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School spending and strange political bedfellows

Don’t feel badly if the recent debate in the Oregon Legislature over how much money the state should spend on public schools has left you a trifle woozy.

In a reversal of typical partisan roles, Republican legislators have pilloried the majority Democrats for shortchanging the state’s schools by hundreds of millions of dollars.


PILT is key for the county

It’s a yearly pest as predictable as the dandelion and the mosquito, but with much more serious potential consequences — Baker County officials wondering whether this is the year Congress pulls the budget rug from under their feet.

This year, as in the past, lawmakers eased the county’s fears by continuing a federal program that’s been a vital source of money for the road department for the past 15 years.


Backroad Oregon, but at least there’s Corn Nuts

There is no country store so remote that it can avoid Corn Nuts.

The place might stock one loaf of bread that looks as though it came out of the oven during the Clinton administration.

Its canned goods might shed a thicker layer of dust than artifacts at an archaeological dig.

You might have trouble telling the milk from the cottage cheese, what with their similarly chunky textures.

Best-buy date labels that don’t include the year are of little value.


Use TMP delay wisely

We’re not sure what Forest Service officials hoped to accomplish with their recent announcement that the agency is delaying work on its controversial plan to ban motor vehicles from some roads on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.

But if, as seems likely, the goal was to ease residents’ concerns, even temporarily, about the pending Travel Management Plan (TMP), then the announcement failed.

We’ve received several emails and letters to the editor from locals who not only weren’t mollified by the press release from Regional Forester Jim Pena, but they’re even more suspicious of the agency as a result.


Baker in pot sales bull’s-eye

Now that the Baker City Council has stepped onto the shaky legal ground of banning commercial marijuana sales in the city, we hope councilors will avoid walking into the potentially expensive morass of a lawsuit.

We expect that, were the matter to go to city voters, a majority would support the Council’s move to ban marijuana shops.

But we’re skeptical that the majority would continue to back their elected officials in a legal challenge that could siphon money from important city services.


Letter to the Editor for April 1, 2015

Travel management is cooking in every FS project

Press Release — USFS scheduled for reality check!!

For us dealing with the Forest Service for the past 15 years, on a nearly daily basis, this action is well past due. It becomes more apparent every day since the Travel Management Plan was withdrawn two years ago.

Nearly as disappointing —  the press. In Eastern Oregon, I find it hard to believe anyone on the staff of the newspapers can print these misleading Forest Service press releases as breaking news. Intentionally misleading the people in regard to road closures is blatant propaganda coming from the USFS at this time.   

 It is not news the TMP is on hold. (How many roads have been closed during this so-called pause?) Nothing has changed since it was shot down two years ago. Insinuating this is a new development, once again, rightly confirms the lack of confidence we have in the Forest Service being capable of speaking forthright. 

Press release from Mr. Pena, March 19, 2015, “It is my expectation that all three forests (including the Umatilla) will continue to address natural resource concerns and public access need as a part of ongoing project level decisions and forest restoration projects.” What we know from this statement, road closures will occur in these projects providing a back door for closures.

Bartering of roads to escape litigation is common at the table of collaboration. Travel Management is not on the burner but is cooking under the guise of every single project in the Blue Mountain forests. 

The Forest Service has a problem and it’s time to own up. This agency was forced to withdraw a TMP, then was confronted last fall with the problem of 11 counties withdrawing support for the agencies proposed Blue Mountain Forest Plan. Still, yes still they continue down a road of ignoring public sentiment.  Intentionally disregarding the message and presenting the illusion of public engagement. 

A question plagues me, “ why are the forests in such miserable condition?”

Wanda Ballard

Baker City   


Letter to the Editor for March 30, 2015

New city ordinance runs contrary to marijuana laws

Local ordinance 3336 is contrary to state law and will never hold up in court. 3336 violates Senate Bill 1531, which states in Section 2, “notwithstanding ORS 633.738, the governing body of a city or county may adopt ordinances that impose reasonable regulations on the operation of medical marijuana facilities registered, or applying for registration, under ORS 475.314 (3)(a) and reasonable conditions on the manner in which a medical marijuana facility may dispense medical marijuana.”

The law says what it means, and it means what it says. An outright ban is not reasonable and will never survive judicial scrutiny. How is it that the city attorney, the mayor and the police chief cannot figure that out.

Measure 91, which legalizes recreational marijuana use, has similar language at Section 59 which says, in part, “(1) Cities and counties may adopt reasonable time, place and manner regulations of the nuisance aspects of establishments that sell marijuana to consumers if the city or county makes specific findings that the establishment would cause adverse effects to occur.”

The City of Baker has found no specific findings of adverse effects. All we have seen from District Attorney Matt Shirtcliff, Mayor Kim Mosier and Chief Wyn Lohner is “REEFER MADNESS.” Measure 91 at Section 59 says, “Marijuana laws supersede and repeal inconsistent charters and ordinances. Sections 3 to 70 of this Act, designed to operate uniformly throughout the state, shall be paramount and superior to and shall fully replace and supersede any and all ordinances inconsistent with it. Such charters and ordinances hereby are repealed.”

Sen. Ron Wyden, while in Baker City, said that “Oregon’s marijuana laws apply to every nook and cranny” of the state including Baker City.

I realize that not everyone on the City Council is a lawyer, but Mayor Mosier purports to be one. City Attorney Brent Smith purports to be one. District Attorney Matt Shirtcliff purports to be one. City Manager Mike Kee appears to be an intelligent and educated man. These people had to know that ordinance 3336 is at odds with state law.

Local ordinance 3336, being inconsistent with sections 3 to 7 of Measure 91, is hereby repealed.

Al Free

Baker City


Ted Cruz has nothing to offer

Imagine a politician so desperate to stay relevant that he runs out and takes the most contrary position possible to any rational argument. We don’t have to imagine, though, since we have Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, now a GOP presidential contender.

Cruz, who asked the American people during his announcement speech to imagine his notion of an ideal future, is in big trouble amid stagnant approval ratings. A February poll in Texas showed that even Texas Republicans are split between him and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for their party’s presidential nomination.

A year and a half ago, Cruz seemed like an unstoppable, albeit polarizing, force among conservatives, successfully bullying his colleagues into a government shutdown and stirring debate over whether his being Canadian-born was a bar to the presidency. All the while, his smirk seemed to promise an end to conservative woes.

Today, Cruz is in a very different place. Now, everything he does seems a little funny, out of step or downright odd.


Bills aim to fix program

One way Oregon’s counties help attract new business is by offering companies property tax relief for a period of years. It’s a good deal for businesses, and, despite the loss of potential property tax revenue, it’s good for counties, as well.

Forgoing taxes does take a toll, however. New and bigger businesses and new jobs often mean increased demand for local services and more students in local schools. The state works to soften the blow by sending some income tax dollars back to the counties as what’s called gain share.

The system is far from perfect, however, and now competing bills in the state Senate seek to fix the worst of its problems. While both are better than the status quo, the one sponsored by Sen. Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, and Reps. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, and Ann Lininger, D-Lake Oswego, is the better of the two.


Letters to the Editor for March 27, 2015


Build a society that reflects values of most Americans

The top 1 percent of Americans now receive $1 trillion more income each year than they would receive under the income distribution that existed in 1979, and they pay historically low taxes. The bottom 80 percent now receive $1 trillion less per year, or $11,000 per family.

This is because not nearly enough good-paying jobs have been created during the past 35 years, due to off-shoring and the increasing impact of automation and robotics, and wages have not kept pace with the remarkable increase in productivity that has occurred. The profits have unjustifiably flowed to the very top.

The result: According to a CBS News report, “Three-quarters of Americans said they’re finding it difficult to both save for retirement and handle their day-to-day expenses.”  

But we will learn none of this from the op-ed articles by the Heritage Foundation that frequently appear in the Herald (most recently on March 23).  The regressive right is intent on keeping our attention focused on cutting government spending, and not on the burgeoning inequality of wealth.  

I urge my fellow readers (and the Herald’s editorial board) to explore a much wider range of meaningful options. For example, the other day the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) released their “People’s Budget: A Raise for America.” It calls for sharply increased taxes on the wealthy to pay for expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit and for needed investments in our infrastructure, like education. And it calls for a carbon tax, allowing the market to allocate carbon reduction.

What the CPC budget shows is what Washington too often suppresses: There is an alternative. It’s time for We the People to call the shots, and not the regressive right and their wealthy supporters. It’s time for democracy, not oligarchy.  

We can afford to build a society that reflects the values and priorities of most Americans. We only have to choose to do so, and we can choose to do so in the coming 2016 elections.

Marshall McComb

Baker City

Mandated voting would lead to downfall of the system

Obama and the Liberal Left are now attacking our right to vote or not. The president, using the term loosely, is now considering a “Mandate Vote Act.” 

This would mean, no matter the circumstance, every person 18 and over must vote, or be held criminally responsible. This would certainly mean the downfall of America’s voting system,which proves to be already troubled.

This latest stunt proves Obama’s lack of leadership, his turncoat attitude toward Israel, and his “hug-a-thug”approach to ISIS has the left-wingers worried about the upcoming 2016 presidential election.

Why else would the president suggest such lunacy, if not a political ploy? Most Americans aren’t aware of the political brinkmanship that is destroying this country from within. And, I speak of both immature parties. Most voters unfortunately, vote using what I call the “60-second-smear” method. Meaning, many people vote using information can-fed to them through the media’s 60-second smear campaigns between favorite television shows.

Why would anyone want an uninformed voter to vote? People who are made to vote are not going to educate themselves further just because they “have” to vote. Moreover, most would just rebel and choose whatever  — not even reading what or who’s up for vote. Why would any rational person want a voting system like this? A person or party who knows that unless they do, they have no chance of winning the presidency, that’s who.

For anyone to suggest this sort of voting system will work, has a severe lack of cognitive ability. And, they certainly should not be running America or her military! I find this yet, just another attempt by Socialist/Marxists to destroy America from within. 2016 must be the year of change for our Administration. 

If a change does not happen, I fear the worst. What we need to do is get rid of the two-party/electoral college system and make every person’s vote count on all state, local and national elections. Making every vote count is the only fair way of voting. 

No law or action should be taken without an individual voting election and those who don’t want to participate, should not be penalized.

Stephanie Kinsel

Baker City


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