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Letter to the Editor for April 8, 2015

County needs to defend itself against Forest Service

Regarding the discussion at a recent Board of Commissioners meeting concerning relationships with the U.S. Forest Service, I think it is important to keep several things in mind. One, the track record of the Forest Service in past years when the county was a cooperating agency is not a good one. Too often the Forest Service has adopted an “it’s my way or the highway” approach and Baker County has suffered as a result.  

Two, our experience has been no different than that of many counties in many states where the Forest Service has attempted to implement its national agenda regardless of the needs and desires of local residents and elected officials.

A county’s status as “cooperating agency” allows the Forest Service to assume it can and will get its way and that local officials, as the name implies, will “cooperate.” The only position the county can and should take if it hopes to have any impact on negotiations at all is to become a coordinating agency. That may be the only tool which will force the Forest Service to actually listen to local concerns.

 The last county commissioner election sent a message. That message, in part, was that voters expect — actually demand — that their elected county commissioners vigorously defend the public’s access to public lands. Chairman Harvey gets it and I would be, as I suspect many others would be, extremely disappointed if his fellow commission members don’t “get it” also.

Jerry Boyd

Baker City

School spending and strange political bedfellows

Don’t feel badly if the recent debate in the Oregon Legislature over how much money the state should spend on public schools has left you a trifle woozy.

In a reversal of typical partisan roles, Republican legislators have pilloried the majority Democrats for shortchanging the state’s schools by hundreds of millions of dollars.

PILT is key for the county

It’s a yearly pest as predictable as the dandelion and the mosquito, but with much more serious potential consequences — Baker County officials wondering whether this is the year Congress pulls the budget rug from under their feet.

This year, as in the past, lawmakers eased the county’s fears by continuing a federal program that’s been a vital source of money for the road department for the past 15 years.

Backroad Oregon, but at least there’s Corn Nuts

There is no country store so remote that it can avoid Corn Nuts.

The place might stock one loaf of bread that looks as though it came out of the oven during the Clinton administration.

Its canned goods might shed a thicker layer of dust than artifacts at an archaeological dig.

You might have trouble telling the milk from the cottage cheese, what with their similarly chunky textures.

Best-buy date labels that don’t include the year are of little value.

Use TMP delay wisely

We’re not sure what Forest Service officials hoped to accomplish with their recent announcement that the agency is delaying work on its controversial plan to ban motor vehicles from some roads on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.

But if, as seems likely, the goal was to ease residents’ concerns, even temporarily, about the pending Travel Management Plan (TMP), then the announcement failed.

We’ve received several emails and letters to the editor from locals who not only weren’t mollified by the press release from Regional Forester Jim Pena, but they’re even more suspicious of the agency as a result.

Baker in pot sales bull’s-eye

Now that the Baker City Council has stepped onto the shaky legal ground of banning commercial marijuana sales in the city, we hope councilors will avoid walking into the potentially expensive morass of a lawsuit.

We expect that, were the matter to go to city voters, a majority would support the Council’s move to ban marijuana shops.

But we’re skeptical that the majority would continue to back their elected officials in a legal challenge that could siphon money from important city services.

Letter to the Editor for April 1, 2015

Travel management is cooking in every FS project

Press Release — USFS scheduled for reality check!!

For us dealing with the Forest Service for the past 15 years, on a nearly daily basis, this action is well past due. It becomes more apparent every day since the Travel Management Plan was withdrawn two years ago.

Nearly as disappointing —  the press. In Eastern Oregon, I find it hard to believe anyone on the staff of the newspapers can print these misleading Forest Service press releases as breaking news. Intentionally misleading the people in regard to road closures is blatant propaganda coming from the USFS at this time.   

 It is not news the TMP is on hold. (How many roads have been closed during this so-called pause?) Nothing has changed since it was shot down two years ago. Insinuating this is a new development, once again, rightly confirms the lack of confidence we have in the Forest Service being capable of speaking forthright. 

Press release from Mr. Pena, March 19, 2015, “It is my expectation that all three forests (including the Umatilla) will continue to address natural resource concerns and public access need as a part of ongoing project level decisions and forest restoration projects.” What we know from this statement, road closures will occur in these projects providing a back door for closures.

Bartering of roads to escape litigation is common at the table of collaboration. Travel Management is not on the burner but is cooking under the guise of every single project in the Blue Mountain forests. 

The Forest Service has a problem and it’s time to own up. This agency was forced to withdraw a TMP, then was confronted last fall with the problem of 11 counties withdrawing support for the agencies proposed Blue Mountain Forest Plan. Still, yes still they continue down a road of ignoring public sentiment.  Intentionally disregarding the message and presenting the illusion of public engagement. 

A question plagues me, “ why are the forests in such miserable condition?”

Wanda Ballard

Baker City   

Letter to the Editor for March 30, 2015

New city ordinance runs contrary to marijuana laws

Local ordinance 3336 is contrary to state law and will never hold up in court. 3336 violates Senate Bill 1531, which states in Section 2, “notwithstanding ORS 633.738, the governing body of a city or county may adopt ordinances that impose reasonable regulations on the operation of medical marijuana facilities registered, or applying for registration, under ORS 475.314 (3)(a) and reasonable conditions on the manner in which a medical marijuana facility may dispense medical marijuana.”

The law says what it means, and it means what it says. An outright ban is not reasonable and will never survive judicial scrutiny. How is it that the city attorney, the mayor and the police chief cannot figure that out.

Measure 91, which legalizes recreational marijuana use, has similar language at Section 59 which says, in part, “(1) Cities and counties may adopt reasonable time, place and manner regulations of the nuisance aspects of establishments that sell marijuana to consumers if the city or county makes specific findings that the establishment would cause adverse effects to occur.”

The City of Baker has found no specific findings of adverse effects. All we have seen from District Attorney Matt Shirtcliff, Mayor Kim Mosier and Chief Wyn Lohner is “REEFER MADNESS.” Measure 91 at Section 59 says, “Marijuana laws supersede and repeal inconsistent charters and ordinances. Sections 3 to 70 of this Act, designed to operate uniformly throughout the state, shall be paramount and superior to and shall fully replace and supersede any and all ordinances inconsistent with it. Such charters and ordinances hereby are repealed.”

Sen. Ron Wyden, while in Baker City, said that “Oregon’s marijuana laws apply to every nook and cranny” of the state including Baker City.

I realize that not everyone on the City Council is a lawyer, but Mayor Mosier purports to be one. City Attorney Brent Smith purports to be one. District Attorney Matt Shirtcliff purports to be one. City Manager Mike Kee appears to be an intelligent and educated man. These people had to know that ordinance 3336 is at odds with state law.

Local ordinance 3336, being inconsistent with sections 3 to 7 of Measure 91, is hereby repealed.

Al Free

Baker City

Ted Cruz has nothing to offer

Imagine a politician so desperate to stay relevant that he runs out and takes the most contrary position possible to any rational argument. We don’t have to imagine, though, since we have Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, now a GOP presidential contender.

Cruz, who asked the American people during his announcement speech to imagine his notion of an ideal future, is in big trouble amid stagnant approval ratings. A February poll in Texas showed that even Texas Republicans are split between him and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for their party’s presidential nomination.

A year and a half ago, Cruz seemed like an unstoppable, albeit polarizing, force among conservatives, successfully bullying his colleagues into a government shutdown and stirring debate over whether his being Canadian-born was a bar to the presidency. All the while, his smirk seemed to promise an end to conservative woes.

Today, Cruz is in a very different place. Now, everything he does seems a little funny, out of step or downright odd.

Bills aim to fix program

One way Oregon’s counties help attract new business is by offering companies property tax relief for a period of years. It’s a good deal for businesses, and, despite the loss of potential property tax revenue, it’s good for counties, as well.

Forgoing taxes does take a toll, however. New and bigger businesses and new jobs often mean increased demand for local services and more students in local schools. The state works to soften the blow by sending some income tax dollars back to the counties as what’s called gain share.

The system is far from perfect, however, and now competing bills in the state Senate seek to fix the worst of its problems. While both are better than the status quo, the one sponsored by Sen. Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, and Reps. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, and Ann Lininger, D-Lake Oswego, is the better of the two.

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