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Letters to the Editor for March 20, 2013


I’m supporting Charlene Chase for OTEC board

Baker City resident Charlene Chase is a candidate for the Oregon Trail Electric Consumers Cooperative board of directors, position No. 9. I have known and admired Mrs. Chase for many years as she has held administrative positions in the field of education. She is very professional and while being goal-oriented, she also is a team player.

Her current experience as a court-appointed special advocate (CASA) points out that although being retired, she continues to serve our community. She understands business and would bring her expertise in communications to the board. Also, as a consumer, she would be able to work with citizens on their concerns. Being a “real person,” she is enjoyable to be around.

Some of her goals are as follows:

• Provide economical power for OTECC members

• Engage OTECC’s power supplier to ensure current and future needs are met

• Keep abreast of technology

• Explore OTECC’s role in economic development

• Continue to control and reduce operating costs while providing quality service

• Keep in mind that the board represents the interests of the public

Here is our chance to put a capable, accessible and willing candidate on the OTECC board to replace retiring Peggi Timm, who is the only female member of the board. Please vote for Charlene Chase as a member of the OTECC board of directors.

Bruce Raffety

Baker City

Eastern Oregonians want healthcare changes

There is a letter on my dining room table from my health insurance company, “Prescription Benefit Information.” It says they will not cover my newly prescribed medication for glaucoma. They did say I have the right to request an exception — but did not say it would be honored.

My life was miserable for two years before this new treatment option that is being managed by an Oregon specialist. I am hopeful the exception will be granted.

Tony Radmilovech’s story in The (La Grande) Observer, March 15, “Trying and failing: End ‘fail first’ practices,”) of debilitating pain and his search for a way to control his pain is unfortunately an experience shared by many of us. Tony describes how insurance bureaucrats interfere with the doctor-patient relationship and deny coverage for treatment, even treatment key to managing daily life tasks. He makes plain how insurance companies can actually override physicians’ care decisions. Is this good health care? Who is in control here? Should they be?

The issue of appropriate, quality health care was raised in a recent documentary featured at the Eastern Oregon Film Festival, “Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Health Care.” Lines formed outside the theater to see the film that asks “How can we save our badly broken healthcare system?” Crowds stayed after the show to listen to a panel of health care providers and congregated in the lobby and on the sidewalk to sign petitions to the Oregon legislature stating “Healthcare is a human right.” It is obvious that people in Eastern Oregon are concerned and want to learn more.

Members of Oregon Rural Action Health Care Reform Action Team answered questions, distributed information and recruited volunteers. The Eastern Oregon movement to provide excellent, patient/physician-managed health care to every Oregonian is growing daily. It is time for “health care for all” and “‘fail first’ for no one”! Please join us; there is a place for everyone.

Cheryl Simpson-Whitaker

La Grande

Co-chair, ORA Health Care Reform Action Team

 

River bill’s overreach


Oregon state Sen. Alan Bates says one of the main reasons he introduced a bill this year that would add sections of more than two dozen rivers to the state’s Scenic Waterways Program, including two in Baker County, is to protect salmon and steelhead from suction dredge mining.

Fair enough.

Except the two Baker County streams included in Bates’ Senate Bill 401 — the North Fork of Burnt River and Eagle Creek — harbor neither salmon nor steelhead.

We presume Bates, a Democrat from Ashland, is aware of the absence of those fish in the two waterways.

Yet the two rivers remain in the bill.

Nor is that the only aspect of SB 401 that troubles us.

The reach of Eagle Creek proposed for inclusion in the Scenic Waterways Program is already protected under the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

Congress did that in 1988, designating 4.5 miles of Eagle Creek as “wild,” 6 miles as “recreational” and 18.4 miles as “recreational.”

But there’s a significant difference between the federal act and the state law for scenic waterways: The state rules affect private property but the federal act, by and large, does not.

Critics of SB 401, and in particular miners, say the bill would greatly restrict the use of private property along streams. They make a good point.

The rules that govern streams in the Scenic Waterways System apply not only to the waterway itself, but also to the land, including private property, within one-quarter mile of either bank.

Placer mining, except for “recreational” mining, is prohibited in that zone. And private property owners must consult with the state before doing any of several things, including logging or constructing new buildings.

These restrictions could cause major problems for property owners, especially along the North Fork of Burnt River, which flows through several miles of privately owned pastures where cattle graze. The river also is the subject of an ongoing legal case about whether mining should be allowed on public land.

Additional protections for some reaches of Oregon rivers might well be appropriate. But neither the North Fork of Burnt River nor Eagle Creek qualifies, and both should be deleted from SB 401.

 

Are voters too well-informed?


Do you have the impression that one of the major problems plaguing Oregon elections is that voters are too well-informed about issues on their ballots?

No?

We don’t either.

In fact we feel confident in stating that by far the more common complaint among the electorate is that voters suffer from a shortage of data rather than a surplus.

We’re perplexed, then, by a bill that lawmakers are mulling in Salem.

House Bill 3113 would delete from a current state law the requirement that in elections which include a proposed property tax increase, the envelope that comes with the mail-in ballot must contain this phrase, printed clearly and boldly in red: “Contains vote on proposed tax increase.”

The Oregon Education Association, the state’s teachers union, instigated HB 3113 because the tax notice unfairly singles out proposed property tax hikes.

The solution to this minor problem, though, is not to get rid of the one notice that’s required now, and thus give voters less information.

Instead, the Legislature should give them more information by revising the current law to mandate a notice when any type of tax increase is on the ballot.

 

Letters to the Editor for March 15, 2013


A bicyclist who likes streets the way they are

I agree with Judy Stultz’s letter to the editor. Leave Broadway and Tenth streets four lane.

Bicycle lanes are not needed. This is not a metropolis requiring special accommodations for bicycles. If fact, biking on Baker’s side streets, which have virtually no traffic, is much safer than joining the busy flow of traffic on Broadway and Tenth. 

As Stultz points out, cars have to cross bike lanes to turn right. Portland’s experiences with cars striking bicyclists while turning right should warn us against creating more opportunities for dangerous turns. 

I ride my bicycle a lot in good weather, which is only about half the year. I have no trouble getting around town safely.  

Why spend money to change what ain’t broke?

One more point. Visitors to Baker City love our wide streets. Bicycle lanes and angle parking — proposed for Main and Resort streets — are no improvement over the visionary planning of our town’s founding fathers 150 years ago.

Gary Dielman

Baker City

Remembering Easter sunrise services past

 Easter sunrise services are a tradition in Baker City.  Citizens of all denominations gather at specified location early Easter morning, to await the sun’s rising in the eastern sky.  The significance symbolizes Christ’s rising from the grave.  

I’m reminded of a former Easter sunrise gathering years ago, held at Geiser Park. The service was most impressive, as local vocalist LaJeanne (Carpenter) Everson presented a solo from the stage of the Bandshell.  The song she chose was  “The World is Waiting for the Sunrise,” an apropos selection for the occasion.  

Another year,  the Easter sunrise service was held at the city reservoir. Former teacher Myrtle Lee led the gathering, with renditions from her accordion. 

A memorable Easter sunrise service, 1967,  was held at Mount Hope Cemetery. Many youth attended that gathering. Springtime rain had dampened the ground . Mud clung willingly to the shoes of attendees, especially to high heel shoes worn by teenage girls. 

 This year’s March 31 Easter sunrise services are scheduled at 6 a.m. at Flagstaff Hill, in the stadium area of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. Everyone is welcome.   

Phyllis Badgley

Baker City

Mirror could be simple solution for Dewey-Myrtle

I have lived on Myrtle Street for 35 years. We raised our family there. I use the Myrtle  to Dewey passage almost every day. 

When I first moved there, I had a conversation with the city about the Myrtle-Dewey intersection. My suggestion at that time was to mount (so it would be visible from the stop sign at Myrtle) a non-glass, convex mirror on the west side of the underpass (there is a guardrail there that could be used for mounting) so that drivers could see Dewey traffic coming from the south. This would make the right turn onto Dewey much safer for both drivers exiting Myrtle and north-bound traffic on Dewey.

At that time I was told that Dewey was a state highway and the city could do nothing about my suggestion. The intersection was closed to foot traffic — the foot bridge was to be used — and no left hand turns were permitted.

Maybe it’s time to involve the state to see if such a convex mirror could be installed.

 It seems like such a simple solution as opposed to an expensive construction project that limits the flow of travel on Myrtle Street.

Carol Martin

Baker City

Higher taxes are needed on wealthiest 1 percent

The Community Comment in the Herald on March 11 deserves our close attention and skillful response. It’s a remarkable letter signed by 28 Oregon mayors, from Haines to Portland, pleading for additional school funding to preserve our communities. They call the current funding a “standing crisis,” and they say, “Enough!”

What would our skillful response look like? It would recognize that this is a national problem, and it would most certainly include higher taxes for the 1 percent most wealthy Americans. 

This elite group is now taking home about 24 percent of our total income, almost triple the level of 30 years ago, and they now possess 40 percent of our total wealth.  (The YouTube video titled “Wealth Inequality in America” offers important details.)

How did this happen? Primarily because off-shoring jobs, computer and robotic automation, and union-busting have greatly reduced the number of good-paying jobs, and allowed increased profits to flow to the few in control. And the wealthy have been able to unduly influence the political system, so they pay low taxes and are less and less regulated, as exemplified by the just-released Ryan House Republican budget which cuts the top marginal tax rate from 39.6 percent to 25 percent.

How would we accomplish meaningful reform? A significant shift in how some view our government would be a big help.  An accompanying letter to the editor on March 11 reveals the anti-government paranoia that cripples our political debate, referring to higher taxes as leading to increased “government control.” During Rep. Greg Walden’s visit to Baker City in February, he seemed apologetic for his “fiscal cliff” vote for a (modest) rise in income taxes for the well-to-do. And he also advocated additional spending cuts, since “we’re broke.” Not so! Trillions of dollars are available.

Our middle class has been drained of resources. We must see through the smokescreen of fear and misinformation that unnecessarily and unjustifiably protects spectacular wealth. And we must follow the lead of the Oregon mayors and come together to preserve and enhance our community’s vital infrastructure.

Marshall McComb

Baker City

 

‘Lying speedometers’ and the lure of the gauge


If you ran across a news story headlined “Lying Speedometers” you’d likely assume, as I did, that the instruments in question give false readings.

That when the gauge shows your speed as 65 mph you’re actually doing 62, or 68, or anyway not 65.

It turns out, though, that speedometers are prone to another kind of prevarication, according to The Associated Press.

The article begins by noting that the speedometer in the Toyota Yaris, a subcompact that looks like nothing so much as a mutated mollusk, tops out at 140 mph.

Yet the Yaris in fact can muster only a meager 109, the AP reports.

 

Letters to the Editor for March 13, 2013


Small car drivers a casualty of global warming war

An insurance company has been running commercials showing several cars getting crunched one way or another. The most dramatic of these is of a small white car parked between two trucks; the truck in front begins to back up, and the little car buckles and crumples as if it were made of cardboard, not steel. My first thought was that anyone buying one of those bitty cars should be required to watch a video of that commercial, as they will need to become extra cautious drivers since their vehicle will give them virtually no protection during a collision.

But one of those tiny cars may become a part of your future. The federal government has mandated that in a few years, the Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency for auto makers will rise to 55 mpg. Auto manufacturers will only meet that standard when most Americans are driving tiny little cars like the one in the commercial.

The trouble is that small cars are inherently less safe than larger ones are. A few years ago, a Harvard University study showed that in the United States, around 2,000 small car passengers die each year in collisions who probably would have survived had they been riding in a standard sized automobile. That’s a population the size of Baker City’s wiped out every five years.

 Now that is a statistic you don’t see bandied about much. Environmentalists don’t like to admit that one of their pet projects is getting people killed. They won’t tell you that when you buy a small, “fuel-efficient” car, you are volunteering to become a casualty in the war on global warming. If you don’t believe this is so, just watch the commercial and picture yourself in that little white car as it is being crushed between those two trucks. 

Pete Sundin

Baker City

Back bill requiring health insurance comparison study

Our health care system is broken. We all know individuals and families without adequate health insurance, and without adequate health care. How can we provide health care to everyone at a cost we can afford?

House Bill 3260 would require the Oregon Health Authority to conduct a study comparing the costs of providing health care to all Oregonians under (1) the existing system; (2) a single payer insurance system; (3) a combination of patient chosen public and private health insurance; and (4) one or more additional options designed by the researchers. The first hearing on this bill is scheduled for April 5.

You can find the actual language of the bill at: http://gov.oregonlive.com/bill/2013/HB3260/

I urge everyone to contact their state legislators now. Ask them to support and vote for this bill. It’s easy to make contact using the state’s on-line tool: http://www.leg.state.or.us/writelegsltr/

The state representative in District 60 is Rep. Cliff Bentz, This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it , (503) 986-1460. The state senator in District 30 is Sen. Ted Ferrioli, This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it , (503) 986-1950.

Fuji Kreider

La Grande

Not all Oregon rivers are wild and scenic

Oregon is diverse so why put the same designation on even more waterways in our state to be “wild and scenic?” Stop Senate Bill 401! The folks that wrote the bill don’t  have a clue what’s on the ground for all the listed waterways covered under this bill, including the North Fork of the Burnt River in southwestern Baker County.

Don’t be ignorant and support a bill you don’t have a clue about. Worse yet, this is another underhanded attempt to stop federally authorized mining and regulate private land use in Oregon. 

For the North Fork, smaller tributaries add additional flow during normal years, yet late summer finds water flows have subsided considerably to show more river bed than water. 

This dried up rocky riverbed is visible driving along through the Wallowa-Whitman along the North Fork Burnt River Road (Whitney Road). This narrow and windy gravel road, maintained by Baker County, not the cash-strapped FS, is a mere 100 feet from the so-called “wild and scenic” river. 

Several dispersed campgrounds litter the forest for several miles along its timber shady length, inside the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. These generations-old campsites provide a popular getaway from summer’s sweltering heat of the lower Treasure Valley as well as during fall’s deer and elk hunting seasons. The mentioned area is far from being a recreational mecca as the nearest public services are miles away.

As far as fish, there are no steelhead and salmon living in this river. The occasional bull trout and rainbow are safe. Suction dredging does not suck up eggs and smolt as Oregon DEQ already regulates this with season of use restrictions to mitigate such an occurrence.

If this bill does get so far as to pass the Senate and reach the House of Representatives’ agenda, please be wise enough to know what each river has to offer before slating them all as “wild and scenic” thus taking additional jobs from fellow Oregonians in a continued attempt to exclude mining, timber and range management on public lands as well as controlling those same uses on private lands.

Betty E. Duncan

Unity

We feel fortunate to have Billie Ruth Bootsma Clinic

The Billie Ruth Bootsma Clinic at our local St. Alphonsus Hospital is a tremendous asset to the residents of Baker County and Eastern Oregon. It is a lovely, comforting, well-designed upscale facility. It is far nicer than some of the other clinics where we have been.

The staff is very professional and competent. They do everything possible to put their patients at ease. They have become our good friends.

The oncologist, Dr. Bronstein, comes once a week. He is also very professional and current in the new research and developments in the treatment of cancer and various health care problems. We feel very fortunate to have the Billie Ruth Clinic and its staff in Baker City.

John Burgess

Frances Burgess

Baker City

I won’t be intimidated by bullying tactics

Last December, 5J superintendent Wegener and board members Burroughs, Henderson and Bryan made quite a stink about wanting to sue me after the recall effort. They consulted an expensive attorney who, as I understand it, advised they would likely lose that suit. Her response should have stopped their childish vendetta. It didn’t.

Burroughs, who spent thousands during her anti-recall efforts, filed a civil complaint with the Secretary of State (SoS) questioning the few hundred dollars spent on the effort against her. The SoS’s staff spent hours handling her complaint. The only infraction found was a clerical error — a form was accidentally filed late.

Still unable to exact revenge, these folks took things another step. On Christmas Eve (yes, you read that right), the SoS received a criminal complaint against me signed by Burroughs’ personal friend and 5J Budget Committee member Rusty Munn. The purpose of a complaint under the law Munn cited is to persuade the SoS to turn a citizen over to the Attorney General for felony prosecution, which includes jail time if convicted. The SoS’s office was again forced by law to investigate over two months, spending countless staff hours and taxpayer dollars. As everyone remembers, Munn and Burroughs included “what’s best for the children” and “not wasting taxpayer money” as their objections to our recall effort. Yet attempting to throw the mother of two young children in jail and spending thousands of taxpayer dollars on a personal vendetta posed no apparent issue for them. I believe those 5J patrons who weren’t sure of the collective character of this group, will surely see it now.

Last week I received a letter from the SoS informing me they’d found no election law violation on my part, no evidence our ballot statement was false — and they consider the issue closed. They informed Munn they wouldn’t pursue his complaints further. If Munn and Burroughs believe their bully tactics will silence me or prevent other parents in the community from exercising their rights and holding 5J accountable, they’re wrong. I’m looking forward to the May election!

Kerry McQuisten

Baker City

 

Letters to the Editor for March 11, 2013

Sequester cuts pretense for raising taxes

Your March 6 editorial, “Exaggerated Fiscal Crisis,” was correct. The rather miniscule budget reductions resulting from sequester shouldn’t result in any decline in essential services.  Your position, however, is based upon logic and reason. The author of the sequester, it must be remembered, is Mr. Obama whose track record is anything but logical and reasonable. Instead, Obama operates based upon an agenda.

Sequestration, which leaked White House emails make clear are intended to inflict public pain, is but another opportunity to use a crisis (real or manufactured — in this case the latter) for political purposes. Obama’s agenda is to increase government control and to do so requires increased taxation.  The sequester is the crisis Obama hopes will create support for increased taxation.

For anyone who engages in a serious study of Obama, his philosophy, and his game plan a reading of the Little Red Book and the works of Alinsky are essential. God save our republic.

Jerry Boyd

Baker City

Don’t change Broadway and Tenth streets

Leave Broadway and Tenth streets as they are.

Where has common sense gone? In the current economy monies are tight and scarce. The existing funds could be better spent repairing city streets and state highways we already have.

Automobile drivers pay a gas tax to maintain our streets and highways — bicycles don’t pay that tax. We aren’t Portland, quit trying to copy them!

The only time there is an abundance of bicycles on the streets of Baker City is during the summer bicycle tours/rallies, when streets in Baker City are closed to everyone but those bicycles. Our weather in Baker City isn’t conducive to bicycle use year ’round.

Maybe they are trying to create turning lanes to hold those snow berms each winter!

Judy Stultz

Baker City

 

Tech foils a car thief

Baker City Herald Editorial Board

It’s a sad era for car thieves.

Which makes it a happier, and safer, one for the rest of us.

Were it not for OnStar, a General Motors technology, James Reedy, who’s accused of driving a new, $61,000 Chevrolet Camaro out of the Baker Garage showroom Wednesday morning, might have gotten away it.

OnStar, which is optional equipment on GM vehicles, is a GPS navigation system and more — drivers can also call an OnStar official, from their car, to get information about nearby restaurants, for instance.

One of its lesser-known abilities, though, was demonstrated as Reedy tried to elude police in the Camaro.

OnStar can also foil thieves by retarding the car’s engine. In the case of the Camaro, it wouldn’t exceed 30 mph, which not only prevented a high-speed chase that could have endangered lots of travelers on I-84, but also apparently convinced Reedy to pull over and give up.

Which is precisely how these situations should be resolved.

 

Grazing benefits


The coming of the spring brings, besides the buttercups and the north wind, the debate over privately owned livestock grazing on public lands.

This dispute is revived annually when the federal government announces the year’s grazing fee.

For 2013, as in the previous six years, that charge is $1.35 per AUM — animal unit month, the amount of forage a cow and her calf will eat in a month.

Critics pounced on this announcement, pointing out that $1.35 is the lowest fee the feds can legally charge.

“It represents another huge form of subsidy to public lands ranchers who are already massively subsidized by us all,” Katie Fite, of the Western Watersheds Project in Idaho, told The Associated Press.

Maligning the welfare rancher is, of course, a popular refrain among groups that don’t care for livestock grazing regardless of how much the government charges. That minimum fee is merely a convenient focus for their disdain.

But notwithstanding the exaggeration of the slur, the repetition of that “massively subsidized” line prompted us to consider what the citizens of the U.S., who own the land where cattle graze, are getting out of the deal.

Quite a lot, actually.

Beef cattle is a $50-million-a-year business in Baker County alone. And a majority of the county’s cattle spend part of the year on public land grazing allotments.

Those public lands, then, are integral to producing products — beef, of course, but a variety of other bovine byproducts — that America consumers want.

Grazing foes lament the negative effects livestock have, including dirtying streams and spreading noxious weeds.

Fite describes this as the “exploitation” of public lands, a word with a nasty connotation that would be valid only if land once grazed was unsuitable for any purpose. This clearly is not the case, as grazing allotments support not only livestock but an array of flora and fauna, and recreation ranging from hunting to bird-watching.

Although grazing can have more noticeable effects on the land than, say, hiking, it also produces a much greater economic benefit. That’s not exploitation — it’s wise use of a resource that belongs to all of us.

 

Letters to the Editor for March 8, 2013


Baker City puts on a great basketball tourney

Most recently, having enjoyed attending the 1A basketball championships in Baker City, I feel the urge to express my appreciation for the outstanding display of friendly, efficient and professional manner displayed by those responsible within your community, as well as those assisting in the tournament — such as the security personnel and volunteers.

The deputy that I had occasion to speak with is a credit to his profession and to your community. He knows who he is, and hopefully reads this letter.

Fully recognizing that it is easier to be so positive in this communication when my son, David, was able to lead the girls from Damascus Christian School to a state championship win with my two granddaughters, Val and Ana, playing on the team; I still truly express my thanks to your community for such a rewarding experience. 

Jim Wakefield

Mulino

Baker County is on the motorcycling map

I am writing to express my thanks and appreciation to all the residents of Baker County and supporters of the Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally. Thank you for opening your homes to riders who need a place to stay. A friendly smile and place to rest. Baker City has been discovered. All over the USA, people are searching for adventure, discovery, and the real American experience. It’s right here. Baker County, Hells Canyon, the Geiser Grand Hotel, Main Street, Sumpter, Halfway, Elkhorn Mountains, Eagle Cap and the Oregon Trail.

I have to say it has not been easy, but it has been worthwhile, working to get this event recognized by the motorcycle community. Riders are discovering this great place. July 12, Baker City will take it’ place in American history as motorcyclists ride to the heart of America and find out what it’s all about. It’s a big deal. Veterans, Patriot Guard Riders, Christian Motorcyclist Association, and many more. We respect you. 

It’s an honor to be welcomed into one of the greatest places on earth.

Eric Folkestad

Camas, Wash.

Waterboarding will be used on Americans

Waterboarding prisoners has recently been discussed again because it was the subject in one of the movies up for one of the Academy Awards.  Some people think that it is torture and others think not. I think that it is torture and that it will not bring up any more information than a dose of sodium amytal before an interrogation.

The important fact is that the Americans apparently approve of waterboarding and so we can expect our enemies will feel free to waterboard any American they take as a prisoner.  They will feel free to torture them.

Carl Kostol

Baker City

 
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