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Mariota restores luster to the Heisman trophy

I have a connection to Marcus Mariota that no one else has.

This is, I admit, a grandiose claim. But I make it with supreme confidence.

I don’t mean to suggest that I am acquainted with Mariota, the quarterback at the University of Oregon, my alma mater, who on Saturday won the Heisman trophy as college football’s most outstanding player.

I’ve never met Mariota.

Almost certainly I never will meet him.

Letters to the Editor for Dec. 17, 2014

Enhanced interrogation? It really works

Years ago, as a young pilot who might be shot down over enemy territory, I was required to attend the Survival and Escape and Evasion school at Stead AFB in Nevada.  The 72 hours of enhanced interrogation techniques I underwent, although simulated, made me a believer in the efficacy of the process. It works.

 Perhaps Senator Feinstein should have the privilege of attending that school, now at Fairchild AFB in Washington. Or, better yet, we could just waterboard her.

 May the United States of America have a merry Christmas.  And may 2015 be a prosperous year in which intelligence is a concept practiced in our nation’s Capitol.

Robert Heriza

Baker City

Enjoying our local treasure: the river

For those citizens of Baker City who don’t already know, I want to draw your attention to one of your greatest treasures – the river.

My wife and I moved here about mid September. It wasn’t long til I had my line in the water most every day. It was like winning the lottery. A beautiful river full of magnificent rainbow trout, not two blocks from my front door! Did I mention the paved pathway, stretching alongside for two miles? It is truly a retiree’s dream.

After seeing me fishing, on a daily basis, quite a few curious locals mustered up the courage to admit “I thought the river was closed for fishing?” I would be more than happy to keep the Baker stretch of the Powder all to myself but being that Christmas is around the corner I feel it is my duty to share.

Your river is open year round (although I admit that it is pretty much closed when completely froze stiff). You may use bait and keep ’em April 26 to Oct. 31 (I kept a couple hook-swallowing beauties for breakfast); the rest of the year is catch and release using artificial flies and lures (no bait). 

Since it is flowing smoothly, for the moment, I have decided that my Christmas present to this treasure (yours and mine) will be to forego my daily fishing tomorrow and instead take a big garbage bag and pick up the incredible amount of trash (mysteriously escaping the many, well-placed receptacles) that lines the bank of this incredible resource. I only wish my arms were long enough to reach to the other side.

Mike Meyer

Baker City

What counties actually need

The Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program was supposed to be a temporary source of money for counties, including Baker, that suffered when logging in federal forests plummeted starting in early 1990s.

Counties receive 25 percent of revenue from timber sales on federal land within their borders.

Fourteen years after it started, SRS still exists, but barely. A pending federal budget bill doesn’t include SRS payments for 2015.

Traffic signals & 10th Street

The Oregon Department of Transportation’s plan to remove the pedestrian-controlled traffic signal at 10th and C streets in Baker City makes sense.

The purpose for installing the signal in 1973 — students going to and from nearby North Baker Elementary — went away when the school was closed in 2009.

Indeed we wonder whether the signal isn’t more a threat than a safety measure. Considering how rarely the lights were activated, it would seem likely that drivers are accustomed to driving past that intersection on 10th Street without stopping.

That said, we’re not convinced that ODOT’s advice to pedestrians — to use the signal at Campbell Street, three blocks south of C — adequately deals with the public’s needs on that busy stretch of 10th Street.

In particular we’d like to see ODOT study traffic volumes at the intersection of 10th and D streets. D Street certainly has had more use since the city built a bridge across the Powder River several years ago, creating another cross-town route.

And with Baker High School just two blocks east of the intersection, there’s still considerable pedestrian traffic.

ODOT spokesman Tom Strandberg said the agency will be “looking at” that intersection. That’s a good first step.

Letters to the Editor for Dec. 12, 2014

Government epitomizes the word ‘bloat’

My Webster’s dictionary defines “bloat” as “to make turgid or swollen; to fill to capacity or overflowing.” It seems that one of the best examples of bloat then is government at all levels in these United States of America.

According to the Bob Livinston letter of October 2014 the American welfare state now costs $1 trillion a year which exceeds the entire budgets of almost every other country in the world. Our welfare empire includes 200 or more federal and state programs. They include 23 low-income health programs, 27 low-income housing programs, 30 employment and training programs, 34 social service programs, 13 food and nutrition programs and 24 programs for low-income child care.

U.S. Department of Agriculture information shows that there has been a doubling, from 10 percent to 20 percent, of American households on food stamps in the last 10 years. Now nearly 47 million individuals get food stamps. And the number rose at the rate of over 722,000 per month form 2012 to 2013.  

The Eagle Forum of September 2014 indicates that taxpayer money is spent on 78 types of handouts to solve social problems which amounts to $19,000 to each American defined as poor, through 12 food programs, 12 social services, 12 educational assistance, 11 housing assistance programs, 9 vocational training, three energy and utility assistance, and three child care programs. These data do not include costs of the several agencies that administer these programs. 

Washington, D.C., is said to be the city least affected by our sagging economy. It is full of mansions and boasts of the highest average income of any city in these United States. Where does all this wealth come from? From our pockets! The city exists on the income of politicians and lobbyists, neither of which produce anything! The city literally sucks the blood (wealth) out of this country and has near complete control of the rate and extent of that process. 

The above is but a very small example of government’s reckless, largely unconstitutional, consumption of our limited resources. Isn’t it time we insist that our elected officials behave as statesmen rather than mere politicians? 

Jasper Coombes


Baker needs another grocer, a new traffic signal

For years I have hoped for these two improvements to be made in Baker City for the good of the people:

1.  A first class grocery store is badly needed on the west side of town.

2. A traffic signal is needed at 10th and D streets since D has become a major, cross-town thoroughfare. It is frequently difficult to cross 10th street on D, and it can be a long wait to turn onto 10th from D street.

City officials, listen up!

Mardelle Ebell

Baker City

A gate goes away and a boy’s world expands

For some months we had confined our 3-year-old son, Max, to his bedroom after dark by wedging a sturdy plastic gate between the door jambs.

I never felt quite right about this despite the necessity.

(Besides which I was prone to pinching a finger in the thing.)

The gate seemed to me the sort of tactic you would employ with a puppy you don’t trust not to soil the carpet and chew up the sofa.

Max, so far as I know, has not gone after the furniture with his teeth.

No secrets at City Hall

We don’t object to the Baker City Council giving City Manager Mike Kee a 2-percent pay raise.

He hasn’t had a pay hike since he was hired in September 2010. That hardly makes him unique in the current economic climate, of course, but 2 percent in four years is hardly exorbitant.

We agree with Councilor Kim Mosier that the city should make it clear that city managers can earn more money only through their performance, and that the city won’t automatically give them cost-of-living raises.

But we disagree with Mosier on another point she made during Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

Letters to the Editor for Dec. 10, 2014

Mr. Peacock exemplifies Bulldog pride

While the word peacock may not appear to coincide with a bulldog image at first glance, as a Baker High graduate, I know the two go hand in hand. Jerry Peacock, a Baker High administrator, not only worked as principal when I went to high school, but also as the vice principal when my parents went to high school. Mr. Peacock took the time to learn every name of every student, often times before they were even in high school. He also worked countless hours encouraging students to succeed. I cannot think of a more appropriate way to express the gratitude for his sincerity and dedication to Baker High School than to name the court after him.

I offer my condolences to those individuals who do not know Mr. Peacock because they are missing out on knowing an incredible person and educator! I would also encourage those individuals to become more involved in events at Baker High School to see the lasting impact he has had on the student body.

I recently read of the concern of embarrassing commentaries from visiting teams addressed in a previous letter to the editor.  I would be surprised if that is the case, but if it is, perhaps those sneering teams should chat with a Baker High athlete about class, a trait Mr. Peacock stressed to instill in his students. If there is anyone who knows about class and bulldog pride, it’s Mr. Peacock. 

Thanks Mr. Peacock! 

Meranda Christensen

Baker City

Just seven people decided to name BHS court 

A BHS student recently wrote a letter to the editor in support of naming “the new high school court” in honor of former BHS Principal Jerry Peacock, whom she greatly admires. 

The student admits, though, “I don’t know the rights or processes of the (5J) board, but to me the decision seems right.”

As best I’ve been able to piece it together, here’s the process the student admittedly does not know about.

Last spring Vice Principal Ben Merrill and Athletic Director Brad Dunton, at the time both employees of Principal Jerry Peacock, suggested to the five members of the School District 5J Board of Directors, that the gym be named for BHS Principal Jerry Peacock. The school board members, outside of any public meeting, decided that was a wonderful idea. 

Without attempting to get any other opinions, a motion to that effect was placed on the agenda of the May 20, 2014, school board meeting, where it was passed unanimously without any discussion of the motion’s merits.  

So, just seven people were involved in changing a sixty-three-year-old tradition of calling the facility “BHS Gymnasium” and “Bulldog Gymnasium.”

Here are some of the persons not consulted by the 5J Board members: BHS teachers; BHS coaches; BHS students; Baker School District 5J taxpayers; Baker School District 5J voters; and the approximately 7,000 of us who attended BHS over the past 63 years since the gym was constructed. 

The School Board members tell me I’m the only one complaining. Yet 56 out of 58 persons who’ve contacted me by email, phone, and in person say they are opposed to renaming the gym. Some say that, if asked, they would have nominated someone else for the honor. But the majority do not want the gym and court renamed at all.

Gary Dielman

Baker City

Why we need more hunters

If you asked a dozen people in Baker County to list the popular local hobbies, we’d wager at least eight would mention hunting.

Baker County has more options for hunters than just about any of Oregon’s 35 other counties.

Besides large populations of deer and elk — the two most sought-after big game animals in the state — the county also boasts antelope, bear, cougar, coyotes, and a variety of upland game birds and waterfowl.

Baker County also is unique among Oregon counties in having hunting seasons for mountain goats as well as both of the state’s bighorn sheep species — California and Rocky Mountain.

But hunting is a lot more than a sport around here.

It’s also an integral part of the economy.

Insurance for sage grouse

The Endangered Species Act can be a frightening law if an animal that has the power of the federal government behind it happens to live on your property.

And no species has prompted more concern among Baker County landowners — cattle ranchers in particular — than the sage grouse.

But even as federal officials ponder whether to list the sage grouse as threatened or endangered — a final decision is due in September 2015 — local landowners can ease their fears by enrolling in what amounts to an insurance policy.

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