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Contracts reflect the economy


Baker City’s new contracts with its three labor unions are reasonable deals that reflect the economy and the city’s budget situation.

These three-year pacts with the police, fire and public works unions are quite different from the five-year contracts they replace.

And rightfully so.

The previous contracts included annual pay raises ranging from 2 percent to 4 percent. That seemed appropriate when the contracts were ratified in 2008. But when the economy went into a tailspin later that year, and many city residents in the private sector had their pay frozen or lost their jobs, those raises seemed awfully generous.

Five years later the economy has improved, but only marginally.

The city had no choice but to slow the growth of employee salaries and benefits, which account for about 70 percent of the budget. These new contracts do that, with annual raises ranging from 1 percent to 1.5 percent. The city also has switched to higher-deductible, lower-premium health insurance plans.

Unlike many cities, Baker City hasn’t had to lay off workers. These new labor contracts should help the city remain on the right side of the ledger.

 

Letter to the Editor for Oct. 21, 2013


Another possible solution to nation’s health care issue

Replacing Obamacare with a single-payer system of medicine as Gary Dielman advocates seems like a good idea. Medicine for profit will lead to abuse by the insurance companies — and by the MDs themselves, as they are after all human too. How many ineffective or damaging therapies and procedures have we seen phased out slowly so that we might not notice it? And we must wonder how many are still in place. I recently tried to get access to the OHSU medical library to try to clear up some medical matters and was told that I would need to be appointed to the medical faculty to receive online library privileges. This is a library system paid for with my tax dollars! Which brings up why a single-payer system wouldn’t work in our current top-down political system: collusion between the medical system and government, as well as the influence of drug companies.

In 1983 when I started working in hospitals, the government tried to introduce Diagnostic Related Groups (DRGs) a scheme to fix payments for any particular condition. If a hospital could direct treatment successfully for less, they would pocket the difference and standard reimbursements could then be whittled down. The doctors, administrators and insurance companies killed that one in a hurry! It would have been an example of how, with intelligent and responsible government oversight, medicine-for-profit could work. (There is also the matter of how under the present system, one can patent anything that works — including drugs — but not medical therapies.)

The solution I am proposing is a mixed one. The government would determine a reasonable payment for each diagnosis, subject to adjustment based upon details of the case. The patient would then be free to go to any provider that would accept that reimbursement (voucher) amount. The government would also offer an option of free medical service and hospitalization, manned by licensed personnel. Thus an open for-profit system and a socialized system would be in direct competition. The result, I am sure, would be a dramatic reduction in the overall cost of effective medical care.

R. Mack Augenfeld

Baker City

 

Why does the state hate woodstoves?


We thought Oregon’s offensive against woodstoves reached the apex of its lunacy back in 2009, when the Legislature passed a law that prohibits people from selling a home that contains a stove that isn’t certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

We were wrong.

Now, it seems, not even that coveted EPA certification, which was supposedly so vital four years ago, no longer is sufficient.

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum has joined officials from six others states in filing a lawsuit against the EPA, claiming the agency has failed to adequately limit air pollution produced by new woodstoves.

 

Letters to the Editor for Oct. 18, 2013


Baker City Senior Center is truly a special place

The recent letter from Ramona and John Creighton was right on. I would like to add my story.

My late husband, Leo, and I began visiting the Senior Center in 1980 or so, when it was housed in the Extension Building. Leo soon joined the Buddy Band which played for every dance or function requiring music until he had to put away his beloved saxophones about 1998. Leo decorated the hall for every holiday or occasion. I handed him ribbons, pins or tape. Leo was president of the Baker County Seniors for several years. He passed away June 6, 2003.

In 1982, Peggi Timm asked me to be treasurer of the Seniors. I have carefully accounted for every penny — even those found in the pockets of donated clothing or on the pavement of the parking lot. I have asked numerous people if they would like the job. Answers have ranged from “Oh, I don’t think so” to “Hell no!” I’ll carry on as long as I can.

 

The birch returns for its autumnal curtain call


The season of the weeping birch tree has come round again and our city basks in its unique beauty.

I don’t own a birch myself but am partial to the species.

Most deciduous varieties please our eyes when they take on their temporary autumn dress, of course.

In New England an entire tourist industry is built on the ephemeral show.

 

Letter to the Editor for Oct. 16, 2013


Replace Obamacare? Yes, but with single-payer system

Letter writer Pete Sundin and Republicans in Congress do not like Obamacare. Yet Sundin and the Republicans offer no solution for fixing what the U.S. presently has: the most expensive and yet ineffective health insurance system among the world’s First World countries.  

Our counterparts in Canada and Europe provide health insurance for ALL of their citizens at almost a THIRD less cost and get better results. Why do I emphasize “third?” Because that is the profit raked off the top by extremely inefficient, profit-minded insurance companies, before they pay a dime for your medical care.

Get rid of private insurance companies and replace them with a government-run, single-payer system and what do you have? Medicare! Take a poll of Americans and ask them if they want to get rid of Medicare, which manages the health insurance of our senior citizens with a 4 percent overhead, as opposed to the corporate insurance industry’s 30-plus percent. Only Tea Party types would advocate turning over Medicare to private insurance.

Obamacare has its flaws — the biggest one being it’s not a single-payer system — but at least it does not leave uncovered 30 million of our poorest citizens in this most affluent country in the world.  And under Obamacare insurance companies may not turn anyone down for pre-existing health problems.  

Better than playing political brinkmanship, why don’t Democrats and Republicans in Congress get behind a single-payer system?

For a good discussion of single-payer health insurance, go to this website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single-payer_health_care

Gary Dielman

Baker City

 

Joe Bell: He did it


Joe Bell is a winner.

That his journey ended long before he reached his destination does not change this essential truth.

He did what he set out to do when he walked away from La Grande, many months and more than a thousand miles ago.

Bell, who lived in La Grande, embarked on a walk across America to tell people about his 15-year-old son, Jadin, who took his own life last winter after being bullied at school. Jadin was targeted, according to family and friends, at least in part because he was openly gay.

Joe Bell was struck and killed by a semi-truck on a Colorado highway Wednesday night.

His pilgrimage has ended.

His message, though, will continue.

And though this must of course be meager solace to Joe’s family and friends, it is a significant reality.

It’s obvious, from the reactions of the people Joe met along the way or who only knew him through media accounts, that he achieved his goal of explaining, in the most personal way imaginable, how destructive bullies can be.

No one who ever heard Joe’s story could ever feel the same about bullying. These people, we’re sure, will continue to advocate for tolerance, and in so doing they will keep alive the cause to which Joe had dedicated his life.

 

Letters to the Editor for Oct. 11, 2013


A majority of Americans don’t want Obamacare

Obamacare is at the center of the current Congressional impasse. Republicans have voted to defund it; Democrats refuse to do so. Let’s take a look at the short history of this issue.

In 2008, the American people gave the presidency and control of Congress to the Democrats so they would move the country out of the morass of the Great Recession. Instead, they passed an ineffective stimulus package loaded with political pork, then spent months wrestling with health care. And instead of reducing the amount of governmental meddling in the health care market, they engineered the governmental takeover of one-sixth of the American economy.

No Congressman had read all the bill’s 2000+ pages. Nancy Pelosi famously said, “Let’s pass it so we can see what’s in it.” There was chicanery in its final passage. No Republicans voted for it.

At the time, a majority of Americans were opposed to Obamacare, and in November 2010, voters gave their opinion of Democratic husbandry with a Republican romp, both at the federal and state levels. Obamacare would never have been passed by the next Congress.

Obamacare was supposed to make health care more affordable. But it was never explained how the same government that pays $500 for hammers and suffers billions annually in Medicare fraud was somehow going to run health care efficiently and economically. And indeed, the reverse has been true. Americans now suffer from annual double-digit increases in their health insurance premiums. Many small companies find that they no longer can afford to provide health insurance for their employees.

Federal employees want no part of Obamacare; they prefer their existing health care plans. Labor unions worked hard for its passage, but now they line up seeking exemptions from it. If Obamacare is so wonderful, why do these highly Democratic groups avoid it like the plague?

Most polls show that a majority of Americans continue to oppose Obamacare. Yet Senate Democrats are adamant; they will not give an inch. President Obama vows a presidential veto. Democrats insist on imposing on the American people this unpopular, expensive monstrosity of a program, Obamacare.

Pete Sundin

Baker City

City Council urges renewal of downtown economic district

Baker City has begun the process to renew the Economic Improvement District in our downtown community.

Since the early 1980s, much work has been done to create an attractive commercial area that entices people to visit and do business. We have seen a great deal of success since those efforts began. With the initial implementation of the Economic Improvement District, we were able to leverage community monies to encourage millions of dollars in private investment. If the Economic Improvement District had not been in place, our downtown community would not have had the dedicated resources needed to make so many of our wonderful improvements that have happened.

Property and business owners will once again consider the renewal of the Economic Improvement District. We urge our fellow citizens to support this renewal. Let’s keep our downtown community vibrant and healthy for generations to come.

Richard Langrell

Baker City mayor

Clair Button

Mike Downing

Dennis Dorrah

Barbara Johnson

Kim Mosier

Roger Coles

Baker City Council members

 

City action on pit bulls is necessary


City Councilor Roger Coles used the term “knee jerk reaction” Tuesday evening when councilors discussed imposing restrictions, or even an outright ban, on pit bulls.

In one sense the term is appropriate in this case.

A decision is sometimes deemed to be “knee jerk” when it’s prompted by a single event.

Trouble is, the term also, in many instances, connotes a decision which is based on emotion rather than on fact — “in the heat of the moment,” to use another cliché.

We don’t believe the City Council is acting in knee jerk fashion as regards pit bulls (and to be clear, Coles didn’t say he believed his colleagues had done so; he just said he hopes that doesn’t happen.)

 

Would you trust these people with anything?


Somebody has to sign off on all those checks the federal government writes, but why does it have to be Congress?

The Founding Fathers might have botched that one.

Although in their defense, none of those august men ever had to deal with John Boehner.

Or Harry Reid.

Or any other modern politician for whom the words “principle” and “posturing,” which have little in common except containing nine letters and starting with “p,” have become so corrupted as to be nearly synonymous.

 
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