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Letters to the Editor for March 27, 2015


Build a society that reflects values of most Americans

The top 1 percent of Americans now receive $1 trillion more income each year than they would receive under the income distribution that existed in 1979, and they pay historically low taxes. The bottom 80 percent now receive $1 trillion less per year, or $11,000 per family.

This is because not nearly enough good-paying jobs have been created during the past 35 years, due to off-shoring and the increasing impact of automation and robotics, and wages have not kept pace with the remarkable increase in productivity that has occurred. The profits have unjustifiably flowed to the very top.

The result: According to a CBS News report, “Three-quarters of Americans said they’re finding it difficult to both save for retirement and handle their day-to-day expenses.”  

But we will learn none of this from the op-ed articles by the Heritage Foundation that frequently appear in the Herald (most recently on March 23).  The regressive right is intent on keeping our attention focused on cutting government spending, and not on the burgeoning inequality of wealth.  

I urge my fellow readers (and the Herald’s editorial board) to explore a much wider range of meaningful options. For example, the other day the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) released their “People’s Budget: A Raise for America.” It calls for sharply increased taxes on the wealthy to pay for expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit and for needed investments in our infrastructure, like education. And it calls for a carbon tax, allowing the market to allocate carbon reduction.

What the CPC budget shows is what Washington too often suppresses: There is an alternative. It’s time for We the People to call the shots, and not the regressive right and their wealthy supporters. It’s time for democracy, not oligarchy.  

We can afford to build a society that reflects the values and priorities of most Americans. We only have to choose to do so, and we can choose to do so in the coming 2016 elections.

Marshall McComb

Baker City

Mandated voting would lead to downfall of the system

Obama and the Liberal Left are now attacking our right to vote or not. The president, using the term loosely, is now considering a “Mandate Vote Act.” 

This would mean, no matter the circumstance, every person 18 and over must vote, or be held criminally responsible. This would certainly mean the downfall of America’s voting system,which proves to be already troubled.

This latest stunt proves Obama’s lack of leadership, his turncoat attitude toward Israel, and his “hug-a-thug”approach to ISIS has the left-wingers worried about the upcoming 2016 presidential election.

Why else would the president suggest such lunacy, if not a political ploy? Most Americans aren’t aware of the political brinkmanship that is destroying this country from within. And, I speak of both immature parties. Most voters unfortunately, vote using what I call the “60-second-smear” method. Meaning, many people vote using information can-fed to them through the media’s 60-second smear campaigns between favorite television shows.

Why would anyone want an uninformed voter to vote? People who are made to vote are not going to educate themselves further just because they “have” to vote. Moreover, most would just rebel and choose whatever  — not even reading what or who’s up for vote. Why would any rational person want a voting system like this? A person or party who knows that unless they do, they have no chance of winning the presidency, that’s who.

For anyone to suggest this sort of voting system will work, has a severe lack of cognitive ability. And, they certainly should not be running America or her military! I find this yet, just another attempt by Socialist/Marxists to destroy America from within. 2016 must be the year of change for our Administration. 

If a change does not happen, I fear the worst. What we need to do is get rid of the two-party/electoral college system and make every person’s vote count on all state, local and national elections. Making every vote count is the only fair way of voting. 

No law or action should be taken without an individual voting election and those who don’t want to participate, should not be penalized.

Stephanie Kinsel

Baker City


Ready to give late-night scammers a nice shock


I would swap every app on my cellphone for a single feature on my home phone.

Remember those tear-jerker TV commercials that AT&T aired in the ’80s, with the catch-phrase “reach out and touch someone?”

Well I don’t want to reach out and touch someone.

I want to reach out and shock someone.

And I don’t mean a figurative, emotional shock.

I’m talking physical shock.

Amps or volts or whatever it is that makes your eyes bug out and the fillings in your teeth ache.

Specifically I want to shock the person responsible for my phone ringing after 10 o’clock four nights running, jolting me out of REM sleep each time.

I don’t want to cause permanent damage or anything.


Integrate mental health care


Talk to mental health professionals and it’s clear many would like to see Oregon’s delivery of mental health care changed. 

Two bills now before the Oregon Legislature, Senate Bill 831 and Senate Bill 832, would do that and in the process would improve mental health care for Oregon Health Plan clients.

They should be approved.

Mental and physical health care are two largely separate systems. Family practitioners, orthopedic specialists and pediatricians work on one side of the health care block, while psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health care providers work on the other. The two sides may or may not talk with one another on a regular basis. That split often means a person with mental health problems does not receive the care he or she needs.

The result, Robin Henderson, chief behavioral health care officer at St. Charles Health System, told the Senate Human Services and Early Childhood Committee on Tuesday, is that about 10 percent of patients referred to mental health providers actually see those providers.

The two measures would change that by integrating the two systems more fully than they are today.

Under SB 831, Oregon’s coordinated care organizations, including the Pacific Source CCO that operates in Central Oregon, would be required to hire or contract with mental health professionals. SB 832, meanwhile, would provide grants for integrating the two arms of medical care in a way that is not always done today. It would also bar CCOs from restricting patients’ access to mental health care.

The changes would, those testifying before the Senate committee this week said, mean better and earlier mental health care for those who need it. And that, in turn, could save the health care system money in the long run.

The two bills are in their infancy, and there will be revisions along the way. The Association of Oregon Community Mental Health Programs is concerned about mandates, grants and other aspects of the measures, and supporters will work with them to try to resolve their concerns.

But if receiving mental health care early is important to keeping Oregonians healthy, integration is likely to prove the best way to get there. The bills should be approved.


Letters to the Editor for March 25, 2015

Focus should be on pit bulls instead of cougars or wolves

I see that there have been several cougar sightings around Baker City, dogs have been called out to find the cat, and of course wolves are always a hot topic. 

Some get a little edgy when heading out to the woods where wolves are active. After many generations of urbanization, it isn’t all that hard to understand the uneasiness that the wild world might cause in civilized folks. Other things are a little harder to understand. 

You can count on your fingers the number of cougar-related deaths in the country and probably on one hand the number of wolf attacks. Pit bulls, on the other hand, are a different story. A few minutes on the Internet or a smarter- than-you phone and you get a picture of real carnage, often involving young children.

I guess it is legal. I Googled myself, and the first thing that came up led me to my Oct.4, 2013, letter to the editor, with another person’s letter commenting on the little boy killed by a pit bull in Baker City. I didn’t know it at the time, but the pit bull came from John Day, where some of my grandkids are.

Not long ago I passed through Baker City and there was one of our well-educated “animal lovers” being pulled along by four big pit bulls. If they had decided to chase another dog, a cat or a child, there is nothing the owner could have done to restrain that much dog power. 

I guess the city passed some kind of watered-down dog ordinance but as far as I can tell the county is still messing around.  

Let’s not have another child death before our leadership gets off its butt.

Steve Culley

Baker City/John Day/Richland

Forest Service press release is ‘smoke and mirrors’ 

On March 19, a press release was put out by the U.S. Forest Service on “Focus turns to Forest Plan Revision public engagement as Travel Management [Subpart B] paused in the Blue Mountains” 

This press release is nothing new, and bordering on an open attempt to confuse and give a false sense of hope to the public on Travel Management.

1) Travel Management has been on the “back burner” of both the Wallowa-Whitman and Malheur National Forest since 2012; this article states nothing new, and is a disservice to pretend they have done something new.

2) This release gives the false impression that the supervisors and regional forester are giving some sort of relief to the people of Eastern Oregon, when no such relief is being given.

3) Subpart A of Travel Management on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest is still being developed and the article fails to state that or how Subpart A will be used as a springboard to Subpart B and the closure of the mountains.

Most importantly — This is not the Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision. Restricting motorized use fully is in the forest plan revision through the designation of routes and you are still fully looking at a closure of our mountains if it goes through as written with designation of routes.

The message is the same: No designation of routes, No obliteration of roads, and No reduction of road densities in The Blues, period, end of discussion.

I cannot stress enough, this is a nonstory and worse, it gives people the false impression this is some sort of victory. IT IS NOT! Your access is still in jeopardy and your vigilance is needed and required to keep your mountains open. Do not get sucked into the hype, because it’s all smoke and mirrors.

Chuck Chase

Baker City

I owed it to others to try to straighten this out

I was amazed by the misinformation in the Baker City Herald editorial on March 18, 2015. Tim Collins’ mistake was deciding he had the power to dictate sewer/water rates, only City Council can set rates. The person costing taxpayers thousands of dollars is City Manager Mike Kee.

Mike can’t understand a simple one-page contract. In depositions, Mike said “the City has no document that allows us to charge Langrells double for sewer/water.” Mike convinced four members of City Council, one an attorney, to enter into the lawsuit instead of returning the overcharged fees.

A double sewer/water rate was never part of the annexation. It was discussed, but never considered for the contract. The City offered the 10-year moratorium on taxes because none of us felt a need for more property in the city. We built in the county because we didn’t want to be in the city. None of the annexed property has been built on.

Judge Pahl’s ruling does not preclude the city from introducing evidence. It says Tim Collins has no authority to set rates and what was discussed during negotiations is not part of a written contract. The reason the city will not be introducing any evidence is because none exists.

I tried to get city managers to follow the terms of their contract for 10 years. My only choices were, allow the city to cheat me or take them to court. If I was the only one being cheated, I would have let the city get away with it. It’s only because I am a member of the Baker City Council that I felt I owed the other people, who the city is also illegally double charging, my obligation to straighten this out. 

I have endured one year of ridicule from the city staff, four members of the City Council and the Baker City Herald. I was wrongfully removed as mayor by those four council members. I risked paying about $50,000 in attorney fees.

If the mayor of Baker City has to go through this to be heard, what chance does an average citizen have?

Richard Langrell

Baker City


End records law exemption


Let’s hear it for state Rep. Julie Parrish, R-West Linn. She believes Oregon lawmakers should live by at least some of the rules that apply to members of the Bend City Council and other public bodies in Oregon.

Parrish is working on legislation that would end the Legislature’s in-session public records law exemption. We can only say, more power to her.

It’s not the only thing lawmakers are exempt from while they’re meeting in Salem — the state constitution gives them broad freedom to do the state’s business without the sorts of restrictions applied to the governor’s office and most other state and municipal agencies.

Among other things, legislators have far more ability to determine the fate of their in-session emails than other public officials do, and they need not respond to public records requests while they’re in session. In addition, they cannot be sued for what they say in debate.

That latter provision makes sense, actually. Lawmakers must be able to express freely their feelings about proposed legislation, and worry about libel suits and the like might hinder those discussions.

Parrish’s bill would require lawmakers to live by the same disclosure rules that apply elsewhere in Oregon. They can do so now, of course, and some do, at least under certain circumstances. But they’re not required by law to do so, and that’s just wrong.

She also would require lawmakers to store their emails on state servers, a change from current rules. They now may use personal email accounts, a la Hillary Clinton, which puts those emails conveniently out of the public’s reach.

Oregon’s open records law is designed to do one thing, but it’s a biggie. It was written to ensure that the public can track what their government officials do. It allows citizens to see where officials’ money comes from and determine who is trying to influence their decision-making.

In an era when trust in government has been damaged again by the events surrounding former Gov. John Kitzhaber, timely public disclosure of information is critical. Parrish recognizes that. So, too, should the rest of the Legislature.


Guest Editorial


The fight over the Confederate battle flag and whether it can be included on a Texas specialty license plate has made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard arguments in the case Monday.

The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, finding the symbol offensive to others, denied an application by the state division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans to place its logo containing the flag on a specialty plate.

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the state should not discriminate against the expression of the group’s point of view, a free speech right.

The high court should reject that argument. Texas should have the right to determine what goes on a state-issued license plate bearing its name. Otherwise, practically any image or language must be allowed.

As the Star-Telegram Editorial Board has previously stated, if the Supreme Court says Texas can’t keep the Confederate flag off its license plates, the state should get out of the specialty plate business.


Letter to the Editor for March 23, 2015


Control of federal land? Be careful what you wish for

Our own worst enemy” — that’s what Baker County Commissioner Harvey thinks of the U.S. government. 

Harvey supports HB 3444, introduced by Republican State Representative Jim Weidner. The bill requires the United States to extinguish title to public lands and transfer title to the state.  

Harvey told the Baker City Herald (March 11 issue) that Weidner’s bill makes sense. “To me it is a good thing and it should be done.” 

Perhaps Harvey’s hopes are buoyed by precedent set in Utah. In 2012, the Utah Legislature, in a flight of pure fantasy, actually passed similar legislation and gave the U.S. government two years to comply.  So far Congress has, as far as I know, not even acknowledged Utah’s demand.

That’s not surprising. Even Utah’s own Legislative Counsel recommended against such legislation. I’m sure Legislative Counsel actually read the U.S. Constitution and found no clause granting authority to states to compel the U.S. government to do anything.

Apparently Weidner and Harvey have not considered the practical consequences of acquiring control of all those federal lands. In Idaho in 2012, the U.S. Forest Service spent $169 million on fire suppression. If Oregon acquired BLM and USFS lands, on which cattlemen graze their animals at a fraction of what grazing costs elsewhere, the state would most likely not continue such a subsidy, because it simply could not afford to do so.

Utah thinks it can go to court and require Congress to comply with its law.  Harvey agrees with that tactic. “You only do it when you absolutely have to. But we have no recourse. Our own government is becoming our own worst enemy. We have to litigate, we have no option left,” he told the Herald reporter.

Gary Dielman

Baker City


Why the federal budget matters


Voters often wonder if Congress can ever get spending under control. Well, both the House and Senate have introduced their latest budget blueprints, so we’ll soon know if they plan to keep kicking the can down the road — or get serious about reform.

Why care about the budget? Because it’s the only legislative document through which Congress addresses the entirety of the federal budget: all spending and taxes.

With more than $18.1 trillion in national debt and an annual deficit projected to grow from more than a half a trillion dollars last year to over a trillion dollars by the end of the decade, the budget presents a critical opportunity for Congress to address the key drivers of spending and debt.

Congress should put the budget on a path to balance to reduce debt and enable economic growth to raise living standards — for all Americans.

In a typical year, Congress addresses only one-third of the federal budget as part of its so-called “discretionary” spending bills (meaning the part of the budget not set to rise automatically, such as Social Security and Medicare). But this discretionary budget, which covers defense and most domestic programs and agencies, has become smaller over the years, both as a share of the economy and of the budget.

Discretionary spending’s share of the federal budget fell from two-thirds in 1964 to about one-third of the budget today. This spending is on course to drop to less than one-quarter of the budget within the next 10 years.

The congressional budget has the most direct impact on next year’s discretionary spending. It establishes the maximum level allowed for defense and discretionary domestic programs.

Congress should certainly eliminate bad discretionary spending that benefits special interests at the expense of the broader public, although this spending isn’t driving the growing debt crisis the way entitlement spending is.

Congress’s budget is especially important in its ability to establish new entitlement spending and tax policies. Since the 1970s, Congress has had a fast-track mechanism known as “reconciliation” to enact legislation that reduces the deficit with a simple majority vote in the Senate. Because reconciliation is protected from the filibuster, it is a key mechanism to address out-of-control entitlement spending. Without the filibuster, it’s easier, for example, to repeal Obamacare and bring down interest costs by controlling the debt.

Entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare and Social Security, are responsible for more than half of the projected growth in spending over the next decade. Including what the federal government is expected to pay to service the massive and growing debt, the share of projected spending growth due to these areas of the budget rises to 85 percent by 2025.

Unless Congress gets control of entitlement spending and puts the debt on a downward path, it will be impossible to prevent government from expanding and choking off economic growth and depressing personal incomes.

On the tax side, Congress can make the U.S. a more attractive place to do business by lowering America’s corporate tax rate (the world’s highest). And it can unleash economic growth by simplifying the needlessly complex income tax system to reduce distortions to saving and investing. These pro-growth tax policies will have the added benefit of getting people back to work.

Only when the House and Senate agree on a concurrent budget resolution can reconciliation effectively be evoked to reduce the deficit and to make Congress live within the confines of the budget plan. With governing majorities in both chambers of Congress controlled by the same party, the chances for such an agreement are higher.

On the most fundamental level, the budget enables Congress to establish a comprehensive governing philosophy and to reassert the power of the people’s body against the executive. According to budget committee veteran Patrick Knudsen, “Budgeting is an essential act of governing.”

Through the budget, Congress can reallocate spending in accordance with constitutional national priorities and free the state, local and private spheres to handle functions that are better and more legitimately suited to their level. Congress can also rearrange current spending priorities to better meet the national interest.

The budget is a critical tool in Congress’s legislative arsenal to correct the current fiscal course. It’s time to put the budget on a path to balance to protect Americans against undue debt and tax levels, and to unleash economic growth.

The budget affects us all. Lawmakers should act like they understand that.

Romina Boccia is the Grover M. Hermann Research Fellow in Federal Budgetary Affairs and research manager of the Institute for Economic Freedom and Opportunity at the Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Avenue NE, Washington, D.C. 20002.


More voters, but will they vote?


Voting is such a fundamental right that questioning anything which encourages people to exercise that right is to tread on treacherous rhetorical ground.

But we’ll risk it.

Last week Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed into law a system designed to register an estimated 300,000 Oregonians as voters.

Known by the moniker “motor voter,” the concept is simple. When people who are otherwise eligible to vote — at least 18, with proof of citizenship — either receive or update their driver’s license at the DMV, they will also be designated by the Secretary of State’s office as “provisionally” registered to vote.

These people won’t automatically get a ballot for the next election, though.

Instead, the state will send them a notice that gives them the option, within 21 days, to decline to be formally registered to vote. If they don’t do so, they will be registered and will receive a ballot.

In effect, registering to vote, for this group, becomes a case of “opt out” rather than an “opt in.”

There is nothing sinister about this system.

But we’re not convinced that the government ought to be putting the onus on citizens to exercise a right which, even in the case of one as important as voting, also happens to be strictly voluntary.

The ultimate measure of this law, of course, isn’t how many people Brown and other state officials can boast about having registered.

It’s the number of votes that counts, not the number of ballots printed.

And considering how easy it already is to register to vote in Oregon — you can do so online or at the DMV — we’re skeptical that any significant percentage of the people who end up as registered voters after a visit to the DMV will actually fill out and return their ballots.

The state and counties will still have to pay for the additional ballots, whether they’re used or not.

The expense won’t be horrendous. Baker County Clerk Cindy Carpenter said that in January the Secretary of State’s office estimated the motor voter law would increase the number of registered voters in Baker County from 9,840 to about 11,100. That would boost the county’s cost for each primary and general election by about $2,000.

Still and all, this law seems to us more of a public relations coup, one that allows Brown and other proponents to brag about how many more Oregonians are registered to vote, than a meaningful move toward greater participation in democracy.


Pass bill to help sage grouse

The potential effects on Baker County’s economy if the federal government lists the sage grouse as a threatened or endangered species can hardly be underestimated.

Most directly, most of beef cattle that produce about $53 million annual sales for local ranchers also spend part of the year grazing on public land that that feds might deem critical habitat for sage grouse.


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