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Feds: Slow down on ESA plan


The federal government can devote about as much time and money as it wants to writing rules and laws, yet bureaucrats seem to believe the citizens affected ought to be able to read reams of badly written jargon in a couple of months.

Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., and 42 other lawmakers think citizens are being shortchanged.

We agree.

Officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration should heed the legislators’ advice and give Americans more time to comment on three proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

These changes, which were unveiled on May 12, could result in more public and private land being designated as critical habitat for threatened and endangered species.

If enacted, those changes could have a major effect on the use of public and private land in Baker County and elsewhere in Oregon.

We’re thinking here in particular of the looming possibility of the sage grouse being listed as threatened or endangered, a decision the Fish and Wildlife Service is supposed to make in 2015.

And yet with so much potentially at stake, the two federal agencies proposed to give the public just 60 days to comment on the changes to the ESA.

Walden and the other lawmakers suggest adding six months to the comment period.

That’s a reasonable request.


Merit pay better than COLA? Maybe


We endorsed Baker City Manager Mike Kee’s proposal to give the city’s 16 non-union employees a 1.5-percent cost-of-living raise, the first for that group since 2011.

The City Council disagreed.

The Council did craft a potential compromise, though, and one that could be an improvement over Kee’s plan.

Councilors recently voted 6-1, with Mayor Richard Langrell opposed, to give Kee authority to award raises of up to 2 percent to non-union staff who have done well on performance evaluations.

Our support for this idea is not without reservation because it’s possible that all of the city’s non-union staff will end up with a bigger raise than what Kee initially proposed — 2 percent compared with 1.5 percent.

That would be too generous.

It defies logic to believe that each non-union employee has performed at such a high level to warrant the maximum pay raise possible.

You won’t find that sort of unanimous excellence at any organization, public or private.

That caveat aside, we prefer giving raises based on merit rather than a spurious cost-of-living basis.

Ultimately, the Council’s decision has put the onus, and rightly so, on Kee.

If he decides to give each non-union employee the full 2-percent raise councilors allotted, then we expect he will explain in some detail, to the public and the Council, why the workers’ performance justified the maximum reward.


Bracing for fire season


The rain that doused Baker County earlier this week was no mirage.

But neither is the warm sunshine that quickly replaced the sodden clouds.

And sunshine, not downpours, has been the defining characteristic of this spring. Until Wednesday, in fact, this spring was the driest in the county since World War II.

With the whole of summer yet to come, the odds are high that the fire danger will escalate quickly as July progresses.

Which is not to say big wildfires are a near certainty in Baker County.


Letter to the Editor for June 20, 2014


Writer didn’t mention effectiveness of vaccines

In a recent guest opinion published in another local paper, Baker County resident L.E. Castillo criticizes a new Oregon Health Authority vaccination requirement that parents who opt out of having their children vaccinated watch a “vaccine education module.” Castillo bolsters his objection by citing several studies showing that some children suffer adverse effects from vaccines. 

Based on these studies Castillo advises parents “not to vaccinate your children until you’ve done some homework.” As an alternative to vaccination, Castillo recommends “homeopathic vaccine alternatives.”

Castillo makes no attempt to present the overwhelming evidence that vaccination prevents deadly epidemics that used to plague the world. 

Parents magazine has this to say about vaccination: “The odds of experiencing a vaccine-related injury are greatly outweighed by the dangers of catching a vaccine-preventable disease. The measles vaccine, for instance, can cause a temporary reduction in platelets (which control bleeding after an injury) in 1 in 30,000 children, but 1 in 2,000 will die if they get measles itself. The DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis/chicken pox) vaccine can cause seizures or a temporary ‘shocklike’ state in 1 in 14,000 people, and acute encephalitis (brain swelling) in 11 in 1 million. But the diseases it prevents are fatal in 1 in 20 cases, 1 in 10 cases, and 1 in 1,500 cases, respectively.”

Bottom line is that Castillo leaves out of his guest opinion the most important information that parents should have in making the decision to opt out of vaccinating their children. 

Gary Dielman

Baker City


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.


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