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The fight over the Confederate battle flag and whether it can be included on a Texas specialty license plate has made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard arguments in the case Monday.


Letter to the Editor for March 23, 2015


Control of federal land? Be careful what you wish for

Our own worst enemy” — that’s what Baker County Commissioner Harvey thinks of the U.S. government. 

Harvey supports HB 3444, introduced by Republican State Representative Jim Weidner. The bill requires the United States to extinguish title to public lands and transfer title to the state.  

Harvey told the Baker City Herald (March 11 issue) that Weidner’s bill makes sense. “To me it is a good thing and it should be done.” 

Perhaps Harvey’s hopes are buoyed by precedent set in Utah. In 2012, the Utah Legislature, in a flight of pure fantasy, actually passed similar legislation and gave the U.S. government two years to comply.  So far Congress has, as far as I know, not even acknowledged Utah’s demand.

That’s not surprising. Even Utah’s own Legislative Counsel recommended against such legislation. I’m sure Legislative Counsel actually read the U.S. Constitution and found no clause granting authority to states to compel the U.S. government to do anything.

Apparently Weidner and Harvey have not considered the practical consequences of acquiring control of all those federal lands. In Idaho in 2012, the U.S. Forest Service spent $169 million on fire suppression. If Oregon acquired BLM and USFS lands, on which cattlemen graze their animals at a fraction of what grazing costs elsewhere, the state would most likely not continue such a subsidy, because it simply could not afford to do so.

Utah thinks it can go to court and require Congress to comply with its law.  Harvey agrees with that tactic. “You only do it when you absolutely have to. But we have no recourse. Our own government is becoming our own worst enemy. We have to litigate, we have no option left,” he told the Herald reporter.

Gary Dielman

Baker City


Why the federal budget matters


Voters often wonder if Congress can ever get spending under control. Well, both the House and Senate have introduced their latest budget blueprints, so we’ll soon know if they plan to keep kicking the can down the road — or get serious about reform.

Why care about the budget? Because it’s the only legislative document through which Congress addresses the entirety of the federal budget: all spending and taxes.

With more than $18.1 trillion in national debt and an annual deficit projected to grow from more than a half a trillion dollars last year to over a trillion dollars by the end of the decade, the budget presents a critical opportunity for Congress to address the key drivers of spending and debt.

Congress should put the budget on a path to balance to reduce debt and enable economic growth to raise living standards — for all Americans.


More voters, but will they vote?


Voting is such a fundamental right that questioning anything which encourages people to exercise that right is to tread on treacherous rhetorical ground.

But we’ll risk it.

Last week Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed into law a system designed to register an estimated 300,000 Oregonians as voters.


Pass bill to help sage grouse

The potential effects on Baker County’s economy if the federal government lists the sage grouse as a threatened or endangered species can hardly be underestimated.

Most directly, most of beef cattle that produce about $53 million annual sales for local ranchers also spend part of the year grazing on public land that that feds might deem critical habitat for sage grouse.


Oregon’s desert: Beauty, silence, and hot soup

The warning sign was silent on the matter of heating soup, which got me to wondering.

Would the BLM mind if I plunked a can of sirloin and hearty vegetables into one of the steam-belching vents at Mickey Hot Springs and waited for the broth to commence to bubbling?

I suppose using these publicly owned taps into the Earth’s molten mantle for something as banal as preparing a hot lunch must violate some federal statute or another.

And probably more than one, what with the ample supply.


Letters to the Editor for March 18, 2015

Gun control has never, and will never, succeed

Let’s talk gun control. The FACTUAL aspects of controlling the personal possession and use of firearms.  It appears quite simple to me, having been raised with them.

They are merely tools that can, and are, used for good and bad. Law-abiding people use them wisely and safely. The bad guys, outlaws, use them destructively. This last sentence explains, for the most part, why gun control laws haven’t yet and never will work to increase safety of our citizens. As a matter of fact, areas of this country with the strictest control of guns, Detroit and Washington, D.C, have the highest gun crime rates. Only outlaws have guns, the unarmed population are their victims. 

The new gun law passed in New York City is a perfect example of disaster designed to happen. The capacity of guns, including .22 caliber rifles, as I understand it, is restricted by law to seven rounds. Insanity! Proponents of the law claim the restrictions are for safety. For whom? It certainly isn’t for the safety of the homeowner who might be awakened to discover multiple robbers armed to the teeth.  And perhaps the person being robbed is aged or disabled. Which party is the law designed to protect?

We have repeated examples of our schools being invaded by killers. Yet we have laws and signs declaring that schools are gun-free zones. To an intended killer of children it simply means defenseless children! Will we never learn?

Recent history is replete with examples of nations where the citizens first gave up their right to be armed and shortly thereafter the government became a brutal dictatorship and the people were without the ability to resist. Could it eventually happen here?

If you read the U.S. Constitution carefully, you will see it means that each person has the God-given right to be armed! The Second Amendment merely emphasizes that right. There are two primary reasons to disarm the American people. The first is ignorance: ignorance of the consequences facing a defenseless people. The other, simply put, is deceit: those who know the consequence and yet deliberately want their fellow man defenseless. Isn’t it time we identify each?

Jasper Coombes

Haines

Don’t let Western Oregon Democrats manage land

Transferring federal land to the state is a bad idea. State government is not local. Who in his/her right mind would transfer public land to a state government controlled by Democrats? Need I remind folks that we haven’t had a Republican governor since Vic Atiyeh? It was Western Oregon liberals who voted in favor of legalizing dope, the same voters who continue to select a majority of Democrats for leading state government. Is that who you want controlling our public land?  Public land is a good thing, it just needs to be managed well and pay its way.

It might be a positive idea for each Eastern Oregon county to manage its share of public land but that would be impractical. The first large wildfire would bankrupt any county.

If we are going to make positive political changes, how about the following?

• Pass national legislation requiring the federal government to pay property taxes.  This would provide a more stable, reliable income from public land than payment-in-lieu-of-taxes or secure-rural-schools legislation. It would give a fairly determined tax base to counties with large public land ownership.

• Secede from Western Oregon and join Idaho if they would have us. There are periodic suggestions to secede and form our own state but that would be prohibitively expensive. Eastern Oregon would be a much better match with Idaho economically (agriculture), culturally (rural), politically (conservative) and mind-set (common sense) than we are with Western Oregon. 

• Elect conservative Republicans to the presidency and Congress so we at least have a chance for better Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture who might manage western federal land with a western perspective.

• Protect farmers and ranchers, the folks who feed everyone, with appropriate legislation. Then leave them alone.

• Shoot the wolves and allow dog use in hunting cougars and bears.

• Reduce the influence of environmental groups.

• Require Eastern Oregon federal judges to decide Eastern Oregon legal issues.

Since many of you know that I am a federal employee (Forest Service), I need to clarify that the previous opinions are strictly my own.

Jim Carnahan

Baker City


The city’s expensive mistake

It looks increasingly likely that a decade-old mistake by a former Baker City attorney will cost the city thousands of dollars.

If nothing else, the lawsuit that current City Councilor Richard Langrell and his wife, Lynne, filed against the city last year illustrates how vital it is that officials go over contracts with the proverbial fine-toothed comb.


Letter to the Editor for March 16, 2015

New gift turns me into a gold panner

I received a gift in the mail the other day — a brand new gold panning kit. It came from one of my old ironworking chums that I had left behind in the Portland / Vancouver area. Vaughn must have figured I needed more things to keep me busy. Feeling somewhat obligated, my wife and I made plans to try it out.

Back home you couldn’t look crosswise at a river or stream without some sort of permit, license or pamphlet so I set out to cover our bases. It was all about the fish in Vancouver so my first stop was with Fish and Wildlife. They had no problem but referred me to BLM. BLM shrugged their shoulders, as if I had interrupted their extremely important day with a stupid question, warning me to stay away from other people’s claims. The National Forest people had no problem as long as we weren’t bringing in heavy equipment. So with no more knowledge, than before, we headed into the woods. Long story short — no gold, wet feet and sore backs. 

While recovering I remembered a recent newspaper article by Jayson Jacoby. It had touched on some gold history of this area so I shot him an e-mail asking if he had any information steering us in a gold finding direction. He instantly responded with an informative article from a past issue of the Herald. The article pushed me towards the Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI). Jayson had referenced them in the recent article also but it had escaped my attention (oldtimer’s disease).

Barb and I took the short walk to the courthouse and the DOGAMI office. This is where we met Jason McClaughry (Eastern Oregon regional geologist). There is not enough words to express how thoughtful and helpful this gentleman was. He answered every one of our gold panning questions and when I mentioned our interest in rockhounding he came alive. He freely shared his valuable knowledge, sending us on a future full of travel and discovery.  A huge thank you to both Jayson and Jason for making us feel we matter.  

Mike Meyer

Baker City


5J deal overly complicated

We’ve known since last October that the Baker School District would need to hire a superintendent to replace Walt Wegener, who is retiring June 30.

What we didn’t expect is that the school board would end up paying three people, one of whom is Wegener, for the final 3 months of his tenure.

This seems an unnecessary jumbling of jobs, and an extra expense to the district, which is at the same time lobbying the Oregon Legislature, and with good reason, to allocate more money for public schools.


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