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Letters to the Editor for Jan. 28, 2013

Ban any guns with detachable magazines

The blood-splattered classrooms at Sandy Hook Elementary and the 26 photos of the now-dead children and teachers call us to use our utmost creative intelligence, both mental and spiritual, to solve a seemingly intractable problem.  

Intellectually, we’re asked to take a closer look at which weapons of war we allow in our community, while still observing the Second Amendment.  Obviously, our modern weapons are many times more lethal than they were when the Bill of Rights was ratified, and today we prohibit civilian possession of machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, for example, without violating anyone’s constitutional rights.                                      

NRA President David Keene warns us that detachable ammunition magazines in, say, our Bushmaster AR-15s and our Glock 19s take only seconds to change, thus greatly multiplying their killing potential. The profane tragedy in Connecticut provides a ghastly demonstration. It seems reasonable to conclude that we must now prohibit any guns with detachable magazines of any capacity.  

By comparison, “The Guns that Won the West,” the Winchester rifles and Colt revolvers, had fixed magazines.  If we limit ourselves to modern guns with fixed magazines holding about six cartridges, we will surely go a long way toward protecting ourselves from mass slaughter.  A generous buy-back program could fund the transition.

We can also reduce the number and accessibility of guns in our neighborhoods and insist on adequate storage safety. The late Nancy Lanza had seven guns. Eight guns were recovered from two recent residential burglaries in Baker City. We need to ensure wise and competent gun ownership.

Spiritually, I believe we’re asked to gently heal the obsessive fear and harsh condemnation that blocks reasoned debate, obscures our shared humanity, and spurs us to become what we hate. Texas Governor Rick Perry tells us to pray for guidance. I agree.  

In addition to the Second Amendment, our Constitution promises to insure domestic tranquility and promote the general welfare — which means our well-being: health, happiness, and prosperity.  I urge us all to search our hearts and minds to discern the full intent and meaning of all the provisions and protections of our marvelous Constitution.

Marshall McComb

Baker City

Fight to protect our Second Amendment rights

During my 91 years as an American, I have watched the slow deterioration of our individual rights and freedoms. God bless our Oregon sheriffs and those in so many states across the U.S. for their guts in refusing to carry out any orders that would infringe upon our Second Amendment rights. I’ve long admired Sheriff Arapaio of Arizona for bucking the federal government, including both our president and Congress who fail to enforce border security, which is a duty of our government stated in the Constitution. Our government “walked” 2,000 guns into the hands of the Mexican drug cartels who used them to kill 300 or more people, including Americans, while our own border patrol guards were only allowed beanbag rounds with which to defend themselves. On top of these failures, Obama now wants to begin stripping Americans of our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms while at the same time pushing for the Small Arms Treaty with the U.N. which would give the U.N. the power to police Americans, thereby giving up our national sovereignty. Obama just took his second oath to uphold the Constitution. Words are easy, but how unconstitutional his actions are!

Taking away our gun rights makes as much sense as trying to stop drunk driving deaths by making it harder for sober drivers to buy cars. We need to fight for our Second Amendment rights. That amendment was put in place for good reason — and that reason was not about hunting. That amendment allows Americans to protect ourselves from a tyrannical government. Do our elected officials demonstrate the epitome of morality, ethics, character, common sense, integrity or self-restraint? Absolutely not. All the more reason to make sure the inalienable rights in our Constitution are preserved.

Ann E. Racey


 Don't put 8th-graders at BHS

We are writing you to warn of some of the legal dangers that lurk if eighth-grade students are placed at the high school. Because this is one of the options being proposed with our current overcrowding issue, we are publicly warning about the dangers of this choice.

We understand that the school board has many difficult decisions to make due to our continuing challenging economic circumstances, but we urge you most strongly to think very carefully before placing adolescents between the ages of 13 years to 19 years together in the same school building. Your decision will be in place for many years, long after many of us are no longer in our current positions of service to the community.

Under Oregon law, youth under the age of 18 years cannot consent to sexual relations.

Yet the Legislature recognizes that some youth engage in sexual relations voluntarily. Because of this, the Legislature created a defense if the victims’ lack of consent was due solely to incapacity due to age. The defense only applies if the actor is less than three years older than the victim at the time of the alleged offense.

Under current Oregon law, all citizens 15 years of age or older are subject to Oregon Revised Statute 137.700, which is known as Ballot Measure 11. This statute requires mandatory prison sentences when a person is convicted of specific crimes. Four of these crimes apply when the victim is under 14 years of age. These crimes are Rape in the Second Degree, Sodomy in the Second Degree, Unlawful Sexual Penetration in the Second Degree, and Sexual Abuse in the First Degree.

Why our concern? For many years we have prosecuted, defended, or judged cases in Baker County and have dealt with these types of cases. We are very aware that our concerns probably don’t apply to the vast majority of the students at the high school. However, we have seen some good kids let passions get out of control or use poor judgment regarding relationships.

Many eighth-grade students are 13 years of age for all or most of that school year. To put these immature youth under the age of 14 years with older, more sophisticated youth may be a recipe for a life-altering disaster. The results of these actions, whether done with bad intent or not, will then be catastrophic for all involved. Should a 16, 17, 18, or 19-year-old youth become involved sexually with a 13-year-old eighth-grader and be convicted, the result is a mandatory 75-month sentence in a youth correctional facility or prison. This cost to society does not count the emotional price paid by the victim, community, and others.

When we say become involved sexually, we want people to understand this includes a touch over clothing upon the private parts of another for a sexual purpose.

Anecdotally we have asked many adult women what age boys they were most interested in when they entered high school. The answer is almost universally, “the older boys.” When they are asked if they think their interest in older boys would be different if they were eighth- graders at a high school, the vast majority still felt they would be interested in older boys.

We choose not to paint the picture any further. We are sure you are well aware of the foibles of adolescence. We would rather see parents help their teenagers through these difficult years. Please consider the non-economic price paid by society and, specifically, the youth if these acts should occur. Placing eighth-grade students at the high school increases the risk of such a price being paid by youth making dumb choices.

Judge Greg Baxter presidents over the Baker County Circuit Court.

J. Robert Moon Jr. is a Baker City defense attorney.

Matthew B. Shirtcliff is Baker County district attorney. 

Letters to the Editor for Jan. 23, 2013

Speaking of ‘United States’ should include ‘Of America’

On Sunday, I cringed as I watched Barack Obama take the oath to be president of the “United States.” Which “United States?”                 

For me, it should have been president of the “United States of America.”  Isn’t that what we say when we salute the flag?  “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the ‘United States of America.’ ” After all, there are “united states” in other countries in the world, aren’t there? Of what country is Obama going to be the president? Well, in utilizing my faithful computer and referencing the Preamble and the Constitution itself,  somewhere I found one referral to the words “United States” as the “informal”  name of our country.  Whatever. For me,  I am a citizen of the “United States of America.”

Mardelle Ebell

Baker City

I’d be happy to help put up flags on King’s day

On Monday, the 21st of January, the weather was quite cold but it was not raining nor was it snowing and the wind was not even blowing but there was something missing on Main Street in Baker City. It was a federal holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King and it was also Inauguration Day. Where were the American flags? If I recall, I have never seen them displayed on Martin Luther King Day here in Baker City. I am sure that putting out the flags in our community is a volunteer job. If the people who do this have headed south for a warmer climate, in January, or are unable to tend to it, I would be happy to volunteer to put the flags out on Martin Luther King Day and I am sure that I would not be alone.

Liz Starkey

Baker County

Where were the American flags on a double holiday?

I was in town today (Monday) and was surprised at the lack of the American flags on display.  I thought maybe I was mistaken so tonight I  researched online. The premier experts are from http://americanflagfoundation.org. I was right. Flags were supposed to be flown today both for the inauguration and Martin Luther King’s birthday.  So what happened?  Somebody asleep?  

Iva Mace

Baker City

Letters to the Editor for Jan. 18, 2013

A recent article in the Baker City Herald describes criminal charges filed against men who were involved with the Baker Web Academy three years ago. I’ve been a BWA board member for almost a year. In that time I’ve been privy to audit details, I’ve met stellar educators, and I’ve come to know dedicated board members who serve the best interests of our children.

My kids have been BWA students for almost three years. My eldest Sarah is a BWA junior enrolled in the Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer degree program. She is simultaneously earning a high school diploma and an associate’s degree that will fulfill all lower division requirements at any four-year college in the Oregon University System. If she enrolls in an Oregon university, it will be as a junior classman. Sarah participates in extracurricular athletic programs at Baker High School, and has been permitted to enroll in a class at BHS when space was available. Her teachers will tell you she is a good student. I will tell you that Baker City is fortunate to have community-minded school administrators who provide flexibility and excellent choices in education.

My son Ben was a BWA student until two months ago, at which time he transferred to BHS as a freshman. Although his sister prospers in the online environment, we discovered that at age 14, Ben seemed better suited to a traditional classroom setting. The BWA and BHS staffs were extremely helpful in achieving a seamless transition, and his teachers will tell you that he arrived well-equipped to perform.

My youngest, Katie, spent her kindergarten year in the 5J school and is now a first-grader enrolled at BWA. In addition to our preference for a “home school” environment for Katie, we also like the flexibility, the attention from staff (by telephone), and the excellent selection of available curricula.

The Herald article referred to BWA as “a public relations dilemma,” propagating a regional perception of the school that is unfounded. The academy has received attention for low achievement test scores, but the majority of BWA students who failed to meet minimum test benchmarks were enrolled at the school less than one academic year at the time they were tested. Those scores are not attributable solely to BWA, but rather at least equally to the school districts where the students obtained the preponderance of their education.

In past years, many of the academy’s new enrollments were transfer students who were failing in other public school programs. BWA was becoming a revolving door for a large number of students who enrolled not because they were attracted by the opportunities, but rather because they had no other choice. The quality of education at BWA is excellent, but the challenging curriculum and work requirements are infrequently a good fit for a student who lacks the desire to excel in academics.

This year BWA has initiated enrollment counseling and student learning programs to change that revolving door dynamic, and has also worked with 5J officials to develop community-wide perspectives on addressing the needs of all types of students.

Baker City does have kids who need the services BWA can provide, and my kids are at the front of that list. The men described in the Herald article who were accused of misuse of education funds are past history. We are years past those events, and give them no thought in our daily operation of an excellent K-12 school.

David Spaugh is a Baker City resident.

Letters to the Editor for Jan. 16, 2013

Ignoring the warnings about the real fiscal cliff

The writer of a recent letter to the editor claims that the current economic travails of Greece somehow validate Keynesian economics. Actually the reverse is true. Keynesian economics — governmental spending, spending, spending, spending — has brought fiscal ruin to that nation. The Greek government would now be bankrupt had it not been bailed out by more affluent European governments.

The United States has already progressed far down that same road. In 2011, the federal government paid out more for entitlements than the taxes it took in. Even if all nonentitlement spending had been reduced to absolute zero — education, transportation, defense, etc. — the government would still have run an annual deficit. Yet in the recent negotiations to avoid going over the fiscal cliff, President Obama and congressional Democrats adamantly refused to consider any sort of entitlement reform. Our entitlements are fiscally healthy, they assure us. But as things currently stand, our fiscal situation will only get worse as the huge Baby Boom generation retires.

When the Soviet Union disintegrated, Americans gave a sigh of relief. An enemy which had the capacity to obliterate us with nuclear weapons no longer existed. We relaxed, even as another implacable enemy was gearing up to make war on us. The first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993 was one forewarning. During the 1990s, our embassies in East Africa were bombed, our naval ships were attacked, and still we didn’t worry. After all, “it can’t happen here” … but then it did, and 3,000 people died.

We’ve had warnings about our precarious fiscal situation. The Chinese government has wondered out loud just how solid are the U. S. bonds it holds. The federal government recently lost its coveted AAA bond rating, and was downgraded to AA. We have the examples of Greece and the other so-called PIIGS which have overspent on entitlements.

Cassandra is a tragic figure in Greek mythology. She correctly prophesied to the Trojans that comprehensive doom was headed their way, but her warnings were ignored. We have been ignoring our current fiscal Cassandras as well. After all, it can’t happen here.

Pete Sundin

Baker City

Give me Secret Service, and then I’ll give up my gun

Once again, Americans are debating gun control; and, once again, the opposing argument lacks logic. Each time some nut-job goes on a killing spree, socialists push for abolishing the Second Amendment. Nothing is more frustrating than debating with a person who has not thought out the theory of their position.

First, the Constitution was enacted to protect America and her citizens. The right to bear arms was given to protect self, family, business and country. Who will protect the individual from the evils of society if not themselves; the Government? They won’t protect our borders. Dependency on Government is a fool’s bet.

Secondly, gun control only controls the lawful — not the lawless. Socialists and Marxists will never have the power to prevent killers from obtaining guns. If anything, they will only empower the lawless, and turn decent citizens into criminals. What is more, it’s hard to control guns when those whose job it is to enforce gun control (Justice Department) are literally handing guns to drug cartels.

Thirdly, previous amendments to gun rights have proven ineffective in eradicating violence. If indeed these amendments worked (background checks, three-day waiting periods, limiting ammunition sales), the recent mass shootings in Colorado, Portland, Sandy Hook, and Wisconsin could not have happened. The fact is, gun control is impossible to enforce. There will always be black markets where criminals can purchase or barter for firearms. What are needed are stronger deterrents and sentences for those who commit violent acts.

Knives, bows and arrows, automobiles, alcohol, sports, some foods, and a plethora of other things kill people; shall we ban those items as well? Guns are no different. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people — you can’t control that!

Gun control is an egotistical attempt from the left to falsely pacify the fears of the ignorant and simple-minded. The day Obama stations the Secret Service in front of my property, is the very day I will consider relinquishing my firearm. Until then, security to this American is knowing if a robber, rapist, or murderer breaks in my home, I have a .44-mag to welcome them!

Stephanie Ann Kinzel

Baker City

Using First Amendment to destroy the Second

Is this a great country or what? Where else in the world could a foreigner use my citizen rights under the First Amendment to destroy the Second? CNN’s Peirs Morgan is on a rampage and he has been effective in convincing the left that the Second Amendment has something to do with hunting. He’s a tabloid journalist who was extolling the virtues of British royalty one day and the next was trying to sell British and Australian gun control to the American people. He backs up his position by having guests from Australia and Ariana Huffington with her thick foreign accent telling me how bad I am because I believe the Second Amendment guarantees the nine other Bill of Rights. A great country or what? Nowhere else could people who were freed from Nazi and Japanese, Chinese and Russian threats with American guns be allowed to do their best to ban them.

The attack is well-orchestrated. The timing is perfect. Football season is on, and not enough gun owners are putting pressure on their congressmen. They could wake up after the Super Bowl to a brave new world. I wrote Ron Wyden and his response was less than encouraging. They don’t call the Willamette Valley the left coast for nothing. Biden’s commission will report in time for the president to use the State of the Union address bully pulpit to push his agenda and Fox News’ owner, Rupert Murdoch, has sided with the banners and Bill O’Reilly talks about AR 47s and AK 15s. Who could be so gun dumb as not to have heard about Mr. Kalashnikov’s rifle?

All might not be lost if pro-gun Republicans and a few Democrats in the house will stand their ground. If they do we might have an executive order banning guns. Then we will see what happens when Caesar crosses the Rubicon.

Steve Culley


Letter to the Editor for Jan. 11, 2013

I have lived at 1005 Park St. for 50 years. My husband, Tim, suffered a massive stroke seven years ago. He is at Meadowbrook care facility. I live here alone with my dogs. When I go to Meadowbrook, my “dangerous” dogs take turns going with me. The residents’ eyes light up when they pet and talk to them. It makes me feel good to create some joy.

This mess started first of August. I’d been working in the front yard, I went across the street and my dogs started barking at me. I quickly went back so they would stop. Greg Brown caught up with me outside my fence. He said you need to get rid of those dogs. With all the commotion, three of my corgis got into a fight. I jumped over the fence to pull them apart and saw that Greg was videoing us. I screamed at him and Sandy Zemmer to get away from my fence and the dogs would stop.

I went in and called the police to talk to an officer. Shannon Regan came out. I wanted to find out if it was legal to video a person without their knowledge. I found it’s not illegal. Shannon asked me if I had my kennel license and discovered I had overlooked it. Not intentionally — this year it seems everything bad was happening, death, illness, my husband was changing mentally and physically. So Regan wrote me a ticket. I went to Justice Court and was told just go get your license and come back in two weeks. Police Chief Wyn Lohner and Officer Davidson were supposed to be the only ones who could sign the license. Easy? Wrong.

I asked Lohner if my license was signed. No, he said, but we just want to make sure you have no dangerous dogs. I asked who is “we,” and he avoided the question.

Later, Lohner shows up with Officer Davidson to inform me we decided you can only keep four dogs. I said I’m getting a lawyer, I’m not losing my dogs. I live on Social Security and with expenses of Meadowbrook, things are tight. But loving my precious dogs is a priority. By going to the lawyer I found that I shouldn’t have to pay kennel license and I live in a low level zone where there are no restrictions on small animals.

My vet had even written a letter for me stating that he had been to my home several times, there are no dangerous dogs and they are well-cared for. I keep my yard clean and in the past two years have planted 17 shrubs and trees and built an eight-foot deck at my front door.

When the weather will let me I’ll put steel panels a couple feet inside my fence so a dog can’t get near the fence. My dogs don’t bark all the time; they get excited when I’m leaving, cleaning the yard or go to the garbage can.

I finally found some dog collars that vibrate and I ordered some. I don’t believe in shock collars. I’m protecting my dogs from the people, not people from dogs.

I just need the city to sign the kennel license. My husband is in the hospital and I can’t take any more of this hassle.

Editor’s Note: A story about neighborhood complaints regarding Robinson’s dogs was published in the Dec. 21 issue of the Herald. 

Letters to the Editor for Jan. 9, 2013

Working together, we can solve nation’s problems

In looking back at 2012, I feel relieved and fairly optimistic. Despite ongoing political tensions, enough of us are now coming together to recognize and solve the true problems we face as a community and a nation.

Locally, in June our Baker City Council joined 300 other U.S. cities and seven states in unanimously passing a resolution calling for an end to the corruptive power of money in politics. And last fall, we turned aside an assault on our District 5J public schools by anti-government forces.

Nationally, we re-elected President Barack Obama, despite conventional wisdom that told us he was doomed by slow economic growth. We demonstrated that democracy can really work. We embodied our national motto: “E Pluribus Unum – Out of Many, One.” We moved toward a unified identity. We can’t do it alone. We’re all in this together.   

Looking forward, We the People can build on this emerging reality, armed with facts to analyze our problems, develop meaningful alternatives, and take action. Yes, a few powerful extremists and their propaganda outlets will continue to spread false information and confusion in attempts to cripple our government, but we can move beyond that. We have the amazing Internet. We can research answers that other countries have developed. We can benefit from their solutions to global warming, lack of good jobs, gun violence, and affordable health care.  

One major anti-government, mis-information campaign is the persistent Republican mantra that ignores our historically low income-tax rates and proclaims, “We have a spending problem.” In fact, our non-military government spending relative to the size of our economy is actually smaller than any other rich nation.

Their calls for spending cuts within our fragile economy violate proven Keynesian economics and disregard the ample evidence now provided by European countries like Greece. Austerity measures are bound to produce a downward spiral, feeding ever-deeper recession and endangering our shared security and vital support.

Again, I urge my fellow readers to read up on critically important issues, and then participate constructively in the national debate. Informed and working together, we can solve the major problems that confront us. 

Marshall McComb

Baker City

Gun restrictions give more power to criminals

Free kill zones keep good law-abiding citizens unarmed, and killers who do not read signs or care to be law-abiding, free to unload until empty, before worrying about someone with badge and gun to extinguish threat. And possibly still face charges from DA for extinguishing threat. Free kill zones only tell threats, no worries about other people, until they want to.

For instance, it takes 15 minutes to go across town, X single shot can be reloaded in approx 10-15 seconds = mega amounts of potential death, before any kind of help to extinguish threat. Gun owners are citizens, non-owners are subjects to be dealt with. Adolf Hitler, another lover, of gun control. Semi auto is one shot per trigger pull. Full auto  — which is almost impossible to get, takes around one year of background checks to get — IS multiple shots per trigger pull. Cosmetics is only thing that civilians can get, without one-year background, and absurd tax that is paid for each. Civilian grade is cosmetics only, semi auto or bolt action only, multiple calibers.

Something to think about: Everything has been military at some time in history, even rope, knife, hands, feet, brain, sticks, on and on. Hope attorney seeking to sue Connecticut for $100 million on behalf of student that survived, wins. Lawful carry would have kept deaths to minimum. Over 90 percent of security, and some cops, trust badge to keep killers from killing them. Also signs to be obeyed by lawless. Like moving, animal crossing signs, and expecting animals to change habits to match signs. 

Carl Koontz

Baker City

Police present makes a parent feel safer

I would like to thank the Baker City Police Department for making a presence at our local schools. As a parent it makes me feel safe and secure knowing that each day we have a police presence making sure our kids are safe. Winter has made the roads icy and slick, and seeing a police care has made more parents aware of the need to slow down and be safe. Living in Baker City makes me feel proud that our community values youth and their protection.

I would like to say thank you to Chief Lohner and staff for making a difference.

Toni Bennett

Baker City

Letters to the Editor for Jan. 7, 2013

Americans are giving away their freedoms

I am a lifetime Oregonian of 82 years and I am witnessing our constitutional republic die. No more is our country made up of proud men and women who believe in freedom to choose and live as enterprising individuals. A new country is merging, run by “secular progressives” who have rejected our Constitution. Our Supreme Court will be forever altered after the last conservative members have been replaced by liberal academics who call themselves progressives. The rule of law will and is now being replaced by executive order, making Congress irrelevant.

The welfare-dependent Americans, unions and illegals have chosen for the rest of us the dark path of serfdom to big government and socialist utopia. Our children have bowed down to mediocrity. There are 11 states that now have more people on welfare than they do employed. They all have one thing in common: They all have Democrat governors and Democratic-controlled legislatures and, surprise surprise, the majority voted for Obama.

Most Americans have no intentions of making a better life for themselves and their families. They are intent on living on the taxpayers’ dime. Not all of us have yet bowed but you who relish feeding at the trough will never realize the freedom you gave away until the swill you now consume turns to gravel in your mouth.

George Wilder

Baker City

Donations to Christmas display will go to food bank

We would like to express our sincere appreciation to everyone who donated food or cash in response to our Christmas decorations at 1100 D St. The 50 pounds of canned food and all the cash will be donated to St. Francis Catholic Church food bank.

Donald R. Tholen

Michaela Tholen

Baker City

Letters to the Editor for Jan. 2, 2013

Many of you probably saw Santa and his Elf during December. We were hard to miss! We were very busy this year, with many places to go and people to visit with. I would like to take this opportunity to thank a few people.

Rick Forrester is the best Santa anyone could ask for. He truly embodies the spirit behind the season. I have been blessed beyond measure by his friendship and partnership in our efforts to bring joy and happiness to others at Christmas time.

We started out the month at the Kiwanis fundraiser at the Festival of Trees Family Day. We enjoyed a full day of visits and photos with little ones. We love our Kiwanis members here, smiling faces, and dedicated people, always ready to lend a hand. Later that evening, Santa and I were in the Twilight Christmas Parade and we rode in Ron Colton’s carriage being pulled by his team of Percherons, Duke and Diamond. Many thanks to Ron for being such a great asset to this community and an incredibly generous and kind man.

The following weekend, the folks at Ryder Bros. and Tawny’s Toy Box invited us for an afternoon of photos, crafts and visits with happy children. Thank you for making us feel so welcome and for giving so much to this community. We appreciate you.

Santa had a long career in law enforcement and believes very strongly that we, as citizens, need to thank our public officers and employees. We spent several hours visiting the courthouse, city hall and sheriff’s station. I loved seeing grown ups smile as if Santa really did exist. We passed out candy canes, smiles and hugs to each person working that day and thanked them for the work they do to keep this city running. Santa gave me a true lesson in gratitude that day.

One of our most treasured visits each year is the Foster Family Christmas Party. Sandy and the crew at DHS are incredible. To spend a few hours listening to the Christmas wishes of foster children is something I hold close to my heart. It is an honor and privilege to be a part of their celebration.

This year, we had a new event on our schedule. Stephanie Kinzel organized a fabulous Christmas Bazaar and fundraiser for the Veteran’s Advocates of Oregon-Idaho. For every person that attended, she agreed to volunteer one hour at a place of their choosing. Amazing. We were more than happy to be a part of this event. I know it will continue to grow year after year.

Sharon and her crew at Country Cottage requested that Santa and I attend their annual Christmas party. A great time was had by all and we were both sent home with her fantastic homemade apple pie. They are such a great group of people.

On a chilly Thursday, Santa and I made our rounds to all of the classrooms at Brooklyn Elementary and the kindergarten classes as well. This was the day after the tragedy in Connecticut and it was a bittersweet time for Santa and the Elf. Special thanks go out to Principal Troy Fisher and his lovely wife Megan for inviting us and organizing our visits with each class. We are grateful to the teachers in our community, for the guidance and care they provide to our children.

We also took a little time to visit the businesses along Main Street and spread Christmas joy to our small business owners. They give so much to this town; they needed a special visit from Santa too!

Our assisted living facilities in Baker City are amazing places. It truly is as much fun visiting seniors as it is visiting children. They bless us each year with their smiles and sweet hugs. We attended Christmas parties at Meadowbrook Place and Settler’s Park. To be able to pass out presents and pose for photos with those lovely people is something Santa and I truly cherish.

Our last appearance of the season was at our local library. Extra special thanks go to our dedicated library director, Perry Stokes. He organized this event, advertised it and provided some really great books for Santa to read to the children. What a special afternoon that was.

We have an exceptional community here. As Santa’s merriest elf, I am thankful for many things this year, for the lives that we touched, for the opportunity to volunteer and give back, and for being welcomed by so many. Santa and I gave of our time during the month of December. It is my greatest hope that this will inspire each of you to give of your time and talents in the coming year. Look at what a few hours can do. Pay it forward.

Marna Farney lives near Haines.

Letters to the Editor for Dec. 24, 2012

Video games send an awful message about violence

I was horrified by the shootings in Newtown, Conn., on 14 December. I cried many times that weekend as I followed the story and listened to the interfaith service on 16 December.

And then I was outraged when I read the “Best of 2012: Games” (Time magazine, Dec. 24, 2012, page 60). The top five games listed were: Guild Wars 2, Xenoblade Chronicles, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Dishonored, and Assassin’s Creed III. Seriously? Thousands of years of civilization; abundant natural, technical and intellectual resources; and the best our society has to offer are these violence-saturated games?

I am not so naive to believe that violent video games are THE cause of real-world violence, but I do believe that they contribute to the problem. Studies show a link between playing violent video games and subsequent aggressive behavior.

I believe that all of us, on some level, accept that video games can influence behavior. I assume that is the reason there are no commercially available games called “Rapist” or “Prostitute” or “Child Abuser.” Moral revulsion prevents us from allowing these role-playing games to exist. Why do we have a different standard for murder?

Killing is not a game.

Shoot a person and he bleeds. He is maimed or dies. His family grieves. First responders are haunted by memories. Lives are shattered. There is no reset button.

Killing is not a game.

We don’t need legislation to lessen the effect of violent video games. Do not buy these games. Do not rent them. Do not play them. Talk with family and friends about using these games.

Because, killing is not a game.

Barbara Tylka

Baker City

Spend school money on schools, not legal advice

With the election over, we had hope that we could all move on.

Unfortunately, during the District’s December meeting, Walt Wegener orchestrated another maneuver.  He contacted the Secretary of State’s Office and instructed the board to authorize the use of School District funds to consult with legal counsel.  This would allow them to start the proceedings of a civil suit against the petitioner in an effort to recover the costs of the election.

You’d think that with all of the challenges and problems we’re facing with educating our children they could find better things to do with their time and our money?  Maybe they could start by changing the budgeting process that currently “allows” the administration to negotiate contracts prior to having an approved budget, AND one that does not allow public comment until AFTER the budget has been approved.

Perhaps they could figure out how to improve our District’s performance in a state whose overall grades and scores rank 42nd and whose K-12 achievement ranks 45th in the nation. Oregon’s high school graduation rate is fourth worst in the nation!  It wouldn’t hurt to discuss ways to improve that.  Why do we rank near the bottom in all of these categories yet rank near the top in average salaries?

Five states recently announced that they will be adding at least 300 hours of instructional time to their school calendars.  These states are already near the top and are all currently operating on a longer school year than the State of Oregon whose school year ranks second to last in the nation.

Only South Dakota has a shorter school year and, coincidentally, ranks dead last in overall grades and scores.  To compound the issue, the administrators and school board have saddled our District with arguably the shortest school year in the nation with a 147 day school year.

We have some of the best teachers, principals, and classified staff around.

However, we have severely handicapped them with bad policy.  Now, they’re after revenge and pursuing personal vendettas.  Advocating for a better educational future for our children will have to wait.   

Mike Ogan

Baker City

On the road to Lexington and Concord

We are living in historic times. The country is divided like the period of the American Revolution and the Civil War. The school shooting in Connecticut has brought things to a head. In times like these it is important for Americans to be able to express an opinion, but it’s not to be. The only opinions that get a lot of play from the major media come from the talking heads and those in government who have zero experience with firearms. The biggest fool and biggest threat comes from CNN’s Peirs Morgan, a foreigner from England who is pushing an English and Australian type of gun control. On the off chance that there are some from the has-been British empire visiting my country I would like you to take this message home. 

Mr. Morgan, the Brits underestimated us in 1775 and you are doing it again. Your disarmament agenda is setting us on a road to another Lexington and Concord. You are right, I don’t need a so-called assault weapon to hunt. I have one but don’t hunt with it. The reason I have one is precisely because the military and police have them. It might sound quaint to you but an armed populace is a barrier to tyranny. Our founders believed it and things have not changed. Human nature is the same as at the time of the revolution and the centuries before. I would offer recent history as proof, the massacre in Tiananmen square, and the massacre of unarmed civilians in Syria right now. Places that could use a Second Amendment. I have no desire to become like England where you can go to jail for life for shooting an intruder in your own home. The Martin case comes to mind. We gun owners were appalled when Australia destroyed 700,000 rifles and shotguns and we know that is your agenda here.

Go back to extolling the virtues of your idiot royalty and keep your British nose out of my business. Better yet go home. 

P.S. I would like to thank you for waking up so many gun owners, they are arming themselves at an incredible rate.

Steve Culley


Letters to the Editor for Dec. 21, 2012

Buying a Fire Med policy makes a lot of sense

Baker City Fire Med is currently accepting enrollments as noted by articles and ads published in the Herald. That is a program which, for a reasonable annual fee, insures affordable ground and/or (depending on which package one subscribes to) air ambulance transportation in time of medical need. Over the past 10 years our family has utilized this service twice. One involved a horseback riding injury to a family member and the second involved a family member being injured in an accident in Union County.  In both cases the patient was transported to a local hospital by ambulance for treatment.

 My family and I are blessed with good medical insurance.  Yet, in both cases, had it not been for Fire-Med membership our out of pocket expense for ambulance services above and beyond what our insurance paid would have been substantial.  Fire-Med prevented what could have been a serious financial burden by accepting what our insurance paid and it billed us not one penny more than that.

 It is important to recognize also that a Baker City Fire-Med subscription covers a geographic region, not just the boundaries of Baker City or Baker County.  A member injured in a nearby county is covered just as if the event occurred here in Baker.  I cannot recommend Fire-Med membership too strongly.

Jerry Boyd

Baker City

Museum helped me track down my family’s history

I have often wondered about my ancestors, especially those who my father told me were indigenous people of the Northwest.  Recently, a friend used a skeletal four generation family tree of mine to help me find who and where I came from. One thing she found is that my great great grandmother’s parents were full-blooded Native Americans from the Northern California Mendocino Valley. With this information I soon found a photograph of Mary Ford (1856-1916) from the website of the Baker Heritage Museum. I also found that my great-great grandmother married and had at least five children with Richard Bruer Markle (1819-1890) and that both Mary and Richard are buried in the Rock Creek Cemetery.

It’s hard to describe how I felt as I sat looking at the photograph of my grandmother’s grandmother sitting wide-eyed in a chair with her white hair pulled back in a bun wearing a high collared long-sleeved black blouse, a butterfly brooch and a long patterned skirt while holding what looked like a thick scrap book. Without the Baker Heritage Museum and their generations of volunteer and paid staff, I would never have had the opportunity to have known what this ancestor of mine looked like, and neither would my niece and nephews, and the children who will come after them.

Although I still have many questions about my living relatives, as well as those who have come and gone before me, I am incredibly appreciative of the people of your community who have made it possible for me to put some of the pieces of my family history together.

Danny Wilson Smith

Son of Ralph Vasco Smith (1930-1984)

Grandson of Ralph’s mother Jessie Williams Smith (1891-1984)

Great-grandson of Jessie’s mother Louleolio “Lulu” Markle Williams (1870-1929)

Great-great-grandson of Lulu’s mother Mary Ford Markle (1856-1916)

Still concerned about        Kyle Knight’s motivations

Your recent editorial, “After the recall,” (Dec. 14) implies that Kyle Knight had a compelling reason and performed a useful service when he forwarded the confidential email about the Srack affair to the media. In fact, one could infer that you think the rest of the Baker School Board might have joined with him, had they held an executive session that Knight asked for.  

So, may I ask what purpose Knight’s email to the media prematurely publicizing a criminal investigation might have served? Why did he send it, and why might the rest of the School Board have concurred? If you or Mr. Knight have an answer, it would be helpful to learn what it is.

Forgive me if I’m wrong, but, until I learn otherwise, I’m going to continue to conclude that Knight’s action was part of an ongoing strategy to undermine and belittle the school system on behalf of anti-government ideology promoted by the Tea Party, Americans for Prosperity, and the Western Liberty Network. I see it as part of a pattern of deliberate disruption that includes his premature disclosure of a police investigation of gang activity, his complaints to at least four state agencies, the recall campaign, and the lawsuit.  

In an Oregonian interview on Oct. 16, Knight declared, “When it has to do with the taxpayers’ money, it’s not confidential.”  To me, that clearly demonstrates unreasoned, absolutist thought and action that can only serve to harm the functioning of a well-run, public institution.  

We deserve better. I believe that our government of, by, and for the people has a central role in using the common wealth for the common good. Ours is a good school system that can always be improved, but I find nothing in Mr. Knight’s words or behavior contributing to that improvement. I believe it’s time for open and thorough discussion and review of this subversive political force operating in our community.

Marshall McComb

Baker City

I was lucky to share in Baker County’s generosity

In the past I have read letters of those sharing the generosity of folks in Baker City/Baker County. This last Tuesday, I had the privilege of experiencing this also. While shopping at Bi-Mart, I became very ill. I was sitting on the steps going up to the break room where they had a sofa. I was able to get up the steps with help from my husband as well as assistance from Royce, from the pharmacy. Royce was kind enough to stay with me for a while, and later the assistant manager, Aaron, was there to be with me. These folks and others shared their generosity, caring, and compassion I will not soon forget.

When I thought I could manage getting down the steps, my husband, Aaron, and another Bi-Mart employee (I did not get her name) assisted me down the steps where they had a wheelchair waiting for me. I was wheeled out and was placed in the car.

Yes, Baker County is a great place to live. I pray for a blessed Christmas and holiday season to those who helped me as well as the other Bi-Mart employees.

Patty Shumway


To stop the killing we must turn away from sin

As a Christian man, my heart is broken for the victims of recent shootings.

We obviously have a problem. Not a gun problem, but a heart problem. Guns don’t kill people. People using (fill in blank) kill people. Guns don’t pull their own triggers.

Jesus, my Lord, tells me the heart is deceitfully wicked above all things. He offered me a heart transplant and I took it. Until we turn from sin, murder will be more and more common, whether it be by bombs, guns, knives, rocks or sticks.

I have been changed and I caution all other Christian brothers who love to kill animals or video game opponents.

Jesus, my Lord, said the thief comes to kill, steal and destroy, but I have come to see that you may have life and have it to the full.

Joe Painter


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