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Ready to give late-night scammers a nice shock

I would swap every app on my cellphone for a single feature on my home phone.

Remember those tear-jerker TV commercials that AT&T aired in the ’80s, with the catch-phrase “reach out and touch someone?”

Well I don’t want to reach out and touch someone.

I want to reach out and shock someone.

And I don’t mean a figurative, emotional shock.

I’m talking physical shock.

Amps or volts or whatever it is that makes your eyes bug out and the fillings in your teeth ache.

Specifically I want to shock the person responsible for my phone ringing after 10 o’clock four nights running, jolting me out of REM sleep each time.

I don’t want to cause permanent damage or anything.

Integrate mental health care

Talk to mental health professionals and it’s clear many would like to see Oregon’s delivery of mental health care changed. 

Two bills now before the Oregon Legislature, Senate Bill 831 and Senate Bill 832, would do that and in the process would improve mental health care for Oregon Health Plan clients.

They should be approved.

Letters to the Editor for March 25, 2015

Focus should be on pit bulls instead of cougars or wolves

I see that there have been several cougar sightings around Baker City, dogs have been called out to find the cat, and of course wolves are always a hot topic. 

Some get a little edgy when heading out to the woods where wolves are active. After many generations of urbanization, it isn’t all that hard to understand the uneasiness that the wild world might cause in civilized folks. Other things are a little harder to understand. 

You can count on your fingers the number of cougar-related deaths in the country and probably on one hand the number of wolf attacks. Pit bulls, on the other hand, are a different story. A few minutes on the Internet or a smarter- than-you phone and you get a picture of real carnage, often involving young children.

I guess it is legal. I Googled myself, and the first thing that came up led me to my Oct.4, 2013, letter to the editor, with another person’s letter commenting on the little boy killed by a pit bull in Baker City. I didn’t know it at the time, but the pit bull came from John Day, where some of my grandkids are.

Not long ago I passed through Baker City and there was one of our well-educated “animal lovers” being pulled along by four big pit bulls. If they had decided to chase another dog, a cat or a child, there is nothing the owner could have done to restrain that much dog power. 

I guess the city passed some kind of watered-down dog ordinance but as far as I can tell the county is still messing around.  

Let’s not have another child death before our leadership gets off its butt.

Steve Culley

Baker City/John Day/Richland

Forest Service press release is ‘smoke and mirrors’ 

On March 19, a press release was put out by the U.S. Forest Service on “Focus turns to Forest Plan Revision public engagement as Travel Management [Subpart B] paused in the Blue Mountains” 

This press release is nothing new, and bordering on an open attempt to confuse and give a false sense of hope to the public on Travel Management.

1) Travel Management has been on the “back burner” of both the Wallowa-Whitman and Malheur National Forest since 2012; this article states nothing new, and is a disservice to pretend they have done something new.

2) This release gives the false impression that the supervisors and regional forester are giving some sort of relief to the people of Eastern Oregon, when no such relief is being given.

3) Subpart A of Travel Management on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest is still being developed and the article fails to state that or how Subpart A will be used as a springboard to Subpart B and the closure of the mountains.

Most importantly — This is not the Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision. Restricting motorized use fully is in the forest plan revision through the designation of routes and you are still fully looking at a closure of our mountains if it goes through as written with designation of routes.

The message is the same: No designation of routes, No obliteration of roads, and No reduction of road densities in The Blues, period, end of discussion.

I cannot stress enough, this is a nonstory and worse, it gives people the false impression this is some sort of victory. IT IS NOT! Your access is still in jeopardy and your vigilance is needed and required to keep your mountains open. Do not get sucked into the hype, because it’s all smoke and mirrors.

Chuck Chase

Baker City

I owed it to others to try to straighten this out

I was amazed by the misinformation in the Baker City Herald editorial on March 18, 2015. Tim Collins’ mistake was deciding he had the power to dictate sewer/water rates, only City Council can set rates. The person costing taxpayers thousands of dollars is City Manager Mike Kee.

Mike can’t understand a simple one-page contract. In depositions, Mike said “the City has no document that allows us to charge Langrells double for sewer/water.” Mike convinced four members of City Council, one an attorney, to enter into the lawsuit instead of returning the overcharged fees.

A double sewer/water rate was never part of the annexation. It was discussed, but never considered for the contract. The City offered the 10-year moratorium on taxes because none of us felt a need for more property in the city. We built in the county because we didn’t want to be in the city. None of the annexed property has been built on.

Judge Pahl’s ruling does not preclude the city from introducing evidence. It says Tim Collins has no authority to set rates and what was discussed during negotiations is not part of a written contract. The reason the city will not be introducing any evidence is because none exists.

I tried to get city managers to follow the terms of their contract for 10 years. My only choices were, allow the city to cheat me or take them to court. If I was the only one being cheated, I would have let the city get away with it. It’s only because I am a member of the Baker City Council that I felt I owed the other people, who the city is also illegally double charging, my obligation to straighten this out. 

I have endured one year of ridicule from the city staff, four members of the City Council and the Baker City Herald. I was wrongfully removed as mayor by those four council members. I risked paying about $50,000 in attorney fees.

If the mayor of Baker City has to go through this to be heard, what chance does an average citizen have?

Richard Langrell

Baker City

End records law exemption

Let’s hear it for state Rep. Julie Parrish, R-West Linn. She believes Oregon lawmakers should live by at least some of the rules that apply to members of the Bend City Council and other public bodies in Oregon.

Parrish is working on legislation that would end the Legislature’s in-session public records law exemption. We can only say, more power to her.

It’s not the only thing lawmakers are exempt from while they’re meeting in Salem — the state constitution gives them broad freedom to do the state’s business without the sorts of restrictions applied to the governor’s office and most other state and municipal agencies.

Guest Editorial

The fight over the Confederate battle flag and whether it can be included on a Texas specialty license plate has made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard arguments in the case Monday.

Letter to the Editor for March 23, 2015

Control of federal land? Be careful what you wish for

Our own worst enemy” — that’s what Baker County Commissioner Harvey thinks of the U.S. government. 

Harvey supports HB 3444, introduced by Republican State Representative Jim Weidner. The bill requires the United States to extinguish title to public lands and transfer title to the state.  

Harvey told the Baker City Herald (March 11 issue) that Weidner’s bill makes sense. “To me it is a good thing and it should be done.” 

Perhaps Harvey’s hopes are buoyed by precedent set in Utah. In 2012, the Utah Legislature, in a flight of pure fantasy, actually passed similar legislation and gave the U.S. government two years to comply.  So far Congress has, as far as I know, not even acknowledged Utah’s demand.

That’s not surprising. Even Utah’s own Legislative Counsel recommended against such legislation. I’m sure Legislative Counsel actually read the U.S. Constitution and found no clause granting authority to states to compel the U.S. government to do anything.

Apparently Weidner and Harvey have not considered the practical consequences of acquiring control of all those federal lands. In Idaho in 2012, the U.S. Forest Service spent $169 million on fire suppression. If Oregon acquired BLM and USFS lands, on which cattlemen graze their animals at a fraction of what grazing costs elsewhere, the state would most likely not continue such a subsidy, because it simply could not afford to do so.

Utah thinks it can go to court and require Congress to comply with its law.  Harvey agrees with that tactic. “You only do it when you absolutely have to. But we have no recourse. Our own government is becoming our own worst enemy. We have to litigate, we have no option left,” he told the Herald reporter.

Gary Dielman

Baker City

Why the federal budget matters

Voters often wonder if Congress can ever get spending under control. Well, both the House and Senate have introduced their latest budget blueprints, so we’ll soon know if they plan to keep kicking the can down the road — or get serious about reform.

Why care about the budget? Because it’s the only legislative document through which Congress addresses the entirety of the federal budget: all spending and taxes.

With more than $18.1 trillion in national debt and an annual deficit projected to grow from more than a half a trillion dollars last year to over a trillion dollars by the end of the decade, the budget presents a critical opportunity for Congress to address the key drivers of spending and debt.

Congress should put the budget on a path to balance to reduce debt and enable economic growth to raise living standards — for all Americans.

More voters, but will they vote?

Voting is such a fundamental right that questioning anything which encourages people to exercise that right is to tread on treacherous rhetorical ground.

But we’ll risk it.

Last week Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed into law a system designed to register an estimated 300,000 Oregonians as voters.

Pass bill to help sage grouse

The potential effects on Baker County’s economy if the federal government lists the sage grouse as a threatened or endangered species can hardly be underestimated.

Most directly, most of beef cattle that produce about $53 million annual sales for local ranchers also spend part of the year grazing on public land that that feds might deem critical habitat for sage grouse.

Oregon’s desert: Beauty, silence, and hot soup

The warning sign was silent on the matter of heating soup, which got me to wondering.

Would the BLM mind if I plunked a can of sirloin and hearty vegetables into one of the steam-belching vents at Mickey Hot Springs and waited for the broth to commence to bubbling?

I suppose using these publicly owned taps into the Earth’s molten mantle for something as banal as preparing a hot lunch must violate some federal statute or another.

And probably more than one, what with the ample supply.

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