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Home arrow Opinion

Legislature needs to make deal


Compromise is a necessary ingredient in the messy business of making laws, but too often, it seems, legislators act as though that word is a synonym for capitulation.

This misses the reality of a true compromise, which is that each side gives up something, in exchange for gaining something else.

The Oregon Legislature has a chance to forge just such a compromise, but the opportunity seems to be slipping away in Salem.

This deal, which Gov. John Kitzhaber proposed this month, has the potential to achieve two goals vital to the state’s future.

 

Action needed on drought


Oregon and federal officials need to respond quickly to the Baker County Board of Commissioners’ June 5 declaration of a drought emergency.

The need for state and federal aid, which the county’s declaration is intended to summon, becomes more likely with the passage of each dry day.

On Wednesday evening a range fire near Huntington forced the temporary closure of the westbound lanes of Interstate 84.

The blaze indicates how dry the county’s rangelands already are, a week before the solstice.

Those rangelands are a vital source of summer forage for the county’s beef cattle herd — a $53 million business in 2012 — but even places that don’t burn might be useless for grazing.

The county’s only commercial fruit-grower, Eagle Valley Orchard near Richland, has already suffered a major loss due to a hard freeze in April.

And a looming shortage of irrigation water could cause big problems for farmers and ranchers throughout the county.

It could well be, of course, that Baker County will get by without any assistance — we’ve certainly done so before during difficult circumstances.

But the commissioners were wise to take action before the situation turns into a crisis.

Now their counterparts at the state and federal levels need to do the same.

 

A bigfoot tracker makes a little girl’s birthday


I have in the past expressed some doubt as to whether “Finding Bigfoot,” the cable TV program, is wholly devoted to scientific rigor in its pursuit of the hirsute beast.

The four hosts of the Animal Planet show, which is supposed to start its fourth season this fall, seem to know an awful lot about a creature whose very existence has not been confirmed.

From here on, though, my skepticism will be tempered by a personal bias in favor of one of the show’s stars, Cliff Barackman.

He gave my daughter, Olivia, a gift I expect she will always cherish.

 

Widening the DNA dragnet


If the federal government thinks groups that toss around words such as “liberty” deserve extra scrutiny as to their tax-exempt status, just imagine what that gargantuan enterprise might do with a detailed map of you, at the sub-cellular level.

Recently, with nearly daily revelations about the feds’ efforts to find out what you’re saying, and to prevent you from finding out what they’re up to, even a staunch defender of the benevolence of an omnipotent government must wonder whether his trust has been misplaced.

Last week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling, which validates the practice of having police take DNA samples from people who have been arrested, but not convicted, only thickens the Orwellian clouds of concern about our lack of privacy.

Justice Antonin Scalia, the renowned conservative who was joined in his dissent by the High Court’s most liberal justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, neatly summarized the possible, and troubling, ramifications:

“Make no mistake about it: Because of today’s decision, your DNA can be taken and entered into a national database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason,” Scalia wrote in his dissent.

But happily, this prospect is not a certainty in Oregon.

 

Letters to the Editor for June 12, 2013


Off-road group hauled 1,120 pounds of trash from woods

Locked & Loaded Off-Road of Baker County would like to thank our generous sponsors who helped make our Elk Creek clean up day a huge success as we picked up and hauled out more than 1,120 pounds of garbage.

Bucks 4x4, license plate covers, hats, can cozys, stickers, T-shirt, pink onesie and a grab handle; Hills Carquest, quick fist mounting systems, 5-quart oil change; Ash Grove, folding chairs, barbecue sets with apron and can cozys; Gentry Auto Group, oil change, hats, cooler, Armor All, Miracle towel, and an X-Box; Jeffery Grende Heating and AC, heating service; B&K Auto Salvage, $200 store credit; Baker City Truck Corral, meal coupons; Baker Valley Auto Parts, tow strap; Grumpy’s Repair, oil change; Oregon Sign, T-shirt, banner and decals.

Baker Sanitary Service donated the dump fee; Key Building donated the trailer to haul trash; and Steve Ritch donated garbage bags.

Christina Witham

Baker City

Obamacare is just a start; we need a real solution

274,000 Oregonians will continue to lack health insurance after the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) is implemented in 2016.  A study by researchers at the Harvard Medical School and the City University of New York School of Public Health released June 6 concluded that 30 million people in the United States will remain uninsured after implementation of Obamacare.

Eighty-one percent of the uninsured will be U.S. citizens and white persons of all ethnicities will make up 74 percent. Fifty-nine percent of the uninsured will have incomes between 100 percent and 399 percent of poverty and 27 percent will have below poverty incomes. 

There are currently 532,000 uninsured Oregonians. More than half will still lack insurance after Obamacare is implemented. Much of the drop in numbers of uninsured Oregonians is a result of Oregon expanding Medicaid. If Oregon had opted out of expanded Medicaid, many more of our friends, neighbors and family members would be uninsured.

In addition to leaving thousands of Oregonians uninsured, Obamacare does little to control sky-rocketing costs of health insurance.

Oregon needs a health care cost study and, fortunately, has the chance to get one. HB 3260, a study of health care financing options in Oregon, was passed unanimously with bi-partisan support by the Oregon House Health Care Committee and is now in the Ways and Means Committee. It is expected to go soon to the House and Senate for discussion and votes.

HB 3260 authorizes the Oregon Health Authority to commission a study of four options for financing health care for every Oregonian — implementing and expanding the Affordable Care Act, adding a public option in the state insurance  exchange, implementing statewide single payer health care and a forth option to be chosen by the legislature.

The current health care funding system is broken and must be repaired or replaced. 

If health insurance costs continue to increase at current rates, soon none of us will be able to afford coverage. HB 3260 is the first step in identifying the changes we need.

Bill Whitaker

La Grande

 

That's not Grant County


The portrait of Grant County sketched in a story in The Oregonian last week was far from a flattering portrayal of our neighbor to the southwest.

We’re skeptical, though, that that portrait, as outlined in the story about the possible release from prison of convicted murderer Sidney Dean Porter, is anything close to accurate, for Grant County or the many other places in Eastern Oregon with similar demographics.

On April 7, 1992, Porter used a piece of firewood to beat to death John Day Police officer Frank Ward.

 

Internet highlights my shortcomings, again


The Internet has brought a world of information to, well, the world, but it also has made it easier than ever for a person to feel inadequate.

And I’m not talking about all those male enhancement ads.

Not completely, anyway.

When I first learned to play guitar, back around third grade, the way you added a song to your repertoire was you went to a music store and perused the sheet music that was displayed next to the 45s.

(45s are thin, doughnut-shaped vinyl discs that have music stored on them, by the way. Sort of like CDs, but even lower-tech. No lasers).

 

Legislating good sense


We’ll start with the obvious: Smoking inside a car when kids are there is dumb.

Among confined spaces, where secondhand smoke poses a health risk, few are more confined than a car.

Oregon legislators, as the makers of law are wont to do, believe this is an issue which requires government intervention.

We disagree.

 

Letter to the Editor for June 5, 2013


Good Samaritan makes a tough job easier

Sunday morning, while struggling to change a flat tire on my pickup, a smiling young man, who was obviously dressed for church, stopped and asked if he could help.

His help made a difficult job much easier and more pleasant. I wish to publicly express my heartfelt appreciation to Erin Kerns, who lives his faith by helping others. I would also like to thank his family, who were late to church on my behalf.

Jerry Grover

Baker City

 

Scrutiny of city’s street plan


The proposed update to Baker City’s Transportation System Plan has some residents concerned, and we understand why.

Designed as a guide for how the city’s system of streets, sidewalks and paths develops over the next 20 years or so, the plan, not surprisingly, covers quite a lot of ground.

And although none of the myriad projects in the plan is set in stone (or, rather, in asphalt or concrete), any of them could become reality.

This could have major effects not only on residents’ property, but also on their pocketbooks.

 
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