Don’t break up a school board that’s working
I have been a proud member of the Baker School District 5J staff for 35 years. I’ve seen many administrations and school boards come and go. I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. Right now, as a school district, we have a lot of successes: two model schools, we are financially fit, our administration (including district office staff) is leading us to be better teachers, we are on track to tackle the Common Curriculum State Standards in 2015 and our staff members are strong and involved. In addition, we have the Oregon School Employees Association’s Classified Employee of the Year for 2012-13, Ma’Lena Wirth AND the Oregon Teacher of the Year, Nanette Lehman!
Our school board is supportive. They are making decisions that keep our district running well. There is no need to recall any of our school board members.
If it isn’t broken....
The author is a fifth- and sixth-grade teacher at Haines Elementary School.
Baker School Board Chair Lynne Burroughs and board member Mark Henderson made a major mistake in April when they voted to censure their colleague, Kyle Knight.
More specifically, they erred in making the censure not merely a public condemnation of Knight, which is the typical approach in such cases, but by also imposing punitive measures.
With the support of Superintendent Walt Wegener, Henderson and Burroughs have withheld information from Knight, excluded him from subcommittee meetings and prohibited him from meeting with district officials. By doing so they have in effect partially disenfranchised the nearly 1,600 district patrons who voted for Knight in May 2011.
The board members’ and Wegener’s claims — that Knight violated a host of state and federal laws, as well as the U.S. Constitution itself, by telling the media that a district employee was suspected of (and later convicted of) trying to steal money from the district — are wrong.
Knight’s censure should be revoked.
There are two ways this could potentially happen.
The first is that voters could recall Henderson and Burroughs in the Dec. 11 special election. Their replacements, who would be appointed by the remaining board members — Knight, Andrew Bryan and Jim Longwell — probably would join Knight and Longwell in voting to cancel the censure (Bryan voted with Burroughs and Henderson in favor of the censure; Longwell voted no, as, naturally, did Knight).
The second option is that Knight, who in September filed a $700,000 civil rights lawsuit against the district, Henderson, Burroughs and Wegener, will convince a judge to revoke the censure.
We think it’s likely that a judge will do so, considering the weakness of the case Burroughs, Henderson and Bryan made to justify censuring Knight.
We hope this latter, legal, route is how the school board dispute is resolved.
Recalling Henderson and Burroughs next month would no doubt be satisfying to some of their critics. We understand, and share, the critics’ frustration.
We opposed the censure vote this spring.
We have criticized Burroughs, Henderson and Wegener for acting as though Oregon’s public records and public meetings laws were intended to exclude the public when in fact the laws’ actual purpose is to ensure the public can keep track of what its elected officials and public agencies are up to.
Advocating for grown-up ways to settle this dispute have gone unheeded.
In late September we suggested a return to the status quo ante — the board withdraws Knight’s censure, Knight drops the lawsuit and the recall proponents suspend their campaign.
None of those things has happened.
To be clear, our preference for ending Knight’s censure by way of his lawsuit — and with no monetary award — rather than through a recall should not be construed in any way as an endorsement of Burroughs and Henderson.
But a recall simply removes board members without either correcting their actions, or blocking the board or another public body from repeating their mistake.
In the best interests of Baker County, the overriding goal should be revoking the censure, the aspect of this controversy that has had the most direct, and troubling, effect on the district’s patrons now, and could have in the future if punitive censures remain possible.
If this goal can be accomplished without removing elected officials from office — itself a form of disenfranchisement, as Burroughs and Henderson have supporters as well — and without saddling the school district or, more likely, its insurance provider, with a bill exceeding half a million dollars, then so much the better.
Moreover, a judge’s ruling would serve as a legal precedent that should prevent the Baker School Board, as well as other public bodies statewide, from enacting punitive censures against elected officials on trumped up charges that, as in Knight’s case, have no merit.
Don’t cheat the kids — vote no on 5J recall
The question facing weary Baker voters now is: Is it the right time and the right use of election law to recall Chairperson Burroughs and Member Henderson from service on the 5J School Board?
Last spring I became concerned that Member Kyle Knight had managed to position himself as a victimized folk hero in the media. So I began attending school board meetings to see for myself.
I found the board was performing the routine functions of any school board — setting policy, making personnel decisions, evaluating staff, budgeting, and protecting the district from liability after consultation with council.
I also found that the efforts of the hard working school board majority were put under unusual scrutiny by the newly elected and inexperienced minority of Knight and Longwell, who mostly abstained or voted no on all but the most routine matters.
The agenda of these newcomers was not readily apparent — but it was clear to me that there was one. There was an implication that children and families were not being well served by the board and its staff. (Note that Burroughs and Henderson are well known community minded directors who give generously of their time and serve entirely without pay.)
So rather than getting lost in the weeds, I hope voters will ask these key questions:
• Is the district performing well? (YES)
• Has the board successfully guided the district in tough times and kept it afloat? (YES)
• Is it the job of the board to protect the district from exposure to liability and did it take steps to do that? (YES)
• Any malfeasance? (NO — no stealing, no corruption, no gross incompetence)
Ideally, we determine who we want to make decisions on our behalf through elections, not by recalling people with whom we disagree. Let’s chalk this mess up to a personality conflict or a personal grudge. Maybe fires were fanned by easy access to headlines or dreams of higher office. But mounting a recall which cheats kids while claiming to help them — that shows who the real victims are. Vote no on recall.
Salt already used on Baker City streets
I refer to your paper’s editorial from Nov. 2. You state your displeasure with Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) and their intent to begin limited testing of road salt on an 11-mile stretch of I-5 near the California border as well as a somewhat remote 120-mile stretch of U.S. 95 between Idaho and Nevada. You also correctly point out that road salt (sodium chloride) promotes corrosion of metal parts associated with virtually all motor vehicles which can be very expensive to repair and often leads to rapid depreciation of a vehicle’s worth.
I suggest you look much closer to home when it comes to using corrosive road salt. In fact, you need look no further than Baker City Public Works if you want to discuss the use of rock salt on roads. Baker City Public Works routinely applies corrosive rock salt to most moderately to heavily traveled city street intersections. It is nearly impossible to operate a motor vehicle on Baker City streets without passing through an intersection that has not been treated with corrosive road salt. The city has, in the past, printed maps that show which intersections and roads are treated with salt. These maps could be obtained at no charge from Public Works.
The only reason a city or state uses rock salt as a deicer is it costs less than using more expensive magnesium chloride, which is only about 25 percent as corrosive as rock salt or sodium chloride. Mag chloride is applied in liquid form and is often combined with corrosion inhibitors as well. The government entity that chooses rock salt as a deicer would no doubt argue that rock salt is a more cost-effective deicer. The question should be asked, cost-effective for whom? I would argue corrosive rock salt is certainly not more cost-effective to us, the motoring public, no matter which government body promotes its use.
On the day after Barack Obama was re-elected I went into the backcountry of Baker County, looking for elk.
As is typical there was considerably more looking than seeing.
On my part, anyway; I haven’t a clue what the elk were up to.
The elk that live in the Lookout Mountain Unit and I, we have what you might call an understanding.
I can hike as many miles as my legs and lungs will tolerate, and I can peer into every brush-choked draw between Huntington and Richland (which would require a lot of both peering and hiking, let me tell you), and the elk will spare me the trouble of trying to drag a 500-pound carcass up a slope that’s only slightly less steep than the north face of the Eiger.
The elk, clever and selfish beasts that they are, have secured for themselves the easy part of this deal.
They simply avoid me, as you might an annoying neighbor.
And though I don’t mean to impugn the elusive abilities of elk, which are immense, avoiding me in the woods requires neither skill nor effort.
Except when I’m asleep, I’m about as stealthy as an elephant in a nitroglycerine factory.
A meth-addicted elephant.
Urge Walden to back tax hikes on wealthiest
The dust is beginning to settle from a hard-fought election, and I’m writing now to encourage my fellow readers, our state, and our great nation to come together to take vigorous and informed steps toward economic progress. The way I see it, we ALL dodged a bullet last Tuesday, as we turned back the politics of the wealthiest 1 percent, in favor of the rest of us: the 99 percent. But, some hard work lies ahead.
Republicans still have a majority in the House of Representatives (due primarily to skillful redistricting following the 2010 census). And almost all of them, including Greg Walden, have signed Grover Norquist’s no-tax-increase pledge. Unless we intervene, it’s already sounding like they will stiff-arm any attempt to raise taxes on the wealthy to promote economic expansion and debt reduction, even while claiming to support compromise. They will ignore the 1950s, when the wealthy paid a top marginal income tax rate of over 90 percent, the economy flourished, and we paid down the war debt. They will stick together and march us off the impending “fiscal cliff.”
There are those who still say that trickle-down tax cuts for the wealthy would spur the economy, but tax rates are already at historic lows. The real problem with the economy is that the middle class has lost its buying power over the past 35 years, losing good-paying jobs to off-shoring/out-sourcing, computer automation, and union busting. The profits from this increased “productivity” have gone into the pockets of the top 1 percent, instead of growing the economy through needed investments in jobs for education, our streets and bridges, green energy and much more, while also reducing the national debt.
If enough of us intervene, we have the power to break the logjam in the House. Our calls and e-mails to Representative Walden, urging him to allow significant tax increases for the wealthy — even exceeding President Obama’s modest proposals – could help produce genuine compromise. I ask my fellow readers to learn about the real, positive relationship between higher taxes and economic growth, and then give Walden a call.
Casting votes for fictitious characters is costly
Many thanks to Tami Green and her staff for the hours spent in preparation for each election. Once an election is over, more work has to be done. I have the privilege of working on the Election Board. The Election Board, consisting of 10 members or more, must spend excess time hand-tallying all write-in votes cost — including fictitious characters. You are paying our extra wages for this process.
So the next time you are thinking about writing in a name, legitimate or fictitious, think about what a privilege it is to vote and not waste your taxpayers’ dollars on casting a write-in vote that has no real meaning.
It’s natural for some Baker County voters to feel a trifle disenchanted in the aftermath of last week’s election.
Slightly more than two-thirds of us — 67.5 percent — cast our votes in the presidential race for Republican Mitt Romney.
President Barack Obama, who handily won a second term, polled just 28 percent here.
Baker County is hardly unique in this regard, of course.
Geopolitically, Oregon looks like a sea of Republican red with scattered islands of Democratic blue — 25 of the state’s 36 counties went for Romney.
Four of those 25 counties were even more pro-Romney than Baker County — Lake, 75.7 percent; Grant, 74.8 percent; Harney, 72.7 percent; and Malheur, 69 percent.
The national map shows a similar colorscape.
But lest any local voters lament that their opinions were rendered moot, consider Congress. For the eighth straight election, voters in Oregon’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes all of the state east of the Cascades, elected Republican Greg Walden to a two-year term.
A compelling case can be made that Walden’s position more directly affects Baker County than whoever is living in the White House. When a flood wrecks irrigation ditches, for instance, it’s Walden who’s likely to be the most vocal and influential advocate for local needs and concerns. Our majority voice still rings clearly in the House of Representatives.
Take aim to shoot down school board recall
I see that chief petitioner Kerry McQuisten has collected enough signatures to place on the ballot a recall election to oust two 5J school board members. By doing so, McQuisten and the 916+ recall petition signers are requiring 5J School District to involuntarily expend about $10,000 of taxpayer money to pay Baker County for the election.
Although allowed under Oregon recall law, such a reaching into every taxpayer’s pocket smacks of “taxation without representation,” a primary reason for the 13 colonies declaring independence from England and the resulting Revolutionary War.
In these economic bad times, 5J School District can’t afford to expend $10,000 that could much, much better be put to use educating our youth.
I hope 5J taxpayers raise their muskets, take aim, and with a NO VOTE shoot down this expensive, unnecessary recall.
By Jasyon Jacoby
Baker City Herald Editor
The season of the hitchhiking leaf is upon us, and neither our soles nor our kitchen floors will be safe for some weeks.
Or until the snow gets deep anyway.
Government can push companies overseas, too
Many politicians love to rail against corporations for “shipping jobs overseas,” claiming that they deliberately deny Americans jobs so they can take advantage of low wages in Third World countries. However, these same politicians pass laws and regulations which, like medications, generally come with unforeseen, unpleasant side effects.
Politics has earned its reputation as a nasty business.
National campaigns that include the quadrennial presidential election — only one more day of the current iteration, fortunately — tend to get particularly fractious.