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Lifesaving data for fire crews

If your property is burning, you want the firefighters to focus on dousing the flames.

You don’t want them getting a water-laden fire truck stuck because it drives over the septic tank and cracks it.

Laws don’t deter the lawless

The Oregon Legislature seems all but certain to pass a bill that we believe has little if any chance to achieve its goal.

That goal — to prevent convicted felons who aren’t legally entitled to own a gun from buying one — is a worthwhile one, to be sure.

Letter to the Editor for April 10, 2015

Lack of rural political power dates to 1964

 The authors of our United States Constitution never intended that this country would be a pure democracy. From ancient Greek and Roman history, they knew that a majority can behave just as tyrannically as any autocrat, so the Constitution includes some non-democratic measures. One of these is the makeup of the United States Senate, which creates a balance between small states and large ones.

State legislatures were then set up on the same principle — a lower house dominated by a state’s cities and an upper house dominated by its rural areas. Neither side could ride roughshod over the other; compromise was always necessary. That’s how things stood for 175 years.

In 1964, the Progressive-dominated Warren Supreme Court decided that this would not do. In a fit of hyper democracy, it ruled that both houses of state legislatures must be apportioned by population.

We in Eastern Oregon are living with the consequences of that decision; the Oregon State Legislature is run by urban legislators from the Willamette Valley. We have little influence.

Consider the recently passed low carbon fuel standards. This will significantly increase gasoline prices; with similar rules, California endures the highest gas prices in the country. Our rural legislators patiently explained the highly negative impact this measure will have on the rural parts of Oregon, but the urban legislators were on an ideological binge and it became law anyway, a fine example of the tyranny of the majority.

But this is basically a feel-good measure. It will have virtually no impact on global warming, its stated purpose. About all it accomplishes is that it allows its supporters to tell each other how virtuous they are, how enlightened.

There is virtually nothing we can do about that 1964 decision. The Supreme Court is reluctant to undo its previous stupidities. Earl Warren has spoken; therefore it is so. However, we can learn from this experience. The next time Progressives propose some measure (such as a $15-per-hour minimum wage?) we should give that matter a hard look; see if the supposed good it does isn’t far outweighed by its unintended negative consequences.

Pete Sundin

Baker City

Rethinking my opinion on background checks

That Oregon’s government should require almost everyone who wants to buy a gun to first undergo a background check is a legislative idea that sounds good.

But there are plenty of good ideas that make for bad laws.

Or at best, unnecessary ones.

For instance, more people die in car crashes in Oregon than are killed by someone who bought a gun illegally.

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.

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