Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

The plea for kindness and collaboration among Baker City Council members was perhaps predictable.

The desire for political congeniality, expressed by Councilor Beverly Calder and Mayor Dennis Dorrah on Tuesday during the Council's first meeting of 2011, is one typically put forth at the beginning of a year.

And although like many resolutions this one sometimes dissipates before the first crocus has cleaved the hard old snow, we think there's rather more reason than usual to be optimistic that this City Council will pull off the feat.

First, the situation at City Hall is more stable than it has been for the past several years.

Last August councilors voted unanimously to hire Mike Kee as city manager.

Four months into his tenure, Kee seems to have earned the respect not only of the councilors, but of the community.

This is vital, because the city manager's performance and reputation

are inextricably linked to those of the Council, which has the sole

authority to hire and fire the manager.

Discord among councilors frequently stems from something the manager did, or failed to do.

Second, councilors might have to make some difficult decisions this

spring when they approve a budget for the fiscal year that starts July


The city's bill for PERS, the state's retirement system for public employees, will increase by about $70,000.

Other personnel expenses will rise too, as dictated by existing labor

contracts, yet property taxes and other major sources of revenue are

likely to go up slightly if at all.

A financial crisis can of course result in rancor rather than harmony

among the elected officials responsible for balancing the books.

But we're confident that Kee and the city staff, who put together the

proposed budget, will give the Council a document that strikes a

reasonable balance between fiscal prudence and giving residents the

services and amenities they expect, ranging from prompt police response

to well-groomed parks.

Moreover, we believe the seven councilors, regardless of their

disagreements about previous managers and policies, will agree about

what's best for the city.

We might be suffering from a temporary bout of naivete, of course.

Betting on political strife generally pays off better than counting on unity.

The Council wasn't unanimous Tuesday in its choice for mayor or vice mayor, for instance.

Nonetheless, there's no doubt that councilors recognize their

constituents' distaste for, and in some cases outright disgust with,

vitriol that accomplishes nothing.

And as councilors work with Kee to deal with the challenges of the

city's future, the temptation to bicker about the always-fading past

ought to diminish.