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Water talks in the open


In the wake of Baker City’s crypto outbreak, our elected city councilors have a responsibility to make sure that city employees responsible for the water system are doing their jobs competently, in order to prevent another public health crisis.

Unfortunately, the City Council’s public “work session” last Thursday accomplished little except to further confuse city residents who already have more questions than answers about this summer’s unprecedented contamination of their drinking water.

During that meeting councilors talked about the tone of emails they have received, apparently written by other councilors, dealing with alleged mistakes made by city staff.

Councilor Kim Mosier described the language of these emails as “hostile.”

Councilor Barbara Johnson deemed the missives “mean-spirited."

 

Letter to the Editor for Sept. 2, 2013


Struggle for true equality continues

Here we are in the conversation of race and opportunity once again — for one week at least. One cannot help but be moved by the recent commemoration of the Rev. Dr. King’s dream speech, and the remembrance it freshens of people united in support of equality. 

This was underscored by the words of the first African-American president, and others, reflecting on those times and inspiring the present.

It occurs to me to consider networking in relation to the topics of race and opportunity. It can begin in college or the workplace when individuals make important connections where they will gain support and camaraderie for their pursuits. In the sphere of Ivy League whites, those contacts can be as effectively powerful as a zoom drive into credentials and wealth. When “race” is recognized as culture, then the European-American propensity toward meetings with agendas, where the majority rules, can slam directly against the traditions of other races. By example, the culture of some African-Americans would often rather talk on the doorstep, or drop into a kitchen over food to discuss and conclude informally and friendly-like. The traditional ways of the indigenous nation-tribes would still rather meet in council, letting everyone be heard, sticking to the task until it’s done, or coming together yet another day till all are satisfied. On Earth, long before dictators and complex civilizations, communities came together to make decisions. Occupations, talents and strengths differed, but all were equal. While equality may seem relatively new, it is also very old ... it’s just been a long time that the rights of kings ran beyond reason, and the status quo trumped compassion.

How can equality live strong when a long-dominant race refuses to accept the other races’ traditions, and the dominant way is expected as the only way? How will equality look when the once-dominant becomes the minority, and tightens its already uncomfortable grip on banks, commissions and other realms of power? And what happened to consensus-building?

“Eternal vigilance is the price we pay for liberty,” wrote Jefferson. Yours, mine and ours. To my mind vigilance is more attentive than armed.

Linda Bergeron

Halfway

 

Stay out of Syria’s civil war


After more than a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, we’re distressed that Americans need even to consider the possibility that a single member of our military will die or be injured while intervening in Syria’s civil war.

The notion that an attack in Syria by the U.S. and other western allies is the only, or even the best, way to prevent the further use of chemical weapons in that war seems to us an illogical one.

To be sure, diplomatic alternatives offer no guarantee of success, either.

 

Oh, summer: Or, the car sun visor as calendar

A car’s sun visor, it turns out, makes for a pretty effective facsimile of a calendar.

I had a week’s vacation recently and so was afforded the great luxury, but for an occasional early-rising child, to tack on an extra hour or so of sleep each day.

And so it came as a surprise — not a shock, exactly, but in the ballpark — when I awoke on the Monday of my return in a bedroom that seemed to me as dark as a mine tunnel.

I thought at first that I had awakened a couple of hours early, a sort of overreaction to my reacquaintance with the working world.

But as I squinted at the clock radio, trying to bring its red numbers into a brief, blurry focus (I have the approximate eyesight, without my glasses or contact lenses, of a cataractic bat), I saw that it was 5:20 a.m.

Right on time, in other words.

(Or, more aptly, wrong on time. I’m not one of those people who literally jumps from bed, eager to attack the new day as though it’s an advancing soldier with bayonet fixed. My habits are more akin to those of a sloth. I emerge from the covers always slowly, always with great reluctance and, not infrequently, with outright dread.)

The reality, though, of how far summer had waned during my time off seemed especially acute a bit later, as I turned my car from 15th Street onto Auburn and headed east.

My left hand, acting in the rote way of a habit long-ingrained, reached for the visor that keeps the rising sun from temporarily blinding me and jeopardizing my fellow travelers on Auburn, including squirrels in the barrow pit and ducks crossing to get to Settlers Slough. (I don’t know why chickens cross the road, but the slough is why ducks, most generally, cross Auburn.)

At that moment I realized that the only light was coming not from 93 million miles away, but rather from my own headlights, which are considerably closer, though less bright.

(Our Buick, though a dozen years old, has several nifty features, including headlights that turn on, and off, automatically.)

There was a silvery glow on the eastern horizon, just enough to reveal the silhouettes of the Wallowas’ high peaks, but it was clear that the sun would not cleave the hills for another half an hour or so.

My hand dropped back to the steering wheel and I went on my way.

I relish this time of year because my favorite season, autumn, has begun to insinuate itself.

And its ascendancy is revealed in ways other than the lingering gloom of morning.

That Monday — actually it was this Monday, Aug. 26 — brought an autumnal chill as well. I briefly considered retrieving my light jacket from the bedpost but decided to leave it be, in deference to the forecast for a high of 86.

A couple days earlier I went for a hike on Black Mountain, just to the south of Phillips Reservoir. Although the day rode the border between warm and hot the air was also quite hazy, infused with smoke from the massive wildfire near Yosemite National Park, and it reminded me powerfully of late summers on the eastern fringe of the Willamette Valley where I grew up.

Farmers raised an awful lot of grass seed in those parts — indeed, they still do.

What they don’t do much of these days is burn the stubble fields after the harvest.

Back in the 1970s and ’80s, though, seed-growers torched thousands of acres of fields each summer, creating a miasma that, on most days, turned my street into a scene fitting for shooting a documentary about Jack the Ripper.

(Except for the absence of cobblestones. And Cockney accents. And serial murderers.)

Notwithstanding the damage this pall must have done to my lungs (I had only a passing understanding of the respiratory system anyway) I enjoyed those murky days because they foretold, as reliably as the acquisition of a couple new pairs of Tuffskin jeans from Sears, the coming of the school year and the bracing days of fall.

As I stood beside Black Mountain’s cairn-topped summit I detected the old tang of distant combustion on the air and felt refreshed, as you do when a pleasant memory of childhood comes suddenly clear.

I don’t begrudge summer.

This year’s version, although more than a trifle dry and dusty, was rather a pleasant one, a bit warmer than usual but quite nicer than the torrid season Boise residents endured, where just a handful of days since the solstice haven’t reached the 90-degree mark.

But the smoke, and the slight chill before dawn, promised better times, hinted at those crystalline days at the edge of winter when the tamaracks gleam and the dusk comes early and cold and the light from a familiar window, seen at a distance in the gloaming, can bring water to the eyes.

Jayson Jacoby is editor
of the Baker City Herald. 

 

Letters to the Editor for Aug. 28, 2013


Pointing out Catholic history is not bigotry

In a letter to the editor dated April 11, 2012, Jerry Boyd wrote that Dr. Barbara Tylka “is absolutely wrong when she states that a position regarding contraception is not part of Church dogma” and cites a Papal encyclical to prove his point.  Yet he admits that there are many bishops and priests who have “failed their obligation to show obedience” to the Pope’s position on contraception. 

In my letter to the editor of July 17, 2013, I guessed that based on his letter, if Jerry Boyd had lived in the time of Galileo, he would have agreed with the Church’s condemnation of Galileo, which I compared to Boyd’s poo-pooing global warming science as a “scam.”

Boyd’s wife, Jay, takes exception to the comparison and calls it bigotry in her letter to the editor of July 22, 2013. 

 I do not consider it bigotry when I criticize the Church’s sentencing of Galileo to home confinement for the rest of his life (eight years) for saying that the Bible’s concentric view of the world was bad science. Galileo was right and the Inquisition and Church were flat out wrong. It took the Church several centuries to officially apologize for its unfair treatment of one of the most revered scientists in history.

Jay Boyd admonishes me to “Do the research!” implying that I got the history and conflict between Galileo and the Church wrong. What’s wrong with her version of the controversy is that she conveniently leaves out the part concerning what the Inquisition and the Pope did to Galileo for speaking truth to power.  

Like her husband, Jay Boyd believes in following official Catholic doctrine. “That is the nature of being Catholic!”  Oh, really! When it comes to artificial means of birth control — condoms and pills — most Catholic women pay no attention to the Church’s teachings. In a Gallup pole last year, 82 percent of Catholics (and 90 percent of non-Catholics) considered birth control “morally acceptable.” And 98 percent of Catholic women admit to having used a non-natural method of contraception on at least one occasion during their reproductive years, contrary to Church dogma.

Gary Dielman

Baker City

Elk Creek rancher takes responsibility seriously

In regards to the Aug. 21 Baker City Herald article “Water boil order removed,” it seemed to me some basic information might be helpful. It’s stated in the article, “cattle roam Elk Creek area.” This is true. Our ranch includes Elk Creek from Highway 7 upstream to the city watershed boundary. If you drive roads in this area you will probably see cattle some time during the summer. We do not run cattle in the Baker City watershed. There is, and has been since 1982, a fence along the Forest Service grazing boundary and the city watershed. Prior to 1982 the fence extended only from Stub Ridge to Elk Creek. Now it includes Section 6 ridge to Elk Creek.

These are three-wire drift fences designed so game can jump then, but good enough to turn cattle. Maintenance is not the responsibility of the city or the Forest Service. It is the responsibility of the permittee — yours truly — who grazes the cattle. Being responsible for the fence maintenance, as well as the cattle grazing, I can tell you this: The fencing was done. The cattle, during the time of this crypto outbreak, were in the California Gulch pasture. They are now in the Blue Canyon/Auburn area with some that have drifted north to Elk Creek. While three pair did briefly enter the watershed last week below the diversion they were removed quickly since when I got the call I was nearby and horseback. The fence where they entered was fixed immediately. I have what I consider a good relationship with the city water folks. If they see cattle, or signs of cattle, I respond as soon as possible.

In 2012 the gate below the Elk Creek water diversion was left open by people. The pile of Keystone beer cans and garbage they left was the evidence. This happened around the Fourth of July and scattered cattle all over the head of Elk Creek to Washington Gulch. This manure would be white and dry this year. From what I understand crypto is spread by contact with wet feces.

My family takes our ranch duties and work seriously. It is how we make a living. We, like our town friends and neighbors, are concerned about this sickness and hope it never happens again. Finding the exact cause might be very difficult.

My two cents? The carrier is more likely a raven or predator than a ruminant animal, wild or domestic.

Don Foster

Baker City

City needs to set aside money for water plant

The city was telling us not to drink their water (good advice!) for the many months until they get either a UV or a filtering plant installed. But they are still billing us at the full rate for this undrinkable water.

In the normal manner of such things the city will continue billing at full rate for water we mustn’t drink until the plant is built, then lay a large levy on us to pay for the plant.

It seems to me that instead, the city (and we consumers) could and should prepay this plant (or a large part of it) by setting aside a portion of the city’s water receipts (nominally representing the water we don’t drink) through these months for that purpose. Doing this would, if not eliminate the need for a levy, greatly reduce the size and cost of whatever levy is still needed. And also make the aforesaid continuing full billing seem greatly more fair.

It may be this idea just needs to be taken up with the next Council meeting.

Dan Martin

Sumpter Stage Highway

 

Crypto: Next steps


We might never solve the mystery of Baker City’s cryptosporidium outbreak.

Which is to say, we might never know where, and when, enough of the parasite got into the water to make hundreds of people sick.

That’s just the nature of this tiny beast.

The problem is that crypto is potentially present in many kinds of mammal poop. And given that the city obtains its water from a 10,000-acre swatch of forest which is home to thousands of animals, all of which defecate, finding the smoking gun, as it were, is rather unlikely.

But of course city officials are hardly powerless.

There are tasks the city can undertake that would either reduce the risk of future crypto outbreaks, or protect the water in case another big dose of the protozoa enters the system.

 

Five simple words told the story then & now

The U.S. Forest Service during the past half century lost much of its ability to explain what it’s doing, or what it intends to do, in simple words and pithy phrases.

Which of course hardly makes the agency unique among departments of the federal government, that legendary purveyor of documents sometimes measured in pounds rather than in pages.

I came across a yearly report from the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest a while back that seems to me curiously quaint and innocent.

Even if the paper weren’t going yellow with age, and even if the year — 1962 — weren’t printed on its cover, you’d recognize after a few pages that this is the product of a vastly different era.

In that distant age, when few Americans could find Vietnam on a map, and writing “beatles” would drag down your spelling grade, the Forest Service needed just five words to explain its purpose.

“Wood.”

“Water.”

“Forage.”

“Wildlife.”

“Recreation.”

That still covers things nicely, so far as I can tell.

Yet this admirable brevity was as surely doomed as the eight-track tape and psychedelic rock.

The syntactic unraveling had progressed quite a ways even by 1990. I chose that year mainly because it’s when the Wallowa-Whitman published its most recent forest plan, which is a sort of guide for how the 2.4 million acres will be managed.

In 1990, “recreation” had bloated into “Recreation Opportunity Spectrum,” a gain of two words and 19 letters but with no obvious increase in information.

If anything, the three-word version is apt to confuse rather than enlighten a reader.

“Wood,” which was understood in 1962 to mean mainly commercial timber but also firewood, had morphed by 1990 into such clumsy, impenetrable constructions as “maximum implementable levels of timber harvest under a nondeclining flow schedule.”

Now I’ll concede that the Forest Service’s task is considerably more complicated today (and in 1990) than in 1962.

In 1962 the National Environmental Policy Act was seven years in the future. That law requires the Forest Service, and other federal agencies, to study the possible environmental effects of everything from big timber sales to replacing little bridges, and then to publish the findings. The resulting tomes can run to hernia-inducing heft.

1962 also predates the Wilderness Act (1964), the Endangered Species Act (1973), the National Forest Management Act (1976) and doubtless much other legislation that has prompted the Forest Service to become such a prodigious producer of words.

And given that federal laws are the antithesis of lucid communication, it’s hardly surprising that the predilection for larding reports with jargon has infected the Forest Service.

Still and all, the Wallowa-Whitman’s 1962 report proves that federal employees can give an accounting of what they’ve been up to for the past year and to do so employing terms and statistics that any competent reader can grasp at a glance.

This makes for interesting reading, too, particularly as a comparison with current conditions.

The greatest disparity, as you’d probably guess, is in the amount of logging.

In 1962 the Wallowa-Whitman sold 178 million board-feet of timber, and loggers cut 117.5 million board-feet. Another 246.8 million board-feet had been sold and was awaiting the chain saws.

By the standards of the past 20 years, those figures seem almost mythical in their immensity.

Since 1991, the Wallowa-Whitman’s top year for selling timber was 1992, when the total was 79 million board-feet. The second-highest was 54 million board-feet, and in most years during that period the forest sold less than 40 million board-feet.

I think it’s beyond dispute that the 1962 figures, which actually accelerated during the 1970s and 1980s, could not have been sustained until now. The Wallowa-Whitman had cut much of the mature ponderosa pines that made those big volumes possible.

Yet it seems to me that the drastic decline in logging that started in 1991 was more precipitous than can be justified solely by the federal mandates that the Wallowa-Whitman protect salmon, steelhead and other species.

It’s as if the forest, confronted by an aggressive environmental movement flush with the success of the spotted owl protection in westside forests, was afflicted with a malaise.

But it’s a single photograph in the 1962 report, not the several accompanying charts of logging statistics, that strikes me as the most striking difference, in attitude if not actual result, between then and now.

That photo shows a logger putting the back cut in a old growth ponderosa, probably 30 inches or better in girth.

They don’t cut pines like that on the Wallowa-Whitman these days, or at least not often. And the forest certainly doesn’t boast of the practice in photographs.

The other section of the 1962 that I read with particular interest has to do with roads.

During that year, timber buyers built 130 miles of roads on the Wallowa-Whitman, and the Forest Service constructed five miles.

Forest engineers also surveyed 170 miles of new roads, and designed 94 miles.

These days, as is obvious to anyone who has so much as a passing interest in the Wallowa-Whitman, the main issue is which roads ought to be closed to motor vehicles. The notion of building new ones, aside from an occasional short temporary road needed to haul logs, is at best an afterthought.

The 1962 report also rebuts the idea, which seems to me to be relatively common, that the Wallowa-Whitman’s network of roads is nearly as old as the Forest Service (founded in 1905) itself, that in the main we ply the same roads our forebears did five or six generations ago.

In fact, hundreds of miles of roads have been built during the past 50 years, a necessary part of the sustained logging during the first half of that period.

Roads, of course, as an integral part of one of those five words that constituted the Forest Service’s motto in 1962: “recreation.”

As the report from that year shows, Wallowa-Whitman users had reason to be optimistic about their ability in coming years to get around the forest in a rig.

This is what some people mean when they talk about “the good old days.”

Jayson Jacoby is editor
of the Baker City Herald. 

 

Letters to the Editor for August 23, 2013

Community should work together to fix water issue

Thank goodness that we are finally out of a very difficult situation with our water.  Fortunately, our community came together, as we usually do, to make the best of things. 

I heard no complaints, only commiseration for those who became ill. Thanks to the quick response of the people at the City, County, and State to this emergency, we avoided a worse crisis. Now, let’s all work together going forward to make sure this doesn’t happen again. 

We are blessed with wonderful water here.

Barbara Johnson

Baker City

Early Learning Hub is not what Baker needs

President Barack Obama has found a devious way to skip Congress and spend money on his obsession with early learning programs. Obama bypassed Congress using the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) to temporally Fund Universal Preschool, and birth to 5 Early Learning Hubs. Oregon HB 2013 gave communities an “option” to apply for these Hubs but left them unfunded and solely reliant on grants funded by ObamaCare. Following in the President’s footsteps the Baker 5J School District then bypassed the governing school board and submitted an application requesting a hub to be placed at the North Baker Building.

During an interview with The Daily Caller Rick Hess, Director of Education Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, cautioned about accepting Obamacare grants. “But if they do, they will find themselves having to raise the funds for preschool programs themselves after the grants run out,” Hess said.

One of the disturbing requirements about an Early Learning Hub coming to Baker County is the requirement of targeting “all” families in the name of ObamaCare.

 “(d) Target, at a minimum, all first birth families in the county prenatal families and families with children less than three months of age and provide services through at least the child’s third birthday” Oregon HB 2013 Section 6(3)d.

I am confident that families in the county do not want to be “targeted” by Obamacare, DHS and Baker 5J through an Early Learning Hub. Families are quite capable of raising their kids without government intervention.

As a retirement community with a low-birth population, we simply cannot afford services that are redundant to the services we already provide, and that are not in demand. We already have adequate private and public services for families that need extra assistance.

Bringing a hub to Baker County will damage our locally owned preschools and church programs by replacing them with a universal one-size-fits-all system under the shadow of the Obamacare. As a community we should encourage our local representatives to reject an Early Learning Hub from coming to Baker County by withdrawing the application to the state.  We can stop this. 

Kyle Knight

Director 

Baker 5J School District

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Letter to the Editor August 21, 2013

It’s a shame that plantings were allowed to wither

In the spring a group of individuals spent a goodly amount of time and money planting shrubs along the Leo Adler Pathway between the Kirkway bridge on up to the Hughes Bridge. In walking this route the past few months I’ve noticed that these plantings have not been taken care of. The cages that were to support the new growth have been overtaken by tumbleweeds and other weed invaders. A goodly percentage of these plantings have completely withered, turned brown and died. I have not seen evidence that these plantings have been watered or cared for in any way. It is such a shame to think of the dollars spent on plants and supplies only to be forgotten or left to their own devices.

 The only signs of healthy plantings are along the river at the park where watering is done on a regular basis. 

 Perhaps the money spent on this project could have been put to a better use  such as cleaning up our water supply.

Marcia Cook

Baker City

 

Letters to the Editor for August 19, 2013

Don Phillips has always offered to help others

Don Phillips is not a child molester! He should have gone on to the trial but felt enough time and money had been spent.

Don is a kind father and grandfather. He has always been a civic-minded businessman and family man, volunteering, donating and helping others always — not the cunning predator the “appalled” woman would have you believe.

June Bowen

Baker City

 
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