We’ll start with the obvious: Smoking inside a car when kids are there is dumb.
Among confined spaces, where secondhand smoke poses a health risk, few are more confined than a car.
Oregon legislators, as the makers of law are wont to do, believe this is an issue which requires government intervention.
Good Samaritan makes a tough job easier
Sunday morning, while struggling to change a flat tire on my pickup, a smiling young man, who was obviously dressed for church, stopped and asked if he could help.
His help made a difficult job much easier and more pleasant. I wish to publicly express my heartfelt appreciation to Erin Kerns, who lives his faith by helping others. I would also like to thank his family, who were late to church on my behalf.
The proposed update to Baker City’s Transportation System Plan has some residents concerned, and we understand why.
Designed as a guide for how the city’s system of streets, sidewalks and paths develops over the next 20 years or so, the plan, not surprisingly, covers quite a lot of ground.
And although none of the myriad projects in the plan is set in stone (or, rather, in asphalt or concrete), any of them could become reality.
This could have major effects not only on residents’ property, but also on their pocketbooks.
We probably won’t know for some years whether the agreement announced last week resolving a lawsuit about killing wolves in Oregon is a milestone or merely a footnote.
We hope for the former.
There are reasons to be optimistic.
The deal is a rare example of collaboration between pro-wolf groups, which sued the state in 2011 to prevent officials from killing wolves that had attacked livestock, and cattle ranchers who worry that a burgeoning wolf population will decimate their herds.
I watched with no small measure of amusement this spring as Portland whipped itself into a frenzy over fluoride.
The frothy mixture of hyperbole, conspiracy theorizing and contempt for the scientific establishment, topped with the peculiar irascibility of Portlanders, was for me as irresistible as a root beer float.
I wasn’t surprised that voters in Oregon’s largest city rejected a proposal to add fluoride to their water supply.
They had done so three times before, for one thing, dating back to the Eisenhower administration.
I don’t often go to Portland, and neither do my teeth, so I had no real stake in the outcome.
Government isn’t the enemy, if we participate in it
Governor John Kitzhaber granted a important and probing interview on OPB Radio’s “Think Out Loud” on May 23. He offered valuable insights into our health care system and into our economic system, which is leaving so many people behind as the rich get richer. It’s a superb example of thoughtful, informed, and bipartisan analysis.
He described how an increasingly grotesque mal-distribution of wealth is robbing us of good-paying jobs in this economic recovery, why we need to expand health care and transform its focus from disease treatment to disease prevention, and he suggested questions we can ask to improve our community’s overall well-being.
I urge my fellow readers to listen in. The 15-minute interview is available online at http://www.opb.org/thinkoutloud/shows/live-salem-governor-kitzhaber-0523/
Kitzhaber’s positive, collaborative approach stands in powerful contrast to divisive, fearful, anti-government rhetoric from the extreme right wing. Examples include their anti-tax absolutism, anti-scientific ignorance of global warming, the current trumpeting of fake scandals, and the disruption of government at all levels.
According to an Associated Press report on May 24, U.S. Senators Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah and Marco Rubio of Florida are “tea party champions” whose uncompromising views are challenging traditional Republicans, by using Senate rules and procedures to block legislation whenever possible and opening up major rifts within the GOP. Similarly, in the House, a relatively small number of anti-government extremists have fractured the GOP, as they attempt to bring the government to its knees.
Fortunately, we have been able to turn aside this divisive, extremist thinking in recent local elections. But we should go further. We can benefit greatly by following Governor Kitzhaber’s statesmanlike leadership, joining together to forge meaningful responses to the challenges and opportunities we face.
If we participate, government is not the enemy. We are the government. One of our nation’s mottos is “E Pluribus Unum,” Out of Many, One. United we stand. If we use our creative abilities, no one need be left behind.
The discovery of genetically modified wheat in an Eastern Oregon field this spring poses a major threat, not to our health but to our economy.
In terms of quantity, the discovery was minor.
A wheat farmer found the plants in a field that is fallow this year, meaning it was not seeded to produce a crop to harvest.
Six years have passed since Wallowa-Whitman National Forest officials announced they were planning to ban motor vehicles on some forest roads.
And for almost the whole of that time, officials have urged forest users who have an interest in the Travel Management Plan (TMP) to be as specific as possible in commenting on the proposal.
Some critics of the TMP have been reluctant to do so, citing the reasonable concern that to list the roads they want to remain open is tantamount to sacrificing all the other roads when, in truth, they don’t want motor vehicles prohibited on any road where such vehicles can go now.
In 2007, more than 6,000 people signed a petition opposed to any road closures.
No doubt that remains a popular idea among local residents.
But it’s also clear, thanks to the Wallowa-Whitman’s recent release of a detailed study of written comments about the TMP that the forest received last spring, that many people who oppose road closures in general also heeded the advice to be specific in advocating for their position.
People who support restrictions on motor vehicles, by contrast, were, with relatively few exceptions, content to sign one of two form letters, both of which read rather like a press release from an environmental group.
Those two letters accounted for 76 percent of the 3,340 comments the Wallowa-Whitman received between March 16, 2012, when a version of the TMP was released to the public, and June 14, 2012.
That TMP, which would have banned motor vehicles from more than 3,000 miles of roads — roughly half the mileage open now — was withdrawn a month after it was unveiled.
Letters from opponents of the TMP, though small in numbers compared with proponents’ form letters, were rich both in passion for the topic and in detailed knowledge about the role roads play in the public’s use of the Wallowa-Whitman.
TMP opponents wrote about gathering firewood, picking huckleberries, exploring on ATVs, hunting with elderly companions who can no longer hike long distances over rough terrain but still like to go after a buck.
To put it simply, these letters constitute perhaps the most vivid description we’re likely to ever read about how this 2-million-acre swath of public property is actually used by the people who go there most often.
Of course the Wallowa-Whitman is not their exclusive domain. Public land belongs to every American. We’re not suggesting that a form letter advocating for road closures, signed by someone who’s never visited the Wallowa-Whitman, should be ignored.
Still and all, we hope forest officials, as they work on a new version of the TMP over the next few years, understand that a proposal which might seem like a reasonable compromise, based on road mileages and percentages laid out in a chart, doesn’t necessarily address how people are actually using the forest.
Forest officials have said repeatedly over the years that they want people to submit specific comments about the TMP. The people who worry about the effects of restrictions on motor vehicle access have done precisely that. The next TMP won’t fully satisfy all of those people, but it should at least show that forest officials were as diligent in reading the comments as forest users were in writing them.
Benghazi failure leaves black mark on U.S. leadership
Currently the news on the disaster at Benghazi is mostly involved with chronic windbags arguing about what caused this disaster. The blame shifts from an anti-Muslim mob about a movie to an organized terrorist group. This has involved a great deal of rhetoric but fails to answer a key question in my mind. What was done to save these people at the embassy?
It was a no-brainer. Something would have to be done very quickly but it appears to me that nothing was ever done. Why not? One leader turned off the TV, went to bed and left town the next day. Anther important leader did the same but left the country the next day. The fact is that help was nearby but no one ordered them to help.
The US had forces on two bases that were one hour away from Benghazi by air. What could have been done? Fighters should have been standing by ready in such a volatile area. Jet fighters could have been scrambled and sent to Benghazi at top speed. They could have been ordered to begin harassing the threatening mob at low level, even producing some sonic booms, and looking for targets of opportunity. I believe such action could very well have slowed the mob and even could have turned them away long enough for more air support to arrive and even for some troops to arrive by air.
To have done nothing is completely inexcusable and constitutes a huge black mark on American leadership and their leadership ability.
City should use sidewalk fees for ... sidewalks
In regards to the question of the Baker City sidewalk fees: As a homeowner and resident I do not mind the small amount paid. After walking around town, it is most apparent that the sidewalks in general very much need de-weeding and repair. Please use the sidewalk maintenance fees for that purpose. It is important both for safety and appearance.
We had a great time at Regional Theatre music revue
Wow! The “Here’s To Broadway” musical revue we experienced on Friday was a real treat. The Eastern Oregon Regional Theatre performance was heartwarming and authentic. The new mini auditorium, now upstairs in Basche-Sage Place, is still a delicious, up close and personal experience. A big thank you to all involved. Well done! We had a blast and went away with a song in our hearts and on our lips!
Jack and Susan Hatfield
Travel Plan is done; but a bigger forest plan still coming
The Forest Service’s Travel Management Plan in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest has become a red herring. In reality the plan is dead in the water. Unlawful. It’d be on the ground right now if it had been within the law to carry out such a plan. As proposed the plan violated private property rights and constitutional law. Violated county law too, not that the commissioners respected local law and instead signed a cooperative agreement limiting local government involvement to that of a secondary agency working under the lead agency Forest Service. Red herring.
Still the TMP gains all kinds of media coverage and ongoing attention. All this hullabaloo while the granddaddy of federal forest management plans, the Blue Mountain Forest Plan revision, plugs along under the radar. The TMP is old news other than one question and that is an accounting. How much has the agency spent on the TMP in the Wallowa-Whitman? It’s my opinion that the Forest Service threw the TMP out first to see where the agency would run into problems in the travel/access portion of the new forest plan revision. The agency experts had to know that whatever TMP it came up with had to tier to the guiding forest plan, in this case the 1990 Wallowa-Whitman Forest Plan. Anyone familiar with the way the TMP came out can see that the Forest Service’s preferred plan did not tier to the user-friendly 1990 Forest Plan and in fact proposed a new “closed unless designated open policy,” which in effect would have enacted a blanket closure of the forest roads with a process of designating open roads to follow. Unlawful.
It’s important to follow the revision of the new Blue Mountain Forest Plan and to ask county commissioners, Forest Service officials, and the newspaper to start sharing the progress on the plan. One more thing to remember: Your county commissioners signed another cooperative agreement for the Blue Mountain Forest Plan Revision along with 10 other Blue Mountain region counties, which combines all 11 counties into one subordinate cooperating agency working under the lead agency Forest Service.
Teens’ ‘Fugitive’ game that got out of hand
On Saturday, May 11, at about 8:45 p.m., my property was overrun by what I believe were teenagers. A couple of vehicles were involved, but the intruders were on foot.
I first noticed them in the street in front my home ... and then I observed them running along the property perimeter toward by backyard. Finally they jumped the front fence to access my backyard.
At least five of them ran around in my backyard until they finally climbed the 6-foot wooden fence and hightailed it out of there.
I called the Baker City Police. All in all, it was a very unsettling experience and both the front and back fences sustained damage. Had my garden been planted already or my flower beds full of young plants — these intruders would have surely trampled them into oblivion. As it turned out, the blooming perennials were pretty badly trampled.
Since May 11, I have learned that this event is a game called “Fugitive” and apparently, according to the police, it happens every year. On the surface, it sounds like a really fun game — except for the criminal mischief resulting in property damage, trespassing, and the involuntary adrenalin rush — all of which occurred without provocation from my perspective.
So here I am now ... left with the property damage. My understanding is that this game is not supposed to include trespassing or damaging somebody’s property. I think that maybe the participants found themselves so caught up in the whole thing, no pun intended, that they became intrusive without really meaning to be intrusive. I forgive them the scare and the damage so long as it doesn’t happen again.
That being said, I wish our community could find a way to safely support this activity ... a way in which the participants could have fun but not damage property or otherwise frighten anybody. I remember what it was like to be a kid, although it was several decades ago. Had I known about the game, I probably would have enjoyed it myself.
Obamacare: Propping up the paper industry all by itself
When Liberals want to blacken the reputation of opponents, they often use the Tea Party as their tar brush. We’ve seen that here recently. But their “tea party” is a made-up strawman and bears little resemblance to the actual group.
It’s easy to see why the Tea Party is liberals’ favorite boogie man. It developed spontaneously in reaction to the excesses of the ultraliberal Congress of 2009-2010. First there was the hugely expensive stimulus act, which turned out to be hugely ineffective in its stated purpose: reversing the rising levels of unemployment. Our great-grandkids will still be paying for that fiasco. A year later, Obamacare was rammed through Congress on a strict party line vote, despite the opposition of a majority of Americans. Three years later, a majority still favors Obamacare’s repeal.
For a while, liberals were holding up the Occupy Wall Street movement as the Left’s counterpart to the Tea Party. But most Americans felt far more comfortable with the tactics and goals of the latter group. At Tea Party rallies, a well-behaved group listened attentively to their speaker, then quietly dispersed taking their own trash with them. The Occupy folks turned public parks into trash filled havens for drugs and crime, and routinely got into violent confrontations with the police. They railed against Wall Street with a childish “Life ain’t fair!” but their biggest demand seemed to be that the government should pay for their college educations.
President Obama has railed against Wall Street right along with them. However, Wall Street didn’t seem to mind the president’s seeming apostasy, and donated heavily to his re-election campaign. After all, he has staffed his administration with ex-Wall Street executives. He takes tax money collected from waitresses, plumbers and retired grandparents and uses it to shore up failed Wall Street institutions.
So take heart, you local folks who were branded as members of the Tea Party. Considering where the accusation comes from, it is a badge of honor, whether or not the label actually fits you. It makes you one of the good guys.
Local singers, musicians put on a great performance
We recently attended the Baker Community Choir spring concert and wanted to acknowledge them with a note of praise and appreciation.
Their performance was excellent, and the theme of patriotic songs was very inspirational, especially after the Boston tragedy.
It was also a pleasure to enjoy the Baker Community Orchestra’s performance. We missed the South Baker Children’s Choir, but heard they too did a great job.
We thank all the talented singers and musicians who share their many talents with us at these concerts.
Mark and Patty Bogart
Winners enjoyed the Mother-Daughter Look Alike Contest
Meranda and I would like to thank the Baker City Herald, Bella and Earth & Vine for sponsoring the Mother-Daughter Look Alike Contest. We had a great time looking at the pictures and voting for other look-alikes. Thank you Bella and Earth & Vine for the wonderful gift certificates, we look forward to visiting your establishments soon. I hope you will consider sponsoring a Father-Son Look Alike Contest for Father’s Day.
Shelly and Meranda Christensen
Shelly and her daughter, Meranda, were the winners in the Herald’s Mother-Daughter Look Alike Contest earlier this month.