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Better able to deal with fires


You can watch them roll by, showroom-shiny, during local parades, but in our view the trucks from rural fire protection districts never look so good as when they’re coated with dust and pinstriped with scratches from sagebrush.

When they’re out doing what they were designed to do, in other words, which is protecting homes and valuable rangelands and crop fields from flames.

Fire will always pose a threat in our arid county.

But we’ve never been better equipped to deal with the danger.

The proliferation of volunteer-run rural fire districts over the past 15 or so years has added significant muscle to the county’s firefighting capabilities.

 

Letters to the Editor for July 28, 2014


12 ways the Motorcycle Rally benefits Baker

Here are 12 little-known ways that the Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally contributes to our community:

• We promote and collect money for camping at the Baker High School. This year they made almost $10,000!

• The FFA club held a tri-tip barbecue at the school Saturday night as a fundraiser.

• The Baker High School cheerleaders wash bikes and made $2,000!

• The Baker City VFW serves breakfast on Saturday and Sunday. It is their largest fundraiser of the year. Also on Friday night the bar revenue was the best they have ever had.

• In Halfway they sell buffalo burgers to help pay for their annual fireworks show. Last year they made over $2,000. Their most important fundraiser of the year.

• The American Legion Post No. 43 Poker Run brought in over $1,600.

• Relay for life and the Scouts also had fundraisers.

• The Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally is a dues- paying member of HBC (Historic Baker City) and the Baker County Chamber of Commerce.

• We supported the purchase of “Turbo” the drug dog for the Baker City Police Department and for his continuing care. This year we have donated $500.

• For the second year in a row we have given $500 to purchase bicycle helmets for Baker City kids.

• This year we stepped up and paid $2,000 to purchase electrical equipment from the Chamber. We could have rented the equipment to meet our needs but we felt that it was important that this equipment be available, free of charge, for local community events such as the downtown Christmas Tree Lighting and Miners Jubilee.

• We purchased two off road motorcycles for local law enforcement.

Kurt Miller

Hells Canyon Motorycle Rally operations manager

Baker City

Minimum wage laws not as good as they sound

Minimum wage laws are another of those ideas which sound good. After all, why shouldn’t a worker have a salary high enough to support himself in a decent manner? Conesquently most Americans support minimum wage laws. But this is an idea which, when you look closely at it, has some nasty side effects. Teenagers are especially adversely affected by these laws.

It works like this: There are certain job skills necessary for being a good, productive employee for all jobs, even for entry level jobs. One must show up for work on time, remain on task, do assigned duties to the satisfaction of one’s boss, phone in when sick, etc. Employers naturally want to hire those who already possess those job skills. But most teenagers who’ve never worked haven’t developed them yet.

 In an ideal world, employers could take a chance on hiring teenagers by offering them lower wages than they’d pay older workers, and teenagers who want to work could accept those lower salaries. Then, teenagers would have jobs where they could learn the basic skills needed to become successful employees. But this is not possible today. There is a minimum which employers can pay, and a minimum which teenagers can accept. Consequently many teenagers are priced out of the job market. This is a big reason why teenage unemployment rates are consistently much higher than the average. And regardless of what the minimum wage might be, their salary is $0.00, as they have no job.

Many black teenagers face an even worse job situation than their fellow teens. They come from dysfunctional, failing big city school systems, and so are even more inadequately prepared for the world of work than their suburban and rural counterparts. Their unemployment rate is thus even higher.           

The unemployment rate in the United States today is 6.1 percent. Teenage unemployment is well above 20 percent, and black teenage unemployment is an incredible 38.7 percent. It’s easy to see why noted economist Milton Friedman called the minimum wage laws the most anti-black laws on the books.

 Minimum wage laws don’t sound so good now, do they?

Pete Sundin

Baker City

 

Obama off base with fire comment


President Obama’s visit this week to Washington state, where a massive wildfire has destroyed 150 homes, was predictable in every respect.

We didn’t mind most parts of the president’s choreographed trip.

Mr. Obama declared a federal emergency in Washington, which authorizes multiple federal agencies to work with state and local officials to fight fires and help displaced residents.

The president telephoned the widow of a man who died of a heart attack while trying to protect the couple’s home from the flames.

Appropriately presidential actions, to be sure.

 

In praise of Pine Cr. Reservoir, and its ‘road’


Pine Creek Reservoir is the best place in the Elkhorns.

It’s one of them, anyway.

I just gutted a tenet of grammar, I know. Best is a superlative adjective and thus, technically, bestows on its subject exclusivity.

The phrase “one of the best,” then, is colloquially appropriate but linguistically clumsy — cousin to another common construction, “very unique.” Something unique, by strict definition, is one of a kind — the “very” is implicit and thus superfluous.

I don’t care.

Well, I do care about grammar and its sometimes stuffy conventions, as anyone who writes ought to care about those matters.

But the thing about the Elkhorns is that they’re so rich in places of astounding beauty, and since I can’t visit any two of them simultaneously, it seems to me reasonable to brand the place I’m visiting as the best if, while I’m there, it feels that way.

 

Letter to the Editor for July 23, 2014


Forest officials don’t want to listen to the public

In a letter dated July 17 of 2014 the forest supervisors of the three national forests (Wallowa-Whitman, Malheur and Umatilla) of the Blue Mountains closed the door on public comment meetings to the people of Eastern Oregon. 

Mr. Laurence of Baker, Ms. Raaf of John Day, and Mr. Martin of Pendleton all signed a letter provided to this paper stating that they did not feel there was a need for public comment meetings, and no extension was warranted as they were doing their due diligence to interact with the public of Eastern Oregon. Mr. Laurence assured a group of people on March 1 that such meetings would take place, now he is declining to move forward with those meetings as promised, yet another misrepresentation of the truth.

The people of Eastern Oregon not only deserve to have open public comment meetings on the Forest Plan Revision, they require such meetings because of the limited opportunities they have to comment on the 1,400-page document. The U.S. Forest Service has supplied three electronic means to submit comments, and one paper means, all in written format, with no way to articulate their positions verbally and has also stated you may visit a supervisor’s or district office to submit comments, that is if one wants to be made to feel like a criminal in accessing an office building, or can get an appointment with a Forest Service employee to discuss the matter.

It is grossly apparent the USFS in Eastern Oregon does not want to engage with the public in Eastern Oregon in an open forum public comment meeting, and they are hoping that the written comment method will help limit the amount of comments they will receive in the matter.

You must stand up for yourselves and have a voice. Please contact the people below and let them know you expect and demand public comment meetings before the Aug. 15 cutoff deadline or request an extension of the comment period on the Forest Plan Revision.

Wallowa Whitman Forest Supervisor – John Laurence – This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Malheur Forest Supervisor Teresa Raaf – This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Umatilla Forest Supervisor Kevin Martin – This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Regional Forester Pena – This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Secretary Vilsack – This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Chief Tidwell – This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

John George

Bates

 

Lots of people, but little trouble


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.

 

Letters to the Editor for July 21, 2014


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.

Patricia Culley

Baker City

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.

Gene Wall

Baker City

 

No rubber stamps


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.

 

Letter to the Editor for July 18, 2014


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.

Dan Martin

Baker City

 

Summer of love: Meeting the Elkhorns in ’89


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.

 
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