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Spreadsheet shows big changes in tax burden


Baker County Assessor Kerry Savage has created a spreadsheet that makes you wish you had owned a home here since 1970.

Although it’s quite likely, I’ll concede, that you already felt this way and need no spreadsheet to confirm your feelings.

Measured as a long-term investment, this theoretical house reminds me of those intriguing stories — some of which have the not minor advantage of being true — of people who had the foresight, or the dumb luck, to pick up a few thousand shares of stock in, say, IBM back when most people thought a microprocessor was a very small person who helped you apply for a bank loan.

Savage’s spreadsheet shows the market values of the various categories of real estate in the county — residential, farm, forest, etc. — for each year dating to 1970.

Like all such documents, it seemed to me at first glance indecipherable.

Also at the second glance, after which I had to plead to Savage for help.


Letter to the Editor for May 28, 2014


Forest Service ‘designates’ where you can go

The U.S. Forest Service is currently taking comments on the Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision (BMFPR). This plan will serve as the “zoning ordinance” for the three national forests found within the Blue Mountains. One particular phrase should be of grave concern for any member of the public that enjoys motorize access into “The Blues,” as most locals lovingly refer to them. That phrase is “Designated routes.”

Designated routes sounds like a harmless enough phrase that you simply designate uses of current roads and move on. Unfortunately it’s not that harmless. Designated routes are the cornerstone of how the Forest Service has successfully closed hundreds of thousands of acres of public lands throughout the West, and it has also been successfully stopped in regions where the public has actively engaged in the process and acted against it.

To understand designated routes one need look no further than their home. Envision your home as it is now, with the freedom to move through it as needed, accessing every resource you need to have a complete home.

Now let’s “designate routes” through your home and see how that works. Lay a piece of tape down the middle of all your floors, you are only allowed to be 3 feet from the tape at any time. You may not touch any items outside that 3 foot buffer. 

You now have “designated routes” — fun, isn’t it? 

Your yard has been deemed needed as a “wildlife corridor” area and now is off limits to any big wheel, tricycle or lawnmower activity. You may walk into your yard, however, you may not utilize any motorized tools.

Does this make the picture clearer as to what the BMFPR really is? It’s Travel Management (road closures) with a different spin on it.

The USFS will tell you it’s not about road closures, and that is a true statement. This document is even more sinister, as it sets the foundation for the USFS to close roads as it states it is YOUR DESIRED CONDITION to see routes designated.

Do you really want your access “designated” away? If no, you had better get to commenting on the BMFPR.

John D. George

Bates


Logging should continue


The 2012 withdrawal of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest’s widely reviled Travel Management Plan (TMP) pleased many ATV riders who enjoy the forest’s network of open roads, but it turns out that in one sense the decision might not have been good for loggers and Boise Cascade’s sawmills.

In a curious reversal, environmental groups that criticized the TMP in 2012 because it didn’t ban motor vehicles from enough roads, now are wielding that abandoned plan as a cudgel against Snow Basin, the largest logging project on the Wallowa-Whitman in almost a quarter century.

The plaintiffs in a 2012 lawsuit challenging the Snow Basin project in eastern Baker County are the Hells Canyon Preservation Council and the League of Wilderness Defenders/Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project.

They argue that because the Wallowa-Whitman withdrew the TMP, the mileage of roads in the Snow Basin area open to motor vehicles poses a threat to elk that the forest has failed to adequately address.


It takes hearts, and bolts, to build a playground


I had the worst vacation of my life last week.

And the best.

On the negative side of the ledger I list the common ailments of a manual laborer whose skill with even basic hand tools is so meager as to be dangerous to passers-by.

I refer here to myself.

I tweaked a tendon or a ligament or anyway some part of my right wrist while shoveling gravel into a wheelbarrow.

I gashed my left arm on a section of plastic fencing whose ends ought to have been labeled “Ginsu.”

I almost glued two fingers together.

(My own fingers, fortunately.)

Yet the aches dissipated, and with a speed no salve or balm could match, the instant on Friday, May 16 when I glanced over at the new playground in Geiser-Pollman Park and saw that children were climbing every ladder and careening down every slide.


Letters to the Editor for May 23, 2014


Mayor misses mark with personnel cost comments

The Mayor’s comment that city personnel costs need to be cut suggests to me that he has less than the desired level of understanding of municipal government. Labor costs, in every city, represent the greatest percentage of a city’s budget. Baker City’s ratio of personnel costs to non-personnel costs is not out of line with other cities in Eastern Oregon or elsewhere. “We need to cut personnel costs” is the mantra of the politically correct, but uninformed. It also fails to take into account the professionalism and competence of the city manager and department heads all of whom know and support the concept of asking only for what is needed to provide appropriate levels of service to the public.

 It would be one thing if city departments were overstaffed,  but they are not. There is no department of city government which has “excess” personnel. The staffing levels which exist are no more than needed to meet the responsibilities to and expectations of the public served. In fact, if one looks at public safety staffing in particular (both police and fire) and applies accepted staffing formulas developed by experts over a period of decades those two departments are actually understaffed.

 If the Mayor seriously believes that the budget needs to be reduced perhaps he ought to look at the many “nice to have” programs he has supported and put some of them on the chopping block.  Cutting essential, not “feel good,” services is a disservice to the public the Mayor was elected to represent.

Jerry Boyd

Baker City

Park playground project proves dreams come true

Thank you Lisa Britton Jacoby and all your cohorts, for coming up with a plan to update the city park playground equipment. It looks wonderful. I walked over yesterday to check it out. The park was full of young parents and children doing the same thing. We are so fortunate to have people who are willing and able to put forth the effort to make dreams come true. I will add this to the long list of why I love living here in Baker City.

Betty Duncan

Baker City


Remember whose day it is


You can sense it when you stroll among the graves in the veterans section at Mount Hope Cemetery, and watch the rows of American flags flutter in the May breeze.

But perhaps the most poignant reminder of what Memorial Day means comes when you stand in front of the monument on the east lawn of the Baker County Courthouse, on Third Street between Court and Washington avenues, and you read the names rendered there in metal.

These are the men and women from Baker County who died while serving in uniform during a war.

And although the letters that make up their names are small, their contributions are so great as to defy measurement.

Each name represents not just one life lost, but a long roster of family and friends whose own lives were forever changed by a death on a foreign battlefield.

We do what we can to remember and to honor them, with monuments and avenues of flags and speeches, though we know these are, and can ever only be, tokens.

But still these gestures matter, however minor they might seem compared with the magnitude of the sacrifices they are intended to recognize.

This day, which is their day and theirs alone, matters.


Letter to the Editor for May 21, 2014


Geiser-Pollman Park keeps getting better

What a wonderful, fun gathering place Geiser-Pollman Park is becoming! The new playground equipment is already drawing crowds of young kids and parents — at all hours, in all kinds of weather. Kudos not only to Lisa Britton and Megan Fisher, but also to all those volunteers who rolled up their sleeves and “got ’er done.” The park’s horseshoe pits have been completely revamped and brought up to tournament code by the Baker City Lions Club. Great job, Lions (ROAR)!

We look forward to the day when the Bandstand project is completed and becomes yet another jewel in Baker City’s treasure chest.

David and Joyce Hunsaker

Baker City


Judge gets it right on marriage


The wave of court rulings giving same sex couples the legal right to get married has finally, perhaps inevitably, reached Oregon’s shores.

On Monday federal Judge Michael McShane, as expected, overturned the state’s ban on same sex marriage. In 2004 Oregon voters, with 56.7 percent in favor, approved Measure 36, which added to the state’s Constitution a definition of marriage as “between one man and one woman.”

Oregon is the 14th state to have its gay marriage ban invalidated since last summer, when the U.S. Supreme Court rejected sections of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

We support McShane’s ruling.

And we expect that were the matter put to Oregon voters today, the outcome would be different than it was a decade ago.


Election Day is here


If you haven’t put your ballot for today's primary election in the mail, don’t.

It’s too late.

If you want your vote to count, you’ll need to bring your ballot to the Courthouse, 1995 Third St. in Baker City, or slip the envelope into one of the county’s other ballot drop boxes, by 8 p.m. 

The list:

• County Clerk’s office, Suite 150 in the Courthouse, open today until 5 p.m., and Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

• Drive-up drop box on the west side (Fourth Street) of the Courthouse, open 24 hours

• Community Connection of Baker County Senior Center, 2810 Cedar St. in Baker City, open today until 5 p.m., and Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

• Halfway City Hall, open today until 4 p.m., and Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

• Huntington City Hall, open today until 4 p.m., and Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

• Richland City Hall, open today until 3 p.m., and Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The Baker City Herald’s endorsements for Tuesday’s primary:

• Baker County Commission Chairman: Fred Warner Jr.

• Baker County Commission Position 2: Mark Bennett

The Herald has not endorsed a candidate in the three-person race for Baker County Clerk because it’s likely that two of the three candidates — Marcy Osborn, Cindy Carpenter and Lara Petitclerc — will advance to November’s general election.

That will happen unless one of the three candidates gets more than 50 percent of the total votes cast Tuesday.

Although this year’s primary has been one of the most competitive — and expensive — local races in years, in particular the contest between incumbent Fred Warner Jr. and Bill Harvey for Baker County Commission chairman, voter turnout as of this morning was just 32.8 percent.

We hope that percentage is substantially higher by the time the final ballot is tallied Tuesday night.


Mr. Silvers’ generosity will long be appreciated

The new trees cast only thin shadows over the sidewalks north of the Fairgrounds rodeo arena but their significance, it seems to me, looms much larger than their meager shelter.

We who love trees must of course leaven our affection with patience. Much more patience, certainly, than we invest in the sowing of a vegetable garden or an expanse of grass, either of which yields its final products in a matter of weeks or perhaps a few months.

Trees are nothing as ephemeral as a row of peas or corn, but the greatness of a tree accumulates only over many years.

There is I think a slight similarity in this respect between trees and children.

Neither arrives fully developed. We watch as they grow into their potential, striving always to give them all they need to prosper. We rejoice when they achieve milestones (first autumn display of brilliant foliage, first straight-A’s report card) and we despair when they falter (first wind-snapped limb, first time late bringing the car back and with a dent in the fender).


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