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MILEAGE TAX HAS NO TRACTION NOW

For a guy who frets frequently, and publicly, about climate change, pollution and America’s thirst for petroleum, Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski has a funny way of showing his concern.

Kulongoski’s latest idea might actually discourage Oregonians from driving fuel-efficient cars.

If you’re partial to full-size pickup trucks and similarly hefty rigs, however, you’ll probably second the governor’s motion.

Kulongoski announced this week that he’ll lobby the Legislature, which convenes next month, to jumpstart his plan to replace Oregon’s gas tax of 24 cents per gallon with a mileage tax.

The governor hasn’t suggested an amount. A 10-month experiment last year that involved 300 drivers in the Portland area used a tax of 1.2 cents per mile driven.

If your car gets more than 20 mpg, a mileage tax at that level probably would cost you more than the gas tax does now.

So much for that Prius purchase penciling out.

To be fair to the governor, we’re not suggesting that he’s a hypocrite.


Letters to the editor for December 31, 2008


Letters to the editor for December 30, 2008


WORK SESSIONS WORKABLE FOR CITY COUNCIL

We don’t care whether the Baker City Council calls its get-togethers “meetings” or “work sessions.”

We care a great deal, though, about whether councilors get answers to all their questions before they vote on matters such as how they’ll spend our money.

Or how much of our money the Council thinks the city needs.

And so we endorse City Manager Steve Brocato’s proposal to change one of the Council’s two monthly gatherings from a “meeting” to a “work session.”

The idea, which the Council probably will discuss during its annual goal-setting session in early 2009, is that councilors would benefit if, once a month, they scheduled a work session to talk over topics but agreed beforehand that they wouldn’t actually cast any votes during the session.

Work sessions would be public meetings, of course, so long as at least four of the seven councilors attended.

During work sessions councilors could not only debate issues, but also query Brocato and other city officials about the purposes and potential effects of items on the Council’s agenda.


Letters to the editor for December 29, 2008


E-Cycle: It’s easy, free

For most people an old, obsolete TV or computer monitor is trash, albeit heavy, space-occupying trash.

Trouble is, tossing such stuff into a landfill can cause problems more serious than clogging your closet capacity.

Polluting groundwater with poisonous heavy metals, for instance.

Televisions, computer and computer monitors contain toxins such as mercury and lead.

Americans threw away about 232 million of these devices in 2007, but just 18 percent were recycled rather than landfilled, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The agency estimates that 235 million more are taking up the aforementioned closet space.


Cooperation, not antagonism

The Baker School District needs to save money.

The Oregon School Employees Association wants to protect its members who work for the district as cooks, bus drivers and in other non-teaching jobs.

Both goals are reasonable.

What’s also reasonable is to expect that district and union officials will work together to try to achieve both objectives.

Their relationship is hardly amicable now, though, and we hope they try to mend it before it erodes any further.

The animosity dates to the summer, when Superintendent Don Ulrey, in an effort to curb costs, cut one cook position.

Although the affected employee was transferred to a different job in the district, the decision prompted OSEA to file an unfair labor practice complaint against the district. Union official Mary Kay Brant contends Ulrey should have told the union before transferring the OSEA worker.

Perhaps, but considering the district moved, rather than fired, the employee, the complaint seems unnecessary.


A Marine reminds us that even amateur poetry can possess power

It’s all too easy to sulk these days, so dire are the dispatches which daily pummel even the casual consumer of news.

The news business depends on bad tidings, of course — the assorted awfulness that afflicts our world is as essential to the media as forage is to the cattle rancher.

People complain that they’re bludgeoned by this onslaught of negativity but I think they’d miss it if went away altogether. We are, most of us, attracted by stories of disaster and despair — mainly, I suspect, because they remind us that no matter how rotten we thought things were going for us, we’re better off than those poor people who were just on TV.

This is at best a meager and brief sort of solace, but accept it.

The tenor of things has turned particularly pessimistic, it seems to me, during the second half of 2008.

There has been but little respite since the start of summer. First fuel prices rose to unprecedented heights, then the housing and financial markets sunk to levels unimaginable mere months before.


Congress wants to throw around a lot of money next year to improve roads and other publicly owned in

We hope some of those dollars land in Baker County.

Equally important, we hope those dollars not only boost the local economy, but also make the county a better place to live and to visit.

To achieve those goals, local officials will need to compile a list of projects that lack only the money to get them going.

Officials will have to hurry, though.


Letter to the editor for December 23, 2008


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