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Kulongoski sees the light on salaries

Finally someone acknowledges that boosting salaries for public employees when the economy is floundering feels like a slap to the face of the taxpayers who foot the bill.

Or like a hand clutching for their wallet.

What surprised us was who made that admission: Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski.

It was just last year, after all, when the governor approved 33-percent pay raises for about 60 state agency directors over the 2007-09 biennium.

Last week Kulongoski decided to trim those raises, but only slightly.

Agency directors will not get the 3.2-percent cost-of-living raise scheduled for Nov. 1.

“The governor recognizes families are tightening their belts, and state government needs to as well,” said Anna Richter Taylor, the governor’s spokeswoman.

Letters to the editor for October 3, 2008

Build the bandstand

Baker City already has one of the nicer parks in Oregon.

A bandstand would make Geiser-Pollman Park better.

We’re glad the City Council voted unanimously last week to allow a 1,200-square-foot bandstand to be built near the center of the park.

Our only concern about the bandstand was the possibility that it would degrade the qualities that make Geiser-Pollman such a great place — its bounty of shade trees, its expanses of well-tended grass, its picnic tables and playground.

But the drawings the bandstand committee showed the City Council eased our fears.

Steve Ellis’ choice

Steve Ellis, the supervisor of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, is slated to decide late in 2009 how severely to limit where motor vehicles (except snowmobiles) can go on the 2.4-million-acre Wallowa-Whitman starting in 2010.

Now, on about 1.3 million of those acres, they can go just about anywhere.

But four years ago then-Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth decided that such unfettered access by motor vehicles posed a threat to wildlife habitat and other resources on national forests. Bosworth ordered all forest supervisors to revamp their travel policies. His message was succinct: Wide open policies such as the Wallowa-Whitman’s will not continue.

Ellis’ decision comes down to two main matters: first, how many of the forest’s 4,261 miles of rarely maintained roads should remain open, and to which types of vehicles; and second, should any part of the Wallowa-Whitman stay open to cross-country travel via motor vehicle?

A team of Wallowa-Whitman workers has drafted several options for Ellis to consider.

We prefer Alternative 4.

Letters to the editor for October 1, 2008

Congress leaves counties in the lurch

We’re glad some in Congress seem so eager to spend $700 billion to try to save the country’s economy, but we wish lawmakers showed even a smidgen as much interest in helping Baker County and dozens of other rural counties.

For what it’s worth, Congress, helping the counties is a whole lot cheaper.

No golden parachutes to worry about, either.

Last week, while legislators were fretting about the financial crisis and debating the $700 billion bailout, Democrats in the House deleted from a bill — which the Senate passed by a 93-2 vote — a pair of programs that are crucial to counties such as Baker.

The cost of continuing those programs is $3.3 billion — slightly less than one-half of one percent of the bailout total.

Apparently it takes a whole lot of zeroes to goad Congress  into action.

Lawmakers’ inability to continue the county payments and in-lieu-of-taxes programs is especially galling because the victims in this case — in contrast to some of the irresponsible high-rollers who got us into this credit mess — are innocent.

Letters to the editor for September 29, 2008

With a baby, you bare it all when nature calls

One of the great things about being the parent of a toddler is you can buy products with names such as “Butt Paste” without blushing when the cashier gives you one of those looks.

Remove the baby from the equation, though, and I regress 25 years.

I become the equivalent of a teenage boy whose mom has sent him to the store to buy a box of what the marketing majors, those masters of inoffensive euphemism, describe as “feminine products.”

If I need, for instance, a salve to soothe the nether regions of my body, well then I’m loitering in the magazine aisle and leafing through “Four Wheeler” until I see a checkout with no customers and a clerk who appears to be dozing.

And I’ll linger for hours if I have to, or at least until someone starts turning off the lights.

Even when the way is clear I’ll hide the ointment under a couple one-pound bags of M&M’s and maybe a six-pack of Hamm’s. This is of course a pathetic attempt to deflect the checker’s attention from the true nature, and location, of the affliction which prompted my visit.

Yes on Measure 56

The good thing about Oregon’s double-majority law is that it encourages people to vote.

The bad thing about the law is that it also discourages people from voting.

We think the latter factor outweighs the former, which is why we urge voters to approve Measure 56 on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Measure 56 would partially overturn the double-majority law that’s been in effect since voters approved it in 1996.

Here’s the situation now: Except during general elections in even-numbered years, any measure that would raise property taxes — whether statewide or in an individual city, county, school district or special district — can’t pass unless two things happen (hence “double majority”): half of the eligible voters cast a ballot, and at least half of those who do so vote yes.

Measure 56 would eliminate the double-majority rule for all property tax-raising measures on ballots in May or November. Double-majority would still apply to tax measures that go before voters in other months.

Bailout bitter pill to swallow, but. . . .

The $700 billion bailout bill Congress is debating is the legislative equivalent of an inoculation.

It hurts, but it’s necessary.

Congress should pass the bill because the consequences, should lawmakers dawdle, could be disastrous.

That said, the public must demand that Congress tailor this bailout so that, to the fullest extent possible, the people being bailed out are those who didn’t contribute to the financial morass in which America’s economy, and much of the rest of the world’s, has gotten mired.

The reality, of course, is that many people who are partly responsible will benefit from Congress’ intervention.

People who signed mortgages they couldn’t afford — a fact which anyone with the math skills of a second-grader could have calculated.

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