Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

Had you paid attention only to the recent spate of letters to the editor on this page, and to comments posted on the Herald's website (www.bakercityherald.com,) you would have ample reason to believe that the Baker School Board is comparable, in partisan political terms, to the U.S. Senate or the Oregon Legislature.

Well, no.

The school board, as it should be, is a non-partisan body.

We say "as it should be" because overseeing the management of a school district, which is what the board does, is a task for which neither Republicans nor Democrats, neither liberals nor conservatives, have any special acumen.

Yet the implication of some of the letters we've published recently, and of some online comments, is that a candidate's party affiliation or political philosophy determines whether he or she is worthy of this office.

We don't believe this is the case.

Based on the six candidates' written responses to the Herald's questionnaire, which were printed on Pages 6A and 7A of the May 1 edition, and on their statements during a public forum on April 30, we believe each of the six candidates - Rosemary Abell, Rick Stout, Kevin Cassidy, Mike Ogan, Karen Spencer and Richard McKim - could be an effective board member.

We hope voters who have yet to fill out their ballots will be influenced not by letters and comments which have more to do with the writer's political ideology than with the Baker School Board, but rather that voters will base their choices largely on the candidates' own words and accomplishments. We've been impressed as well by the several thoughtful letters we've published which emphasize candidates' strengths rather than their opponents' alleged weaknesses.

We're not suggesting that there's no place for criticism even in a non-partisan campaign.

But concerns are about a candidate's fitness for office are much more credible when they're based on the candidate's actual statements or actions which are directly related to the duties of a school board member. Critiques which focus instead on the candidates' supposed political positions, or worse yet, on those of their supporters, ring hollow in our ears, and, we hope, in the ears of undecided voters.