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Big load not a big deal


The “megaload” that headed south from the Port of Umatilla Monday evening has attracted far more attention than it deserves, its monumental name notwithstanding.

The water purification machinery is being hauled by truck to a tar sands oil refining plant in Alberta, Canada.

The “mega” refers to the load’s size — 22 feet wide and 380 feet long. Because the load takes up most of a two-lane highway, the truck will travel at night. The route follows Highway 395 south to Highway 26 at Mount Vernon, then east on Highway 26 through Vale. About 25 miles of the route — from near Austin Junction through Unity to near Ironside — is in Baker County.


Letters to the Editor for Dec. 4, 2013


Preschool should be voluntary

With reference to Suzan Ellis Jones’ recent letter, I agree that establishing Early Learning Hubs in Baker is undesirable. As one of the few registered Libertarians around, I consider education — as well as healthcare — part of a belief system (religion) and as such protected under the First Amendment from federal intrusion. I consider compulsory education basically wrong. On the other hand, as someone once involved in founding a Montessori preschool when the concept was new in America and who is currently helping to send his grandchildren through preschool, I would like to promote the concept of modern preschool education which is voluntary and under parental direction.

Professional preschool education for children between the ages of 2 and 5 largely developed from the theories of European psychologists, particularly Jean Piaget and Maria Montessori. The general idea is:

1. Preschool children go through stages in development that vary widely in individual cases but follow in sequence, and are best addressed in a mixed age classroom;

2. Education is an active process in which the child is playing and adults are there to help them by providing play materials and options;

3. That there are two kinds of learning going on, social and individual:

• On the social side, language and morality is learned naturally through interaction, rather than by what we may try to instill

• On the individual side, while children cannot be taught abstract math and science directly at first, they are prepared for later learning through practicing motor skills encouraged by special learning materials provided

4. That early childhood is the most critical period to enhance an individual’s cognitive and social development.

What is happening now, for those who are fortunate to be able to afford it, is that these concepts are leading, seamlessly, into grade school and even high school education, usually under the rubric “Montessori.” 

The individual is driving his own education in his own direction after getting an early start. I think it more that anecdotal that the CEO’s of Google and Amazon.com received a Montessori education and didn’t feel the need to get a college degree. I also think that professional preschool facilities are largely lacking in Baker, and perhaps the county commissioners didn’t want to look a $50,000 gift horse in the mouth. 

The important thing is making preschool education based on the principles outlined above a priority in the overall budget. Full-day kindergarten can also be a vital step in that direction. 

Those who want to opt out of such programs for their children should be eligible for reimbursement or vouchers, to keep it entirely voluntary.

R. Mack Augenfeld is a Baker City resident. 

 

Early learning hubs all about feds supplanting parents

A notorious local liberal boasted in a recent letter to the editor that in “just a few minutes” he researched and rebutted the Oregon Republican Party’s stance on early learning by clicking just one link online. I’m not sure I’d brag about that. 

By contrast, the Baker County Republicans drafted and overwhelmingly voted for a resolution to join in the fight against early learning hubs, not on a whim, but after extensive research that included information from our State Attorney General, Rep. Cliff Bentz and other elected officials.

Early learning proponents don’t want parents to realize these hubs are Obamacare-spawned and designed as part of an enormous federal sweep to “bridge the gap between healthcare and education.” These hubs are far from innocuous one-stop-shops to help cut through government red tape, as seems to be the liberal talking point.

Hidden inside the “Affordable” Care Act is funding for these hubs. Obama wants several in every state. Funds are laundered through multiple agencies until their origin is obscured, but as with all federal dollars, these come with nasty strings attached, including the government “targeting all children” and visiting your home to analyze your child’s educational well-being. They include recommended hub placement of all children at infancy, and adherence to teaching methods for which parents and local instructors have little input, much like the big-government disaster that is Common Core. As for the money, the potential $50,000 grant wouldn’t even be managed in Baker County! And, the feds would have control of the thousands of match-funding tax dollars we’d be required to cough up locally.

I could list all the laws and departments that parents should research, but they’re too numerous to fit in this letter. Parents can go to www.BakerCountyRepublicans.com. In the news section, there is a full flow chart showing how everything ties together to make these hubs happen. Bigger government and increased socialism have no place inside our family units. It’s high time parents and our county commissioners not only “balked,” but fought hard, because the local hub issue is far from over.

Kerry McQuisten

Baker City

 


Golf course concerns


Quail Ridge Golf Course needs to open as usual next spring.

The city-owned 18-hole course is an important amenity not only for local residents, who have helped keep the course going with their tax dollars over the years, but as a tourist attraction.

That said, the city needs to be exceedingly careful in negotiating a contract with Bill Tiedemann, the only person to express an interest in managing the course and its restaurant and bar.


In a season of giving, don’t forget cats and dogs

By Carmen Ott

My name is Carmen Ott and I am a member of Best Friends of Baker Inc. I became involved with Best Friends of Baker in May 2005. I never realized how important it was to become involved with the rescue of cats and dogs in Baker County until I was asked to foster a dog.

Since that first dog, my husband and I have taken more than 200 dogs and cats into our home and fostered them from days to weeks and even months until they were ready to be adopted and placed in “forever” homes. 

As we sit here tonight in our warm home, we watch “Cole,” a young rescued pup as he sleeps with a full stomach and a clean bed, wondering how he would have survived the past four weeks had he not been rescued from Old Auburn Road. It makes us ask, “what makes people dump puppies, kittens, dogs and cats out in the cold without food, water or a warm place to sleep?” If you cannot keep a pet or need help finding a home for it, please ask for help from Best Friends of Baker before dumping it.

Best Friends of Baker is alive and well even though the past four years have been extremely difficult. The economy has taken its toll on Best Friend’s membership and finances. The donations are down, yet the demands of animal rescues have increased.

We are now dealing with pets whose owners have lost their homes, jobs and have no place to take their pets. People cannot afford to feed their family members and pets, so the pet must go, whether it is out on the street to be picked up by the police and taken to the impound facility, killed on the highways and freeways, or dumped at the end of lanes near farms and ranches to starve and freeze to death, or become a meal for cougars, coyotes, owls and eagles in the mountains.

Best Friends of Baker assists with the rescue and adoption placement of  surrendered family pets, stray cats and dogs and unclaimed dogs in the impound facility so that they do not have to face euthanasia.  These animals are placed in the few foster homes we have or are boarded until a foster home opens up or they find a “forever home.”

 Best Friends of Baker could care for more animals if they had more foster homes. Best Friends needs foster homes for large and small dogs and especially homes for cats and kittens. There are just two foster homes for cats at this time. Consequently many cats and kittens are not helped. They will starve and freeze to death because there is no place for them. Best Friends of Baker provides food, beds, bowls, collars and leashes for each animal so there is minimal cost to the foster home. The main requirement is the means to house the animal and to provide love and care for the animal until it is adopted.

 Best Friends of Baker has been rescuing animals since 1986; it was incorporated in 1989 when it became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. There are a lot of animals out there that need to be rescued. They do not deserve to die because there is nobody to provide care. Best Friends of Baker has rescued more than 2,000 cats and dogs from Baker County since 2005. We look to others in Baker County to continue to support and assist us to re-home, rescue, spay/neuter, vaccinate, treat medically, provide food, protect from abuse and neglect and find a “forever home.”

If you care, please remember that Best Friends is here to help. You can make a financial donation with a check to Best Friends of Baker, Inc., P.O. Box 183, Baker City, OR 97814.  You can make food donations for cats, kittens, puppies and adult dogs. You can make a memorial to someone who has passed away or make a donation as a personal gift to a loved one. Tax season is just around the corner. If you are looking for a donation for the end of 2013, please remember, Best Friends of Baker needs your support. 

If you cannot afford to make a monetary donation, perhaps you can provide a foster home which can make a difference in caring for an animal. The time spent in a foster home can make the difference in whether the animal lives and is adopted or dies because there is no place for it to be safe until it can be adopted. 

I have had two cancers and yet I continue to care about the animals in Baker County. My wellness and strength comes from giving myself to these animals. “My passion and compassion comes from within. I live because I give. I give because it makes me live.”

Please check out our newspaper ads, Petfinder.com and the Best Friends of Baker website to see the wonderful cats and dogs that are looking for “forever homes.”

 “He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog.  You are his life, his love, his leader.  He will be yours, faithful and true to the last beat of his heart.  You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion.”

— Author unknown

 Thank you for your support.


When the mountains were feared, not beloved

Like most towns Baker City lies in a valley, but this place, it seems to me, is defined by its mountains.

I use the possessive form here because cities tend to have a palpable pride of ownership in the peaks visible from their streets.

When you are blessed with mountains, and in particular with a truly imposing range such as the Elkhorns, you might as well flaunt them. And so we do, on T-shirts and postcards and coffee mugs among quite a lot of other items.

Nor is this trait peculiar to places of modest size.

Portland bills itself as the Rose City, but there can be no quarrel that its true icon is Mount Hood.

Hood’s volcanic sibling to the north, Mount Rainier, fulfills an equally symbolic role for Seattle.

Baker City’s affections are not so singular.

Our mountains more resemble the Rockies than the Cascades, which is to say there are long ridges from which an occasional peak juts, as opposed to the Cascades’ solitary, but spectacular, fire mountains.

We harbor perhaps a special love for the Elkhorns because they are so near to the west, forming a sedimentary wall that casts its shadow clear across the valley.

But we lay claim as well to the more distant, but indisputably magnificent, Wallowas, which sprawl over the whole of the northeastern horizon.

I have been thinking recently of mountains, and the way we feel about them, after reading Robert Macfarlane’s book “Mountains of the Mind.”

Macfarlane, a British travel writer and mountain climber, wrote the book a decade ago. I managed somehow to avoid the volume for all those years although I relish travelogues of all sorts, and in particular ones dealing with mountains and people who climb them.

(I would like nothing more than to be a travel writer but am afflicted by the insurmountable handicaps of never really going anywhere, or doing anything interesting when I get there.)

The gist of Macfarlane’s book is that modern society’s veneration of mountains, their purple majesty and all that, is, well, modern.

Until around the start of the 19th century many people at least feared, and in many cases acutely loathed, some of the world’s greatest mountain ranges.

Macfarlane, being a European, devotes much of his book to the Alps.

He writes of 17th century travelers whose descriptions of crossing Alpine passes bear a decidedly Tolkien flavor. These accounts, largely taken from contemporary diaries or journals, lament the frightful precipices, the awful blizzards, the utter absence of civilization.

You have a sense that these writers, if they actually believed such creatures as dragons exist, would not have been altogether surprised to come across one in the icy wastelands of Mont Blanc.

Macfarlane explains how science, and especially the budding field of geology, contributed to a wholesale reversal in our opinions about mountains.

Pioneering geologists such as the Scotsman James Hutton, and Charles Lyell, a Briton, came to recognize that by studying mountains and glaciers they could understand how the Earth’s surface had been formed — and moreover, reformed — over the eons.

Their writings encouraged people, most of whom were not scientists, to have a look for themselves.

When they left the sanctity of the valleys and they saw for the first time such awe-inspiring sights as the Mer de Glace or the Italian Dolomites, these visitors stopped worrying about ogres and started thinking about building chalets and cog railroads.

By the middle of the 19th century the Alps were, to the British aristocracy, what Vail and Sun Valley are to modern America’s upper class.

Writers and poets waxed rhapsodic about the sublime spectacles among the peaks.

Doctors touted the pure air as the ideal antidote for Londoners’ soot-stained lungs.

Alpinists, most of them Englishmen, breached summits long thought impregnable. In July 1865 Edward Whymper of London led a party to the top of the most famous peak of all, the Matterhorn.

(Although four of the seven climbers plunged to their deaths on the descent. Whymper and two others were saved when the rope connecting all the climbers snapped.)

Macfarlane’s book intrigued me because I can’t imagine standing in my yard, watching a snow squall sweep across the face of Elkhorn Peak, and feeling anything but ebullient at my good fortune to have such beauty so accessible.

That I might dread the mountains is a concept so foreign as to be beyond my ken.

Yet there was much in “Mountains of the Mind” that seemed familiar.

In particular I felt a kinship with those of Macfarlane’s subjects whose love of the mountains is broad and complex, who are equally entranced by sunlight exploding off a glacier’s surface and by the immensity of time represented in a band of layered stone.

Sometimes when I look at the Elkhorns I see them as objects to ogle. Science seems a minor matter in that moment when the alpenglow slides its pink brush across the slopes, at dawn of a January day when the temperature has plummeted below zero.

At other glances I am overwhelmed by the colossal scale, both in size and in time, that the mountains represent.

I ponder the forces required to move slabs of tropical seafloor thousands of miles — the great upheavals that elevated them and the ice that sculpted the great slabs into pinnacles from which, on a fair day, you can see parts of three states.

Mountains, to borrow Macfarlane’s title, are indeed often on my mind.

And, I hope, they will never be far from my eyes.

Jayson Jacoby is editor of the Baker City Herald. 


Letters to the Editor for Nov. 27, 2013


Early Learning Hub warnings a scare tactic

In reading Suzan Ellis Jones’ guest opinion in local newspapers last week, I’m reminded of the fairy tale that includes the warning, “The sky is falling. The sky is falling.”  So, what is the impending calamity?  Our children, Jones claims, are about to be ruined by Early Learning Hubs. 

It would be “irresponsible,” writes Jones, “to sell out our babies for a $50,000 grant” that would subject the little children to state interference “from birth to kindergarten.” Somewhere she read — she doesn’t say where — that early involvement has had a negative effect on kiddies’ lives in Russia, China, Germany, Austria, and Cuba. “Talk to anyone who experienced early learning in these countries and they will tell you it changed the family unit.” Yet Jones quotes not one person she’s talked to.

Jones boasts that the Baker County Republican Central Committee, of which she is chairperson, has “researched this issue for months.” 

Well, it took me just a few minutes online to discover that Oregon’s Compulsory School Attendance law does not require school attendance of any child under the age of eight (ORS 339.010). So, even if Baker County had an Early Learning Hub offering free services to children from birth to kindergarten, the state has no authority to require parents to use the services.  Even kindergarten attendance is not mandatory in Oregon.

Jones will say her committee already knows all that, but shouts out another “the sky is falling” warning. Obama wants to make ELH’s “mandatory.” Yet she cites not one authority for that statement.

Nor does Jones tell the reader anything about the services ELH’s would provide. Nevertheless, she admonishes that ELH’s would “interfere with the bonding of the child with their (sic) family,” which would screw up “family custom and culture.” That scare tactic was used years ago by opponents of kindergartens. Well, we all know how empty that “sky is falling” warning was. In School District 5J, which offers non-compulsory kindergarten, there is almost 100 percent voluntary participation on the part of families with kindergarten-age children.

Gary Dielman

Baker City

A president’s death, and an uncertain future

Thank you for the commemorative issue on Nov. 22, the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. Surprisingly, I read very little of it, since I was a college sophomore at the time, and don’t recall that 1963 date so much as an event but rather as part of an era.

My generation was the one where grade and middle schoolers were exposed to the “duck and cover” ads as a means of surviving a nuclear attack. We witnessed, via TV, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev banging his shoe on the table at the UN and announcing that “We will bury you!” We saw the much touted American Vanguard missile, set to launch the first artificial satellite into orbit topple over on its launch pad, and a little later watched the Soviet Sputnik orbit high above our heads.

Then Kennedy defeated Nixon, everything seemed brighter and the world loved our First Lady.

The Bay of Pigs. The Cuban Missile Crisis. Strange news and unfamiliar names showing up on newspaper front pages.  Names like Madame Nhu, Viet Cong, Hanoi, Saigon.

We young college men, all of draft age, grew increasingly nervous. Loveless marriages were entered to avoid the draft.  The draft was universal back then and unless we were missing an arm or a leg and could prove it to the draft board,  or get a deferment, we would soon be marching, saluting and...dying.

Against this backdrop came Nov. 22, 1963. The first rumor I heard was that Bobby and Jackie Kennedy had been shot, but the truth finally emerged.  The president was dead.

Classrooms sat empty that afternoon and the next day’s finals cancelled.  It was standing room only in places with a television as we sorted through the seemingly unending reports from Cronkite, Rather, Huntley and Brinkley, and many more. We watched the funeral parade, witnessed the quiet dignity of Mrs. Kennedy, smiled at John-John’s salute to his father, as we fought back our tears.

We had a new president now, and we braced ourselves for a future we had not before envisioned.

John Sublett

Baker City


Homeless or not, kids need help


The word “homeless,” which conjures awful scenes of people shivering next to a sewer grate, seems worse still when applied to students.

A recent report from the state that counts 94 Baker County students — all but two in the Baker School District — as homeless is troubling to be sure.

But the situation is not as dire as the bare statistics suggest.

Most important, the state doesn’t define a “homeless” student as one who lives on the streets.


Full-day kindergarten a vital step


The Baker School Board has started discussing a vital topic — full-day kindergarten — and the board’s measured approach is appropriate.

All board members agree that full-day kindergarten would benefit Baker students.

Education experts say all-day kindergarten classes are crucial in helping kids read at grade level by the third grade. The importance of reaching that goal can’t be underestimated.


Personal stories the guide to one day in Dallas

By Jayson Jacoby

Baker City Herald Editor 

I went back in time this week and what a curious journey it was.

My destination was a day rather than a place.

Nov. 22, 1963.

Until Sept. 11, 2001, and with the exception of the monumental events that attended the nation’s birth in the 1770s, it was perhaps the singular day in American history.

For many people, including some of those who served as my tour guides, I suspect that that day, when president John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, retains its unique status in their memories even after the terrorist attacks a dozen years ago.

I talked with several people who were in Baker that November day. Most were high school students.

Fifty years is a considerable span, of course.

Call this period by its other name — half century — and it seems longer still.


The days when we truly unite

They are the days, some tragic and some triumphant, that make the “United” in “United States” more than a political slogan.

They are exceedingly rare, these days.

A compelling case can be made that America has experienced just three such days in the past half century.

One of those happened exactly 50 years ago today — Nov. 22, 1963, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.

On July 20, 1969, the nation again watched, equally transfixed but this time by joy and awe rather than sadness, as Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the moon.

On Sept. 11, 2001, we looked on, incredulous, as the Twin Towers crumpled.

What these days have in common, besides engraving their scenes in our collective memory, is that each almost instantly suppressed the grievances and societal debates that characterize our free society.

We shared, however briefly, an experience that elevated our commonality as Americans above our party affiliations or political beliefs.

We get back to bickering, of course.

This annoys us at times, to be sure.

But would we really prefer a different system?

We rail against the seemingly juvenile obstinance in Congress, and wonder why we ever elected these bozos.

But ultimately we appreciate that we can replace the bozos if they finally exceed our patience, that we can influence the direction of our country.

It’s unfortunate that a monumental tragedy sometimes is needed to remind us of these truths.

But on days such as today, when we remember one of these terrible events — one now two generations in our past — perhaps we can muster just a bit of that national unity.

We can resume our important arguments about Obamacare and other matters tomorrow. But for today we ought to celebrate America, and Americans.


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