Don’t punish city employees because of their workload
This letter is in response to Doug Darlington’s June 19 letter suggesting that city employees be punished financially for their “priority” setting. Every department, every employee and every supervisor has to make decisions everyday based on “priority.” There are only so many people, budget dollars or time to accomplish established goals. In fact, the leading article of the same paper discusses one city employee who has three responsibilities: school resource, code enforcement and patrol officer.
So you are advocating that because he makes a “priority” of backing up a fellow officer on a felony stop rather than deal with your neighbor’s weeds, he should lose pay? What about the public works employees who are out dealing with flooding rather than mowing the grass? Don’t forget the firefighters who cannot respond immediately to a burn complaint because they are already on multiple emergency calls with only two people. It is not the employees’ fault. Sometimes tough decisions have to be made. Tough decisions we all make every day at home and at work based on “priorities.”
You state that “one of the nation’s biggest downturns was forcing the rest of us to live on less,” but you want to impose a loss in pay as punishment? So it sucks if you lose money, but it is OK to advocate the loss of financial stability for others? Since when is being a public employee something that should be punished? Public employees spend money around town too. Money they are still spending despite furloughs, budget cuts and increased workloads.
Baker City firefighter
City should enforce current laws before banning smoking
I read with interest the city’s notice at the parks about considering a smoking ban at the parks. I would point out to you that there are a number of bans for the parks that are completely ignored.
I am especially concerned about the one of having dogs on leash. We live near the park, and walk our dog there frequently. She has been attacked by a roaming dog, and I have seen people open their cars and let dogs run free. This is NOT a dog park for free roaming dogs.
I would suggest that before banning smoking at the park, you enforce the existing laws.
City should consider trimming pay for lack of performance
Mayor Richard Langrell isn’t alone in believing the city council, having already shown an interest in lowering personnel costs, posted a perplexing failure when it then approved an employee contract that included a pay raise.
City employees have enjoyed several years of hefty pay raises, all while one of the nation’s biggest downturns was forcing the rest of us to live on less. With two more contracts to negotiate, the council has set an unfortunate precedent.
Here’s a way to mitigate the problem, however: Every time a city employee tells someone that a particular issue or complaint can’t be addressed because “it’s not a high priority,” decrease everyone’s compensation by half a percent or so.
If you’ve dealt with the city much, you’ve undoubtedly heard that refrain. Even Councilor Roger Coles recently remarked that he’s been told that about the enforcement of ordinances. I’ve been told that about business issues and residential neighborhood speeding.
This “priority” comment goes hand-in-hand with another often used phrase: “.... a useful tool.” Most recently, an ordinance banning smoking in parts was described as such.
These phrases should give every Baker resident pause. Here’s why: Codes and ordinances that get enforced or ignored on a case-by-case basis allow favoritism.
One person’s mess of a property is overlooked while another’s is deemed a hazard. One person’s pet is considered harmless while another’s is called a nuisance. One person’s business is charged a common license fee while another’s is hammered with special charges and restrictions.
It’s the very definition of the “old boy” system that has poorly served the common Baker resident over the decades.
Loss of compensation to address lacking performance isn’t uncommon. Start shaving dollars off paychecks every time a city employee deems something too low a “priority” to bother with, and things will certainly change. For one thing, we’ll find out who among these people are workers and who are simply placeholders.
If there’s too many rules to enforce, maybe Mike Kee should sniff out some outdated, unnecessary or unwieldy ordinances and recommend their elimination. A forward-thinking city manager would consider that time well spent.
Off-road group hauled 1,120 pounds of trash from woods
Locked & Loaded Off-Road of Baker County would like to thank our generous sponsors who helped make our Elk Creek clean up day a huge success as we picked up and hauled out more than 1,120 pounds of garbage.
Bucks 4x4, license plate covers, hats, can cozys, stickers, T-shirt, pink onesie and a grab handle; Hills Carquest, quick fist mounting systems, 5-quart oil change; Ash Grove, folding chairs, barbecue sets with apron and can cozys; Gentry Auto Group, oil change, hats, cooler, Armor All, Miracle towel, and an X-Box; Jeffery Grende Heating and AC, heating service; B&K Auto Salvage, $200 store credit; Baker City Truck Corral, meal coupons; Baker Valley Auto Parts, tow strap; Grumpy’s Repair, oil change; Oregon Sign, T-shirt, banner and decals.
Baker Sanitary Service donated the dump fee; Key Building donated the trailer to haul trash; and Steve Ritch donated garbage bags.
Obamacare is just a start; we need a real solution
274,000 Oregonians will continue to lack health insurance after the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) is implemented in 2016. A study by researchers at the Harvard Medical School and the City University of New York School of Public Health released June 6 concluded that 30 million people in the United States will remain uninsured after implementation of Obamacare.
Eighty-one percent of the uninsured will be U.S. citizens and white persons of all ethnicities will make up 74 percent. Fifty-nine percent of the uninsured will have incomes between 100 percent and 399 percent of poverty and 27 percent will have below poverty incomes.
There are currently 532,000 uninsured Oregonians. More than half will still lack insurance after Obamacare is implemented. Much of the drop in numbers of uninsured Oregonians is a result of Oregon expanding Medicaid. If Oregon had opted out of expanded Medicaid, many more of our friends, neighbors and family members would be uninsured.
In addition to leaving thousands of Oregonians uninsured, Obamacare does little to control sky-rocketing costs of health insurance.
Oregon needs a health care cost study and, fortunately, has the chance to get one. HB 3260, a study of health care financing options in Oregon, was passed unanimously with bi-partisan support by the Oregon House Health Care Committee and is now in the Ways and Means Committee. It is expected to go soon to the House and Senate for discussion and votes.
HB 3260 authorizes the Oregon Health Authority to commission a study of four options for financing health care for every Oregonian — implementing and expanding the Affordable Care Act, adding a public option in the state insurance exchange, implementing statewide single payer health care and a forth option to be chosen by the legislature.
The current health care funding system is broken and must be repaired or replaced.
If health insurance costs continue to increase at current rates, soon none of us will be able to afford coverage. HB 3260 is the first step in identifying the changes we need.
Good Samaritan makes a tough job easier
Sunday morning, while struggling to change a flat tire on my pickup, a smiling young man, who was obviously dressed for church, stopped and asked if he could help.
His help made a difficult job much easier and more pleasant. I wish to publicly express my heartfelt appreciation to Erin Kerns, who lives his faith by helping others. I would also like to thank his family, who were late to church on my behalf.
Government isn’t the enemy, if we participate in it
Governor John Kitzhaber granted a important and probing interview on OPB Radio’s “Think Out Loud” on May 23. He offered valuable insights into our health care system and into our economic system, which is leaving so many people behind as the rich get richer. It’s a superb example of thoughtful, informed, and bipartisan analysis.
He described how an increasingly grotesque mal-distribution of wealth is robbing us of good-paying jobs in this economic recovery, why we need to expand health care and transform its focus from disease treatment to disease prevention, and he suggested questions we can ask to improve our community’s overall well-being.
I urge my fellow readers to listen in. The 15-minute interview is available online at http://www.opb.org/thinkoutloud/shows/live-salem-governor-kitzhaber-0523/
Kitzhaber’s positive, collaborative approach stands in powerful contrast to divisive, fearful, anti-government rhetoric from the extreme right wing. Examples include their anti-tax absolutism, anti-scientific ignorance of global warming, the current trumpeting of fake scandals, and the disruption of government at all levels.
According to an Associated Press report on May 24, U.S. Senators Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah and Marco Rubio of Florida are “tea party champions” whose uncompromising views are challenging traditional Republicans, by using Senate rules and procedures to block legislation whenever possible and opening up major rifts within the GOP. Similarly, in the House, a relatively small number of anti-government extremists have fractured the GOP, as they attempt to bring the government to its knees.
Fortunately, we have been able to turn aside this divisive, extremist thinking in recent local elections. But we should go further. We can benefit greatly by following Governor Kitzhaber’s statesmanlike leadership, joining together to forge meaningful responses to the challenges and opportunities we face.
If we participate, government is not the enemy. We are the government. One of our nation’s mottos is “E Pluribus Unum,” Out of Many, One. United we stand. If we use our creative abilities, no one need be left behind.
Benghazi failure leaves black mark on U.S. leadership
Currently the news on the disaster at Benghazi is mostly involved with chronic windbags arguing about what caused this disaster. The blame shifts from an anti-Muslim mob about a movie to an organized terrorist group. This has involved a great deal of rhetoric but fails to answer a key question in my mind. What was done to save these people at the embassy?
It was a no-brainer. Something would have to be done very quickly but it appears to me that nothing was ever done. Why not? One leader turned off the TV, went to bed and left town the next day. Anther important leader did the same but left the country the next day. The fact is that help was nearby but no one ordered them to help.
The US had forces on two bases that were one hour away from Benghazi by air. What could have been done? Fighters should have been standing by ready in such a volatile area. Jet fighters could have been scrambled and sent to Benghazi at top speed. They could have been ordered to begin harassing the threatening mob at low level, even producing some sonic booms, and looking for targets of opportunity. I believe such action could very well have slowed the mob and even could have turned them away long enough for more air support to arrive and even for some troops to arrive by air.
To have done nothing is completely inexcusable and constitutes a huge black mark on American leadership and their leadership ability.
City should use sidewalk fees for ... sidewalks
In regards to the question of the Baker City sidewalk fees: As a homeowner and resident I do not mind the small amount paid. After walking around town, it is most apparent that the sidewalks in general very much need de-weeding and repair. Please use the sidewalk maintenance fees for that purpose. It is important both for safety and appearance.
We had a great time at Regional Theatre music revue
Wow! The “Here’s To Broadway” musical revue we experienced on Friday was a real treat. The Eastern Oregon Regional Theatre performance was heartwarming and authentic. The new mini auditorium, now upstairs in Basche-Sage Place, is still a delicious, up close and personal experience. A big thank you to all involved. Well done! We had a blast and went away with a song in our hearts and on our lips!
Jack and Susan Hatfield
Travel Plan is done; but a bigger forest plan still coming
The Forest Service’s Travel Management Plan in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest has become a red herring. In reality the plan is dead in the water. Unlawful. It’d be on the ground right now if it had been within the law to carry out such a plan. As proposed the plan violated private property rights and constitutional law. Violated county law too, not that the commissioners respected local law and instead signed a cooperative agreement limiting local government involvement to that of a secondary agency working under the lead agency Forest Service. Red herring.
Still the TMP gains all kinds of media coverage and ongoing attention. All this hullabaloo while the granddaddy of federal forest management plans, the Blue Mountain Forest Plan revision, plugs along under the radar. The TMP is old news other than one question and that is an accounting. How much has the agency spent on the TMP in the Wallowa-Whitman? It’s my opinion that the Forest Service threw the TMP out first to see where the agency would run into problems in the travel/access portion of the new forest plan revision. The agency experts had to know that whatever TMP it came up with had to tier to the guiding forest plan, in this case the 1990 Wallowa-Whitman Forest Plan. Anyone familiar with the way the TMP came out can see that the Forest Service’s preferred plan did not tier to the user-friendly 1990 Forest Plan and in fact proposed a new “closed unless designated open policy,” which in effect would have enacted a blanket closure of the forest roads with a process of designating open roads to follow. Unlawful.
It’s important to follow the revision of the new Blue Mountain Forest Plan and to ask county commissioners, Forest Service officials, and the newspaper to start sharing the progress on the plan. One more thing to remember: Your county commissioners signed another cooperative agreement for the Blue Mountain Forest Plan Revision along with 10 other Blue Mountain region counties, which combines all 11 counties into one subordinate cooperating agency working under the lead agency Forest Service.
Teens’ ‘Fugitive’ game that got out of hand
On Saturday, May 11, at about 8:45 p.m., my property was overrun by what I believe were teenagers. A couple of vehicles were involved, but the intruders were on foot.
I first noticed them in the street in front my home ... and then I observed them running along the property perimeter toward by backyard. Finally they jumped the front fence to access my backyard.
At least five of them ran around in my backyard until they finally climbed the 6-foot wooden fence and hightailed it out of there.
I called the Baker City Police. All in all, it was a very unsettling experience and both the front and back fences sustained damage. Had my garden been planted already or my flower beds full of young plants — these intruders would have surely trampled them into oblivion. As it turned out, the blooming perennials were pretty badly trampled.
Since May 11, I have learned that this event is a game called “Fugitive” and apparently, according to the police, it happens every year. On the surface, it sounds like a really fun game — except for the criminal mischief resulting in property damage, trespassing, and the involuntary adrenalin rush — all of which occurred without provocation from my perspective.
So here I am now ... left with the property damage. My understanding is that this game is not supposed to include trespassing or damaging somebody’s property. I think that maybe the participants found themselves so caught up in the whole thing, no pun intended, that they became intrusive without really meaning to be intrusive. I forgive them the scare and the damage so long as it doesn’t happen again.
That being said, I wish our community could find a way to safely support this activity ... a way in which the participants could have fun but not damage property or otherwise frighten anybody. I remember what it was like to be a kid, although it was several decades ago. Had I known about the game, I probably would have enjoyed it myself.
Obamacare: Propping up the paper industry all by itself
When Liberals want to blacken the reputation of opponents, they often use the Tea Party as their tar brush. We’ve seen that here recently. But their “tea party” is a made-up strawman and bears little resemblance to the actual group.
It’s easy to see why the Tea Party is liberals’ favorite boogie man. It developed spontaneously in reaction to the excesses of the ultraliberal Congress of 2009-2010. First there was the hugely expensive stimulus act, which turned out to be hugely ineffective in its stated purpose: reversing the rising levels of unemployment. Our great-grandkids will still be paying for that fiasco. A year later, Obamacare was rammed through Congress on a strict party line vote, despite the opposition of a majority of Americans. Three years later, a majority still favors Obamacare’s repeal.
For a while, liberals were holding up the Occupy Wall Street movement as the Left’s counterpart to the Tea Party. But most Americans felt far more comfortable with the tactics and goals of the latter group. At Tea Party rallies, a well-behaved group listened attentively to their speaker, then quietly dispersed taking their own trash with them. The Occupy folks turned public parks into trash filled havens for drugs and crime, and routinely got into violent confrontations with the police. They railed against Wall Street with a childish “Life ain’t fair!” but their biggest demand seemed to be that the government should pay for their college educations.
President Obama has railed against Wall Street right along with them. However, Wall Street didn’t seem to mind the president’s seeming apostasy, and donated heavily to his re-election campaign. After all, he has staffed his administration with ex-Wall Street executives. He takes tax money collected from waitresses, plumbers and retired grandparents and uses it to shore up failed Wall Street institutions.
So take heart, you local folks who were branded as members of the Tea Party. Considering where the accusation comes from, it is a badge of honor, whether or not the label actually fits you. It makes you one of the good guys.
Local singers, musicians put on a great performance
We recently attended the Baker Community Choir spring concert and wanted to acknowledge them with a note of praise and appreciation.
Their performance was excellent, and the theme of patriotic songs was very inspirational, especially after the Boston tragedy.
It was also a pleasure to enjoy the Baker Community Orchestra’s performance. We missed the South Baker Children’s Choir, but heard they too did a great job.
We thank all the talented singers and musicians who share their many talents with us at these concerts.
Mark and Patty Bogart
Winners enjoyed the Mother-Daughter Look Alike Contest
Meranda and I would like to thank the Baker City Herald, Bella and Earth & Vine for sponsoring the Mother-Daughter Look Alike Contest. We had a great time looking at the pictures and voting for other look-alikes. Thank you Bella and Earth & Vine for the wonderful gift certificates, we look forward to visiting your establishments soon. I hope you will consider sponsoring a Father-Son Look Alike Contest for Father’s Day.
Shelly and Meranda Christensen
Shelly and her daughter, Meranda, were the winners in the Herald’s Mother-Daughter Look Alike Contest earlier this month.
An English traveler fondly remembers Pearl Jones
It is this time of year I remember a friend I met 20 years ago this week. One name I know yours readers will know, Pearl Jones. I spent six weeks in America following the OregonTrail. When I arrived in Baker City, Pearl, knowing I was traveling alone, tucked me under her wing and showed me around, and I met many of her friends and family. After that Pearl and I kept in touch. And when she visited England we met up. Her family let me know about her death several years ago.
I still remember with fondness Baker City, its people and most of all Pearl Jones. My regards to you all.
Community helps Mayce Collard’s memory live on
We wish to thank our community for surrounding the fifth-annual Mayce Day-DRINK PINK event with support for the J. Mayce Memorial Scholarship fund. With a team effort of the Collard family, BHS Learning Center’s Bulldog Blender, volunteers and you, we have been able to financially award numerous recipients who personify many of Mayce’s best qualities: a positive attitude, volunteer experience and acceptance of others.
February 2007 was a devastating time for the Collard family, when Mayce Collard, an extraordinary young woman, was taken from us at age 16, all too soon. This has changed the Collards’ lives forever, but I personally know the outreach from our community has been and continues to be such a help.
Mayce Day-DRINK PINK is a day of hustle and bustle with the making of more than 200 drinks, and numerous volunteers, including the Collards, driving around town delivering cups and cups of blended drinks all topped off with special Mayce Day hot pink straws (thank you, Sorbenots!). In the midst of the craziness there never fails to be a moment of reflection of how powerful this day is. Realizing each and every drink was ordered with Mayce Collard crossing their mind. She lives on in us. It is a blessing to live in such a wonderful place.
With gratitude on behalf of the Collard family.
President Obama tramples on the Bill of Rights
Since the editor of the Herald is a journalist, it is understandable that in his commentary (“Obama’s Bad Week A Cornucopia For His Critics”) he ranks the Justice Department seizure of phone records from the Associated Press as a more serious offense than the IRS “leaking” information of political value to the Presidents political party. Let us not forget, however, that these are but two of a long series of abuses by the current administration. In “Fast and Furious” the so-called Justice Department violated federal firearms laws by funneling weapons into Mexico. The failure to send needed and requested help to U.S. citizens under attack in Benghazi must rank as one of the most cowardly acts of any administration in our history.
There is one common thread through the many unconscionable actions this administration is responsible for. That is a profound disregard for the Constitution, a document Obama himself has clearly voiced objection to on more than one occasion. et it is a document he swore to uphold and defend. His taking that oath, and then not doing as he promised is consistent with his all-too-frequent deceptive statements and practices.
The United States of America defends its Constitution and Bill of Rights. Dictators trample on such things. For the record, Obama has trampled on the 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 10th amendments and that is just since January. Richard Nixon was impeached for actions less offensive, inflammable, unconstitutional and less frequent than Obama’s. It is time Congress manned up, did its job, and impeached the would be dictator who holds our nation’s highest office. Were it not for his race, I think Congress might do just that. Perhaps Congress ought to recognize that there are many people of color much more qualified than Obama who are very electable as president. Unlike the current president, they are honest and believe in the founding principles of our nation. I would be as proud to vote for any of them as I would be, were I able, to vote for the impeachment of our current pretender president.
Caring about schools, or just stirring the pot?
Do Mr. McComb, Mr. Dielman, or Mrs. Moses really care about the school situation or do they just like to stir the pot? After reading their letters to the editor, I have decided they just like stirring the pot and talking negatively about everyone they don’t support. I don’t personally know any of the three, however I do know a few of the candidates they are bashing on. In my opinion there are multiple well-qualified candidates running for the school board and a few of them have been targets of these three individuals. Do they have children in the school? What is the reason they are bashing several candidates that have children in the school. These candidates want the best for their children and the children of this community.
That brings me to another topic that bothers me. I would like to know if any of these three voted to pass the levy for a new school. Did they support that levy or did they write letters to the editor against the levy? If the community really cared about our kids and their education I feel that levy would have passed. It’s my understanding the majority of property owning residents of Baker would be paying approximately $16 a month for a new school. I know Baker City citizens pay a monthly sidewalk fee to maintain our sidewalks, why can’t we pony up a few more dollars for our kids? In the words of the late, great Whitney Houston, “I believe the children are our future.”
Where are our priorities Baker City? If the citizens of Baker really cared about our kids we would be in the process of building a new middle school. We wouldn’t have a problem with adding sixth-graders to an overcrowded and run-down Middle School if we just built a new one. I agree with Ogan and McKim. Why can’t we support candidates without bashing on the others? There has already been enough of that on the school board. I say vote for whoever you feel is the best candidate and may the best person be elected.
Legislature thwarts local decision on GMO crops
Recently I sent an email to Senator Ferrioli stating I was disappointed in his “yes” vote on Senate Bill 633. What was SB 633? Jackson County wanted an initiative that would allow them to stop GMO crops from being planted in their county. Having a county, city or citizens be in charge of decisions that affect them did not set well with some legislators. We were part of a group that met with Senator Ferrioli before the vote. When the subject of GMO came up. His reply was “I have enough information from two sources. That’s not open for discussion.” When we left his office, the corridors were lined with lobbyists.
Following is the answer to my email from Senator Ferrioli. “Mr. Miller, I am sorry to learn of your disappointment with my vote on SB 633, but I submit this to you in my defense. Your email to me is of a technical level well beyond the capacity of Baker County staff to interpret. How could they possibly administer a management program that would deal with all the potential applications of genetic modification of agricultural products? Who would pay for such a program of administration? Apply the local control argument to the Center for Disease Control. Would it make sense to conduct epidemiological studies at the county level with the resulting patchwork of response? I think not! Ted Ferrioli.”
We exchanged more emails. All the unedited emails are being posted here: www.larryRmiller.com. If I were an administrator or county official, I would consider his reply a slap in the face. To become law, the House of Representatives has to pass their version: HB 3192. If you’re concerned about health, your children’s health, future generations and personal liberty, contact your representative. Do your own GMO investigating. Be sure you know who funded the research. Here’s a good place to start: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/sep/28/study-gm-maize-cancer. SB 633 and HB 3192 go far beyond GMO. If the state overrides local opinion on this, what freedoms and liberties will be next?
Cassidy has the qualities we want in school board member
We want to include our names to the list of Kevin Cassidy supporters. What our community should seek and expect from a Baker 5J School board member are these qualities:
1. Thoughtful, careful and respectful consideration of all issues
2. Steady and calm demeanor
3. Ability to listen
4. Desire to fix problems, rather than create them
5. Strong support for students, staff and the community
6. Knowledge of budget, finance, and available resources
Kevin Cassidy demonstrates these qualities. We have known Kevin for close to 40 years and can personally vouch for his credibility as a strong, solid civic leader. We are supporting Kevin because he would be an asset to the Baker 5J School Board. We urge you to vote and when doing so, make Kevin Cassidy your choice.
Randy and Joanne Crutcher
Abell, Cassidy have outstanding qualifications
Having been public school teachers and a bank officer for over 30 years, we want to express our concern over the upcoming school board election. We urge the choice of Rosemary Abell and Kevin Cassidy for school board members because of their outstanding qualifications.
Rosemary Abell has by far the most excellent educational background, having experience as a teacher, administrator and consultant at the local, state and national levels. This school board needs someone with her expertise and experience.
Kevin Cassidy has the business background and leadership qualities to cover that aspect of school board membership. He is a graduate of BHS and EOU with a bachelor’s degree in business/economics, has owned his own company and has worked for ODOT in administration policy and budgetary planning. He has a young son and is active in the Haines PTCO.
For these reasons we strongly urge you to vote for Rosemary Abell and Kevin Cassidy. Their education, experience and integrity would truly benefit the Baker 5J School Board.
Alden Keith Taylor
Nancy Ann Taylor