Alcohol and summer festivals.
The combination can be a volatile one.
But this summer, in Baker City, it wasn’t.
On successive weekends we welcomed thousands of visitors, first for the Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally, then for Miners Jubilee.
A larger-than-usual contingent of local police patrolled during both events but the officers spent more time talking to people than putting on handcuffs.
The police presence is partly responsible for the relative tranquility, of course.
And in the case of the beer garden that’s part of the festivities surrounding the annual bull and bronc riding events, a series of protocols agreed upon by the organizers and Baker City Police Chief Wyn Lohner — including requiring a minimum number “alcohol monitors,” who try to ensure people don’t overindulge — no doubt helped to curb problems.
Ultimately, though, we give the lion’s share of the credit to people who imbibed, but not to excess.
Moreover, almost everyone who drank alcohol chose not to drive a vehicle. Baker City Police arrested only one person for drunken driving during Miners Jubilee weekend, and Lohner said there was no evidence that person had attended any events related to the Jubilee.
We don’t mean to imply that people shouldn’t always be thoughtful, law-abiding citizens.
Nonetheless, it’s refreshing to see that major events, which inevitably involve alcohol, needn’t devolve into ugly, and potentially dangerous, scenes.
Predators are getting the upper hand on people
This letter may seem a little vindictive, but as I watch the Portland news about cougars I can’t help being a little amused.
I grew up in Eastern Oregon. I am now 88. My father ran a band of sheep in the Wallowa Mountains and had to contend with cougars coming into his sheep camp on a nightly basis and killing his sheep. At that time there was a rancher in the area that kept hounds. This rancher kept the cougar population down by hunting with hounds.
Of course at that time there were no animal rights groups to declare this inhumane or to say that we were invading the cougars’ territory. They did the same with the coyote. Now these animals are not even afraid of humans. These predators are killing the deer and elk so much that many people don’t even bother to go hunting any more. In a lot of rural areas the deer have moved into towns to seek food and protection.
The wolves have also become a problem. A few years ago a local rancher was plagued with wolves killing his calves and sheep at birth. He was not allowed to hunt and kill this predator to save his livestock. He would have been fined had he killed the culprit.
People can no longer enjoy camping, fishing, hiking or even a day of picking berries without the fear of what might be stalking them for dinner. Citizens of rural Oregon are very disgusted with the radical animal rights groups that do not understand the day-to-day operations of ranching, stopping to think where the food they are consuming came from. Protecting these animals causes an overpopulation and throws off the natural balance. Lo and behold, when the food the cougars are hunting runs out or stars to take shelter in our towns, where do you think the predators are going to start to look fro food next?
It could be your back porch.
Sacking of mayor another predictable mess
Hooray for Bill Ward, citizen I presume, and fellow thinker in the “I think I smell a rat” pack. For reasons I do not understand I too watched that Baker City Council debacle that started off intelligently and then took a really foul tack, obviously at the direction of two said councilors. Having read an account of the drift being taken and having experienced this same kind of nefarious treatment in parts of my life I knew what was in the offing, and wasn’t surprised when it came unzipped.
Bill asked, “Will we ever have a Council that will learn to respect and disagree at the same time” — and based on my extraordinarily short time of living here (21 years) I have truly seen some strange goings on at the city level, from the mysterious disappearance of a Sunday Portland Oregonian gang of papers, but containing an ugly article on our fair city, city manager sackings, recall activity and now this odd defrocking of the current mayor, aided and abetted by what seems to be ethereal reasoning on the part of the aforementioned gang of four.
I am also a fan of what I call the gang of six fervent and forever negative contributors to this column. I think of them as our exhaustingly persistent crew of boo birds, forever haranguing the efforts of our federally elected government leaders any time they, the BBs see something that doesn’t pass their muster, but what? Where were they with their cutting edge wisdom in this matter. Nowhere, not one of them showed up for muster, so I’ll have to surmise they saw nothing untoward in this dismissal of the now ex-mayor.
Councilor Coles referred to it being akin to a foreign nation coup, to which I disagree. I see it as a misplaced Mississippi lynching.
A couple days after four of his colleagues on the Baker City Council stripped him of his title, former Mayor Richard Langrell told Herald reporter Pat Caldwell that he would “sit there and be quiet with my hands folded and be a rubber stamp like the other four.”
We hope Langrell’s tongue was stuck in his cheek.
We’re pretty sure it was in the vicinity, anyway.
His constituents didn’t elect him to represent them as a rubber stamp, a metaphor for an elected official who never questions the majority opinion.
And a year and a half into his four-year term, Langrell hasn’t exactly been a malleable councilor.
Twice in this space earlier this year we urged Langrell to resign as mayor because we don’t think it’s appropriate that he remain, in effect, the face of the city while he’s suing the city trying to reclaim water and sewer fees he paid. But we also want him to stay on as councilor because he’s an effective representative for a significant percentage of city residents.
Langrell has been a vocal and consistent questioner of the city’s spending priorities — especially related to employees’ wages and benefits, the largest chunk of the city’s budget.
He also has been a persistent critic of the city’s somewhat sluggish response in repairing a fence designed to keep cattle from getting into the watershed that supplies drinking water to the city’s 10,000 residents.
Both are vital issues that deserve a vigorous debate among councilors, not a mild consensus.
Our carbon appetite threatens the air we breathe
For the past several hundred million years that part of the Earth above the water has been blanketed with plant life. These plants inhale carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen. The oxygen made animal life possible, when it came along, to exist here also.
It is a good thing for animals such as ourselves that plants separate carbon dioxide into its two elements and lock up the carbon part. For something sinister, for animals, happens when carbon dioxide accumulates in the air above a certain concentration.
Were it not for the great green carbon sink blanketing the Earth and soaking up the carbon dioxide, the air would become too hot for animals to live in. We can be thankful we have this green blanket that keeps up with the naturally produced carbon dioxide and keeps our air ocean habitable.
Or did, at least until we invented autos and planes and diesel locomotives and coal-fired power plants, all of which use carbon for fuel and dump carbon dioxide as waste into the air we all breathe. And for the fuel we keep needing, we dig up the carbon the plants locked up millions of years ago.
At first it made no detectable difference. There were not nearly so many of us so there were but a few of the machines. But we became so numerous and we found so many adaptations for these carbon-fueled engines, all the while mindlessly cutting down our forests and paving over and otherwise reducing the size of the green blanket we depend upon to clean that air, that we have overwhelmed its cleaning capacity. Now there is an excess of carbon dioxide in our air ocean. That excess is heating the great air ocean, which is heating the vast salt oceans. And these in turn are changing our weather. It is well underway.
We get all excited, as we should of course, and promptly do something about it when we find a little cow poop in Elk Creek but go right on dumping the stuff that is going to exterminate us into our only breathing air.
On the first morning of my first job in Baker I was late because I went to the wrong place.
This was a quarter century ago, in late June of 1989. The town was no larger and no more bustling than it is today so I can’t blame anything but my own stupidity for the mistake.
I wasn’t even driving, so traffic wasn’t a factor, either (not that traffic is ever much of a factor in getting from one place to another in Baker).
It was, though, I’d argue, a plausible bit of blundering on my part.
The job was with the Forest Service’s Baker Ranger District. At that time the ranger station was a building at the northwest corner of Pocahontas Road and 10th Street (the building is still there; it’s the Oregon State Police office now).
So that’s where I went.
What I didn’t know then is that the Forest Service owns another complex of buildings at 11th and H.
That’s where I was supposed to go.
Can’t we have a City Council that works for the city?
I have been asked many times by various citizens to run for City Council. Now I would like to make public my reasons for not running.
I can’t remember in my 33 years living here a single city council that wasn’t dysfunctional in one way or another. The citizens vote for what they perceive to be citizens interested in representing the city as a whole in matters of importance. What we always end up with sadly is several worthy council members doing exactly that, and a few that bring their own personal agenda that serves them and not the citizens.
This current Council is case in point. The citizens voted for the councilors, and as the paper pointed out the citizens have no vote as to who is chosen mayor. But each voter realizes one of the seven would be elected mayor and therefore we wouldn’t vote for any councilor we felt would be inadequate in the job.
Unfortunately, four councilors felt that rather than wait for the seating of a new City Council in order to pick a new mayor they would vote Richard out now.
Will we ever have a Council that will learn to respect and disagree at the same time, and the key word here is respect. We have four councilors that like children when the game doesn’t go their way, they take the ball and go home.
The four councilors that decided their personal agenda is more important than that of city business is by far the most compelling reason I can think of for not wanting to run for public office. My hat is off to now Roger Coles, Dennis Dorrah, and now simply Councilor Richard Langrell for doing the right thing. You have my full support as well as sympathy. As for the other four Councilors, have you ever thought actions such as yours are always seen negatively by any business thinking of relocating to Baker City. You did this the very same week we will have thousands of visitors to our fair city, what will they think of you?
Bentz is right: We can accomplish more together
I was impressed by Rep. Cliff Bentz’s calm and thoughtful response to the controversy that exists in our use of natural resources (“Bentz: Timber gridlock annoys,” July 7). While others may promote conflict and confrontation, Bentz reminds us that collaboration can produce win-win solutions that benefit us all, and he specifically calls for “a sturdy line of communication between state and federal agencies and local governments.”
It’s likely that such vigorous communication actually can overcome environmental lawsuit barriers and lead to increased, sustainable employment in the timber industry. Bentz urges us to explore additional job creation opportunities, as well, and so do I.
In my opinion, a most productive first step toward wage growth and prosperity in our community would be to recognize the epic damage caused by the growing inequality of wealth in our country. There’s been a heartbreaking decline of the middle class.
American wages have been stagnant or shrinking for the past 35 years, as good-paying jobs were lost to computer automation and off-shoring. Profits have increasingly gone to an elite few, who are lightly taxed.
One widely-discussed solution: engaging with all levels of government, we could increase incomes by enhancing the Earned Income Tax Credit. If more families had a livable income, it would quickly and substantially increase the amount of money circulating in Baker County and elsewhere, and more jobs would follow. Everyone would benefit.
Abraham Lincoln warned us that “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Fighting each other, we invite disintegration. Let us not allow fear and ideology to cloud mutual respect and high regard. Working together we can realize the potential of our collective genius to discover surprising, new solutions that transcend our individual views.
Baker County has long been known for its ranches, farms and orchards that produce the staples of an all-American meal.
Peaches and huckleberries for a dessert cobbler.
But the county is also starting to round out the local menu with a selection of beverages with which adults can complement their dinners.
We have a pair of breweries in Barley Brown’s and Bull Ridge.
Travis Cook and Jacki and Lance Adams are growing wine grapes near Keating and Richland.
I remember the day the man with the unusual last name phoned to tell me a fantastic tale about motorcycles and Baker City.
His name is Eric Folkestad.
I’d have remembered that, more than eight years later, if I remembered nothing else.
I asked him to spell Folkestad.
Later I asked him to spell it twice more so I could be sure I hadn’t swapped the “l” and the “k” or misplaced the “e.”
I was so worried about botching his last name I nearly forgot to ask him the equally vital question about his first name.
Privatizing federal land would limit our freedoms
The same night that the Republicans held their debate for county commissioner there was an article about Seneca Jones, a timber company, buying part of the Elliot Forest, which is a part of the state forest lands that were laid out to support schools and colleges. Evidently the state land board got frustrated fighting with environmental groups so decided to show them and sold about 800 acres to the private company. That land which used to belong to the people of Oregon will now have no trespassing signs posted on it.
I mention this in response and support of Bob Whitnah’s letter in the Baker County Press. He is dead on. If you like the freedom of movement you grew up with in the West then pay damned little attention to the periodic Sagebrush Rebellion stuff that periodically comes out of Nevada. Privatizing federal lands would be extremely difficult with 435 congressmen, 100 senators, nine Supreme Court justices and a president all having a say. The Seneca Jones situation illustrates exactly what would happen if federal lands ever reverted to the states. With the wealth of the country becoming ever more concentrated in the hands of a few it wouldn’t be long before the super-rich bribed, contributed to elections and bought their own state legislators and worked out a deal to privatize and own what is now collectively yours. In Oregon those with the power would number less than 100 to do this, on the county level three elected officials might be able to do it.
The western United States is unique in all the world for providing freedom of movement for its citizens. I grew up western and will fight to keep that heritage. The idea that I should be surrounded by no trespassing signs on my land is unacceptable. That doesn’t mean I am always happy with the way my lands are managed but at least I have a say. Once they are in private hands I have none.
When you own the town’s ice cream shop you’re going to get a lot of smiles from your customers.
Who can frown, after all, at the man who hands you a double scoop of rocky road or huckleberry?
But John Osborn did a lot more to make people happy than whip up milkshakes at Charley’s Ice Cream parlor at Main and Broadway.
Osborn, who died July 2 at age 61, was helping Baker County’s children long before he weighed his first bag of jelly beans or jawbreakers at Charley’s.
He was an assistant Scoutmaster for a quarter century.
He served on the sale committees for the Baker County Fair, as well as the Baker County Fair in Halfway.
He coached youth baseball and softball for many years.
John later turned his restaurant into a Thanksgiving soup kitchen, where he served free meals to people on the holiday.
It’s little wonder that John was nominated for Baker County Man of the Year in 2010.
We hope Charley’s continues to dish out treats for sweet tooths of all ages.
But the place won’t ever be quite the same without John Osborn standing behind the counter, asking you what’ll you have.