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Good and bad in governor’s budget

Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s proposal to raise taxes during the current recession has prompted predictable criticism, some of which we second.

Some, but not all.

For instance, we support the governor’s plan to boost the state gas tax by 2 cents per gallon to raise money to repair roads and replace bridges.

That modest increase will create thousands of construction jobs — and creating jobs is precisely what Oregon, with its rising unemployment rate, needs.

We also endorse Kulongoski’s proposed 60-cents-per-pack increase in the cigarette tax, and a 25-percent boost in taxes on other tobacco products.

The extra money would pay for health insurance for thousands of children.

Recruiting ramblers

Comparing Northeastern Oregon to, say, Switzerland is not as outlandish as it might seem.

For decades now various writers have described the Wallowa Mountains as “America’s Alps” or something similar.

Such associations are apt, based on scenery and, in some cases, on geology.

Our mountains could hardly be more different from the Alps, though, in the ways hikers travel through them.

A group of Baker City residents wants to change that.

The group, led by Don Chance, who’s the city’s planning director; Economic Developer Gene Stackle and retired teacher Dick Hentze, believes our region can attract “ramblers.”

Those are hikers who prefer the Alpine style — staying each night in a hut or other building, and carrying a small pack with a lunch and basic essentials.

Letters to the editor for December 8, 2008

Reasonable On Roads

Before we get into the heart of the dispute over Baker County’s proposed rules for rural driveways and private roads, let’s dispense with at least with one thing.

No one, including people who have criticized the proposed rules, wants to imperil Baker County’s 216 volunteer firefighters.

This is not an either/or situation. We needn’t choose between saving money and saving lives.

The real issue here is whether the proposed road standards strike a reasonable balance between preserving property owners’ rights, and ensuring that firefighters and other emergency workers can get to those properties when they’re summoned.

People who choose to live outside town know that in an emergency they will have to wait longer for fire trucks and ambulances to arrive.

Letter to the editor for December 5, 2008

Bend might be worthy of bypassing, but its beauty has endured

A couple decades ago you could bypass Bend if you wanted to, except you never did.

In most years during the 1980s my family traveled east every Thanksgiving from our home in Stayton, over the North Santiam River and through the Cascades to Sunriver, where we rented a house for the long weekend.

Back then Bend was small enough that the one main route through town — Highway 97 — was sufficient to handle even heavy holiday traffic. There were an awful lot of signals, sure, but the delays were of a tolerable duration.

If anything, the brief interlude as we traversed Bend only heightened my sense of anticipation for Sunriver and its fabulous (to a kid and, occasionally, to an orthopedist) sledding hills and sleeping lofts. I remember how my heart would beat a little faster when our car cleared the last intersection and the roadside pines appeared and the sign for the High Desert Museum loomed out of the darkness (it was almost always dark, because we left after school on the day before the holiday).

Letter to the editor for December 4, 2008

Making room for canyon campground

Hells Canyon has long been one of Baker County’s main tourist attractions, but the views down there are much more abundant than the amenities are.

A Colorado company hopes to change that ratio.

We applaud the Baker County Commissioners for approving on Wednesday Western Land Management’s request to change the zoning on its 76-acre property. That change paves the way for the company to build an RV park on its parcel beside Hells Canyon Reservoir, about four miles north of Oxbow.

The county planning commission endorsed the company’s plans last month.

Western Land Management wants to construct 10 cabins and create campsites for 25 RVs and 25 tents.

Letters to the editor for December 3, 2008

The right decision

Baker County’s three commissioners made a difficult decision last week when they appointed 11 people to serve on the county’s Mental Health advisory committee.

But we believe it was the right decision.

The controversial part was commissioners’ decision to not re-appoint two incumbent members, chairman Gary Dielman and secretary Ed Moses.

Both Dielman and Moses have publicly criticized commissioners for failing to scrutinize Mountain Valley Mental Health (MVMH), the private contractor the county hires under a million-dollar contract to serve clients with mental health problems.

Many of those criticisms were valid.

State regulators cited more than a dozen deficiencies at MVMH in 2006.

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