Early learning helps ease income inequality
We owe it to our community to expand early childhood education and offer it to all our children. Mack Augenfeld's op-ed of Dec. 4 offered a persuasive argument, telling us of the great value of preschool and full-time kindergarten for those who can afford it. He said, "Early childhood is the most critical period to enhance an individual's cognitive and social development."
That very same day, President Barack Obama echoed those thoughts during a major speech on economic inequality in our country, including a road map for "making sure our economy works for every working American." (His speech is available at whitehouse.gov.)
Obama argued: "The gap in test scores between poor kids and wealthy kids is now nearly twice what it is between white kids and black kids ... We should make high-quality preschool available to every child in America. We know that kids in these programs grow up likelier to get more education, earn higher wages, form more stable families of their own. It starts a virtuous cycle, not a vicious one. And we should invest in that. We should give all of our children that chance."
For background, President Obama described our loss of good-paying jobs over the past 35 years, due to automation, off-shoring, and union-busting, and told how this has led to a lack of opportunity that is bad for our economy and our democracy. And then, "As a trickle-down ideology became more prominent, taxes were slashed for the wealthiest, while investments in things that make us all richer, like schools and infrastructure, were allowed to wither." Many of us became much poorer.
I can imagine how parents who are working long hours for low wages would have little time for enriching their children's early learning.
I say to all those wishing to strengthen our community that we should work together to reverse the rising inequality of wealth, to bolster family incomes, and to provide greatly enhanced early childhood education and early learning hubs. These would be vital steps toward better educational outcomes and attracting, supporting, and retaining healthy, young families right here in Baker County.
Where do leaders stand on the Second Amendment?
I was surprised to read Tim Kerns' comments on the Second Amendment. You would think that after close association with Republicans over the years Kerns would be immune to Democratic talking points. It even seems like the Feinstein flu has even spread over to the Unity country. Mr. Bennett seems to be infected.
Whenever the Second Amendment and hunting are mentioned in the same paragraph you know the speaker has been bitten by the banning bug. Recovery is a long process usually involving trying to find the words "hunting," "musket," "National Guard," "police," "military type weapon," "assault weapon," "permit," "England," "Australia" or "gun deaths" in the Second Amendment.
If treatment is successful the patient can come to understand that the Second Amendment is about a barrier to tyranny. The reason the "people" are to remain armed with weapons as good as the military and police is because the military and police have them. The Founders did not trust power. They didn't want a standing army because the military has been a traditional gateway to tyranny. Therefore they had a civilian commander in chief. They had a Bill of Rights and written Constitution and a Supreme Court sworn to uphold the Constitution as are all public servants, even though a good percentage have forgotten that.
The great paradox is this: There is no reason to be a "well-armed militia" until the government tells you that you can't be "well armed." When it does you know that you are on the road to tyranny and you need to start buying ammunition. It is important to know where our leaders stand. They need to lead, not put a finger into the wind and see "where the constituents stand" because many of those "constituents" lie dead in a thousand cemeteries around the world. The county commission opens meeting with a pledge of allegiance to the flag and Constitution. I think maybe they should reflect on those words.
There will be elections next year. Ask all candidates for a clear and concise statement as to their views on the Second Amendment. Elect the right people. Ballots are preferable to bullets.
Mason Dam fish mitigation a form of blackmail
Mason Dam was never intended to have a fish ladder. One of the problems, if one was put in, is that it would only be used during the irrigation period as this was and still is the main purpose of the dam. The irrigation period lasts about five months. There are no anadromous fish runs in the Powder River.
To make Baker County hold to the ODFW proposal to waive fish passage at the dam for placing culverts at McCully Fork and Silver Creek, which are above Mason Dam is going to cost the taxpayers of Baker County thousands of dollars; even though the county proposed using their own equipment for these projects to try and save money.
If ODFW wants these fish passages upstream improved, they should get money through grants or fishing licenses and not make Baker County taxpayers pay for it. Since the fish passage through Mason Dam would be non-effective anyway. Also, after all this is done, based on how agencies work, the county would then go through the Environmental Impact Statement process, which involves every agency in the country to have a say.
The USFW, ODFW, EPA, DSL, DEQ, USFA, BLM, environmentalists and the tribes and who knows what others will put in their two cents' worth; what's going to happen is delay, delay and delay for just a simple little generator in Mason Dam that will only run for about five months a year. We do not need any mitigation proposals; it is just a form of blackmail, and only the taxpayers of Baker County will suffer by paying the bill.
We should be saying no to fish passage at Mason Dam as not necessary and no to the ODFW proposal to require mitigating enhancement of streams upstream of the dam instead. We are talking about a dam that does not allow fish passage now. There is no changing of the basic operation of the dam, just the addition of making power during the time of irrigation (a source of clean energy to be sold to the power grid).
Tiedemann's golf course plan the right approach for city
I read with interest the Baker City Herald editorial dated Dec. 4 and letters to the editor dated Dec. 6 referencing Quail Ridge Golf Course (QRGC). Clearly, there are some facts not known to the writers.
Mr. Tiedemann did not propose an entrepreneurial approach to managing QRGC. His proposal is designed to provide a business plan, a disciplined budgetary process, a board of directors and financial transparency to the city. This is entirely new regarding the golf course.
Tiedemann's 2014 budget does not include the course being "subsidized" by the city with the exception of the annual "debt retirement" for construction of the back nine. The decision of debt commitment was made some 15 years ago and is a long-term debt of the city. Unless revenues fall short of 2012 totals and historical expense reporting is grossly understated, there should be no city subsidy required beyond the long-term debt commitment.
The proposal includes a $75,000 management fee for Tiedemann not a guaranteed "profit." There is no upside for Tiedemann above this fee; in fact there is a provision in place to protect Baker City. That provision deducts $10,000 from Tiedemann's fee if the course operates below a board-approved annual budget.
The proposal provides that all net income or "profit" from the course be reinvested in QRGC through a capital improvement fund that will be administered by the board.
Prior operators of QRGC, whether city employees or contractors, were compensated for their management.
Without funding from the general fund, Baker City would have a far different looking park system, cemetery, pathway system, streets, airport, swimming pool, golf course, ambulances and police vehicles. All have required general fund dollars.
The reason only one proposal was submitted to Baker City for operating QRGC is the historical approach to managing the course. Tiedemann's business model will provide full transparency and an opportunity to move toward forming a nonprofit entity similar to Anthony Lakes should Baker City decide at the conclusion of Tiedemann's three-year contract. As well as a "continued positive economic impact" for Baker City.
It's time to try a new approach.