Our picks for City Council

By Baker City Herald Editorial Board October 24, 2012 01:07 pm

Baker City voters have a long list of qualified candidates to choose from as they sit down with their ballots and pick four people to represent them on the seven-member City Council.

Each of the nine candidates has qualities that would be valuable at City Hall.

We believe the quartet of Mike Downing, Barbara Johnson, Kim Mosier and Milo Pope combines the best mixture of experience and perspective.

Pope, a retired judge who presided over the Baker County Circuit Court, is the only incumbent on the ballot.

We have at times disagreed with Pope.

In particular we chastised him for intentionally missing a City Council meeting in August 2010 and attending a private gathering instead.

That said, Pope has been an effective councilor who frequently asks good questions about the city’s budget. He has also been a consistent advocate for finding a new source of revenue to maintain our streets, which have been degrading for more than a decade.

As an incumbent, Pope won’t need to familiarize himself with major city issues.

The continuity he would bring is especially important in 2013 as the Council deals with the effects of a rising PERS bill, and negotiations with all three of the city’s labor unions, whose contracts expire at the end of June.

Downing is a Baker City native who has already shown his commitment to public service. He served as a pro tem Justice of the Peace and was a candidate for that position earlier this year, and he has worked as a reserve dispatcher at the Baker County Consolidated Dispatch Center for the past five years.

Like Downing, Mosier has young children, and one of her goals it to work to make sure Baker City continues to be an excellent place to raise a family.

As a former deputy district attorney in Baker County and former assistant attorney general in the Oregon Attorney General’s office, Mosier has considerable experience in analyzing complex issues and making decisions based on a thorough consideration.

Johnson brings a different, but equally vital, perspective.

Like Pope she is a senior citizen who understands the unique concerns that older residents have. This is no minor matter in Baker City, where 20.5 percent of the population is 65 or older — well above the Oregon (13.9 percent) and national (13.3 percent) averages.

We were also impressed with Johnson’s enthusiasm for working on behalf of Baker City, a community where, in her own words, she moved “in 2004, not knowing a soul.”

Three other candidates — Jack Turner, R. Mack Augenfeld and Terry Schumacher — are also seniors.

Turner has been a major player in economic development, and we like his ideas about demanding results from the city’s investment in trying to attract new businesses. Turner lacks experience as an elected official, however.

That’s not the case with Schumacher and Richard Langrell. Both are former councilors with considerable experience in city government.

But unlike Pope, neither Schumacher nor Langrell has worked with the current city manager, Mike Kee.

Kyle Knight has shown a propensity for scrutinizing the spending of tax dollars as a member of the Baker School Board, a desirable trait in any elected official.

But the school board position is a major commitment. Moreover, Knight recently filed a civil lawsuit against the school district.  The current controversy in which the school board is embroiled seems to us too great a distraction, even for an energetic candidate such as Knight.