawsuit.

This does sound familiar. In the 2009 Baker City Council recall effort the Baker City Herald endorsed the “no on recall” position by saying,  “We understand the voter attraction to recall.  It’s direct democracy — voters addressing their grievances against elected officials. Yet by voting “yes” on this recall, voters will actually weaken their electoral muscles even when they are flexing them,”  since replacements are appointees until the next election.

In the same election The Record Courier also endorsed “no on recall.” They wrote,  “Recalls should be reserved for those who have done something illegal, immoral, grossly incompetent or in some way violated the voters trust.” 

I understand this recall effort to be very similar to the failed 2009 effort, with no serious wrongdoing but hurt feelings and lots of noise.

A resounding “no on recall” vote will help send the message that recall elections are bad for Baker County.  Vote “no” on the recall.

Ed Moses

Baker City

Recall time, money better spent on education

As a Baker County taxpayer and voter, I am concerned over Kyle Knight’s attitude toward the disclosure of confidential information. He seems to believe that, when it has to do with taxpayer money, it isn’t confidential. Mr. Knight is surely mistaken on this point. Just because a person is employed by a school district does not mean that they forfeit their legal rights. Personnel investigations, and the resulting disciplinary actions, are subject to definite laws. In fact, public sector employees are often better protected than their private sector counterparts. This is covered under “public employees due process rights.”

I understand that Mr. Knight was twice given the chance to re-affirm his oath and promise to abide by policies regarding the dispensing of confidential information. Twice he refused. Instead, he has chosen to put this community through a recall election. Recalls are by their very nature divisive in small communities and they are also very expensive. How much better it would have been had the time, effort and money been used for the education of 5J students instead of this unnecessary and expensive recall election.

Please join me in voting “no” on this recall.

Nelda Marshall

Haines

Why so important to keep information from public?

I don’t know the subjects of the 5J recall effort, but I’m thankful I don’t have children attending school in the middle of so much corruption. 

Here’s what I’m getting from this. Lynne Burroughs and Mark Henderson censured Knight on the claim that they somehow were protecting the schools from the illegal acts he committed. The problem is, it’s come to light that he didn’t do anything illegal and all this liability they talk about never existed. They removed an elected official’s access to financial and other information for no reason, which begs the question: Why don’t these two want Knight to have access to information? The logical explanation is that he’d share it with the public. What don’t they want the public to know? What are they so desperate to hide that they’d spend a good ten grand in campaign propaganda over their volunteer positions? Don’t people wonder?

I imagine if they lose this recall, we’ll all find out. If they’re kept in office, no one ever will.

Will Godes

Baker City


Letters to the Editor for Dec. 5, 2012


Recall wouldn’t improve our thriving school district

Anyone who reads the local paper knows how well the Baker School District is doing over the past few months. This performance is no accident. Parents, teachers, administrators, local businesses, members of the public and the school board have all had a role to play over the years. It’s up to each voter to decide what recalling board members would accomplish. I personally believe better performance is unlikely to be an outcome of a recall. Instead, a crippled board and reduced performance is more likely.

We already have an election in May that allows voters to make direct decisions about makeup of the school board. Unless the three remaining board members can come to unanimous agreement, the vacancies of Mark Henderson and/or Lynn Burroughs will remain open.  Additionally, as current vice chair, I will become presiding officer if Lynn Burroughs is recalled and there will not be three votes for Kyle Knight or Jim Longwell to serve as chair.  The board could be deadlocked on many serious considerations over the next several months.  We are just entering into contract negotiations with the teacher’s association.  We have another serious budget cycle to address, specifically with a poor projection for Oregon’s economy and resulting state funding, as well as the increase in PERS liabilities for retirees and current employees.  We are addressing the question of the achievement compact as related to the state’s response to a federal waiver from the annual yearly progress process.  We have serious business and it shouldn’t be sacrificed to salve personal vendettas, which is really at the heart of the recall. 

Finally, there is the question of the censure of Kyle Knight.  I will not support a reversal of the censure. We need to be able to trust that all board members, for example, can keep confidential negotiations confidential. Voters elected Mr. Knight to productively contribute to board discussions about budgeting, educational policy, instructional strategies and contract negotiation. We hope that retaining Directors Burroughs and Henderson will impress upon Mr. Knight the need for board members to serve only the interests of faculty, staff, students and the community.

Andrew Bryan

Baker City

The author is a member of the Baker 5J School Board.

Knight’s censure was a spiteful act, and a mistake

Why was Kyle Knight censured? A few questions you should ask yourself before voting.

Why weren’t any charges brought against Knight if he did something illegal?

Why wasn’t the district sued if Knight’s actions subjected it to so much liability? Maybe the liability was blown out of proportion.

Did he jeopardize the investigation of theft of school funds by informing the public of this? Evidently not.

Why was it so important that the public not be aware of this crime?

What was the true reason that Kyle Knight was censured, and who suggested censuring him after embarrassing the superintendent by not keeping his confidential secret about a theft of school funds?

Why did Lynne Burroughs have to withdraw a wrongful appointment? Was it because it was made the way “we usually do things” in the good ole boy way? Why was there not a disciplinary action for this willful disregard of ethics?

Knight invoked the wrath of Burroughs and Henderson by not going along with their way of usually doing things. Kyle was new to the board and didn’t know how things had always been done before.

Was the censure really made in the best interest of our kids and our schools?

Was the censure a spiteful act because he didn’t agree with Burroughs and Henderson, and wasn’t afraid to speak up?

I have never met Kyle Knight, but I voted for him to represent me on the school board. I have been satisfied with his representation. I believe this censure had nothing to do with any allegedly wrongful acts by Knight, but was purely a spiteful act to punish him for not bowing down to his elders.

Lynne Burroughs and Mark Henderson have had the opportunity to correct this wrong deed, but have refused to act. It’s sad that a recall is the only way to correct this spiteful censure. And that’s why I’m voting for the recall of Burroughs and Henderson, and urge you to join me in returning Kyle Knight to his rightful status as a full board member.

Terry Speelman

Baker City

School board is doing great; recall is a disgrace

I spent my career of 34 years as a science teacher at Baker High School. During those years I got to know a lot of school board members of 5J. It has always amazed me how those busy people could take time out of their lives to solve the many problems of 5J. And there is no fiscal reward.

I served on several teacher committees negotiating with the board dealing mostly with teacher salaries. Always I found board members to be friendly, intelligent, and deeply concerned with the education in 5J. I disagreed occasionally, but there was never any rancor from either side. When I left those meetings, it was with the same feelings of respect and admiration toward the board as I had entered the meeting. People who serve on school boards to me are heroes.

I do not know personally either of the two board members up for recall, but the way the schools are doing is evidence that this board is excellent, at least a 3-2 majority is.

In my opinion the problem in this case is Kyle Knight. He claims that his toes were stepped on. No, he stumbled badly.

This recall is a disgrace.

Allan McCullough

Baker City

Kyle Knight has wasted public resources

Noting that the originator of the “no” campaign, Dr. McKim is a longtime taxpayer. So assessing letters to the Baker City Herald I discovered a heavy preponderance of “no” advocates to be longtime taxpayers.

So Kyle Knight proved how easy it is to squander other people’s contributions for a personal matter. Bad precedent. The money could have gone toward enabling young minds to deal more effectively with life. With anger at Knight’s wastefulness I voted “no.”

Betsey McCullough

Baker City

Burroughs, Henderson get credit they don’t deserve

I’m tired of seeing Lynne Burroughs and Mark Henderson get credit they don’t deserve. They had nothing to do with Haines having a teacher of the year. The teacher did that! What these two school board directors ARE responsible for are bad business decisions. They increased Walt Wegener’s admin office budget by 25 percent. The 5J “technology” budget jumped 125 percent under their watch. Don’t even get me started on the fact that they raised six-figure-salaried Wegener’s pay, but the classified staff haven’t seen a raise in five years. Our kids aren’t seeing our tax dollars put to work — not with Burroughs and Henderson agreeing to a benefits insurance policy with premiums more than double what other districts pay. This is bad management pure and simple.

 A $10,000 recall is a financial bargain if it means getting these two out of office. Vote “yes.”

Shawn Overbay

Baker City

Burroughs, Henderson blame but don’t explain

I read last week’s letters to the editor with dismay. Barbara Johnson is angry that Kyle Knight didn’t accept the blame for trumped up accusations he was never guilty of. Melinda Sherrieb feels it’s fine he was “censored,” a violation of his civil rights, because she didn’t like his comments. Eloise Dielman believes an opinion that opposes hers on this recall is ridiculous. Nice.

The last time I noticed, we live in America where our freedoms are protected by law. And last time I checked, Lynne Burroughs and Mark Henderson are the ones being recalled for their illegal actions, not Knight. If you read the ballot, you’ll see a myriad of legal reasons for their recall. You’ll also see that they can’t address a single one of those reasons head-on, so they continue to deflect, distract and attack.

 The cost to our rights, values and children’s education by keeping these two in office is incalculable. The cost of a recall is small by comparison. Preserve our rights and vote “yes.”

Cindy Frazier

Durkee

Exercise our rights and vote ‘yes’ on 5J recall

It has been suggested recently that the cost of a special election necessitates a “no” vote, specifically regarding the school board recall. I disagree. Recall elections are a part of the democratic process – one of the more direct democratic processes a voter can participate in.

Democracy has never come cheap. Our ancestors fought and died for the privilege to vote our elected officials in, and to vote them out as needed. This is a right that we have and we must exercise it in order to maintain its status as a right. If we allow elected officials who misrepresent those that voted them into office, to continue without reprimand we are not doing our duty as citizens under our democratic system.

Mark Henderson and Lynne Burroughs have not lived up to the expectations of those who voted them on to the school board. I urge a resounding “yes” vote when your ballot arrives.

Jon Burton

Baker City

Questions unanswered; I’m voting ‘yes’ on recall

The Dielmans’ recent letters, along with those of other Burroughs and Henderson supporters, reveal that they don’t consider hiding public information from voters to be “malfeasance.” They find the opinion of the 1,000 people who signed the recall petitions to be “ridiculous.” How arrogant and frankly, frightening. But then, that line of thinking is what made Henderson and Burroughs the subjects of a recall to begin with.

Since Kyle Knight’s censure and banishment from district information, all the public has seen from 5J is the puppies-and-rainbows news they’ve allowed the media to see. I still have questions! Most of us do.

 To this day I still don’t know how long the theft of our taxpayer dollars continued at 5J. How long did they know before we knew? How much money was taken? How long was the employee kept on administrative leave after she confessed? Did she continue to draw a salary during that leave? Did she get a severance package? Why do dozens of 5J employees believe theft has been an ongoing issue there? Why are the 5J superintendent and finance guy so adamantly against giving Knight access to information and therefore, against the recall? Finally, why was no neutral, outside accountant ever brought in to do an audit?

 We should have known these answers months ago. I’m voting “yes” on the recall.

Jacob Payton

Baker City

Avoid political spin and vote ‘yes’ on recall

It’s interesting to see the recent flurry of “no” on the recall letters, so many of which come from those associated with 5J administration or, like the thousands of dollars the anti-recall camp is spending, from outside our area. None of the letters mention the actions Lynne Burroughs and Mark Henderson are actually being recalled for!

I couldn’t care less that Lynne Burroughs directed a good play at the local theater or that she could have retired years ago. I do care that she has spread a message across town and in her ballot statement that she somehow was forced into implementing an illegal censoring of an elected official.

 I care very much that she’s made all the authors of these support letters believe that Kyle Knight broke the law and she only stepped in to protect the district. Guess what? It’s pretty clear that Kyle Knight broke no law to begin with. It’s also pretty clear that Burroughs did when she censored him, and Mark Henderson backed her play.

 It’s not at all surprising to see the same administrators who received a pay increase writing letters to the editor against the recall. The leader of the teachers’ union also threw his support against the recall. It’s important to note that Mark and Lynne head the labor negations committee — the pieces are falling together.

 If you want to avoid the 5J political spin, just get down to brass tacks and read your ballot. Vote “yes” on the recall!

Irene Mack

Baker City

I voted ‘yes’ on recall with a clean conscience

I’ve read many letters and comments concerning voting on the recall of Burroughs and Henderson, and I have to say, I would certainly be ashamed if I told, or believed, the lies the “no” campaign supporters were telling.  The actions of Burroughs and Henderson should warrant a recall, and with the obvious vote coming up soon, the only vote that makes any sense is a “yes” vote.  I already voted that way, and I can sleep well supporting the right side, with a clean conscience.

Todd Arriola

Baker City

Here’s hoping animal abusers are punished

Having read the article concerning animal abuse, one would not expect to find this degree of lowlife and cowardice in our town. I, like others, became incensed at this kind of behavior.  Having given this some additional thought, I turned it into hope. I hope that those responsible for these crimes against animals are apprehended soon. I hope that the names of those responsible are circulated throughout the community. I hope we know when their court date will be. I hope the courtroom is filled with Baker City citizens. I hope the judge throws the book at these cowards.

And last, I hope the judge sentences these cowards to be with me for 15 minutes.

Norm Doyle

Baker City

I’m voting ‘yes’ on recall to repair the division

Opponents of the recall such as Donna Landon call the 5J recall effort divisive in their letters. I disagree. Lynne Burroughs and Mark Henderson created the division in the community when they showed no regard for the voting public. I view the recall as a means to repair that division and move on. To cast aspersions at the recall effort seems to me much like attacking a mother for giving a disobedient child a timeout, or protesting a judge for punishing a criminal. It makes no sense. I can’t tell anyone how to vote, but I’m definitely voting “yes” on the recall.

Nancy Clair

Baker City


Letters to the Editor for Dec. 3, 2012


Sorry to be stuck, but glad it was in Baker City

It’s a serendipitous day when an unforeseen event happens that messes up all of your plans, but the event happens when you are close to a community as delightful as Baker City.

On Saturday, Nov. 17, my husband and I were traveling to spend Thanksgiving with our children at the California Dumont Dunes when our truck blew out injectors. Luckily this truck-crippling disaster happened just eight miles outside of Baker City. Steve and son used a big orange Roadrunner truck to tow us into town and they parked us across the street from Baker Garage. The garage wouldn’t be open for repair work until Monday!

Saturday afternoon and Sunday we wandered around town. We had yummy coffee and rolls at the Zephyr, munched a pork tenderloin at the Chamealeon and had beer and nachos at The Main Event. At every place we stopped the people were friendly.

On Monday morning we found that we had at least three more days to wander around town.

We continued to enjoy the shops and the squirrels in the park. Three things about your community became clear to us. First, the people are warm, friendly and helpful. Secondly, the business owners take pride in their places of business and add touches of their personalities to the décor to make the place charming. Finally, loyalty and pride are evident. Whether it was the voiced disappointment in the Ducks’ loss, the tribute paid to the veterans or decorating the Art Center, this community is Americana at its best.

In closing we would like to invite your readers to our town, Chewelah, Wash. Chewelah is somewhat smaller than Baker City but we have the same welcoming spirit and I’m certain you would feel welcome there.

Thank you.

Bill and Kay Lupton

Chewelah, Wash.

Burroughs, Henderson made the right decisions

I feel compelled to express my feelings about the media frenzy that has been created in response to the actions of the Baker School District 5J Board of Directors. I believe the school board has guided this district through some of the worst economic times in recent history. I understand that success may not be apparent to all citizens, but if one looks at a snapshot of other districts throughout the state, it could be so much worse.

I will vote “no” on my recall ballot. I believe the role of a board member is to implement the policies of the district while making sure rules and laws are followed. The focus should be the educational well-being of our students and staff.

As I have watched the current situation unfold, I see the real issue being that voters made a poor decision when electing Mr. Kyle Knight to the school board. At the time, this mistake was not as obvious as it is today. Mr. Knight has agendas that directly conflict with the well-being and educational goals of the district. His focus has been to justify his actions by pointing fingers at others while not reflecting on his own actions. Mr. Knight broke state confidentiality laws by providing information to newspapers about an ongoing criminal investigation within the district. Ironically, he is now suing the district for $700,000 for violating his rights while he shows no regard for the rights of others. Mr. Knight is forcing a recall that will cost the district $10,000. If Mr. Knight is volunteering his time to serve the district, his way of doing it is becoming very costly.

Mr. Knight lacks the maturity and focus necessary to be an effective member of a board.

Lynne Burroughs and Mark Henderson have worked hard to support the educational goals of this district. I admit that they have been forced to make some tough choices, but at the end of the day the board’s decisions concerning Mr. Knight were right on target.

Please join me in voting “no” on the recall of Lynne Burroughs and Mark Henderson.

Tim Smith

Baker High School teacher

Burroughs and Henderson don’t deserve recall

Recall efforts are for serious offenses like malfeasance of office, embezzlement, fraud or other illegal activities. Burroughs and Henderson did nothing wrong. This recall is about Kyle Knight not acting like a responsible board member, failing to follow the rules of district policy, state laws, and the Constitution.

After seeking legal advice from several sources, the 5J Board censored him. He got mad and wanted revenge. He has worked on the recall and is suing the district. He and his supporters have tried to make him out as the victim, while he continued to instigate multiple problems.

Why was Mr. Knight being censured?

During preparations for the 2011-12 district budget Mr. Knight stated to the papers he had found “misappropriation of funds” and stated to other media they had “cut 25 teachers, saving $250,000 and raising average class size to 30:1.” These statements were factually untrue.

In October of 2011 Mr. Knight falsely accused a well-respected teacher who is also a Baker Education Association representative of lying during an open board meeting.

In November 2011 at a regular board meeting he referred to ongoing police investigation of gang activity in Baker City. This information was confidential, and could have compromised the investigation.

In April 2012 Mr. Knight received a confidential email from the superintendent regarding possible misuse of district funds, he forwarded this to the papers during an ongoing police investigation. He did this despite additional training on confidential information. He put the district and board at risk for legal liability because employee information is confidential.

Mr. Knight disregards established rules, doesn’t check facts or ignores the facts, and creates chaos leaving others to deal with the resulting turmoil, then he goes on to create another problem.

How do you get people of quality to run for elected office if we don’t stand up against this kind of abuse? Burroughs and Henderson have tried to protect the district, its staff, students and patrols.

Vote “no” on the effort to recall.

Victoria Valenzuela

Baker City

Support board, vote ‘no’ on unnecessary recall

I am blessed to live in Baker Valley where neighbors are honest and issues are resolved in amicable manners. It is sad and tragic that a group would waste energy, money and emotional stress with a recall of 5J School Board members.

Lynne Burroughs and Mark Henderson are thoughtful, responsible, effective and hard-working volunteers for our school district. They serve us admirably by working as a team, and they deserve to continue to fulfill their terms and dedicate their hours to improving our schools for Baker children.

Two years ago I had hope in Kyle Knight’s leadership thinking he would bring youthful energy and ideas to the Board. Instead, Kyle has brought immaturity and acrimony to a successful school board including the legal risks jeopardized by his poor self-serving behavior.

We need to support our current working Board and vote “no” on the 5J recall.

Ginger Ellingson

Baker City

Recall is a misguided power play: Vote ‘no’

Peggie Longwell, Baker County Chair of anti-government Americans for Prosperity and wife of school board member Jim Longwell, certainly has the constitutional right to criticize, in her letter of Nov. 23, two valuable board members who have recently led the school district to statewide recognition. But her points are trivial and illogical.

Longwell’s criticisms of Burroughs or Henderson are: misquoting the oath of office, confusing the words “censure” and “censor,” and supposedly accusing Knight of subscribing to a foreign doctrine while quoting some political theory I never heard of. She also criticized them for not following their oath when they reprimanded Knight and excluded him from discussions about which he did, could again, and avowed he would continue to disclose confidential information.

With regard to the latter, everyone knows that freedoms are real but are also limited in certain circumstances. No one has the right to yell fire in a crowded theater. No official has lost his freedom of speech by withholding confidential material from the public if its release would be harmful. It is absurd to imply that wrong-headed speech by one errant board member should carry more weight than the education of 1,700 5J school children.

Longwell’s criticisms smack of something hidden and unsavory, since the evidence (school performance, prizes, teacher accolades, fiscal stability, and creative programming) far outweighs her picky little complaints.

Henderson attends and helps out at Haines school functions, even sweeping the floor if need be.

Burroughs drove all over the western U.S. to find just the superintendent that could produce the excellent results we are seeing in 5J today. And some want to recall these public servants? Let’s honor them!

And let’s “expose to the light” that just five people (McQuisten (K), McQuisten (D), Knight, Longwell, and Smith) gathered 91 percent of the signatures on Burroughs’ recall petition. A small fringe element might foolishly seek to fire the exceptional superintendent that Burroughs worked so hard to find. But recall is hardly the right vehicle. That’s what elections are for, and we have a free one coming up in May. Vote “no” on this misguided power play.

Suzanne Moses

Baker City

Knight and his backers could start charter school

 I would like to urge the voters of the Baker 5J School District to vote “no” on the recall. I have many reasons, but I want to discuss one in particular.

Kyle was very disappointed that in July 2011, I would not support his bid to take over as the chair of the 5J School Board. Kyle has established his “Education Fund” to revamp the Baker 5J School District. But Kyle doesn’t need to take over the Baker 5J School District in order to implement his vision; there’s another way.

Oregon has one of the broadest charter school laws in the nation. If Kyle and his backers truly believe that his vision is superior, then let them prove it by opening their own charter school. Show us what you’re really about, and then the parents of Baker 5J will be free to choose which school they want their kids to attend.

Besides, some of Kyle’s ideas, like using his “cadre” of volunteer teachers, are easier to apply in a charter school.

This idea of Kyle starting a charter school wasn’t mine, but I think it really is the best solution for both sides of this debate.

I can tell you one thing: my kids won’t be subject to Kyle’s “revamping” of Baker 5J. We can homeschool if need be.

Mark Henderson

Baker City


Letters to the Editor for Nov. 30, 2012

Support schools and vote ‘no’ on 5J recall

Lynne Burroughs and Mark Henderson deserve our strong support for resisting unjustified attacks by Kyle Knight and editorials in the Baker City Herald. I urge my fellow citizens to turn out in record numbers to register an overwhelming “no” vote on recall.

Three School Board members censured Knight for his premeditated and premature disclosure of confidential personnel information about a criminal investigation. This followed his partial disclosure of a separate police investigation. By acting decisively, the Board helped ward off potential liability for future releases of confidential information.  This potential liability was real, and the censure was preventive, not punitive. Had they not responded, they would have violated their fiduciary duty to protect community interests.  They should be applauded.

The claim that two disclosures of confidential information about circumstances ALREADY under criminal investigation improved “transparency” is beyond absurd.  It can be understood only when seen as part of a concerted, but misguided, assault by a radical, anti-government few on the integrity of our public schools. The disclosures of confidential information, the recall effort, and the related lawsuit are clearly part of a broader set of tactics aiming to discredit and dismantle our public schools, and, as proclaimed by the web site of the Western Liberty Network, to “take charge” of Baker County (www.westernlibertynetwork.org).

Our award-winning schools are among our most valuable assets to attract and retain energetic young families in Baker Valley. The recognition of our model schools and our Oregon Teacher of the Year are testimony to the quality of our schools and their contribution to a promising future for us all.

Another valuable resource is the time and talent of citizens who volunteer to take on civic responsibilities. Their work is challenging enough without having to deal with baseless controversy and conflict.  We owe them a debt of gratitude!

The recall election offers an opportunity for us to stand together and honor the work of School District 5J and its Board. And to firmly reject the reckless acts of those seeking to undermine the District and the best interests of our community, in pursuit of their ideological agenda.

Marshall McComb

Baker City

Obama campaign propaganda was effective

We have some very effective propagandists. When B. Obama wanted to claim that he was helping our economy, he had his helpers get to work. They chose six weeks before the last election as a good starting point for their campaign. This would give them the opportunity to catch most of the early voters and all the others.

Obama wanted to claim that the unemployment rate was lower now than when he was elected. The figure they presented was 2 tenths of one percentage point lower than the old figure of 8 percent unemployed, or 7.8 percent. This was not a very awe-inspiring figure. Not to worry. The Obama folks would Goebbels it. What is that?

Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s pal, has been considered the greatest propagandist of all time. He claimed that you could make people believe anything if it was presented loudly and repeated long enough. So they began to have Obama come on TV with his message many times every day for the whole six weeks. The election provided the result. Goebbels was right.  

Virginia L. Kostol

Baker City

Diversity on school board should be encouraged

A diverse array of opinions and personalities should not be considered a bad thing on the school board. If any member is attempting to silence another, that member should be removed and replaced. We need a consensus, not a dictatorship. We need both those that have years of experience and those that bring a fresh perspective. Let’s not limit our collective wisdom by squelching dissenting input.

Mary Andersen

Baker City

Why I think frivolous recall attempt will fail

I’m very optimistic that the recall is going to fail. I’m referring to the attempt to recall two School District 5J board members instigated by chief petitioner Kerry Jones McQuisten in support of 5J board member Kyle Knight. Here are some reasons for my optimism.

Most recall elections fail.  

McQuisten’s petition does not include even one valid example of how the education of the children of School District 5J has been harmed by actions of the two school board members. In fact, unbiased appraisals show that our schools are functioning just fine, including one Teacher of the Year award.

Knight has ruined his reputation by suing School District 5J over his hurt feelings. Whatever happened to “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Former Baker City manager Steve Brocato sued the City. Last I heard, he was having trouble finding a job. Who’s going to hire someone who files what I consider a frivolous lawsuit against his former employer, or hire someone who sues his own school district over hurt feelings, for crying out loud.

Knight just lost an election to be a Baker City councilor. With four open councilor positions, Knight had a statistically very good chance to be elected. Until he filed his lawsuit against School District 5J. When the votes for city councilors were counted, Knight wasn’t even close to winning a seat on city council.

This recall is about silly playground bickering. Let’s all act like adults. I’m voting “no.”

Gary Dielman

Baker City

Burroughs, Henderson should be recalled

The recall is about a lot of things. But it’s not about Director Knight.

To sum up why Directors Henderson and Burroughs are being recalled, let’s look at some of their biggest blunders to date.

First, they attempt to implement a district weapons policy that clearly violated both federal and state statutes, all at the behest of OSBA. As a board member, Director Burroughs supported a substantial pay increase to administrators in the same year teachers were being laid off, their salaries frozen. Director Burroughs appointed friends and former board members to the budget committee after it was advertised publically for people to apply. That action earned the board a letter from the state that basically said they could not break the law.

They attempted to cover up an investigation into a district employee (who is incarcerated), and after Knight notified the press that an investigation was underway, they censure (and censor) Knight, claiming he gave the paper the employee’s name. It was revealed by a citizen at his censure hearing that the information had leaked from the district office. They attempted to make Director Knight a scapegoat. They have kept a duly elected official out of meetings, belittled him in the press, slandered him with spam mail to voters’ houses, and earned themselves a lawsuit in the process. The irony is that in trying to ostensibly avoid putting the district at risk, they end up making themselves and the district liable. I would call that less than competent. They cannot cite one real law that Director Knight allegedly broke. They also take credit for high test scores and great performance. I would appreciate a board that recognizes their real educators, our teachers. They made the product, not a lame-duck board.

The recall process is a legal provision given to the voters to say to incompetent leaders: Your time is up. Directors Burroughs and Henderson have proven themselves unable to keep the district free of liability and have blatantly failed to use professional judgment in their respective offices. Please vote “yes” to recall Directors Burroughs and Henderson.

Jason Smith

Baker City

Board had no choice but to censure Knight

The ballot statement in favor of the recall is so full of inaccuracies that it would take a second letter just to list them. The facts: Early last spring the district financial officer found evidence of a district employee using her position to illegally access district funds for personal use. He informed the superintendent who then informed the Baker Police Department. The superintendent also informed all board members of the investigation. He asked the members to keep the information confidential until the investigation was finished. He did this both to protect the rights of the accused (entitled by the U.S. Constitution to due process) and to allow law enforcement officials to conduct investigations quietly and effectively. Despite this, Mr. Knight conveyed that information about the investigation (including the name of the employee) to the Baker City Herald and other media outlets. He did this by forwarding several confidential emails between himself and the superintendent to the press. He did this before the investigation was completed.

Since Mr. Knight is a duly elected member of the 5J District board his actions made the district legally liable if the accused was innocent and decided to sue the district for damage to her reputation. Mr. Knight was formally asked in a board meeting to cease these behaviors and he refused. Attorneys informed the district that in order to protect the district from the actions of a rogue member they had two options. They could act to recall Mr. Knight or they could censure him. Board members thought that a recall would be too divisive so they opted to censure him. Mr. Knight’s situation is of his doing. He gave the board no choice. They had to legally distance the district from Mr. Knight to protect the district.

Recent test results confirm that Baker 5J students are among the top in the state. The district is doing an excellent job despite very dire financial constraints. From the beginning, Mr. Knight’s agenda has been one of destructive politics not the continued improvement of the education of our community’s children. Don’t help him. Vote “no” on the recall.

N.R Rusty Munn

Baker City

Teacher of the Year supports board members

Being selected as Oregon Teacher of the Year is such an incredible honor; especially recognizing I work for a district full of excellent employees. The numerous emails, cards, and phone calls from colleagues, community members, and unknown individuals have been overwhelming. I am blessed with tremendous support and encouragement.  Thanks to all of you! 

The recall issue saddens me when we have much to celebrate in our school district. Lynne Burroughs and Mark Henderson are two individuals who have been in the trenches with teachers and know the obstacles we face each day. Lynn is a retired teacher and Mark volunteers weekly to work with students in the classrooms. I have witnessed firsthand his desire to make sure all students receive the best education by providing assistance to teachers and schools. It is my sincere hope we keep them on our school board.

Nanette Lehman

Second-grade teacher

Haines Elementary


Letters to the Editor for Nov. 28, 2012


Recalls don’t settle anything; vote ‘no’ on 5J measure

Recalls and lawsuits are normally the last resort in settling disputes and differences, not the first action. They don’t settle a thing. They drive a wedge between us, doing away with our unified hearts and minds to solve problems. Please vote “no” on the recall and instead encourage normal civilized discussion on issues relating to our public schools.

Donna Landon

Baker City

Don’t punish wrong people; vote ‘no’ on 5J recall

No elected official should be recalled for doing his duty. Elected officials swear to uphold the law and we expect them to do so.  In the case of Kyle Knight, the Board’s duty led to his censure in order to protect our school district from his careless disregard for the privilege his position afforded him. His actions exposed the board and the district to expensive litigation.

Consider the simple story of how Mr. Knight came to be censured by the leadership of the school board.

Superintendent Wegener sent an email marked confidential to the school board that the D.A. was in the process of investigating potential embezzlement from the school district. Mr. Knight released this proprietary information to local newspapers while the investigation was still underway and due process termination of the employee involved had not yet occurred. This action exposed the district to a serious lawsuit.

The board asked Superintendent Wegener to check with the state on how to deal with the situation. The State Ethics Commission said the board must police itself.  The Oregon School Boards Association Lawyers agreed with the Ethics Committee and said it was essential that the board deal with the liability caused by Mr. Knight’s behavior.

The board was advised by legal counsel how to separate itself from Mr. Knight’s actions, to reduce the threat of liability to the district and to give him due process.   

 To allow Mr. Knight to regain board trust to participate fully within the guidelines of executive session privilege and avoid censure to bar him from these sessions, he was twice invited to retake his oath and promise to refrain from outing confidential information. He refused both times. The board had no choice but to censure him to prevent his further indiscretions with confidential information. This is the only legal action available

 It is Mr. Knight’s refusal to respect the position to which he was elected that has brought us to this pass. Make sure your vote does not punish the wrong people and reward the cavalier behavior of an elected official. Vote “no” on recall.

Aletha Bonebrake

Baker City

Stop corruption and vote ‘yes’ on school board recall

5J District voters will soon receive their ballots. For 20 years we lived in the district. My husband and our children graduated from Baker High School. We currently have a granddaughter in the 5J school system.

My husband and I attended the March meeting when Kyle Knight was censured. We were horrified by the unprofessional behavior of Mark Henderson and Lynne Burroughs. Burroughs couldn’t cite one specific statute or BOLI law that Knight had actually broken; she just kept waving a handful of papers in anger and saying that he had. We saw Henderson turn beet red and yell at Knight. They never allowed Knight or the public a turn to speak. The fliers they later mailed were filled with character assassination and lies.

Some people have made this a conservative versus liberal issue. It’s not. It’s about right and wrong. Burroughs and Henderson were wrong in their censure of Knight, but that’s the tip of the iceberg. Burroughs single-handedly appointed her friends to the Budget Committee, earning the district a letter from the state. She and Henderson tried to deny Second Amendment rights to concealed weapon permit holders last fall and First Amendment rights to Knight this spring. 

Finally, these same bully tactics didn’t stop at the board meetings. After the second petition drive was underway, their supporters showed up on the doorsteps of some of those who had signed previously, and tried intimidating them into not signing again. Local business owners were threatened if they signed the second petition, one being told if they signed again they would never get a job with the district again, another being told the business would be boycotted until they went out of business. We heard from dozens of district employees, who wanted to sign, but all believed if they signed, it would mean their job. Coercion is illegal.

If we can’t control corruption in Baker County, how can we ever hope to stop it at the federal level? I urge a “yes” vote on this recall. Honest government begins at home.

Suzan Ellis Jones

Bridgeport

The author is treasurer of the recall committee. Her daughter, Kerry McQuisten, is the chief petitioner.

Knight deserved censure; vote ‘no’ on 5J board recall

It’s interesting how you can read minutes and newspaper articles relating to the same, without getting a real sense of what actually occurred at a school board meeting. Minutes only state what was moved upon and the paper cannot provide every statement or comment made. The dynamics are only visible and felt when you are actually in the room.

So in order for me to make an unbiased judgment it was my responsibility to attend meetings, not hear about it from someone else. Having retired from 30 years as a professional, both in the workforce and in management, I’ve found it matters not the age, but how you conduct yourself and present your perspective. Is it professional? Is it respectful even when you disagree? 

Every meeting I’ve attended Mrs. Burroughs, Mr. Longwell, Mr. Henderson and Mr. Bryan have conducted themselves in a professional and respectful manner as they dealt with district business, and interacted with staff. Mr. Knight? Not so consistent, possibly dependent on who and how many are attending the meeting. Is this professional and helping move the board to common goals? 

The majority of the board, whether they are agreeing or not, has the best interest of the students, the community and employees at heart, taking a stand for or against motions, not abstaining or just stating present. The majority of the board is willing to respectfully listen, and adjust their stance, if the presentation warrants, without snide, side comments. Mr. Knight? Not so much. 

 This recall is mainly based on Mr. Knight’s censorship due to inappropriate actions. When you become an “employer” or employee, your freedom of speech is justly modified. There are protocols for making public statements concerning “ongoing investigations” and personnel issues. Not following them puts any public organization at risk. Yes, monetary risk. The trust is also lost when dealing with confidential issues. Do you not do the confidential business at hand? Or do you censor? Mr. Knight’s actions did and do have justifiable consequences.

 Keep our good, conscientious volunteers and join me in voting “no” on the recall.

Melinda Sherrieb

Baker City

Appreciate our board members and vote ‘no’ on recall

School board members are volunteers, although they must be elected. They are not paid. They serve because of their interest in quality education for the children of our community, but they do so within the guidelines of the state of Oregon laws pertaining to schools and education. They are not friends and may never be friends. They may have serious disagreements among themselves, but they recognize that they must function within the laws of the state governing education, and that no one individual is going to change the ways the Oregon education system functions, nor how the schools are run.

I served on the board for a term a few years back. Most of the time, if there are differences of opinion, they are settled through the process of rational, reasonable discussion among adults, not through a recall petition. What on earth are we trying to do here? Do we want to frighten off these community-minded people who work so hard for nothing? Ridiculous. As far as I am concerned, recalls are a last resort to be used if there is a clear malfeasance of office or actual crime discovered. None here!

 I say support the board members we voted for, who volunteered to give up great chunks of time to serve us, the children of our community, and the betterment of our schools. Show them that we appreciate their time and efforts.  Vote “no” on the recall election.

Eloise Dielman

Baker City

Why I’m voting ‘yes’ on the school board recall

Since I detest having someone try to tell me how to vote, I will only record how and why I am voting. I am voting “yes” on the recalls because the present board has made such an awful mess of the board’s business.

The trouble began when Kyle Knight ousted the incumbent chairman of the 5J Board. This apparently offended these two members enough that they began to oppose Kyle. First they tried to ignore him at board meetings, then they began to make fun of him and later to ridicule him. Then they started an extensive campaign against him. They produced many long and dreary letters and sent two long, involved pieces to mail patrons condemning Kyle. One of their loudest complaints was that Kyle had mentioned an employee who might come under investigation. This complaint was without merit since he had mentioned no name. Soon after the culprit was investigated, charged and taken to court. That culprit is still in jail.

The most outrageous action was to censure Kyle and keep most board business secret and unavailable to him. Up until now no one has even heard of, or dreamed of, censuring a board member and keeping board business from him.

Superintendent Wegener appears to have been intimately involved in all phases of this sorry debacle. You cannot recall him. You would have to fire him. A superintendent was fired just a few short years ago and, as I recall, it cost the district about $350,000 to buy up her contract. For some incredible reason the board improved and extended Wegener’s contract just this year!

Carl Kostol

Baker City

Board members failed to make the right choices

I’m voting “yes” to recall Lynne Burroughs and Mark Henderson from the 5J School Board. Why? Because this recall has nothing to do with whether I support Kyle Knight or not. It has nothing to do with whether I approve of his lawsuit. It doesn’t even have anything to do with whether I like or dislike Lynne Burroughs or Mark Henderson. This recall has everything to do with the environment I see being created within the school district, which will trickle down and taint our students’ educations.

Do we really want leaders in place who spend thousands of dollars in out-of-state donations on negative local mailings, sent with the apparent intent of slandering another board member? Do we want leaders in place who are the defendants in a defamation of character lawsuit because of those mailings? Do we want to see continued chaos on the board or do we want peace?

This situation has taught me that given the choice of doing what is right and doing what is not right, these individuals would take the latter course every time. Lynne Burroughs and Mark Henderson rejected the petitions of over 1,000 verified registered voters twice, refused and snubbed any form of discussion or conversation on these issues. I believe things happen for a reason; these members were given a second chance when the first round of signature fell short on a razor thin margin. The cutthroat response from these members did nothing to address these issues, it only deepened it.

If anyone is responsible for the cost of this election it’s these two individuals. It’s sad that pride and hatred clouds the common sense of these individuals, at the expense of the students and taxpayers. The judgment displayed by these two individuals has been questionable at best, destructive at worst. We need a board governed by laws, not men.

A “yes” vote will do that.  

Sean Gilsdorf

Baker City

Get back to business, vote ‘no’ on the school board recall

We are writing to express our dismay about Mr. Knight and his followers’ apparent disregard for the consequences of their continued assault on board members Lynne Burroughs and Mark Henderson.

The $10,000 to $12,000 cost of this recall election could be spent in a much more beneficial way for our students and staff of District 5J and we do not approve of having our tax dollars spent in this manner.

It is pretty clear from the outstanding ratings of our schools and teachers that the school board, administration and staff are doing a good job of providing quality educational opportunities and making sound financial decisions.

It seems to us that even better results could be obtained if those we have elected to guide and direct our school district would spend their time working to achieve the goals of the district rather than carrying out personal issues.

Therefore, we would encourage voters to send a strong message to “get back business” by voting “no” on the recall.

Gary and LaVonne Yeoumans

Baker City

Focus on education, and vote ‘no’ on board recall

Thank you to all of you who are joining me in voting “no” on the 5J recall. We need to retain these strong leaders who have contributed so much to the success our school district is currently enjoying.

What most people don’t understand is that when the three school board members voted to censure a fourth member, they were acting to protect the school board and the district from potential legal liability, which still exists. Why wasn’t the censured member mature enough to simply accept responsibility for his error in judgment and get back to doing the work for which he was elected? Instead, two of the three board members have been subjected to this recall for acting in the best interest of the district.

People, we are better than this. Let’s vote “no,” put this divisive matter behind us, and put our energies into giving the children of this community the best education we can.

Barbara Johnson

Baker City

Burroughs, Henderson are committed to our kids

I’ve been a public education employee for over 20 years and as such have sat through dozens of school board meetings. I’ve watched the make-up of boards and school leadership change through the passing of years and have been able to observe how leadership affects schools.

How can you tell if someone is a good board member? The litmus test is the seriousness with which one takes their commitment to serve for the betterment of schools. Mark Henderson and Lynne Burroughs consistently demonstrate responsible and responsive behavior. They are faithful to the duties and role of a public board, studying with diligence mundane governance topics like board policy, budget updates, school improvement goals, employee changes as well as “hot button” issues that occasionally crop up.

When discussing school business, they keep an open mind as to what’s best for students and families as well as what’s practical in terms of application in classrooms. They listen to and carefully weight opinions expressed before fulfilling their obligation to vote on school matters. Time and again, under Lynne’s leadership, I’ve watched the board modify their original position to reflect in input from the community.

Additionally, Mark and Lynne routinely visit schools to see firsthand how things are working. In my experience, the amount of “face time” in schools these two have logged puts them among the top 10 percent of board members. Bottom line, they not only show up at meetings, they care about the effect board decisions have on students and schools. You will hear many folks talking about “putting kids first,” but these two put feet to their commitment.

In my opinion, Lynne Burroughs and Mark Henderson exemplify exactly the type of school board member our community wants and needs. You have read and heard how our district is receiving notice for the steady progress and consistent results we are achieving. This has not come about circumstantially; it takes the hard work of employees coupled with clear-sighted leadership at the board level. We have that in Mark Henderson and Lynne Burroughs. Please join me in voting “no” on the recall.

Betty Palmer

Baker City


Letters to the Editor for Nov. 26, 2012


Burroughs is dedicated to community improvement

I lived in Eastern Oregon for over 30 years and in Baker City from 1994 until I moved away in 2009. I worked in Baker City, volunteered in this wonderful town, and raised my children there.

Lynne Burroughs is part of the reason my two kids, coming from a family with just a mom trying to raise them, succeeded as well as they did. She taught my kids, guided them, and helped to develop a sense of pride, and self-reliance.

The contributions of Lynne and her husband, Phil, cannot be put into words. I cannot imagine a better influence, or any one person who could have opened the world up more for my children.

This is what it really takes to be a completely balanced person in this life: understanding, adventure, fairness, responsibility, intelligence, sacrifice and embracing the good values from a hometown atmosphere. Giving back to community is always going above and beyond.

I became involved with theater in 1997 meeting and working with Lynne and eventually helping to launch Eastern Oregon Regional Theatre in 2003. I grew in ways I never thought I could thanks to the talent, integrity and intelligence that I found in her. 

I cannot speak to her adversary in the recall ... I don’t know him. What I can speak to is maturity, wisdom, sacrifice, and compromise.

I have not read anything about him that indicates he has begun to reach or understand that level of life yet. It is beyond my comprehension that anyone should question her dedication to making Baker County a better place.

She could have retired and given up on doing anything good in her community, but she chose to run for the school board and try to make a difference. I wonder how many others would have stuck their necks out to do the same and been able to put up with this unacceptable insanity impacting education in Baker County. If I still lived there, my vote would be 100 percent against this ridiculous and expensive recall. As Shakespeare once wrote, “something wicked this way comes.”

Cindy (Vergari) Murphy

Terrebonne

It’s time to get back to Age of Common Sense

In his 1776 pamphlet, Common Sense, Thomas Paine characterized pre-revolutionary America with his infamous phrase, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” Those words echo my feelings about the current Board scenario playing out in the local media today. As the son of a father who spent 34 years as a teacher, building administrator and Superintendent, and having invested 31 years in education myself, I am deeply unsettled by the events unfolding in our community. School boards have been an integral part of the American educational landscape for the better of part of a century now. Generally speaking, a school board is an elected democratic body charged with representing the community on public education issues.

I emphasize education issues. It is accountable for and provides oversight of the operation of local schools with powers confined to those delegated to it by the state legislature. Its chief role is to implement state and district education policies. A board is further charged with maintaining a basic organizational structure for local schools, meeting federal and state school mandates, appointing a superintendent, adopting an annual budget, and creating a climate to promote educational excellence. Common sense ostensibly leads me to extrapolate from this, that education is the sole agenda of a school board. Multiple peripheral issues which divide our Board have allowed personal feelings and interests to transcend the interests of our students, educators, and communities. A divisive measure, this recall will not serve the educational interests of our children and this is the Board’s mission. Instead, it is time for our Board to amicably resolve its differences, recommit to its leadership responsibilities and focus on fulfilling its delegated mission. Let us redouble our efforts to achieve our collective education vision.

We owe this to our students, the teaching community and ourselves.

Anthony Johnson

Baker School District

Director of Curriculum,

 Instruction, Assessment 

Vote yes to recall two    school board members

We need school board members who are honest, show integrity and good professional judgment, and who understand they serve the public, not the other way around.

We haven’t had such a school board in months. Please vote yes to recall (Lynne) Burroughs and (Mark) Henderson.

Alisa Anderson

Baker City


Letters to the Editor for Nov. 23, 2012

Don’t drive helicopter company out of county

Again this year and for several years in the past, Columbia Basin Helicopters (CBH) has supported the 4-H youth of the community by purchasing their animals during the annual fair. CBH is a local company that provides many important services such as agricultural work in support of area farmers and ranchers, firefighting, in addition to the employees who make Baker County their homes. CBH has been located in Baker County for over 20 years and would love to spend another 20 years here.

Yet the County Commissioners and the Baker City Planning Department are determined to force the closure of CBH over some undetermined zoning issue. If the County succeeds in this matter CBH will be forced to close its doors here in the county and relocate to another county that will not mind increasing its business development and tax revenues. Just in 2012 alone, CBH has spent $4,895 in property taxes, $16,000 to the Baker County Fair, $500,000 in payroll and over $1 million to the local economy through their support of local businesses.

Dyann Brosnan

Bruce Morrison

Baker City

A wonderful concert by the Baker City Orchestra

A full house greeted Baker City Orchestra, Thursday evening Nov. 15, at the Veterans’ Community Conference Center.  (former Heilner location.)  

For those who missed this initial concert, I hope you have opportunity to hear a future program, by these local talented  musicians. 

How rewarding to see and hear seasoned, mature musicians in company with a blending of young people among them. The ratio of strings, brass and woodwinds was delightful.

These music lovers have practiced diligently since the  beginning of 2012, and their dedication shows.

They display enthusiasm, gusto, and confidence in presenting a varied program. 

Kudos to Conductor Kelly Brickman for providing leadership and inspiration to the group. Baker audience was given a treat for the season! Thank you.

Phyllis Badgley

Baker City

Restore freedom of speech, vote ‘yes’ on recall

Besides the natural beauty of the city and surrounding mountains, one of the reasons we decided to move from the Portland area and retire in Baker City, were the basic American values we found here. Compared to the valley, it was like stepping back in time. We were disturbed when we saw the erosion of these values in the 5J school district issue. We were upset when we saw the curtailment of freedom of speech by the censoring of an elected official and the subsequent demonization of that official in a couple of mailers. It is for this reason that we support the 5J recall measure and hope that the citizens of Baker City do likewise in the December special election.

Democracy is not cheap. Many have paid the ultimate price to preserve our values. Please do not let the small cost of this election sway your vote.

Jon and Julie Sallquist

Baker City

Don’t recall two great school board members

Baker School District 5J has the honor of having Oregon Teacher of the Year Nanette Lehman on its staff. Haines has been named an exceptional school. We have an excellent, award-winning district. So why is there a recall for two outstanding board members?

This recall is not needed. It is a total waste of time and money. Vote “no.”

John and Frances Burgess

Baker City

Burroughs and Henderson should be recalled

As a proponent of good local government, I am compelled to write a plea to the voters of Baker County to please take the time to read the ballot measure to recall 5J School District Directors Burroughs and Henderson.  The above-mentioned subjects of the recall effort have done everything  they can imagine to malign Kyle Knight, for doing the job that he was elected to perform and they have failed to do themselves. 

They have on numerous occasions:

1. Failed to follow their oath of office by violating the First Amendment right of Mr. Knight by ” prohibiting the free exercise thereof: or abridging the freedom of speech…”

2. Violation of open meeting laws by holding separate meetings in groups of two with Walt Wegener, effectively preventing anyone whose opinion differed from theirs, from having a say in the way the School Board runs.

3. Confusing a “censure” with a “censor” and usurping the duties of a duly elected public servant.

4. In the censure session Burroughs has quoted the oath of office incorrectly — “to support and promote the district” it doesn’t say that anywhere in the Oath of Office. Henderson indirectly accused Kyle Knight of being a Marxist/Communist by following Cloward & Piven doctrine of overloading the system. Totally inappropriate.

Time for the schoolyard bullies to admit they have been exposed to the light and do the right thing for all of the people in the 5J District, including employees and students.

Please vote “Yes” on the recall measure.

Peggie Longwell

Baker City

The author is married to Jim Longwell, a member of the Baker School Board.

Adler scholarships aren’t available to all graduates

Most of our small community is aware of the Leo Adler Foundation and all that they support. Indeed, if it were not for the heritage that Leo left us, many of the beauty and arts we enjoy would not be possible. And most of us are also aware that the foundation offers scholarships to graduating seniors of Baker County schools. As the website leoadler.com reads:

“Its purpose is to provide scholarships for continuing education to qualified persons who are graduates of a high school located in Baker County, Oregon and North Powder, Oregon. In addition, the foundation distributes grants to qualified charitable organizations and governmental units providing benefits to the Baker County community.”

But few are aware of a mark against Leo’s name. There is a handful of graduating seniors here in our town that will not be so fortunate as to experience the benevolence of the Leo Adler Foundation. The fact is, a graduating senior from Baker High School heading to EOU may qualify for a scholarship, but a graduate from Harvest Christian Academy heading to the same school will not.

Of course, the foundation is private and can discriminate against whom they wish. Unfortunately in this case, it makes one wonder why there is discrimination. CAT and SAT scores of students at Harvest Christian Academy are on par with the public school system. Their website states: “Harvest Christian Academy is committed both to academic excellence and to raising up confident Christian leaders who will make a lasting impact upon our community.” It sounds like something Leo would have stood behind, an organization that is helping to build our future.

Are Leo’s pockets so shallow that they can’t offer the same support to a small school so involved in our community? Maybe the foundation should ask that one simple question: “What would Leo do?”

Drea Rasmussen

Baker City

Knight wasn’t elected to disrupt school board

Honest differences of opinion are perfectly appropriate in an organization as long as they don’t become the primary focus of the group.

Mr. Knight has obviously decided that conflict and continuing disruptions are his goals as a member of our school board. He has shown an ever-growing disregard for the charge of representing the best interest of our children. Responsible, mature and dedicated members of any team simply don’t behave in a selfish, self-serving manner while continuing to foster personal agendas.

The other members of our school board are honest, dependable and committed volunteers! They don’t deserve the kind of personal attacks this young man continues to foster.

Mr. Knight wasn’t elected to be a disruptive, attention-seeking, and frequently inappropriate representative. He should understand that his job is to be a positive role model for our community, our teachers and most importantly our kids.

These times are challenging enough and our school board has important work to do.

Mike Durgan

Baker City


Letters to the Editor for Nov. 21, 2012


Thanks to all who helped; vote yes on the recall

With the school board recall election set for Dec. 11, I’d like to send a huge thank you out to the over 30 circulators who helped gather signatures, the more than 1,000 5J patrons who signed our petitions, and the hundreds more who’ve told us they’re ready to vote for the recall even though they weren’t in a position to sign the petition.

Ballots will hit mailboxes Nov. 23 and 24. This recall is about the right of local voters to choose whether Mark Henderson and Lynne Burroughs remain in office, and whether they should continue to be allowed to affect the environment in which our children are educated. Please read the statements on the ballot outlining our reasons demanding their recall, and read their statements of justification carefully. You’ll notice their statements deflect 5J patrons away from the issues at hand – they don’t address them.

Burroughs and Henderson have left quite a path of destruction in their wake. They’ve subjected the District to legal liability by wrongfully punishing another elected Board member. They disenfranchised the 1,600 of us who voted for him when they stripped him of the information and duties that we, the voters, intended him to have. They distributed multiple mailings filled with lies to thousands of households, and are now the defendants in a defamation of character suit as a result. They ignored the intent of public meetings law and the desire of the community to have a transparent local government when they started meeting in subcommittees of two to the exclusion of the public and other elected Board members. They, of course, blame Kyle Knight for their actions. And in spite of the recent PR spin launched by the District, 5J school report card scores have actually decreased in the past year. Superintendent Wegener, of course, blames the test.

My children deserve better leadership examples than this. So do yours. It’s time we have school board members who take responsibility, follow the law and focus on education. Please remember to vote YES on the recall.

Kerry McQuisten

Baker City

The author is the chief petitioner in the recall campaign.

Predictions about climate disaster sound sketchy

Last April, 49 former NASA scientists and astronauts chided that agency for going overboard on the issue of catastrophic global warming. They said that its “advocacy of an extreme position, prior to a thorough study of the possible overwhelming impact of natural climate drivers, is inappropriate. “ They expressed fears that such actions might lead to “damage to the exemplary reputation of NASA, NASA’s current or former employees, and even the reputation of science itself.”

In 2008, Al Gore claimed that those who disagree with him on this subject are “almost like the ones who believe the moon landing was staged on a movie lot in Arizona and those who believe the world is flat.” However, one of those who co-signed the above strongly worded letter was Harrison Schmidt, both a Harvard geologist and the last man to stand on the surface of our moon and see the round ball of our earth in the lunar sky. Not exactly a flat-earther!

The claim that 98 percent of scientists agree that global warming is human caused and will lead inevitably to catastrophe is as spurious as the famous ‘hockey stick’ graph which claimed to show the climate of our planet was unchanged for the past millennium, spiking upward only in its final decade. The above-mentioned scientists can tell you that over the centuries, the climate of our planet is constantly changing, warming up and then cooling again.

During the 20th century, the average temperature of the earth did raise about 1 degree; that is settled science. The claim that global warming will threaten human existence is science fiction. There have been centuries-long periods in human history when the earth was significantly warmer than it is today. None of the calamities predicted for a warmer earth happened. Indeed, historians call these warm eras “climactic optimums,” when the earth’s climate was most favorable for mankind.

If you’re going to predict what a warmer earth will be like, perhaps you’d best consult with those who know what it was like in the past before going out on a limb. 

Pete Sundin

Baker City

Justice of the Peace Williams thanks voters

Dear Residents of Baker County:

I wish to thank you for expressing your confidence in me and my abilities, by electing me to serve as your Justice of the Peace. For those who didn’t vote for me, I wish to thank you for participating in this great exercise of democracy, and promise to serve you well. I count it a privilege to be elected to this position and welcome your suggestions on how we, as court staff, can improve the services of the Baker County Justice Court. I also thank Steve Bogart, for running a strong and honorable campaign; something that for some jurisdictions, seems to be a rarity in this election cycle.

During the campaign, I visited with hundreds of you in your homes, and in the shops and workplaces of our Baker County communities. I have heard of the financial struggles of many of you who are unemployed, or own small business are having, and I also heard of your love for our community. You spoke of the importance to be treated with fairness and transparency in the court room. I committed to all of you to keep my promise in running that kind of a court room, and I will do so.

The major social concern I heard from all but a few, was the proposed road closures in our public lands. Again I promised, as a private citizen, I will continue my efforts, in voicing our desire to keep all existing road access to our national lands open to all citizens. The outcome of further USFS and BLM road closures will greatly impact the recreational, mining, and logging opportunities for residents of Baker County, and will in turn have a devastating impact upon tourism and the viability of our business communities. I am confident if we the citizens, and our elected city, county, state and federal representatives all take a determined stand on this issue, we can prevail.

Again, thanks to all of you who supported me in this campaign, by writing letters, posting signs, and speaking to your friends and colleagues regarding my character and abilities, to do the job to which you elected me. Please feel free to bring to me any concerns or suggestions you may have regarding the Justice Court, and I will give them careful consideration.

Don Williams

Baker City

School board recall a waste of time, talent, money

It is a tragedy. The attempt to recall two Baker 5J School Board members is a gross waste of time, talent and taxpayer money. It is a blight on Baker City. Why would any intelligent, civic-minded person want to be on the school board if this is the kind of treatment they receive?

Lynne Burroughs has given and continues to give so much to this community to make it a better place to live. She knows what it takes to teach in a classroom and the problems our school district faces every day. We need her dedication and expertise on the school board.

Please support Lynne. Vote “no” on the recall.

Barbara Prowell

Baker City

Discussion a better option than recalling officials

Recall is an expensive, divisive public activity that ultimately discourages interested people from running for public office.

Recall should be for serious misconduct of a public official, such as embezzlement, felonious or criminal acts, etc.

If you, a patron, disagree with an act or position of a public official, call them for discussion, go to meetings and present your position. Disagreement should lead to conversation with both parties talking and listening.

I encourage people to vote “no” on the recall.

Robert McKim

Baker City

The author is a past member, and chairman, of the Baker School Board.


Letters to the Editor for Nov. 19, 2012


Don’t break up a school board that’s working

I have been a proud member of the Baker School District 5J staff for 35 years. I’ve seen many administrations and school boards come and go. I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. Right now, as a school district, we have a lot of successes: two model schools, we are financially fit, our administration (including district office staff) is leading us to be better teachers, we are on track to tackle the Common Curriculum State Standards in 2015 and our staff members are strong and involved. In addition, we have the Oregon School Employees Association’s Classified Employee of the Year for 2012-13, Ma’Lena Wirth AND the Oregon Teacher of the Year, Nanette Lehman!

Our school board is supportive. They are making decisions that keep our district running well. There is no need to recall any of our school board members.

If it isn’t broken....

Sue Richard

Baker City

The author is a fifth- and sixth-grade teacher at Haines Elementary School.


Letters to the Editor for Nov. 16, 2012


Don’t cheat the kids — vote no on 5J recall

The question facing weary Baker voters now is: Is it the right time and the right use of election law to recall Chairperson Burroughs and Member Henderson from service on the 5J School Board?

Last spring I became concerned that Member Kyle Knight had managed to position himself as a victimized folk hero in the media. So I began attending school board meetings to see for myself.

I found the board was performing the routine functions of any school board — setting policy, making personnel decisions, evaluating staff, budgeting, and protecting the district from liability after consultation with council.

I also found that the efforts of the hard working school board majority were put under unusual scrutiny by the newly elected and inexperienced minority of Knight and Longwell, who mostly abstained or voted no on all but the most routine matters.

The agenda of these newcomers was not readily apparent — but it was clear to me that there was one. There was an implication that children and families were not being well served by the board and its staff. (Note that Burroughs and Henderson are well known community minded directors who give generously of their time and serve entirely without pay.)

So rather than getting lost in the weeds, I hope voters will ask these key questions:

• Is the district performing well? (YES)

• Has the board successfully guided the district in tough times and kept it afloat? (YES)

• Is it the job of the board to protect the district from exposure to liability and did it take steps to do that? (YES)

• Any malfeasance? (NO — no stealing, no corruption, no gross incompetence)

Ideally, we determine who we want to make decisions on our behalf through elections, not by recalling people with whom we disagree. Let’s chalk this mess up to a personality conflict or a personal grudge. Maybe fires were fanned by easy access to headlines or dreams of higher office. But mounting a recall which cheats kids while claiming to help them — that shows who the real victims are. Vote no on recall.

Suzanne Moses

Baker City

Salt already used on Baker City streets

I refer to your paper’s editorial from Nov. 2. You state your displeasure with Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) and their intent to begin limited testing of road salt on an 11-mile stretch of I-5 near the California border as well as a somewhat remote 120-mile stretch of U.S. 95 between Idaho and Nevada. You also correctly point out that road salt (sodium chloride) promotes corrosion of metal parts associated with virtually all motor vehicles which can be very expensive to repair and often leads to rapid depreciation of a vehicle’s worth.

I suggest you look much closer to home when it comes to using corrosive road salt. In fact, you need look no further than Baker City Public Works if you want to discuss the use of rock salt on roads. Baker City Public Works routinely applies corrosive rock salt to most moderately to heavily traveled city street intersections. It is nearly impossible to operate a motor vehicle on Baker City streets without passing through an intersection that has not been treated with corrosive road salt. The city has, in the past, printed maps that show which intersections and roads are treated with salt. These maps could be obtained at no charge from Public Works.

The only reason a city or state uses rock salt as a deicer is it costs less than using more expensive magnesium chloride, which is only about 25 percent as corrosive as rock salt or sodium chloride. Mag chloride is applied in liquid form and is often combined with corrosion inhibitors as well. The government entity that chooses rock salt as a deicer would no doubt argue that rock salt is a more cost-effective deicer. The question should be asked, cost-effective for whom? I would argue corrosive rock salt is certainly not more cost-effective to us, the motoring public, no matter which government body promotes its use.

James Wilkinson

Baker City


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