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Letter to the Editor for Dec. 24, 2014


America must return to economic fairness

Our Constitution says that a central purpose and function of our government is to “promote the general Welfare.” To me, that means setting rules that enable everyone to benefit from the fruits of economic activity — to use the common wealth for the common good. By that measure, our government is currently failing us, and that means we need to change the rules of the game.

Our great country has, over the past 35 years, become a well-oiled machine, bestowing great wealth on a very few while relegating the rest of us to increasing economic distress and poverty. This massive redistribution of wealth followed a period of rising wages and widespread prosperity after WWII, with a promise of even further upward mobility, characterized by free college tuition and other major investments in our infrastructure.

That promising American Dream has vanished. Our economic structure has shifted fundamentally, with the introduction of computer automation, off-shoring, and union-busting. Good-paying jobs were and are being lost and wages stagnating, as we compete for the jobs that are left, while the wealthy rake in the profits. (This is well-documented by the movie “Inequality for All,” featuring former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, available on DVD at the Baker County Library and streaming on Netflix.)

Meanwhile, we’ve been stymied by anti-government sentiment, personified by Ronald Reagan and a discredited “supply-side,” trickle-down theory that led to tax cut after tax cut, cascading budget deficits, and deregulation of the reckless big banks. 

We’ve let this happen. We’ve let the top one percent keep all the benefits of improved productivity, and we’ve let Big Money intimidate almost all national politicians into a virtual conspiracy of silence about raising taxes on the wealthy and boosting family incomes. 

We must throw off our lethargy and our cynicism, lay aside the anti-government drumbeat that divides us, and we must change the rules. We must cooperate in reversing the massive redistribution of wealth. We must join together to demand the fairness and equity upon which our country was founded. 

Marshall McComb

Baker City


Baker’s best-ever tree?


Now THAT is a Christmas tree.

We don’t mean to disparage the donated trees that have graced Court Street Park in downtown Baker City during Christmases past.

Each was a fine and fetching tribute to the season.

But this year’s version sets a new standard.


Forestry by tape measure, not science


Environmental groups often chastise the Forest Service and other agencies for failing to use the “best science” when planning timber sales.

Yet some of these groups are employing a wholly arbitrary, and thus utterly unscientific, standard to thwart logging on public lands in Northeastern Oregon.

The dividing line is 21 inches.

Specifically, the width of a tree’s trunk about 4 feet above the ground.

About 20 years ago the Forest Service, to stave off a lawsuit from opponents of old growth logging, agreed to stop cutting live trees that exceed that 21-inch limit. This restriction was part of the so-called “eastside screens” that affect federal forests east of the Cascades in Oregon and Washington.


Letter to the Editor for Dec. 19, 2014


School board member trying to defends a bad decision

The letters in the paper reveal a lot about the people that write them. McKim’s starts with a disclaimer that this is his opinion and not that of the school board. He is 20 percent of the board. In his world of “what is” the fact is, a very small percentage (way less than 1 percent) attend most public meetings. No one was at the meeting when naming the gym was voted on. If it had been advertised maybe four or five people might have shown up to comment. Dielman’s 96 percent “no” by his unscientific survey negative to the gym name says something.

In his second point, it is a fact that most citizens aren’t involved in the workings of the school district. They expect the board to make the decisions, which include the right decisions. Just because something isn’t illegal doesn’t make it right. Rules can be bent; principles cannot.

The school board in the days of consolidation, the building of a new high school, names like Dr. Flora Biswell, Henry Levinger, Tom Hunt, Peggy Satterberg and Dr. James Evans, felt the necessity of putting a person’s name on the gym. This high school represents the starting place for state champions, Super Bowl winners, a national hall of fame high school coach, scholars and civil rights champions. Every class has some outstanding people. To disregard the 100-plus years of history for a decision in 2014 by a small group of “good ’ol boys,” and as a stated, invalidates concerns if you don’t get out of your recliner and attend the board meetings. Sounds like he thinks that the nearly 100 percent of 5J citizens not attending constitutes affirmation of this decision.

The school board is familiar with Mr. Peacock, yet are they familiar with names like Allison, Evans, Leipzig, Hammond, Doherty and their contributions to the use of the gym and the history associated with their efforts?

Your advice was to not make assumptions, gather information and don’t be poorly prepared to make your point. You are trying to defend a bad call. What’s the purpose, and who benefits from a name change?

Joe McEnroe

Baker City

Baker High School Class of 1954


No torture, but killing is OK?


Torture is a nasty word, and deed.

It has a certain medieval flavor, conjuring images of thumbscrews and iron maidens and other barbaric practices.

The notion that America would resort to torture naturally troubles citizens, ourselves included.

Yet we’re also troubled by some of the statements Oregon’s U.S. senators, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, made last week after a Senate committee released its report regarding the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” of terrorists following 9/11.


Mariota restores luster to the Heisman trophy


I have a connection to Marcus Mariota that no one else has.

This is, I admit, a grandiose claim. But I make it with supreme confidence.

I don’t mean to suggest that I am acquainted with Mariota, the quarterback at the University of Oregon, my alma mater, who on Saturday won the Heisman trophy as college football’s most outstanding player.

I’ve never met Mariota.

Almost certainly I never will meet him.


Letters to the Editor for Dec. 17, 2014


Enhanced interrogation? It really works

Years ago, as a young pilot who might be shot down over enemy territory, I was required to attend the Survival and Escape and Evasion school at Stead AFB in Nevada.  The 72 hours of enhanced interrogation techniques I underwent, although simulated, made me a believer in the efficacy of the process. It works.

 Perhaps Senator Feinstein should have the privilege of attending that school, now at Fairchild AFB in Washington. Or, better yet, we could just waterboard her.

 May the United States of America have a merry Christmas.  And may 2015 be a prosperous year in which intelligence is a concept practiced in our nation’s Capitol.

Robert Heriza

Baker City

Enjoying our local treasure: the river

For those citizens of Baker City who don’t already know, I want to draw your attention to one of your greatest treasures – the river.

My wife and I moved here about mid September. It wasn’t long til I had my line in the water most every day. It was like winning the lottery. A beautiful river full of magnificent rainbow trout, not two blocks from my front door! Did I mention the paved pathway, stretching alongside for two miles? It is truly a retiree’s dream.

After seeing me fishing, on a daily basis, quite a few curious locals mustered up the courage to admit “I thought the river was closed for fishing?” I would be more than happy to keep the Baker stretch of the Powder all to myself but being that Christmas is around the corner I feel it is my duty to share.

Your river is open year round (although I admit that it is pretty much closed when completely froze stiff). You may use bait and keep ’em April 26 to Oct. 31 (I kept a couple hook-swallowing beauties for breakfast); the rest of the year is catch and release using artificial flies and lures (no bait). 

Since it is flowing smoothly, for the moment, I have decided that my Christmas present to this treasure (yours and mine) will be to forego my daily fishing tomorrow and instead take a big garbage bag and pick up the incredible amount of trash (mysteriously escaping the many, well-placed receptacles) that lines the bank of this incredible resource. I only wish my arms were long enough to reach to the other side.

Mike Meyer

Baker City


What counties actually need


The Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program was supposed to be a temporary source of money for counties, including Baker, that suffered when logging in federal forests plummeted starting in early 1990s.

Counties receive 25 percent of revenue from timber sales on federal land within their borders.

Fourteen years after it started, SRS still exists, but barely. A pending federal budget bill doesn’t include SRS payments for 2015.


Traffic signals & 10th Street


The Oregon Department of Transportation’s plan to remove the pedestrian-controlled traffic signal at 10th and C streets in Baker City makes sense.

The purpose for installing the signal in 1973 — students going to and from nearby North Baker Elementary — went away when the school was closed in 2009.

Indeed we wonder whether the signal isn’t more a threat than a safety measure. Considering how rarely the lights were activated, it would seem likely that drivers are accustomed to driving past that intersection on 10th Street without stopping.

That said, we’re not convinced that ODOT’s advice to pedestrians — to use the signal at Campbell Street, three blocks south of C — adequately deals with the public’s needs on that busy stretch of 10th Street.

In particular we’d like to see ODOT study traffic volumes at the intersection of 10th and D streets. D Street certainly has had more use since the city built a bridge across the Powder River several years ago, creating another cross-town route.

And with Baker High School just two blocks east of the intersection, there’s still considerable pedestrian traffic.

ODOT spokesman Tom Strandberg said the agency will be “looking at” that intersection. That’s a good first step.


Letters to the Editor for Dec. 12, 2014


Government epitomizes the word ‘bloat’

My Webster’s dictionary defines “bloat” as “to make turgid or swollen; to fill to capacity or overflowing.” It seems that one of the best examples of bloat then is government at all levels in these United States of America.

According to the Bob Livinston letter of October 2014 the American welfare state now costs $1 trillion a year which exceeds the entire budgets of almost every other country in the world. Our welfare empire includes 200 or more federal and state programs. They include 23 low-income health programs, 27 low-income housing programs, 30 employment and training programs, 34 social service programs, 13 food and nutrition programs and 24 programs for low-income child care.

U.S. Department of Agriculture information shows that there has been a doubling, from 10 percent to 20 percent, of American households on food stamps in the last 10 years. Now nearly 47 million individuals get food stamps. And the number rose at the rate of over 722,000 per month form 2012 to 2013.  

The Eagle Forum of September 2014 indicates that taxpayer money is spent on 78 types of handouts to solve social problems which amounts to $19,000 to each American defined as poor, through 12 food programs, 12 social services, 12 educational assistance, 11 housing assistance programs, 9 vocational training, three energy and utility assistance, and three child care programs. These data do not include costs of the several agencies that administer these programs. 

Washington, D.C., is said to be the city least affected by our sagging economy. It is full of mansions and boasts of the highest average income of any city in these United States. Where does all this wealth come from? From our pockets! The city exists on the income of politicians and lobbyists, neither of which produce anything! The city literally sucks the blood (wealth) out of this country and has near complete control of the rate and extent of that process. 

The above is but a very small example of government’s reckless, largely unconstitutional, consumption of our limited resources. Isn’t it time we insist that our elected officials behave as statesmen rather than mere politicians? 

Jasper Coombes

Haines

Baker needs another grocer, a new traffic signal

For years I have hoped for these two improvements to be made in Baker City for the good of the people:

1.  A first class grocery store is badly needed on the west side of town.

2. A traffic signal is needed at 10th and D streets since D has become a major, cross-town thoroughfare. It is frequently difficult to cross 10th street on D, and it can be a long wait to turn onto 10th from D street.

City officials, listen up!

Mardelle Ebell

Baker City


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