A happy note for the future of orchestras
This Sunday, the newly formed Baker City Orchestra held its first concert at Geiser-Pollman Park in Baker City. There was a huge turnout. I would estimate the listeners to have numbered around a hundred or more.
But what really hit home with me was not so much the number of people in the audience, but their wild enthusiasm for the new orchestra. That confirms that this type of music is not dead, but somewhat absent and greatly missed. Actually, the orchestra only included one classical piece in their program (Beethoven) and it received the most applause. The community really came out to support great music!
This event has led me to consider the health of orchestras everywhere. I work with the Grande Ronde Symphony Orchestra in La Grande and it has become increasingly apparent to me as well as others on the board that the GRSO and other orchestras are in serious danger of dying out! This is because fewer students are becoming professional or even part-time musicians. Most musicians start at an elementary level in school and sadly, music-learning opportunities are becoming extremely scarce. Students should be exposed to and instructed in art and music as well as the basics, but despite this well-known fact, music is being budgeted out of our public schools.
For example, we have only one music teacher between several schools in our district and while the middle and high schools have band programs, a string program has not existed for many years. The few private teachers in the area struggle to keep up with demand and it seems that an increasing number of players emerge from homeschool families and the adult population. Consequently, there are not as many people in general who are willing to commit to music which leads to a severe shortage in current and future orchestral players. What can be done about this shortage? Perhaps we should seriously consider forming music instruction programs at a local level. If we replace failing music instruction in our schools, we may not only save our orchestras, but possibly music as well!
High taxes on rich strangle economy
For a decade, a Democratic talking point was that the Bush tax cuts were simply "tax cuts for the rich," and it was official Democratic policy to let these tax cuts expire. But now they want to keep the Bush tax cuts for some of "the rich," the middle class, and allow them to lapse only for those making over $250,000 a year. The trouble is, many of these latter "rich" folks are the owners of small businesses. And historically, small businesses provide over half of the new jobs created each year.
We have an excellent example of this right here in Baker City, with the Chaves' computer date storage business. This small business has the potential to create 100 or more new jobs for Baker County. Do we really want to raise these folks' taxes by approximately one-third? For that is what will happen if the Democrats get their way. Why take money designated to create jobs here locally that the government will fritter away on $500 toilet seats and bridges to nowhere? The federal government does not have a particularly good record on the wise use of our tax dollars.
The Democrats were not always the party of high taxes. The Reagan tax cuts of 1982 were passed by a Democratic House of Representatives, and 20 years earlier, the Kennedy tax cuts were passed when the Democrats controlled both Congress and the presidency. Each tax cut led to a decade of economic growth.
President Kennedy knew something that President Obama doesn't - that high taxes on the rich only strangle our nation's economy.
Cost a necessary part of school board recall
I read with fascination Gary Dielman's letter Monday during which he describes an alleged conversation we recently had. I spoke with Dielman in passing once, for no more than a couple minutes, nearly three months ago. Dielman, having been the subject of a recall effort by local voters, is understandably a bit biased in the anti-recall direction. However, I do wish he'd taken the time to accurately "recall" our brief conversation before writing his letter.
At no time did I tell him our recall effort against Lynne Burroughs and Mark Henderson would cost nothing. That's ridiculous - and not at all the point I was attempting to make when he asked about my involvement. I'm a taxpayer who places high importance on the wise use of taxpayers' money. I don't take the cost of a special election lightly, nor does anyone working with me. When considering costs, I believe voters should also look, for example, at the pay raise Henderson and Burroughs just gave the superintendent - in a time when teachers have been cut. Or at their senseless rejection of a teacher's grievance surely resulting in thousands of dollars in expensive independent arbitration/legal fees and the cost of recruiting new staff for that position. And what price would you put, Mr. Dielman, on standing up for the First Amendment rights of the directors we voted into office? Or on keeping legally public information available to the public rather than have certain board members declare this information "confidential" simply because they say it is? When I compare the cost of a special election to that of keeping these two in office, it seems a sadly necessary investment.
As voters, we have only two established, legal choices when an elected official fails miserably on the job: We can wait until they come up for re-election and vote them out, or we can recall or "unvote" them. From my point of view, another couple years of this board's decisions would come at too high a cost.
Let's show Idaho Power the door
Let me get this straight: We have just let a private and out-of-state owned business - Idaho Power - into our county, tell us they are going to put a high-voltage power line though our yards, divide the community in argument, make a mockery of our own rules and regulations, give us no compensation for social and economic damage done, and we are about to let them get away with it.
Remember their last project? Although construction of their dams mandated they provide adequate fish passage there still hasn't been a salmon or steelhead in any of our creeks and rivers since the dams went into place. So why now have we let them return and raise havoc? I don't recall being given the chance to vote whether we wanted this power line coming through our county or not. Instead, as if this is our vote, we are being only given choices of alternative routes that, like I said, split our community, compromise our unique lifestyles, bend hard-fought for-or-against regulations and erode our environment. Are we supposed to be thankful to be given a chance choosing one of two evils?
Go to the Idaho Power Website and watch their propaganda video why the Boardman to Hemingway line is both needed and necessary (their words). You'll discover that their average customers now have 24 electrical devices, live in larger homes and are busy breaking new energy-consumption records. Well, if their customers can afford bigger homes and all those electrical gadgets then they can certainly afford a rate hike. Why should we be sacrificing our land along with our way of life for people in rat race land with a consumerism problem? We are not in a state of emergency.
Yet Idaho Power really does need this power line because Idaho Power is a for-profit company - no different than Enron was. They are on the New York stock exchange (IDA. Currently at a five-year high). Their mission is to make money and satisfy their shareholder's portfolios. What their video doesn't tell you is that this power line allows them to also sell electricity where it is in high demand, places like Phoenix and L.A. Idaho Power only cares about Idaho Power. If they didn't then why are they bypassing their own property with their proposed route? This issue is about money and muscle and we in Eastern Oregon are not even pawns but mere dust on their chessboard.
Our way of life is something that can't be graphed or charted and therefore doesn't count and is easily sacrificed. This is the real price they are out to extract from us, making us pay for all the electrical device-heads in Idaho and to satisfy some stockholder in the Bahamas. Please make it clear to these people that they and their project are not welcome here. Show them to the nearest exit. It doesn't have to be well lit.
Whit Deschner lives near Sparta.