By Jayson Jacoby
Baker City Herald Editor
So it looks as though Portland, the city which venerates the bicycle with near religious fervor, might decide whether dental health is as important as cardiovascular.
The dread specter of fluoride, humble defender of our collective enamel, has risen once again to haunt the City of Roses.
Bakerr City Herald Editorial Board
Baker City officials were acting responsibly when they tried to offer relief to a couple of private property owners who have suffered due to their proximity to the popular banks of the Powder River.
The complaints from Cathy and Tom Tressler, who live next to the river, and the Baker Elks Lodge, which owns the adjacent Wade Williams Park, are legitimate. These include reports of people parking illegally, littering, and being loud and obnoxious while hanging around the river.
Women should vote to preserve their rights
Women of Baker County — you do have a vote! That right has not been taken away from us (as other rights are threatened) — so use it!
Those other rights are threatened by Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan as his vice presidential hopeful.
Paul Ryan would ban common forms of birth control, would eliminate a woman’s right to choose, voted to end funding for Planned Parenthood, and voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
So use a right you do still have — vote!
Solutions, not ideology, needed in economic debate
Our dear country is in deep economic distress. Sound, evidence-based solutions are desperately needed. But we’re often sidetracked by misleading information and rigid ideology.
We’re once again hearing a story about President Kennedy that’s been twisted to justify ruinous tax cuts (Letters, Aug. 15 and 17). Kennedy actually wanted spending increases to stimulate the economy, but, like Obama, was obstructed by Congressional Republicans. To put things in perspective, the top marginal tax rate (the rate paid by the wealthy) had been at over 90 percent since 1950, during the golden years of middle-class growth. Kennedy reluctantly cut the top rate from 91 percent to 70 percent. That’s twice today’s top rate, but we still prospered!
Reagan cut the top marginal rate from 70 percent to 50 percent and then to 28 percent, and wound up tripling the national debt. Clinton raised it to 31 percent and then 39 percent, and we had prosperity and even ran a budget surplus. Bush then cut it to 35 percent, and doubled the national debt. There’s a pattern here. Those calling for even more tax cuts for the wealthy are selling from an empty wagon.
And what’s this about government repressing private enterprise? An army of corporate lobbyists and hundreds of millions in campaign contributions are actually keeping wealthy folks in control. Obvious results are the 2008 financial collapse caused by unregulated investment banks, confusion about global warming promoted by the fossil-fuel industry, and wrenching dislocations caused by NAFTA and other “free trade” treaties sponsored by international corporations.
Perhaps less obvious: we’re struggling through a new kind of recession. Many of our good-paying, middle-class jobs were eliminated over the past 30 years by off-shoring, accelerating automation, and union-busting. The middle class has been drained of its purchasing power, while the 400 richest Americans now have more wealth than the bottom 150 million of us put together.
We need real, innovative solutions. Two locally produced and maintained websites can enhance our ability to reason using facts and positive approaches: www.progressivevalues.us and www.ccbc.us I urge all my fellow readers to join in the much-needed, well-informed debate.
A dog-lover says thanks to considerate drivers
A huge thank you to all drivers on 10th Street on Aug. 20 around noon. My shar-pei escaped from her collar while leaving the vet’s office and was running loose up and down 10th. Thank you for stopping and letting us cross the street to try and catch her. A special thank you to Dr. Matt for leaving his vet practice to help us. And also thanks to the gals in the yellow car for helping the entire time. Although it was just 15 minutes it seemed like a lifetime to this dog lover!
I support school board recall effort, and will sign again
The statement in Jim and Mary Tomlinson’s letter last Friday that the majority of registered voters don’t support the recall is deeply flawed. I’m sure petition circulators, knowing they had to gather 913 signatures plus a surplus to cover invalid signatures, did exactly that, thus the 1,066 signatures turned in. No reasonable person would attempt to gather signatures from every registered voter in the school district. And if I’m not mistaken, wasn’t Jim Tomlinson appointed to the 5J budget committee by Lynne Burroughs – resulting in a letter from the Oregon Department of Revenue instructing the board to follow state law by having the entire board, not the chair, appoint committee members? And doesn’t Mary Tomlinson work for a company that has a contract with 5J?
I keep seeing letters against the recall from the same group of friends (good ole boys’ network) related to the District. On the other hand, I see letters from the pro-recall side who are just voters; these letters state facts. My signature was invalidated because the County Clerk marked me as an inactive voter without my knowledge during a study abroad program for college in Australia during the summer. As a 2009 Baker High School graduate I know firsthand what happens in the Baker 5J School District as a former student. I will sign the petition again. I, like my friends and neighbors, support this recall effort.
Don’t miss the ceramics display at Crossroads
The current exhibition at the Crossroads Art Center “Persistence in Clay” is still on display through Aug. 31. This show is a must see. This is a unique opportunity for Eastern Oregon to see a collection of leading edge contemporary ceramics sculptures.
Through the continuing diligence of the Crossroads staff, this art work has been brought to Baker City. The pieces on display continue the exemplary tradition of the clay work being done in America. This is a traveling exhibition from the Missoula Art Museum that celebrates the 60th year anniversary of the Archie Bray Foundation. The Bray has served as the seminal birth place for internationally know ceramicists such as Peter Voulkous, David Shanner and numerous other great American talents. The work on sale is very reasonably priced, and a great investment for would be collectors. I bought a piece for my collection and wish I could afford more. A show of this caliber is seldom available in this rural of a setting.
Retired ceramics professor, Eastern Oregon University
While huge swathes of the sagebrush steppe in Oregon’s southeastern corner were being blackened this summer by lightning-sparked fires, Baker County was tranquil.
A bolt ignited a blaze about 16 miles southeast of Baker City. The Sardine fire spread across about 6,100 acres, according to BLM’s most recent estimate (acreages have varied considerably).
In one sense, the landowners whose property was burned fared better than some of their counterparts did in Harney and Malheur counties.
The Sardine fire, unlike the blazes in those counties, didn’t kill any cattle or horses.
This fortunate result isn’t due purely to luck, either. Mike Widman, who with his wife, Coral, owns some of the rangeland that burned, talked about how local residents and fire crews from multiple agencies strived to protect livestock.
But in another respect, Baker County ranchers are confronted with the same challenges facing others in the beef business.
At least half a dozen local ranchers will have to find another source of feed for cattle that were supposed to graze this fall in the area scorched on Sunday.
That means an extra expense.
Besides private land, the fire burned sections of public land that might be off-limits to livestock for two years to allow the scars to heal.
The fire will affect wildlife, too, possibly including sage grouse, a species for which federal protection has been proposed.
We’re confident that the BLM, which manages the public land in the area, will act quickly to minimize the fire’s damage. The agency might, for example, need to spread seeds of native grasses and other plants to prevent cheatgrass and other invasive species from dominating the post-fire landscape.
Widman said he will consider doing the same thing on his property.
Ideally, the late summer and fall will bring periods of gentle rain that encourages grass to sprout, rather than downpours that turn the denuded slopes into mudslides.
Ultimately the land will recover, and continue to provide multiple, and beneficial, uses.
Fixing Resort Street would benefit the city
Interesting comments regarding the Resort Street plan. Stunningly obvious was the comment that the Herald believes that the “city can spend the money on other projects that have a greater benefit to a larger number of city residents.” By “starting to reverse the decade-long downward trend in the condition of city streets.” What part of Resort is a not a “city street?” And what part of Resort is not used by a large number of residents?
Much more to the point, where on Resort Street is in good condition? The city at this very moment is working on the streets insuring that they are in good condition for a large number of residents. Yes, interesting comments.
Recalling board members would be slap in face
I was encouraged by and agree with the Herald’s editorial indicating that our schools are providing our students with a quality education and the rancor among board members has not affected school district operation. I do not agree that no harm will result regardless of the outcome of a recall election.
Consider this scenario: The recall is successful and Lynne Burroughs and Mark Henderson are removed from the board. By a 2 to 1 vote, Andrew Bryan dissenting, Kyle Knight is elected board chairman. This is a young man who spent his first year: 1) intimating that board member Bryan had a financial interest in the disposal of the old high school building; 2) promoting an armed faculty while opposing technology education; 3) challenging the competency of the district’s financial officer; 4) releasing confidential information to the press; and, 5) recently suggesting possible collusion by the county clerk in her validation of the recall signatures.
Given time and maturity Mr. Knight could well become a positive contributor to the education of the district’s students. As a former teacher and high school vice principal, I suggest rather than pushing to make our teachers gun-toters, he spend some time in our city park during school hours, asking young people, near his own age, why they opt for Big Gulps and cigarettes rather than attending class.
In contrast, Mrs. Burroughs has spent many productive years in the classroom and, without remuneration, has spent countless hours providing this community with first-class drama productions. “Service to others” has been her credo. To recall her would be a slap in the face.
Some 38 years ago I wrote a poem about a disgruntled young woman leaving the city of Baker. The last two lines of the poem were: “She stood in front of Levinger’s and gave the town the ‘bird.’ ”
Levinger’s is no longer in existence but if the 5J voters recall Mrs. Burroughs, I will invite her to give her “hand signal” from the confines of my front yard.
Most times I enjoy talking with people who aren’t from Baker County. In particular I like to meet out-of-towners whose interest in our fair land is rather more substantial than wondering how quickly they can refill their fuel tank and get back on the freeway.
This foreign perspective can help dissipate the fog of provincialism that I fear obscures my perspective.
(Literally foreign, on occasion — last Sunday I met a group of French hikers up at Anthony Lake. I tried to explain how to get to the Lakes Lookout and then I worried all afternoon that I had led the visitors astray. The problem wasn’t language — one of the hikers spoke more precise English than I do — but my abysmal ability to convey the various trail and road junctions and the general lay of the land.)
Perhaps “obscures” is too harsh a verb.
Although my affection for Baker County is great, it has not rendered the place’s blemishes invisible to my eyes.
(I don’t, however, need some carpetbagger to tell me there’s some junky looking yards around. Every town has those, and well that this is so; a man’s castle and all that, even if the castle has roof shingles shaped like Fritos and a yard that could hide a herd of wildebeests.)
What I mean is that certain things I take for granted pique the curiosity of people who don’t get their mail here.
Make sure your vote will actually be counted
2012 is an important election year. Last week my family and I learned that just being a registered voter often isn’t enough to make your signature or vote count. In Oregon, registered voters can be labeled “inactive” if they haven’t voted in five years or if a ballot bounces back to the County Clerk’s office in the mail. If you’re a legally registered yet inactive voter, you no longer have the legal right to sign a petition — your signature will be invalidated. Other U.S. states have ruled limitations on inactive voters’ rights unconstitutional. Not Oregon, though!
If you were vacationing out of the area, deployed with the military, etc. and you think your ballot may have bounced back to the County, please go to the Courthouse and ask to take a look at your voting status. If you’re like some people I’ve spoken with who didn’t turn a ballot in because you didn’t like any of the candidates, you might be inactive. Again, get to the Courthouse and make sure your information is current.
Your signature on a petition or ballot can also be invalidated if your county clerk views the signature on your voter registration card and decides they don’t match. Telling the clerk in person that you indeed signed the petition will not be considered, nor, according to the Baker County Clerk, will the “intent” of the signer. All that matters is that your signature is a match to the one on the card. If you registered online your signature ties to the one on your driver’s license, and we all know how different those can look. If you first registered decades or just years ago and your signature has changed, please go sign your card again just to be sure. Your vote and signature are too important to risk this election year.
Focus on educating children, not recalling volunteers
The Baker City Herald’s Editorial Board missed the mark when it characterized the failure of School Board recall supporters to gather sufficient valid signatures (editorial, “Right to be Cautious,” Aug. 10). The County Clerk’s Office followed a legally mandated signature checking process. This is not a “delay;” it is the democratic process in action. It is disheartening to read Herald editorials by the staff that continue to support the recall. The majority of registered voters apparently do not support it.
As citizens dedicated to our children and their education and growth, let’s join together to support the goals that our School Board volunteers were elected to implement. The School District goals are to maintain a “program designed to improve student achievement, support students’ academic growth ... encourage their attainment of individual goals and successfully prepare students to function effectively in a rapidly changing world and for the futures they choose to pursue.” Code AE, Adopted 2/19/08, readopted 2/21/12. Let’s focus on developing our children to be future leaders of our community and our nation.
Jim and Mary Tomlinson
Government has spending problem, not tax problem
In reading the recent letter, “Reagan tax cuts made things worse, not better,” I find myself agreeable to the need for a well-informed debate.
First item: Tax cuts for the wealthy. In the early 1960s President Kennedy and a large number of leading Democrats were in agreement that the tax rate reduction would help the country’s economy. Truth is that there was a reduction in tax rates for everyone, not a tax cut. This reduction had indeed proven the outcome of economic stability. We do not have a tax problem, we have a spending problem.
Second item: Lesson from history. This country was built and made great by hard-working people, no matter what level of society they belonged. They did this while government was small and represented the people. The private sector remained strong and free from the overpowering control of the government that was there to represent them. Today the overpowering control of government has left its roots and engulfed our society entirely.
Businesses, including myself, continue to do all that we can to create and maintain jobs for employees and need to be freed up from government regulations and excessive taxes, and allow us to do what we do best ... stimulate the economy and create jobs.
I would ask all government officials to put a stop to overspending.
I am asking in November for all Baker County citizens to join me in voting for Mitt Romney.
We agree with the Baker City Council’s decision Tuesday to wait until it has some specific proposals before choosing whether to return a generous gift.
But we also understand Councilors Roger Coles’ and Beverly Calder’s concerns about the potential expense to the city of keeping the residential property that Anthony Silvers, who died last year, bequeathed.
That property is on Clifford Street, just east of the Powder River between Valley and Washington avenues. There are two homes on the property.
As a condition of the gift, Silvers required the city, within five years, to use the property “for public use and benefit” of the city. Otherwise, the property reverts to Silvers’ sister, Ernestine Hill.
A reasonable request, to be sure. But complying with it might prove difficult, and expensive.
The highest use for the property is likely as a park.
But to build one the city probably would have to tear down the two houses, those not being typical features of a public park.
Then, too, a handful of residents in that neighborhood told the City Council Tuesday that they fear the addition of a park would exacerbate the problems — including alleged drug use and loud music — that emanate from the city’s year-old Central Park on the opposite bank of the river.
That’s a legitimate concern.
But we think Calder was on to something when she said Tuesday that over time Central Park is apt to attract more families. The absence of amenities — no playground equipment, for instance — makes the park a tough sell for parents with kids.
Once the city addresses that issue — and secures some off-street parking — the idea of building a bridge to the Silvers property and using it as sort of a Central Park annex might be more palatable to neighbors.
How the city would pay for all this, of course, is an open question. The city has no surplus dollars for park improvements.
But we recall that the city spent $200,000 for the property that became Central Park. At least the Silvers property was free.
And with Silvers’ deadline more than four years away, there’s ample time for city officials to figure out whether they can make good use of this gift.
A happy note for the future of orchestras
This Sunday, the newly formed Baker City Orchestra held its first concert at Geiser-Pollman Park in Baker City. There was a huge turnout. I would estimate the listeners to have numbered around a hundred or more.
But what really hit home with me was not so much the number of people in the audience, but their wild enthusiasm for the new orchestra. That confirms that this type of music is not dead, but somewhat absent and greatly missed. Actually, the orchestra only included one classical piece in their program (Beethoven) and it received the most applause. The community really came out to support great music!
This event has led me to consider the health of orchestras everywhere. I work with the Grande Ronde Symphony Orchestra in La Grande and it has become increasingly apparent to me as well as others on the board that the GRSO and other orchestras are in serious danger of dying out! This is because fewer students are becoming professional or even part-time musicians. Most musicians start at an elementary level in school and sadly, music-learning opportunities are becoming extremely scarce. Students should be exposed to and instructed in art and music as well as the basics, but despite this well-known fact, music is being budgeted out of our public schools.
For example, we have only one music teacher between several schools in our district and while the middle and high schools have band programs, a string program has not existed for many years. The few private teachers in the area struggle to keep up with demand and it seems that an increasing number of players emerge from homeschool families and the adult population. Consequently, there are not as many people in general who are willing to commit to music which leads to a severe shortage in current and future orchestral players. What can be done about this shortage? Perhaps we should seriously consider forming music instruction programs at a local level. If we replace failing music instruction in our schools, we may not only save our orchestras, but possibly music as well!
High taxes on rich strangle economy
For a decade, a Democratic talking point was that the Bush tax cuts were simply “tax cuts for the rich,” and it was official Democratic policy to let these tax cuts expire. But now they want to keep the Bush tax cuts for some of “the rich,” the middle class, and allow them to lapse only for those making over $250,000 a year. The trouble is, many of these latter “rich” folks are the owners of small businesses. And historically, small businesses provide over half of the new jobs created each year.
We have an excellent example of this right here in Baker City, with the Chaves’ computer date storage business. This small business has the potential to create 100 or more new jobs for Baker County. Do we really want to raise these folks’ taxes by approximately one-third? For that is what will happen if the Democrats get their way. Why take money designated to create jobs here locally that the government will fritter away on $500 toilet seats and bridges to nowhere? The federal government does not have a particularly good record on the wise use of our tax dollars.
The Democrats were not always the party of high taxes. The Reagan tax cuts of 1982 were passed by a Democratic House of Representatives, and 20 years earlier, the Kennedy tax cuts were passed when the Democrats controlled both Congress and the presidency. Each tax cut led to a decade of economic growth.
President Kennedy knew something that President Obama doesn’t — that high taxes on the rich only strangle our nation’s economy.
Cost a necessary part of school board recall
I read with fascination Gary Dielman’s letter Monday during which he describes an alleged conversation we recently had. I spoke with Dielman in passing once, for no more than a couple minutes, nearly three months ago. Dielman, having been the subject of a recall effort by local voters, is understandably a bit biased in the anti-recall direction. However, I do wish he’d taken the time to accurately “recall” our brief conversation before writing his letter.
At no time did I tell him our recall effort against Lynne Burroughs and Mark Henderson would cost nothing. That’s ridiculous — and not at all the point I was attempting to make when he asked about my involvement. I’m a taxpayer who places high importance on the wise use of taxpayers’ money. I don’t take the cost of a special election lightly, nor does anyone working with me. When considering costs, I believe voters should also look, for example, at the pay raise Henderson and Burroughs just gave the superintendent — in a time when teachers have been cut. Or at their senseless rejection of a teacher’s grievance surely resulting in thousands of dollars in expensive independent arbitration/legal fees and the cost of recruiting new staff for that position. And what price would you put, Mr. Dielman, on standing up for the First Amendment rights of the directors we voted into office? Or on keeping legally public information available to the public rather than have certain board members declare this information “confidential” simply because they say it is? When I compare the cost of a special election to that of keeping these two in office, it seems a sadly necessary investment.
As voters, we have only two established, legal choices when an elected official fails miserably on the job: We can wait until they come up for re-election and vote them out, or we can recall or “unvote” them. From my point of view, another couple years of this board’s decisions would come at too high a cost.
Let’s show Idaho Power the door
Let me get this straight: We have just let a private and out-of-state owned business — Idaho Power — into our county, tell us they are going to put a high-voltage power line though our yards, divide the community in argument, make a mockery of our own rules and regulations, give us no compensation for social and economic damage done, and we are about to let them get away with it.
Remember their last project? Although construction of their dams mandated they provide adequate fish passage there still hasn’t been a salmon or steelhead in any of our creeks and rivers since the dams went into place. So why now have we let them return and raise havoc? I don’t recall being given the chance to vote whether we wanted this power line coming through our county or not. Instead, as if this is our vote, we are being only given choices of alternative routes that, like I said, split our community, compromise our unique lifestyles, bend hard-fought for-or-against regulations and erode our environment. Are we supposed to be thankful to be given a chance choosing one of two evils?
Go to the Idaho Power Website and watch their propaganda video why the Boardman to Hemingway line is both needed and necessary (their words). You’ll discover that their average customers now have 24 electrical devices, live in larger homes and are busy breaking new energy-consumption records. Well, if their customers can afford bigger homes and all those electrical gadgets then they can certainly afford a rate hike. Why should we be sacrificing our land along with our way of life for people in rat race land with a consumerism problem? We are not in a state of emergency.
Yet Idaho Power really does need this power line because Idaho Power is a for-profit company — no different than Enron was. They are on the New York stock exchange (IDA. Currently at a five-year high). Their mission is to make money and satisfy their shareholder’s portfolios. What their video doesn’t tell you is that this power line allows them to also sell electricity where it is in high demand, places like Phoenix and L.A. Idaho Power only cares about Idaho Power. If they didn’t then why are they bypassing their own property with their proposed route? This issue is about money and muscle and we in Eastern Oregon are not even pawns but mere dust on their chessboard.
Our way of life is something that can’t be graphed or charted and therefore doesn’t count and is easily sacrificed. This is the real price they are out to extract from us, making us pay for all the electrical device-heads in Idaho and to satisfy some stockholder in the Bahamas. Please make it clear to these people that they and their project are not welcome here. Show them to the nearest exit. It doesn’t have to be well lit.
Whit Deschner lives near Sparta.
Baker City officials have significantly trimmed the cost to local taxpayers for burying utility lines on a several-block section of Resort Street downtown that’s scheduled to be rebuilt next year.
But the prospective bill is still too expensive.
Much too expensive.
In April we urged the city to drop the idea.
Our opinion hasn’t changed.
The proposal is attractive, to be sure.
After all, the ground’s going to be dug up when Resort is rebuilt between Auburn and Campbell. That’s the ideal time to bury the power, phone and cable TV lines.
But even though the city’s projected share of the $1.1 million job is now about $340,000, roughly half the estimate from April, even the lower figure isn’t justified.
The city can spend the money on other projects that have a greater benefit to a larger number of city residents.
In April we cited one obvious example: starting to reverse the decade-long downward trend in the condition of city streets.
There was another worthwhile option on the agenda for the City Council meeting Tuesday night, an agenda that also included the Resort Street plan.
Councilors are considering doling out grant dollars for “neighborhood enhancements.” The city hasn’t defined the term, but it could include such things as sprucing up the park strip between the street and sidewalk, cleaning dilapidated properties or installing security lighting.
The city could get a lot of mileage, so to speak, from $340,000 by spreading those dollars in every neighborhood rather than on a section of one street.