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Failing to take care of veterans: No excuses


The federal government does a pretty fair job of making sure our soldiers, when they fight on our behalf, have cartridges for their rifles and shells for their artillery.

But after the battles, when these men and women get sick, they often don’t get so much as a “take two aspirin and call me in the morning” from our supposedly grateful nation.

The widespread failures of the U.S. Veterans Administration, and in particular its medical care apparatus, are of course appalling.

People who don’t even work, much less risk their lives carrying out our country’s policies, will be sitting in a doctor’s office maybe a day or two after they notice the symptoms.

Veterans, meanwhile, wait a month.

If they’re lucky.

In Oregon, by and large, veterans are not even that fortunate.

 

Law can’t deal with all issues


One trait common among lawmakers is the confidence that they can solve every problem by passing a law.

The futility of this notion is of course obvious to anyone with even a passing knowledge of human history.

Murder, for instance, has been a crime in most parts of the world for centuries.

Yet people keep killing each other, and in pretty much every country.

Probably no type of tragedy prompts more proposals from lawmakers than a fatal shooting at a school.

 

Tell us what’s on the rails


Firefighters and other emergency first responders in Oregon now know how much crude oil is rolling along the state’s railroads, including the Union Pacific tracks that run the length of Baker County and directly through Haines, Baker City and Huntington.

That’s good.

What’s not good is that we, the public, don’t have the same information.

Not yet, anyway.

 

Learning to field grounders — and to be a dad


I had a baseball glove and a ball and a bat and just down the block there was a grassy field smooth enough that only rarely would a grounder take a nasty hop and smack you in the nose.

But none of those things made me a baseball player.

Or want to be a baseball player.

You need a dad for that.

And not just any dad.

You need a dad, like my dad, who can wield a glove with his left hand and a bat with his right, hit a ground ball, catch the return throw, flick the ball out of the glove and rap another roller with just enough speed to test your mettle.

 

What do we get for the money?


We’re not opposed to the Baker County Compensation Board’s proposal to make Commissioner Mark Bennett’s position half-time instead of the current quarter-time, and to boost his annual salary from $16,000 to $32,000.

But we expect to see specific examples of how the taxpayers will benefit from the extra outlay of cash.

Bennett and Commission Chairman Fred Warner Jr. have laid out a compelling case for the change.

In particular, they point out that commissioners need to understand the complex relationships among state and federal agencies that have a direct effect on Baker County’s economy and its residents.

The federal government, after all, manages almost exactly half of Baker County’s 2 million acres.

 

D-Day, 70 years later


June 6, 1944, was a terrible day.

But at least Americans had the meager solace of understanding exactly why 2,500 of their soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen died while taking the first step toward liberating France from the Nazis.

It was an awful sacrifice, but a necessary one.

Today, 70 years later, we not only honor those who fought, and those who died, on the beaches of Normandy.

We also reflect on how vastly different the perceptions, and the realities, of America’s military endeavors are now.

 

Two cars, 12 gears and still shifting for myself


I own two vehicles, which have between them 12 forward gears.

Not so long ago you needed three or four rigs to get that many transmission cogs, but such is progress.

The unusual thing about my modest fleet, though, isn’t the gearbox tally — showrooms abound these days with 7-, 8- and 9-speed transmissions — but rather the type.

Both are manuals, which is to say stickshifts.

It used to be you could tell oftentimes what kind of transmission a car had without wriggling onto the floor to count the pedals, which can give you a crick in the neck. Or worse, if you rise up too fast and whack your forehead on the fuse block.

If the shift lever poked out from the floor, the transmission almost certainly was a manual.

But if the lever jutted from the right side of the steering column, the odds were better than even that it was an automatic.

 

Letter to the Editor for June 4, 2014


Harvey reflects on campaign, thanks voters

I would like to say thank you to Baker County for the vote of confidence you have shown in the primary election as your next Baker County Commission Chair.  As I reflect on the following:

• Interview with Super Talk Radio Eddie Garcia 

• Input with Lars Larson

• Participating in two different forums

• Mass mailing

• Radio ads on local stations

• Weekly Round Table meetings

• Placement of over 300 signs

• Attending the Rural Area City Council Meetings,

I am still amazed and greatly humbled that it was the individual person who took the time to learn about the issues and made the choice to cast their ballot.  That is what really made the difference. 

 I would specially like to say thank you to the many volunteers who spent countless hours, providing me with documents, legal information and input on the many different areas that affect our county as a whole today.  I am also grateful for those that provided the leg work getting the word out regarding my campaign.

 Finally, a great big hug and thank you to my wife Lorrie who encouraged me, supported me, prayed with me and took on the role as my campaign manager.

 After the November general election, it will be time to get to work and I am looking forward to January 2015.

Bill Harvey

Haines

 

What a real waste looks like


Baker City’s recent debate about modest salary raises for a dozen or so employees, and questions raised during the primary election campaign about whether Baker County is holding on to too much cash at the end of the fiscal year, seem quaint in comparison to the financial debacle that’s been plaguing Multnomah County for a decade.

We’re referring to the infamous Wapato Jail in Oregon’s most populous county.

In a case of government ineptitude that surely surprises even cynics, Multnomah County spent $58 million to build a jail that has never housed an inmate.

And the county continues to shell out $300,000 per year to maintain the building.

The explanation for what seems inexplicable is that county officials overestimated the number of jail cells that would be needed.

We don’t mean to suggest that salary raises for city workers, or Baker County’s budgeting strategy, are topics unworthy of public discussion. Of course they are.

But as we debate these issues, we as taxpayers ought to feel better knowing that at least we’re not paying for an empty building.

 

Letters to the editor for June 2, 2014

Anyone following the Baker School District knows we have been through a lot in the past few years. Boards of directors are comprised of people with different backgrounds, temperaments and agendas and go through periods of peace, as well as dissent.

Yet every board member provides clear thinking in some area of expertise. For the past three years, Mark Henderson has given the Baker School District board a strong orientation in practical business sense and clear thinking. While he is now leaving the board for new business opportunities, it is worth reviewing his good record of service on the board, since a review would not only say something about Mark, but also reveal important things about the board.

Mark came to Baker County in 2005 and read the newspaper stories about the Baker District facing decreased funding and increased expenses. He was concerned about his two boys, at the time in pre-K and first grade. Many people would just grumble and not do anything. But Mark decided to see how he could help.

He emailed Doug Dalton, financial manager for the district, to learn more and find ways to help. Mark soon found himself on the budget committee, a group of residents that goes over the district’s proposed budget and makes recommendations to the board. Even at that early stage, Mark showed he was knowledgeable, applying the common sense of a business owner combined with the compassion of a parent with children in the district.

 
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