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Letter to the Editor Oct. 2, 2013

Promote congressional career for your kids

Attention Parents: “Encourage” your children to become members of Congress! It’s the only vocation where you still get paid for walking out on the job.

Karen Lewis

Baker City

 

The sad sight of a once-thriving enterprise

By Jayson Jacoby

Baker City Herald Editor

I often walk past the defunct Ellingson Lumber Co. sawmill, and the scene never fails to provoke a twinge of sadness.

I don’t go out of my way for these doses of maudlin.

It’s just that I live directly across 15th Street from the fence that marks the western boundary of the millsite. To avoid the place I’d have to reconfigure most of my normal routes, which strikes me as an unnecessary, albeit aerobically beneficial, hassle.

Last Sunday morning I walked along Broadway, on the north side of the property, and even the fading yellow of the rabbitbrush, a sort of farewell to summer’s palette, failed to enrich the somber scene.

If anything, the blooms accentuated the sense that something is missing here, that a site which once teemed with activity, where good salaries were earned and useful products were made, is being taken over gradually by the shrubs of the desert.

Lamenting the loss of a mill is a common refrain these days, of course, and it’s an emotion more often than not informed by the partisan politics pitting the timber industry against the environmentalists.

Yet I rarely consider that debate when I look at the barren buildings on the Ellingson parcel.

I don’t pine for a bygone era when stacks of ponderosa logs loomed over Auburn Avenue, some with butts almost as wide as the street itself.

That prosperous period could not have continued in perpetuity, at least not at the pace which marked much of the half century after the end of World War II.

In a region where a pine needs a century or more to attain such girth, there just weren’t enough trees to satisfy every saw.

Still and all, I can’t help but wonder whether this transition needed to be as abrupt it was.

I ponder whether some minor tweaking of national forest logging policy might have made it possible for this industry, which had been a mainstay of Baker County’s economy for better than a century, to survive, albeit in diminished form.

I remember interviewing Rob and Pete Ellingson after they closed the mill in 1996.

They talked about multiple factors, including government-subsidized lumber from Canada that depressed prices for U.S.-produced boards.

But the most pressing problem, they said, was that they could no longer rely on the three nearby national forests to supply enough trees to augment the logs coming from the company’s own comparatively modest acreage.

The volume of timber cut on the national forests has risen a bit from its nadir in the mid 1990s, but the numbers remain trifling compared with those of previous decades.

Oregon’s congressional delegation has tried several times to craft a compromise that would get log trucks rolling in more significant numbers, but nothing has come of it.

Perhaps nothing ever will.

Or at least not until the hundreds of thousands of acres of young forests in the region have matured, and the public lands once again are best measured in billions of board-feet. 

The term “sustainable forestry” has been around for decades and although its creator was no doubt well-intentioned, his work, it seems to me, was for naught.

Our definitions of “sustainable” vary so widely as to render the term useless.

I used to believe that one apt description was that a small town which has a lot of productive forests nearby could sustain at least one sawmill, and in turn all the ancillary businesses which support it.

Moreover, I believed this could happen without our denuding those forests of the other qualities — wildlife habitat, sources of pure water, recreation — which we as a society prize.

It was not to be so in Baker City.

The city, of course, endured the loss of the mill.

I don’t mean to suggest the city’s future was ever in jeopardy. Baker City is a substantial place, and has been so for longer than most of Oregon’s cities. This is not Valsetz, nor any other town defined primarily, if not wholly, by lumbering.

Yet as the paint peels from the buildings which once housed the singing saws, as the wind blows without spreading the fresh scent of pine, I see, in my mind, the people who made careers here, the families which depended on this place, the homes and the cars and the Christmas presents which, in a sense, got their start here.

My eyes just see rabbitbrush, its luster gone again for another year. 

Jayson Jacoby is editor
of the Baker City Herald. 

 

Letters to the Editor for Sept. 27, 2013

Treatment for addiction can be hard, but it works

Prevention works, treatment is effective, and people recover.  September is National Recovery Month and New Directions Northwest would like to send congratulations to all of you who are in recovery for substance misuse and abuse. This year’s theme for National Recovery Month is “Join the Voices for Recovery:  Together on Pathways to Wellness.” Recovery may not always be easy but it is worth it, it works, and it is possible. Baker County has a generous network of persons in recovery who support people during the journey through recovery. 

Addicts and alcoholics can become recovering addicts and alcoholics by seeking help, and  knowing where and how to find resources. Research has found most people who are in recovery have been through a treatment program.  Research has also found that 90 percent of those attending outpatient treatment and recovery meetings are able to maintain sobriety for extended periods of time, if not indefinitely. Lifestyle changes and supportive environments also significantly increase rates of sustained recovery.  

This year’s theme for National Recovery Month encompasses the notion that there are many unique ways people embark on their journey to recovery. Recovery from substance misuse and abuse is possible and New Directions Northwest, Inc. celebrates those in recovery as well as those who have helped them achieve success. To find out more about how you can begin living a healthy lifestyle or for more support in maintaining your recovery contact me at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it , 541-523-8364 or 541-519-5559.

Heather Cromwell

Baker County Prevention Coordinator

New Directions Northwest, Blue Mountain Addictions Program

 

GOP: Be patient

Just how important is it to squash Obamacare before its more far-reaching provisions have been in place long enough for Americans to judge the law’s pros and cons?

According to some Republicans in Congress, it’s important enough to force another federal government “shutdown,” a term we had hoped would be confined forevermore to the Clinton administration.

To be sure, there’s ample reason to be skeptical of Obamacare.

The health care reform law that is the signature legislative achievement of the Obama presidency might turn into a fiscal, indeed societal, mess.

But then it might not.

We don’t know right now.

What we’re pretty sure about, though, is that a government shutdown will cost the GOP significant political capital — perhaps enough to give the Democrats a resounding win in the 2014 mid-term elections.

Which isn’t to say that a shutdown would be disastrous.

It wouldn’t be.

But closing national parks and the like annoy people, and reinforce the notion a lot of Americans have that Congress ought to convene not at the Capitol but in a sandbox.

Republicans ought to show a little patience.

If Obamacare, as some in the GOP insist, is doomed to fail, then its shortcomings will become evident soon enough. 

If that’s the case, there’s little doubt that a large majority of Americans would back any Republican-led campaign to either significantly change Obamacare or to withhold federal money for the program.

At that point the scenario is not whether the heartless GOP will shut down the government to stop an unproven law, but whether Obama and the Democrats would defend a failed law.

 

Letters to the Editor for Sept. 25, 2013


Crossroads special section is a keeper

History, fond memories, hard work, community involvement, money, money, money! Lisa Britton put it all together in the Crossroads special section in last Friday’s paper.

 I’m not surprised when Lisa is the one doing it. Besides being a talented writer, she knows how to listen to others.

 My only concern is how to preserve this special section — I know it will not go into my recycling pile!

Maryalys Urey

Baker City

Town deer are a joy to watch, and protect

Well it’s not uncommon to see mature mule deer in many or most Eastern Oregon towns. I took photographs on Sept. 20 in Baker of two bucks, one three-point and one four-point, that have rubbed summer velvet off and are now hard horn. Antler is the fastest-growing hair of animals or any beings that grow facial or body hair.

Bucks of this size are 2 1/2- to 3 1/2-year-old deer that would be considered trophies nowadays in Oregon where deer and elk numbers are low. It is well-known in the world of professional hunters, guides and taxidermists that 70 percent of the game is taken by 30 percent of the sportsmen, pretty much every year. The well-seasoned and top hunters have many years of experience and take the hunt experience very serious, and pass up small forked horn and even small three-point bucks in lieu of a respectable four-point or better trophy.

In the western states bucks’ antler points are only counted on one side, whereas in the East all points on both sides are counted. Overall scoring of a large buck or bull for Boone and Crockett rifle hunters or Pope and Young archery is a detailed and precise measuring process. This is done in inches and fractions by an official of these two respected institutions.

The taking of truly large, heavy horned trophies is very difficult, and in the upcoming fall buck season, true hunters work hard and travel to the higher elevations in the mountain ranges of our region. These true hunters also take proper care of the meat and know what they are doing. To waste such delectable wild game is not only against the game laws, but that of nature herself.

So these town deer are not only safe to stay where they are and enjoy parts of your garden, they are a joy to watch and to protect our future deer populations.

Jim Smeraglio

Baker City

 

Bloated special session


Now that the Oregon Legislature is convening every year, rather than every other year, you’d think there wouldn’t be any pressing need to cram a bunch of bills into the special session Gov. John Kitzhaber has called for Sept. 30.

That session, which the governor had mulled pretty much since the regular session ended in July, is supposed to deal with one main topic, the so-called “grand bargain.”

That proposal, which is a compromise if not necessarily a bargain, includes cost cuts to the Oregon Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) in addition to what the Legislature did this spring, as well as $244 million in new taxes and a $43 million tax cut for some family businesses and exporters.

 

Airport should allow ad


We don’t share environmentalists’ concern about a bill pending in Congress that would allow logging to increase on some public forests in Western Oregon.

But we think they ought to be able to buy advertising space in Portland International Airport to plead their case.

The issue involves a campaign by several groups, including Oregon Wild and The Sierra Club, that dislike a proposal sponsored by three Oregon congressman — Democrats Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader and Republican Greg Walden — that would boost logging on about 1.5 million acres.

The groups’ campaign includes color ads with a photo of a clearcut forest and the slogan: “Welcome to Oregon: Home of the Clearcut."

 

Behind the numbers

To say there is room for improvement in Baker School District students’ scores on standardized tests is to state what’s not only obvious, but inevitable.

Such room will exist until every student meets or exceeds federal standards on every test.

This, of course, will never happen.

Yet we see considerable evidence that Baker 5J is making a concerted effort to better students’ performance.

And considering the challenges the district faces, we believe there is at least as much reason to applaud that effort as to criticize it.

The latest test results are hardly a cause for celebration, to be sure.

Students’ performance dropped in the 2012-13 year, compared to the previous year, in 13 of 18 categories.

Yet in seven of those 13, the decline was less than 4 percentage points.

Baker’s overall drop mirrored the statewide average, a trend school officials actually predicted due largely to students in many cases not being allowed to retake a test after failing to meet the federal benchmark.

But in several categories Baker students not only improved from the previous year, they surpassed the state average.

As for the challenges we mentioned, half of Baker’s students have family incomes that qualify them for free or reduced-price meals.

Students who live in poverty are more likely to struggle at school. Baker officials have tried to deal with that disadvantage in simple but effective ways, including offering breakfast at school.

The La Grande School District, as a comparison, has a smaller percentage of students qualifying for reduced-price mules — 46.3 percent. Yet Baker students outperformed their La Grande counterparts in half of the 18 categories.

The district has also increased the amount of training available to teachers. Critics might deride this as “teaching to the test,” but the actual purpose is to help them teach students how to better retain what they learn and, in some cases, will be tested on.

That sounds like good practice to us. Tests, however flawed they might be, still are a measurement of how much students have learned.

 

School starts, and two more milestones pass

I watched over the course of the Labor Day weekend as two of my children embarked on the great adventure of education, one nearing the journey’s end and the other quite close to its beginning.

This juxtaposition left me a trifle dazed, jerked from one side by old memories, and from the other by a fresh glimpse of the future.

Although it’s also possible that driving 800 miles in a couple days, half that distance amassed in a cumbersome moving truck which didn’t so much go around corners as ooze through the apexes, contributed to my dizziness.

I started the holiday weekend by driving that truck, bearing my older son Alexander’s belongings, to his new apartment in Albany.

Alexander, who’s almost 19, starts his sophomore year at Oregon State University later this month. He’s majoring in nuclear engineering, a subject which seems to me as foreign as Swahili.

I struggle to engineer something as simple as a birdhouse. I have no business tinkering with the nucleus of anything.

A couple days later I watched my younger daughter, Olivia, who’s 6, assemble her pencils and papers and paste sticks for her first day in first grade.

That morning my wife, Lisa, took a photo of Olivia striding across the field on the west side of Brooklyn School. She looked impossibly small, a lone figure in that grassy expanse, too small to be going off by herself.

Lisa’s photograph reminded me of another September morning, more than a decade earlier.

The setting was the same.

But on that day the dimunitive pupil walking toward the big brick school was Alexander. 

I remember that I drove around the block, to make one more pass down Washington, and I caught sight of him there on the asphalt of the playground. I sensed his timidity and my stomach clenched (or maybe it was my heart), in the way it does when you wonder whether your child is scared, or unhappy.

I endured the same twinge on Olivia’s first day, but my trepidation lasted only until she burst into the kitchen that afternoon, nearly hysterical with tales of the wonders of Mrs. Mays’ classroom.

Alexander, of course, is a different matter.

He is 350 miles away.

I worry about mundane matters such as whether he’s getting enough to eat; or at least I did until one evening when Olivia called his cellphone and, after a brief conversation, she told me he was cooking bacon.

So that’s all right, then, if he has bacon.

The disorientation of my tumultuous weekend has dissipated, replaced by the sort of dull ache that marks milestones, after which nothing can ever be quite the same.

This is a queer sensation, never terribly painful and sometimes even pleasant. I am gratified to watch the little boy who’s now a young man who’s got a couple inches on me, no longer taking hesitant steps past the swings and the monkey bars but exploring the mysteries of the atom.

I will no doubt feel the same happiness when Olivia goes off on her own quest, whatever and wherever that might be.

Yet when they go, these children who we set loose on the noble quest for knowledge, they take some part of themselves which we, their parents, can never retrieve.

We mourn these losses.

And we remember the distant days, when they also walked away, so tiny and so delicate, but they always, at the end of the day, walked back to us.

. . .

One nice thing about buying a used book — besides saving some bucks, usually — is that occasionally you find hidden between the old pages some curious artifact.

A while back I came across such a thing inside a volume of essays by the late E.B. White.

As a brief aside, White, to the extent that he is known today, is so largely due to his trio of novels, “Stuart Little,” “Charlotte’s Web” and “The Trumpet of the Swan.”

These are described, almost invariably, as “children’s novels” but although this is not an inapt term I think it an unfair one. The three books have been beloved by generations of young readers, to be sure, but it seems to me a pity that White’s reputation is afflicted with the asterisk of triviality which inevitably attaches to fiction read primarily by children.

I too became acquainted with White through “Stuart Little.” But for me his richest legacy derives from his nonfiction essays, the form of which he is, I believe, the undisputed master.

I have yet to read a writer who matches the rhythm which, more than any other trait, identifies White’s work. Rhythm, of course, is more typically associated with music, but the word applies to writing, too, in the sense that the words make sounds in our heads as we read them silently to ourselves. White was a prose man, by and large, but his essays have the pleasing quality of the finest poetry, or of a beautiful melody.

It is quite an accomplishment, I think, to render a single sentence or paragraph that conveys even a bit of White’s magic.

He wrote hundreds of thousands of them.

But back to this book.

As I flipped from one page to another toward the back, a receipt slipped out and fluttered to the floor. The slip of paper must have been used as a bookmark.

It bore the heading “Willamette U. Bookstore” and the date of Jan. 21, 1983.

The location suggests the book didn’t get out much — I bought the thing in a bookstore in downtown Salem, just a few blocks from the Willamette campus.

I immediately wondered how long this receipt had been lodged between pages, whether it had been stuck there like a forgotten secret for the whole three decades.

I wondered too whether the buyer was a student, and if so whether the purchase was a required one, for a class, or was acquired for recreational reading.

And, finally, I wondered what I was doing on that day. I was 12. That was a Friday so probably I was at school in Stayton, about 15 miles east of Salem.

I’ll never get answers to my questions, of course.

But about one thing I’m pretty sure: The anonymous 1983 buyer got a bargain.

Although the six items on the receipt aren’t identified, the prices range from 69 cents to $3.

The list price on the book is $5.95.

I paid $6. 

Jayson Jacoby is editor
of the Baker City Herald. 

 

Letter to the Editor for Sept. 16, 2013


Residents need to be aware of Oregon’s open range law

By Curtis Martin

Several weeks ago six cattle were found shot in La Grande and the Oregon ranching community is pleased to hear that a suspect has been arrested for this violation. While still undoubtedly an injustice and crime, these occurrences (thankfully) are rare. 

The Union County Sheriff’s Office, along with the owners of the cattle and the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association offered a $2,100 reward for information pertaining to this unwarranted shooting. Just last week the La Grande Observer quoted Union County Sheriff Boyd Rasmussen in a vow to “… vigorously pursue the person or persons responsible.” We feel this was precisely on point and commend them for a job well done. Non-destructive, legal alternatives of removing stray cattle are lined out in Oregon statute and enlist the expertise of Oregon’s Animal Identification Program.

 
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