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Defining a protester

One thing we ought to do, in discussing the situation in Ferguson, Missouri, is define the word “protester.”

People who bust windows and burn and loot businesses are not protesters.

They’re criminals.

There is no legitimate reason to destroy or to steal someone else’s property to express your disgust at a grand jury’s decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for fatally shooting Michael Brown, who had no weapon, on Aug. 9.

The owners of those businesses didn’t kill Brown.

And they didn’t serve on the grand jury.

They’re innocent. And they’re victims, just as Brown is.

Real protesters, those who are truly aggrieved by the grand jury’s decision and who want to effect change, can also gather in the streets.

They can march and chant and they can even yell at the police officers whose job it is to preserve a semblance of order.

Indeed, protesters did all of those things in Ferguson.

We understand why they’re outraged.

No matter how legally sound the grand jury’s conclusion might be — a decision not to indict a police officer in a fatal shooting is, after all, the most common result — a reasonable person recognizes that something went wrong in Ferguson.

We’re certainly not satisfied with the notion that when a police officer has an altercation with an unarmed man — even a man who, like Brown, punches the officer and later charges at him — that the unarmed man must end up dead.

Nor can we dismiss the racial issues. Wilson is white, Brown black. A disproportionate number of fatal police shootings involve black victims.

No sane person wants these tragedies to continue.

But we’re less likely to make meaningful progress as a society if some people use the death of someone they didn’t even know as an excuse for causing mayhem.

That’s the act of a coward, not a protester.

Why we're thankful

The weather forecast calls for a seasonably cool Thanksgiving in Baker City, with afternoon temperatures in the low to mid-40s.

But even if the midwinter chill from earlier this month returns for the holiday, it will still be a day to warm the heart.

And fill the stomach.

The reality of Thanksgiving and other holidays is that the very reason we rejoice — being with those we love — can be the source of great sorrow for those who must, for whatever reason, spend these days alone.

Except in Baker City, on this Thanksgiving, no one ought to be in that predicament who would prefer to share the holiday with others.

We are thankful to live in a community where the toughest choice for those who won’t be gathering with family on Thursday is deciding which free Thanksgiving dinner to attend. There are three:

• Elks Lodge, 1896 Second St., 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

• South Baker Intermediate School, 1285 Third St., 3 p.m., hosted by Calvary Baptist Church

• American Legion Post 41, 2129 Second St., 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

None of these events would happen without dedicated volunteers.

On a day when most of us relish the unique embrace of our families, these selfless people give their time, and themselves, to make sure others who aren’t as fortunate can feel that same special thrill of a warm meal taken among friends, and with smiles and laughter all around.

We give them our thanks.

Forest ills need a faster fix

The announcement that forests are sickly in the Blue Mountains and elsewhere in the drier sections of the Northwest hardly qualifies as news.

The problems — unnatural epidemics of insects and disease, massive wildfires — are as blatant as a bolt of lightning, and have been so for at least a few decades.

But a recent study brings a fresh, albeit troubling, perspective to the problem.

Branded for life (or a while) as a failed elk hunter

So I went elk hunting for most of a week and the only blood I spilled was my own.

No one who has ever watched me fire a rifle will be even slightly surprised by this revelation.

There are, fortunately, just a few members of this club. Not that they would boast about their membership.

My injury, a minor flesh wound inflicted not by a bullet but by a 9-power rifle scope, was of course not my fault.

I blame the bull elk I was peering at through the scope.

Sage grouse help from.... Salem? Yep

Baker County won’t go it alone in trying to convince federal officials that local sage grouse populations don’t need to be added to the list of threatened or endangered species.

Our ally comes from an unexpected place.


Peacock Court: Problem is process

The problem with the Baker School Board naming the basketball court at Baker High School “Peacock Court” to honor retired Principal Jerry Peacock isn’t the person the board chose to recognize.

Peacock was  a positive influence on thousands of students during more than 20 years as principal.

The problem is the process.

Or, rather, the lack of a process.

Although the board didn’t make the decision to name the court in secret, neither did the board formally solicit residents’ opinions before approving the naming in late May.

Is a mandated vacation a civil rights violation?

The “right to infect” has replaced the “right to vote” as a litmus test of freedom in America.

Our civil rights torch-bearers aren’t what they used to be.

In the sad and segregated past we could root for true heroes such as Rosa Parks and James Meredith without a trace of ambivalence.

Their causes could only be described as righteous.

Half a century and more later, having dispatched with such odious matters as denying people a seat on a public bus or in a public university because their skin is black, America is left to quibble about matters that seem to me trivial by comparison.

Letters to the Editor for Nov. 14, 2014

Every vote should be counted

I agree with Mr. Stephen S. Smith’s letter about counting each vote. While I applaud the county clerk’s wishing to save money the larger issue is nullifying someone’s vote.  Those votes should be protected and counted even when the final answer is obvious.  Count them and never let that happen again.  

Iva M Mace

Baker City

Why does the BHS Gym need a name?

After reading Mr. Dielman’s letter regarding the gym naming, we believe the Baker High Gym is not about the school board.

It’s about the kids and their sports, good times and good memories.

Why is a name even needed?

Ron and Sherry Quigley

Baker City

Public snubbed in gym naming

By Gary Dielman

At the May 24, 2014, meeting of the 5J School District Board of Directors, the agenda contained this action item: “Naming the BHS Gym Peacock Court.” Board minutes record the decision: “Motion by Rich McKim, seconded by Kyle Knight, to approve naming the Baker High School Gym ‘Peacock Court.’ Vote: Approved by all board members — Andrew Bryan, Kevin Cassidy, Mark Henderson, Rich McKim and Kyle Knight.” The minutes contain no discussion of the motion.

About a month ago, when I learned about the naming of the gym, I was surprised that the Board had done so without first soliciting public input. I decided to find out why. Here’s what I discovered through contacts with Board members Chair Andrew Bryan, Kevin Cassidy, Rich McKim, and 5J Superintendent Walt Wegener.

In summary, these 5J administrators told me: That the Board unanimously voted to do it; that there was no discussion about involving the public, because it was no big deal compared with the really important educational decisions the Board makes; that the Board has the legal right to do it; and that I should expend my emotional energy on other matters. 

Obviously I’m not following that advice. Here’s why.

Board members were not elected to name buildings. Their function, as they told me, is to deal with the administration of a complicated, many-faceted school system. In office, and perhaps before election, they develop expertise to perform that role. But Board members have no greater — perhaps even less — expertise in naming buildings than the general public has.

Letters to the Editor for Nov. 10, 2014

Everyone’s vote should count, and be counted

Congratulations to Mr. William Harvey on his electoral victory. He is obviously well-prepared and will do fine. Each day he and all of our elected officials are remembered in my recitation of Martin Luther’s general prayer.

However, our county clerk has decided not to count all the votes that were cast. An election is not a horse race. There are many ways to read the results. At times I have voted for a sure loser, even voted against the person I hoped would win. I did so to lower the winner’s mandate in the desire that election losers may not lose their voice entirely. There are many ways to use one’s vote. These subtleties of elective democracy seemed to have been lost at the Courthouse. The vagaries of our system need to be rediscovered.

Each person’s vote should count. I think Thomas Jefferson would concur. I don’t beleive Vladimir Putin would.

Stephen S. Smith


Walden thanks Baker County voters for support

I’d like to thank the voters of Baker County for your support in electing me to represent you in the U.S. House of Representatives. I am humbled by your confidence in me and pledge to continue working hard for policies that will grow jobs, root out wasteful spending, improve access to health care, and stand up for our veterans.

Now is the time to put the campaigns behind us and work to improve the lives of ordinary Oregonians. I pledge to work as hard as I can to solve our problems, here at home and across the nation. I take this responsibility as your representative very seriously, and I will do my part to reach common ground to leave Oregon and America a better place for the next generation.

Greg Walden

U.S. Representative

Hood River

Let’s work together to keep trash off our roadsides

Anyone who has property along any roadway in Baker County, this letter is for you.

When my hsband and I moved here 18 years ago we were so pleased to see how clean Baker’s roadways were no matter where we traveled. We learned the prisoners of Powder River Correctional Facility were able to go out and clean. They did a great job, but I hear they do not do this any more.

I would ask that all people who have property along any roadway to please keep it clean of trash and garbage and keep Baker County beautiful.

Thank you.

Dixie Amis


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