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How to create jobs? Ideas vary

By Pat Caldwell

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Political life in Baker County rolls on as elections are held, meetings scheduled and resolutions ratified but always there is the shadow — seemingly distant yet oppressive — of economic development that hovers on the margins like a specter.

In one form or another economic development — the process to create and retain living-wage jobs for the county — stretched into almost every discussion and lingered near a political race that is as exceptional in terms of both its familiarity and potential to shift the course of county government.

At the same time, economic development is a factor that city elected leaders must reckon with at nearly every meeting. That kind of awareness is a signal that if there is problem that continues to defy simple fixes, it is economic development in Eastern Oregon.

There’s no shortage of theories on how to stimulate economic prosperity. The issue has been the silent partner at every recent county commissioner candidates forum. In the commission race, homebuilder and businessman Bill Harvey is running to unseat incumbent Fred Warner from his position as the Baker County Commissioner Chairman, while Dick Fleming and Gene Stackle are running against Mark Bennett for Commissioner Position No. 2. 

Haunted by a death

Baker City Police Detective Craig Davidson Moving To Hawaii 

S. John Collins / Baker City Herald Craig Davidson is looking forward to happier days as he and his family head for a new home in Hawaii. Davidson resigned from his job as a Baker City Police officer because of the personal problems he encountered after investigating the September 2013 death of 5-year-old Jordan Ryan, who was killed by a pit bull.

By Chris Collins

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Craig Davidson’s law enforcement career was ended by a 5-year-old boy.

That boy was Jordan Ryan, who was mauled to death by a pit bull on Sept. 27, 2013.

Jordan’s death broke not only Davidson’s heart, but the heart of the entire community.

For the 52-year-old Davidson, the loss of the kindergartner was more sadness than he ever again wants to bear in a day’s work. For that reason, he has resigned from his job as a Baker City Police detective.

He had planned to work three more years before retiring, but he turned in his badge on April 24 to ensure that he wouldn’t have to endure another child’s death before leaving the police force.

See more in Friday's issue of the Baker City Herald.

Control of Congress the key, Walden says

Kathy Orr/Baker City Herald Rep. Greg Walden, the Republican who represents Baker County in the U.S. House of Representatives, had a town hall meeting Saturday morning at the Geiser Grand Hotel.

By Chris Collins

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While U.S. Rep. Greg Walden might agree that the country would be better off with a Republican in the White House, there is nothing to gain by working to impeach President Barack Obama.

That was Walden’s response to such a proposal made by Lynn Shumway of Baker City, a former longtime Bridgeport rancher, during a Saturday-morning town hall meeting at the Geiser Grand Hotel.

“The real problem is the president is out of control,” Shumway told Walden. “I can’t see what kind of  country we’re going to have if we don’t stop the drama, save America and impeach Obama.”

Walden noted that impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton in 1999 lost the Republicans five seats in a mid-term election.

If a similar thing were to happen in this November’s election the results would be disastrous for the country from the Republican point of view, Walden said.

Instead of focusing on impeachment, Republicans should set their sights on gaining seats in the Democrat-controlled Senate,which currently claims 55 Democrats and 45 Republicans.

See more in today's issue of the Baker City Herald. 

New code enforcement officer will help residents comply with city ordinances

Code Enforcement Officer Ruthie Boyd checks a south Baker City residence that’s been abandoned. Rubbish and household items were left strewn about the yard, porch and garage. (S. John Collins/Baker City Herald)

By Chris Collins

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Ruthie Boyd’s new job as the Baker City Police Department’s civilian code enforcement officer is much like the story of the “Magic Porridge Pot.”

As the story goes, once the pot was started, it would continue producing porridge until the magic words “stop little pot, stop” were uttered by the cook.

Although there is no magic involved, Boyd’s work seemingly multiplies in much the same way with each contact she makes throughout the day.

“She goes out to address one issue and she comes back with two more,” says Police Chief Wyn Lohner.

For example, Boyd recently was called to investigate a complaint of someone living in a camp trailer on a south Baker City property with no water or sewer service, which is prohibited by city ordinance. While investigating that issue, another neighbor pointed to a house across the street that has been abandoned for the past two years.

“There is garbage everywhere and cats galore,” Boyd said.


Could the city and county combine tasks?

By Pat Caldwell

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An idea to consolidate portions of the Baker City Public Works Department with the Baker County Road Department resonates with some city councilors, but what that process would actually mean — and how it could be executed — remains undefined.

Some members of the Baker City Council consider a plan to consolidate certain government branches a viable method to save money and increase efficiency.

The consolidation concept is not a new one. 

Several years ago the city planning department folded into the county, and the city and county also have combined their building inspection departments.

Langrell wants city in court

By Pat Caldwell

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A dispute between Baker City Mayor Richard Langrell and the city might be settled in court.

On Tuesday Langrell filed a complaint in Baker County Circuit Court demanding the city pay him more than $9,000 in water and sewer fees he and his wife, Lynne, have paid for their motel.

The dispute between the Langrells and the city has continued — in one form or another — for years.

Richard Langrell said Tuesday afternoon that it’s time to finish what evolved into a nearly decade-long legal dispute.

“It (the court documents) is just telling the city I’m tired of them running me around and it’s time to get it settled,” he said.

Bounty For Books

Baker County Community Literacy Coalition Receives $49,122 Grant

S. John Collins / Baker City Herald file photo Searching through books provided by Jim Tomlinson, Baker County Community Literacy Coalition coordinator, background, are Mariah Petty, left, Jackson Gross, center, and Reece Hatfield. The book giveaway was held in December 2013 at Brooklyn Primary.

By Chris Collins

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The Baker County Community Literacy Coalition has received a $49,122 Early Literacy Grant.

The grant will benefit families with children from birth to age 6, said Jim Tomlinson, community literacy coordinator. 

“The purpose of the grant is to improve children’s early literacy skills in order to increase readiness for kindergarten, close opportunity and achievement gaps, and to ensure that all children are reading on grade level by the end of third grade,” an announcement of the award stated. 

Baker City mayor files papers with city requesting reimbursement of water and sewer fees

Baker City Mayor Richard Langrell today filed a complaint in Baker County Circuit Court in which he demands the city reimburse him for $8,931.47 in water and sewer fees, plus one-half of the water and sewer fees paid he and his wife, Lynne, paid in the months of February, March and April 2014.

A summons was delivered this morning to City Hall, stating that the city must appear in court to defend against the Langrells' complaint within 30 days, or the Langrells will ask the court to rule in their favor and order the city to pay the money.

In early January the Langrells' attorney, Rebecca J. Knapp of Enterprise, wrote the city a letter demanding $14,907.71.

City officials denied the request, and they insist the city doesn't owe Langrell anything.

More recently, in an April 1 letter Knapp asks the city for $8,931.47 in water and sewer fees, plus one-half of the water and sewer fees the Langrells paid in February, March and April.

City Manager Mike Kee said he was served with a copy of Langrell's petition and summons this morning.

Kee referred questions to the city's attorney, Brent Smith.

Langrell said earlier this month that he believes the city would settle with him before the matter goes to court. 

See Wednesday's issue of the Baker City Herald for a story about the Langrells' petition.

County commissioners to consider medical marijuana dispensary moratorium

The Baker County Board of Commissioners will have a special meeting Wednesday at 9 a.m. at the Courthouse, 1995 Third St. in Baker City.

The agenda includes a proposed ordinance instituting a moratorium on opening medical marijuana dispensaries.

The Baker City Council has already approved a one-year moratorium on such businesses, as allowed by a law the Legislature passed in March.

Baker man falls asleep while driving, crashes near Durkee

Oregon State Police photo/Hector Torres of Baker City suffered only minor injuries Monday morning when he fell asleep while driving on Interstate 84 near Durkee and crashed his 1993 Geo.

A Baker City man sustained minor injuries Monday morning when he fell asleep at the wheel near Durkee and crashed into a metal freeway sign.

Hector Torres, 25, was traveling west at 7:30 a.m. when his 1993 Geo four-door went off the road and rolled before coming to rest against the metal post, Oregon State Police Sgt. Ty Duby stated in a press release.

Huntington Fire Department volunteers and a Baker City ambulance crew extricated Torres from the vehicle, Duby said. Torres was taken to St. Alphonsus Medical Center. 

Police cited Torres on a charge of failing to drive in his lane. Torres was wearing a seat belt, Duby said.

Oregon Department of Transportation workers helped at the scene.

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