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Too cold for Baker? Snow way

The wintry storm — “Arctic blast 2013!” if you prefer the hyperbolic approach of TV news — swept across Oregon these past several days, leaving dozens of cancellations in its wake.

West of the Cascades, where many residents react to a skiff of snow almost as though it were radioactive dust, schools closed, highways became parking lots and officials warned people to stay inside lest they come down with frostbite or worse.

We Eastern Oregonians, though, being accustomed to frigid weather, are not so easily daunted.

Snowballs, an alleged rape, double standards

Is a real snowball fight worse than an alleged rape?

I pose the question not because I expect anybody will answer it.

My point, rather, is to illustrate how America’s obsession with athletes can contribute to situations that would be laughable if they were fiction.

Except they’re real, depressingly so.

Letters to the Editor for Dec. 11, 2013

Early learning helps ease income inequality

We owe it to our community to expand early childhood education and offer it to all our children. Mack Augenfeld’s op-ed of Dec. 4 offered a persuasive argument, telling us of the great value of preschool and full-time kindergarten for those who can afford it. He said, “Early childhood is the most critical period to enhance an individual’s cognitive and social development.”

That very same day, President Barack Obama echoed those thoughts during a major speech on economic inequality in our country, including a road map for “making sure our economy works for every working American.”  (His speech is available at whitehouse.gov.)

Obama argued: “The gap in test scores between poor kids and wealthy kids is now nearly twice what it is between white kids and black kids ... We should make high-quality preschool available to every child in America. We know that kids in these programs grow up likelier to get more education, earn higher wages, form more stable families of their own. It starts a virtuous cycle, not a vicious one.  And we should invest in that. We should give all of our children that chance.”

 For background, President Obama described our loss of good-paying jobs over the past 35 years, due to automation, off-shoring, and union-busting, and told how this has led to a lack of opportunity that is bad for our economy and our democracy. And then, “As a trickle-down ideology became more prominent, taxes were slashed for the wealthiest, while investments in things that make us all richer, like schools and infrastructure, were allowed to wither.”  Many of us became much poorer.

 I can imagine how parents who are working long hours for low wages would have little time for enriching their children’s early learning. 

I say to all those wishing to strengthen our community that we should work together to reverse the rising inequality of wealth, to bolster family incomes, and to provide greatly enhanced early childhood education and early learning hubs.  These would be vital steps toward better educational outcomes and attracting, supporting, and retaining healthy, young families right here in Baker County.

Marshall McComb

Baker City

Where do leaders stand on the Second Amendment?

I was surprised to read Tim Kerns’ comments on the Second Amendment. You would think that after close association with Republicans over the years Kerns would be immune to Democratic talking points. It even seems like the Feinstein flu has even  spread over to the Unity country. Mr. Bennett seems to be infected.

Whenever the Second Amendment and hunting are mentioned in the same paragraph you know the speaker has been bitten by the banning bug. Recovery is a long process usually involving trying to find the  words “hunting,” “musket,” “National Guard,” “police,” “military type weapon,” “assault weapon,” “permit,” “England,” “Australia” or “gun deaths” in the Second Amendment. 

If treatment is successful the patient can come to understand that the Second Amendment is about a barrier to tyranny. The reason the “people” are to remain armed with weapons as good as the military and police is because the military and police have them. The Founders did not trust power. They didn’t want a standing army because the military has been a traditional gateway to tyranny. Therefore they had a civilian commander in chief. They had a Bill of Rights and written Constitution and a Supreme Court sworn to uphold the Constitution as are all public servants, even though a good percentage have forgotten that. 

The great paradox is this: There is no reason to be a “well-armed militia” until the government tells you that you can’t be “well armed.” When it does you know that you are on the road to tyranny and you need to start buying ammunition. It is important to know where our leaders stand. They need to lead, not put a finger into the wind and see “where the constituents stand” because many of those “constituents” lie dead in a thousand cemeteries around the world. The county commission opens meeting with a pledge of allegiance to the flag and Constitution. I think maybe they should reflect on those words.

There will be elections next year. Ask all candidates for a clear and concise statement as to their views on the Second Amendment. Elect the right people. Ballots are preferable to bullets.

Steve Culley


Mason Dam fish mitigation a form of blackmail

Mason Dam was never intended to have a fish ladder. One of the problems, if one was put in, is that it would only be used during the irrigation period as this was and still is the main purpose of the dam. The irrigation period lasts about five months. There are no anadromous fish runs in the Powder River.

To make Baker County hold to the ODFW proposal to waive fish passage at the dam for placing culverts at McCully Fork and Silver Creek, which are above Mason Dam is going to cost the taxpayers of Baker County thousands of dollars; even though the county proposed using their own equipment for these projects to try and save money.

If ODFW wants these fish passages upstream improved, they should get money through grants or fishing licenses and not make Baker County taxpayers pay for it. Since the fish passage through Mason Dam would be non-effective anyway. Also, after all this is done, based on how agencies work, the county would then go through the Environmental Impact Statement process, which involves every agency in the country to have a say.

The USFW, ODFW, EPA, DSL, DEQ, USFA, BLM, environmentalists and the tribes and who knows what others will put in their two cents’ worth; what’s going to happen is delay, delay and delay for just a simple little generator in Mason Dam that will only run for about five months a year. We do not need any mitigation proposals; it is just a form of blackmail, and only the taxpayers of Baker County will suffer by paying the bill.

We should be saying no to fish passage at Mason Dam as not necessary and no to the ODFW proposal to require mitigating enhancement of streams upstream of the dam instead. We are talking about a dam that does not allow fish passage now. There is no changing of the basic operation of the dam, just the addition of making power during the time of irrigation (a source of clean energy to be sold to the power grid).

Edwin Hardt

Guy Michael

Baker City

Tiedemann’s golf course plan the right approach for city

I read with interest the Baker City Herald editorial dated Dec. 4 and letters to the editor dated Dec. 6 referencing Quail Ridge Golf Course (QRGC). Clearly, there are some facts not known to the writers.

Mr. Tiedemann did not propose an entrepreneurial approach to managing QRGC.  His proposal is designed to provide a business plan, a disciplined budgetary process, a board of directors and financial transparency to the city.  This is entirely new regarding the golf course.

Tiedemann’s 2014 budget does not include the course being “subsidized” by the city with the exception of the annual “debt retirement” for construction of the back nine. The decision of debt commitment was made some 15 years ago and is a long-term debt of the city. Unless revenues fall short of 2012 totals and historical expense reporting is grossly understated, there should be no city subsidy required beyond the long-term debt commitment.

The proposal includes a $75,000 management fee for Tiedemann not a guaranteed “profit.” There is no upside for Tiedemann above this fee; in fact there is a provision in place to protect Baker City.  That provision deducts $10,000 from Tiedemann’s fee if the course operates below a board-approved annual budget.

The proposal provides that all net income or “profit” from the course be reinvested in QRGC through a capital improvement fund that will be administered by the board.

Prior operators of QRGC, whether city employees or contractors, were compensated for their management.

Without funding from the general fund, Baker City would have a far different looking park system, cemetery, pathway system, streets, airport, swimming pool, golf course, ambulances and police vehicles.  All have required general fund dollars.

The reason only one proposal was submitted to Baker City for operating QRGC is the historical approach to managing the course. Tiedemann’s business model will provide full transparency and an opportunity to move toward forming a nonprofit entity similar to Anthony Lakes should Baker City decide at the conclusion of Tiedemann’s three-year contract.  As well as a “continued positive economic impact” for Baker City.

It’s time to try a new approach.

Randy Daugherty

Baker City

County clear on gun laws

Baker County’s Republican Central Committee asked the county’s three elected commissioners to approve a resolution supporting the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees citizens the right to keep and bear arms.

This seems to us a reasonable request, although the resolution has little if any legal significance considering the county commissioners have no authority to either write or to interpret the Constitution.

Commissioners do, however, swear an oath to uphold the Constitution and its amendments.

Fake trees might fool the eyes, but not the nose

The traditional Christmas is under assault, and I fear the wounds will be mortal.

A cherished symbol of the holiday is being replaced by the ersatz concoctions of the chemists, who would swap the wild beauty of the snowbound forest for the antiseptic creation of the test tube.

If the genuine Christmas tree can’t survive then I fear the season’s decline in other areas is inevitable.

I can foresee the year when Muzak drowns out Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby on the hi-fi, when the celebratory dinner begins with dad plunging his carving knife not into a succulent turkey breast but into a glistening glob of tofu.

Letters to the Editor for Dec. 6, 2013

Don’t use tax dollars to subsidize golf course

 I would like to congratulate the editorial board for Wednesday’s editorial. I agree with you 100 percent that the city shouldn’t use general fund dollars to subsidize the golf course. I cannot visualize any circumstances that would require the use of public tax dollars to subsidize a private business by giving Mr. Tiedemann a guaranteed amount of profit. If our city manager Mr. Kee agrees to the terms Mr. Tiedemann is requesting then I would make a further request of Mr. Kee.

I as a former business owner in Baker City have been approached many times by good citizens to have my wife and myself open another restaurant. This is expensive to do, but if the city adopts the new policy as requested by Mr. Tiedemann, then I want the following:

1. The city to purchase a vacant building downtown for my new restaurant.

2. To fully equip the property with all new equipment (stoves, refrigeration, tables and chairs etc.)

3. Do not charge me any rent.

4. Guarantee me $75,000 income per year. Of course I have no incentive to ever show a profit higher than that, otherwise the city may want me to start paying rent, should I do such a foolish thing.

Now I know this sounds ridiculous, but in all honesty this is what Mr. Tiedemann is asking the city to do for him.

I worked at the golf course for five years under the Seven-Iron ownership. My job was to take money for memberships, equipment and fees for playing by non-members. I can guarantee you there is enough income generated at the golf course for any competent businessman to make a living. If Mr. Tiedemann feels he needs a guarantee by the city, then perhaps he should think of another venture. I don’t want my tax dollars subsidizing a private business.

Bill Ward

Baker City

Golf course proposal is best one for the city

At least when I write a letter to the editor, I have to give my name and address.

If the “editor” had attended any meetings, the “editor” might have an educated idea of where Mr. Tiedemann was trying to steer the golf course.

If Mr. Tiedemann would not have put in a proposal, the city would have had to come up with some way to keep this operation going and bringing people to the area to spend money in our “little city.”

In Mr. Tiedemann’s proposal, he wants to run the golf course and make it make a profit — he is not in this to get rich.

His proposal was to pattern the city golf course after the Anthony Lakes program and within the next three years, make this a nonprofit organization and turn it over to a board of directors to run.

The city really didn’t have many options. They could accept Mr. Tiedemann’s proposal or they could run the golf course themselves. They would still have to purchase equipment, as all the equipment at the golf course belongs to Seven Iron

I was in attendance at both of the meetings in which Mr. Tiedemann outlined his proposal, and of the 7-person board that reviewed the proposal and voted 7 to nothing in favor of accepting the proposal to send to the city council. At the city council meeting, it was moved and seconded and voted on by 6 members of the council and they were all in favor. If you have lived here for any length of time maybe you can remember the last time the city council voted unanimously on anything, I can’t.

The one paragraph that really sticks in my craw is that Mr. Kee should hammer out a contract with Mr. Tiedemann that takes the risk off of the city and puts it on Mr. Tiedemann’s shoulders. I think we should go back and look at who owns the golf course, it is a city entity. 

I believe that Mr. Tiedemann’s proposal was very much in order and I know how much homework he did before making that proposal.

Larry Smith

Baker City

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.

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