Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

Generosity makes food aid work

To the editor:

I am writing to thank Jeff Nelson, the owner of The Clothes Outlet, who generously organized a food drive for Learn and Grow to Go. Patrons brought in nonperishable food items and cash to support our local backpack food program. I gladly picked up four big boxes of food that will be distributed to students throughout Baker City.

This program would not exist without community support, and I am so grateful for all of the individuals and businesses that have already given. Learn and Grow to Go is currently serving 330 students per month and welcomes donations of food or funds.

Liz Romtvedt, Missions Director,

First Presbyterian Church

Baker City

Did feds 'take' money, or 'steal' it?

To the editor:

I recently wrote a letter to the editor that was published in the Feb. 29 edition of the Baker City Herald. There was some question as to whether or not I should have used the word "took" in lieu of the word that I did use in my letter, which was "stole."

I would like to further clarify what I said in my previous letter to the editor.

The Pittman-Robertson Law was passed in 1937. It provided that a federal excise tax on shotguns, sporting rifles, archery equipment (added later), ammunition, and handguns would be annually apportioned to state governments based on a formula of population and license revenues.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) administers this P-R Program and is therefore authorized by the law to deduct no more than 8 percent of the available funds for this service. A sister program to enhance Sport Fish Restoration by state agencies is also administered by the USFWS and by law allows no more than 6 percent to be deducted annually for administering the program.

The following is an excerpt from an email I received from Jim Beers, a former employee of the USFWS:

"In 1999 I was asked by the staff of the U.S. House of Representatives' Resource Committee to review extensive and comprehensive budget records submitted by USFWS to that Committee. After an exhaustive review, I reported to the staff that there were numerous unauthorized uses of both P-R and Sport Fish Restoration funds. The vast majority of instances and the lion's share of the misappropriated dollars involved P-R funding ABOVE AND BEYOND THE ALLOWED 8 percent authorized for administration of those funds in the Act.

In the two-years covered by the budget records I reviewed, the unauthorized uses of funds just mentioned enabled USFWS to:

1. Introduce wolves into Yellowstone, something that Congress had previously refused to appropriate money for.

2. Open a USFWS Office in California, also something that Congress had refused to authorize or fund because of the intended close alliances being formed with California environmental and animal rights' groups. Money here was laundered through the Portland Office of USFWS Public Affairs.

3. Provide bonus supplements to USFWS managers that were not involved in any way with the administration of either P-R or Sport Fish Restoration funds or activities and were therefore not entitled to even a portion of the allowable 8 percent or 6 percent administrative funds legally deducted much less these over and beyond funds held back by USFWS."

The definition of the word "TAKE" is nearly one page long in my huge Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary. I here submit #1 of 124 definitions of this word: "take, v. 1. to get into one's hold or possession by voluntary action: to take a cigarette out of a box, to take a pen and begin to write."

The word "STEAL" is defined in a much shorter 16 ways. The #1 definition: "steal, v. 1. To take (the property of another or others) without permission or right, esp. secretly or by force: A pickpocket stole his watch."

So, was that money "taken," or was it "stolen?" You decide.

Jim Scott

Baker City

Bail machine at jail is not fair

To the editor:

I won't speak now about the arbitrary confiscations of private automobiles, called "impoundments," by which local towing businesses have made fat profits.

I'm speaking about a young man accused of a minor crime and taken 50 miles to the Baker County Jail. His mother called and was told the bail for her son's release is $2,000 cash or debit card. After a frantic and painful effort to borrow that amount of cash, the mother rushed to the Jail, but the jailor said he can NOT touch the bail money. The cash must be fed into a machine which requires an additional (7 percent) fee of $140 on top of the $2,000 for bail. (The fee is nonrefundable.) By this time the mother was sick with horror at such deception and mistreatment. She felt cheated. She felt robbed. She did not have enough money for the machine. And her son remained in jail.

In 2008 Sheriff Southwick promised to find funding for his department (Baker City Herald, Oct. 17) and his machine, an electronic bandit, is not an acceptable avenue. Meanwhile his department has purchased another new patrol car and a new fingerprint computer.

Wallowa, Malheur, Grant, and Union County sheriffs do not have bail machines.

When I called the Union County Jail, the first response was "Oh, that's against the law."

Shady practices are not acceptable to Baker County people.

I'm voting for a new sheriff this year. Dee Gorrell will hold to honorable behavior. He will help us sustain our excellent ideals and values, for some things are more valuable than funding. The people deserve honesty, respect and fair play.

Peggy Iler


Editor's Note: According to Sheriff Mitch Southwick, money collected from the bail machine is used to buy toothpaste and other commissary items for indigent prisoners.

Work together to defeat bigotry

To the editor:

As you say, insulting diatribes from Rush Limbaugh (and his cohorts) are as predictable as the sunrise (your op-ed of March 9). But I don't agree that this should be passed over without comment. Taken in historic perspective, I believe Rush's recent attack on Georgetown Law School student Sandra Fluke is, indeed, a major national story.

Historically we are "...one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." But modern political dialogue is driving wedges among us and threatening our heritage as a vibrant democracy. In addition to demonizing labels, there's the distortion and ignoring of facts that threatens our ability to make informed and rational decisions.

Ms. Fluke's testimony of Feb. 23 is available on C-SPAN.org. She spoke on behalf of the 94 percent of Georgetown students who oppose the Jesuit university's restrictive policy on contraception, a policy that dictates the coverage that insurance companies may offer students, even though the students pay for the coverage. It was not about her personal sexual behavior.

Limbaugh ignored the message and attacked the messenger in crude and vulgar terms. His legions of dittoheads were left misinformed and alienated. And the Republican presidential candidates, lacking Sandra Fluke's confidence and integrity, failed to seize this opportunity to engage in meaningful discussion about our political process, an issue that really does affect us all.

And where are our news media and religious leaders? Years ago there was an editor who responded to a young girl's plea with the eloquent and profound, "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus." Over a century later it remains the most reprinted editorial ever to run in any newspaper in the English language. Why? Because it plumbs the depths of human existence and reveals the unseen wonders of love and our innate generosity.

That wise guidance and inspiration lives in us today. Ultimately, it's still "We the People" who must lead. Together, we can surmount any and all barriers of fear, bigotry, and hatred. I urge my fellow Americans to join with open hearts and minds to derive real and meaningful solutions to the problems that confront us.

Marshall McComb

Baker City

Building a new kind of community

To the editor:

I have thought for many years that a town like Baker should have some kind of low-income housing, a self-contained community for seniors, people on disability, or just plain poor folks. This would have roughly 50 units, 16-by-30, or about 500 square-feet, single-level dwellings. This community would also have a small convenience store, with Dollar Tree-type prices, a laundromat, a recycle station, paved walkways for wheelchairs.

Also several large greenhouses for people to grow their own vegetables and fruits, heated with barrel woodstoves for year-round use.

There are many grants available from governments and to me I wonder who would think this a bad idea?

Rent would be in the $400/month range, and some employment could be found onsite at the store, and keeping greenhouses warm in our long winter months.

So if you feel this is a good plan for Baker, or any struggling area in Oregon, we need letters of support.

This could and will put a lot of people to work bringing lumber yards and laborers back to life. You can send letters to Greg Smith, Baker County Economic Development, 1705 Main St., Baker City, OR 97814.

We could all be proud of the results.

Jim Smeraglio

Baker City

School district needs to shape up

To the editor:

As I write this, I do so fully aware of how it may be received. Some will say I'm just the disgruntled employee. I do realize one thing, though: I really don't care. I'm not there to see the inner turmoil now, but I am nonetheless shocked at what I have seen come from the district since my departure.

It seems that Baker 5J cannot keep itself out of trouble. Although things inevitably happen anywhere, I feel that it's asinine for a district to have one debacle after another in such a short time span. Apparently it is acceptable for a school district to investigate itself and yell, "All's clear."

A weapons policy, which clearly violated both state and federal laws was proposed, and the district almost found itself in court. Mr. Knight was democratically voted onto the school board, and all I've seen in response from more seasoned members is scoff, disdain, and to be frank, downright disrespect. I've seen knee-jerk reactions written to the editor from administrators, dripping with sarcasm, defensiveness, and with what I feel to be disrespectful and insulting rhetoric.

An issue arose about which federal holidays employees should have off, and when Mr. Knight expressed concern, the board chair decided to write a vitriolic letter to the editor.

Now there is a state inquiry into inappropriately appointing budget committee members.

I don't know how much of it is true, but I feel that the district has morphed into something different than what it was. It would be no surprise to me now why the community will most likely vote down every bond measure the district throws at it, just like it has done in the past. The lack of professionalism from the district will not garnish the community's respect, and I fear that recent events will do nothing but reinforce many of the community's beliefs.

The district has an obligation to conduct itself more circumspectly and be more transparent. If integrity is lacking, the community may choose to send their children elsewhere. Baker 5J needs to be aware of the picture it's painting. Many are disappointed.

Jason Smith

Baker City