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Use chain saws or lose our trails

The 1964 Wilderness Act, for all its flowery language about the sanctity of nature, clearly expresses the notion that people are not only allowed to visit wilderness areas, but that such places should be managed to ensure we can enjoy their beauty.

We just have to get around on our feet or by horseback, since motor vehicles are prohibited.

That makes sense.

It’s difficult, certainly, to fulfill one of the Act’s goals — that in wilderness areas the “imprint of man’s work (is) substantially unnoticeable” — if there are rigs rolling along paved roads at 50 mph.

What doesn’t make sense is allowing hiking trails — some of which follow routes that Native Americans blazed thousands of years ago — to become impassable because workers can’t use chain saws to cut up trees that fall across the tread.

Letter to the Editor for Jan. 16, 2015

Harvey in charge, it’s a bright new day for Baker County

Good morning. It is a good morning for Baker County. Now is the beginning of a new day! After 12 years of the status quo we can now anticipate some economic progress and freedom in Baker County. That is our goal. 

Our county is rich in resources, natural and human, but poor  in opportunity. One of our greatest problems has been that the federal agencies, which we have hired to manage and protect the natural resources on our public lands, now appear to believe they own those lands and resources. Their management technique is largely that of precluding our access and use. As a result each year large areas of forest burn for lack of  constructive use and on-the-ground management. Then salvage lumber from the remaining dead trees is precluded, all wasted resources and money. Would intelligent forest management permit this?

Mineral resources are also held hostage by the federal agencies. The agencies have delayed the mining of some claims for very long periods asserting the time is required to make sure that no environmental restraints are violated. Some mining applications have been delayed for years instead of a few months as envisioned by the laws that govern the process.  A vigorous, and safe, mining industry would add very greatly to the local economy.  Then why can’t it be?

Local controls are robbing our prosperity also. The process required for permission to build a new house is tedious and expensive. Each step of the way requires study or inspection each of which has a time delay and dollar fee attached. The cost of approved access in some cases precludes building.  Both the extra time and money required by excessive local control discourages construction of, particularly rural, new homes.

The above is but a tiny tip of a gigantic iceberg that has brought our economic and social progress to a grinding halt. We now have a leader, Bill Harvey, who understands basic economics and our rights under the Oregon and U.S. Constitutions. Let us all give Commissioner Harvey our enthusiastic support and enjoy the benefits of the new day. 

Jasper Coombes


The dark days when nuclear war seemed certain

I’m too young to have a proper fear of the atomic bomb.

I was born in 1970 — a quarter century after Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

By the late 1970s, when I was old enough to begin to comprehend such things, the threat of nuclear holocaust, though it seemed real enough in that Cold War era of the bellicose Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, had lost its immediacy and thus some of its potency.

When I was in school the experts had long since figured out that having pupils hunker beneath their desks wouldn’t help much if the Russian missiles were landing nearby.

Letter to the Editor for Jan. 14, 2015

Why is our country being run by Idaho Power?

A few years back, there was a sign when you entered Idaho reading, “Idaho is too Great to Litter.” It should have read, “Idaho is too Illiterate to be Great.” The sign disappeared because, as discovered, Idaho wasn’t so great after all. Idaho’s problem is politics by potato. Fine if you live there, but I live in Oregon and Idaho has no right dictating our standard of living. Now (again) it’s Idaho Power telling us we are about to be compromised by their unwanted and unneeded high voltage power line.

Last week there was an open house on the issue. I went to voice my concern that we were never given a vote whether we wanted their power line. Making this look like a democratic process we are now being asked where we want the power line to run: We are being force-fed poison with a choice of flavor. What’s an open house if our opinions are allowed, but ignored? Even if, say, John Steinbeck showed up with a novel about this social injustice, his book would have been trash-canned as soon as he turned away. However, this is an impossible scenario because Steinbeck is, of course, dead. Instead the room was filled with government agency personnel, like seventh graders standing in front of their science projects, an amusing scene until you add up the tax dollars merrily burnt. No one was there explaining how our lives have been already disrupted for five years fighting it. Where’s the study showing it disturbing our health, our livelihoods, and Baker Valley’s Kodachrome panorama? Where was the display table representing the people who don’t want the power line? Each agency has bought into this sham, that this is a done deal. Where did they get that information? But that’s a rhetorical question because Idaho Power’s table was there also. It was surrounded by staff who looked worried their mothers would find them and discover what they really did for a living. I sadly reflected that we used to live in a democracy where different voices are represented, valued and given weight; not a country run by Idaho Power.

Whit Deschner

Baker City

Freedom, fear and America

America hasn’t always embraced its satirists, and even the most renowned have generally been considered something other than first-rate artists.

But we don’t murder them.

Indeed, most of the fighting that results from satire in America is the bloodless sort practiced in a courtroom.

Letter to the Editor for Jan. 12, 2015

Here’s the recipe for locking up public lands

A recipe for locking up public lands to motorized use.

Ingredients – 1 regional forester, 3 forest supervisors, environmental groups and state agencies (ODFW preferred), Seasonings — flouting rules and ignoring the public.

• You take one forest supervisor that is within retirement age and willing to sell out entire communities to get his high 3 for retirement, add in two others that will blend smoothly with a regional forester picked ripe from the vine to force motorized use restrictions on the public. Blend in a yearly bonus of somewhere around $5,000 to turn a deaf ear to local residents’ calls for keeping their mountains open.

• In a separate bowl collect a ratio of “interested groups” 4 to 1, anti-motorized use to pro-motorized use to cover the supervisors and regional forester.

• Spread the “interest group” topping over the blended forest supervisor/regional forester mix and cover heavily as to disguise any sense of pre-conceived agenda.

• Apply a generous seasoning of flouting rules on how public engagement should occur, smothered with a heavy application of ignoring the public on their concerns.

Place in a “consensus” oven set at, till hell freezes over, and wait to see when the forest supervisors and regional foresters actually act upon locals concerns.

Meal will be done when the supervisors and regional forester are soft to the touch, poking with an email or phone call to test tenderness, and are ready act upon local residents concerns. 

Until they reach that point you should place the meal back into the oven and increase the heat till such time as the forest supervisors and regional forester act accordingly or are done, whichever comes first.

John D. George


A good Samaritan, defined

In a moment when Markeith Reese had ample reason to be thinking only of himself, he instead focused on people he had never even met.

The 21-year-old Baker City man might have saved four lives as a result.

Reese was driving home about 2:30 a.m. on Jan. 3.

He had just lost his job.

Letters to the Editor for Jan. 9, 2015

Thank you, police officers,  for protecting us

Isn’t it wonderful, a pure delight, to live in Baker City — the safest city in Oregon, according to the Baker City Herald article.  

We can and should thank our Baker City Police Department, Baker County Sheriff Department and the Oregon State Police for this environmental luxury enjoyed by very few communities in the U.S. 

These dedicated individuals often work evenings missing the school functions of their children, family functions and holidays. 

I don’t know of a teacher, mechanic, lawyer, hairdresser, doctor, clerk or builder that is exposed daily to the potential danger at their jobs that a policeman experiences. 

They do not respond in kind to verbal abuse they sometimes receive nor do they choose this profession to get rich.   They are many of the finest our community has to offer.  

The detrimental actions by some towards police across the nation is heartbreaking and very disturbing.  I shudder to think of a scenario where there are not dedicated law enforcement personnel to call in times of needing help. 

Baker City is the safest in Oregon. It did not happen by accident. Thank you Baker City Police, Baker County Sheriff and Oregon State Police. 

Susan Earl Castles

Jane Earl Barrett

Pamela Busey

Daughters of a state policeman

America must deal with income inequality

Your terrific guest editorial on income inequality (Jan. 5) urges We the People to wake up, join together, and reverse the massive redistribution of wealth that is now starving the middle class. National, unified action is needed to install wage guarantees like an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), paid for by increased taxation of the wealthy.  And we must take the lead. The editorial points out that most politicians avoid this issue for fear of offending their big campaign donors.

But those fears are actually groundless. The wealthy need not sacrifice. We all do well, when we all do well. Creating more and healthier customers expands the economic pie, meaning there’s more for everyone.

Think of the prosperity of the 1950’s and 1960’s, when income taxes on the very wealthy were much higher — an effective overall rate of around 50 percent, compared to today’s rock-bottom 15 percent.  So much was accomplished under Republican President Dwight Eisenhower, from free tuition at the best public universities to construction of the interstate highway system.

Today’s economic conditions are certainly different, but they still offer great promise. Computers, robotic automation, and off-shoring will continue to absorb good-paying jobs. But, remarkably, they also offer a much richer and less tedious life to us, if we create a system of job sharing supported by a greatly expanded EITC.  

Yes, we’re talking about a major change in the political rules, but, as the editorial warns, if we don’t act, things will continue to get worse. Joblessness and the struggle to make ends meet on stagnant or declining wages will increase, while the rich get richer, and “the pitchforks will eventually come out.” 

It’s time to wake up to this new, unsustainable reality and work together for a simple change in rules to benefit everyone.  We can start by watching the movie “Inequality for All” (on Netflix or library DVD) and studying the InequalityForAll.com and Inequality.org web sites. Then, we can begin the conversation around our kitchen tables and in our community, expanding it into a national drumbeat demanding that the politicians bring about prosperity and justice for all.

Marshall McComb

Baker City

The $15 minimum wage, and ‘Monopoly’ money

A government-mandated minimum wage of 15 bucks an hour sounds great, but when I see that figure I think of the stacks of money that come with a “Monopoly” game.

Especially those bruise-colored $500 bills.

It’s easy to insist that every worker should earn at least $15 an hour.

It’s also easy to plunk down $300 to buy Pacific Avenue.

In each case the money isn’t yours, and no dollar spends more effortlessly than the one you didn’t earn.

Letters to the Editor for Jan. 7, 2015

‘Needle little help’ for Earth’s climate

My son in LA sent me a link (http://chipperbound.tumblr.com/) to a former co-worker’s series of postcards built around used Christmas trees waiting at the curb for the garbageman. Beside the trees are cardboard signs with messages like, “Lost my job. Need help.” And my favorite “Needle little help.” 

Given the global warming crisis threatening mankind’s existence, maybe it’s time to quit cutting down all those trees. On the other hand, they’d probably be replaced by artificial trees made of plastic, which comes from, guess where, oil and coal. 

Oil and coal need to stay in the ground not spewed in our atmosphere as if it were a garbage dump. That’s the message of the world’s scientists and Naomi Klein’s new book, “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate Change.” 

If your readers don’t read the book, I suggest this New York Times book review by Rob Nixon: (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/09/books/review/naomi-klein-this-changes-everything-review.html?_r=0). His summarizing final sentence: “The result (of Klein’s book) is the most momentous and contentious environmental book since (Rachel Carson’s 1962 exposé about DDT) ‘Silent Spring.’ ”

Gary Dielman

Baker City

A football fan caught in radio limbo

Being an avid NFL (National Football League) fan. . . addict, I found myself in a nightmarish limbo upon moving to Baker City. First off I was denied the Dish Network due to the historic nature of my new home, a dish on the outside of the Baker tower was out of the question. We settled on cable, the only cable provider in the area?

My wife and I had  finally moved into the 21st century,  discarding our 1985 (200-pound) television and purchasing a brand new, 48-inch, state-of-the-art, HD (high definition) flat screen — all the bells and whistles — for our new world, therefore it should come as no surprise that we were semi-shocked when the “cable guy” informed us that HD was not available via cable in this area?

Well, OK — certainly not the end of the world — until... I discovered that the NFL network was not included in my, rather spendy, package –Yikes!

I did what any rabid football fan would do, I searched the radio waves for my Thursday night NFL football fix.. and.. Yes! I found it.. “There is a football god”.. or so I thought.

On Saturday, Dec. 20 there was a special Saturday edition of Thursday night football. I flipped on the radio and listened intently, as any true NFL fanatic would. 

It proved to be a very entertaining matchup, the Philadelphia Eagles (fighting for their playoff lives) against the Washington Redskins (nothing to play for but pride). It was back and forth the whole game, heading towards an exciting finish, anybody’s game.                              

So there I was, leaning in, listening intently to the announcers “Sanchez back to throw, scrambling” when my radio suddenly went dead.. and then.. “We welcome you to this week’s broadcast of La Grande High School girls basketball”?? And just like that — my National Football League game was gone!! , instantly replaced by La Grande girls basketball?

It was at this exact moment that I finally figured out,  “Michael, you’re not in Portland any more.”  

Mike Meyer

Baker City

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