Kirby well-prepared to take over as Baker County Clerk

We are writing this letter in support of Stefanie Kirby for Baker County Clerk. Stefanie is currently a deputy clerk for Baker County and has worked in this position since January 2015. She understands the duties and the responsibilities of this office and is very approachable and willing to go that extra step when helping people with their questions and concerns.

Stefanie has over 14 years working in the public and private sector. We came to know her while she was a Baker County 911 dispatcher. She was always professional, knowledgeable and caring while working in this sometimes stressful environment.

She has attended many professional trainings while employed with Baker County. Stefanie already has the working knowledge of the Clerk’s office and would be able to provide a seamless transition.

Please join us in voting for Stefanie Kirby. She will continue to work and be an important advocate for the people of Baker County.

Paula Southwick

Mitch Southwick

Baker City

Bond repayment isn’t the only potential cost to Measure 1-88

I think a lot of people see things they’d like to have — a new car, or kitchen, or home — but after saying “wouldn’t that be nice,” they realize they can’t afford it and make do with what they have. I think the same is true for communities thinking about new schools, especially when there are solutions available if the current space is managed properly. Apparently the people who proposed Measure 1-88 don’t realize that most are living paycheck to paycheck and that their dream of a new school puts our economic security at risk. In a world awash in debt, where economic instability is increasingly the norm, an expensive 30-year bond is a risky bet indeed.

Representative Smith, whose economic development company earns hundreds of thousands of dollars from contracts with cities like ours, wrote another letter to the editor recently promoting the idea that the school bond would bring growth to Baker City. That is in part what this bond issue is about — growth. The powers that be think they will benefit from growth that the new school can facilitate. Those familiar with Bend, Oregon, realize that growth isn’t necessarily a good thing. What bond proponents don’t tell you is that, besides destroying a quiet and peaceful little town with a great environment, growth will cost current residents enormous amounts of money to pay for infrastructure required for that growth to occur. So in addition to the cost for educational infrastructure this bond would provide, there will need to be expansion of sewage treatment facilities and water supplies. With dwindling snowpacks, our current water supplies are barely adequate to get us through summer now. Additional expensive wells will have to be drilled to bring up bad tasting water to mix with our great water from mountain springs and streams. Those problems and more, so if you think your sewer and water bills are high now. . . . Oh, and sorry, studies have shown that most of the jobs won’t go to current residents.

If this bond passes, there will be more to your future than expensive new school facilities.

Christopher Christie

Baker City

People with limited income should vote no on school bond

If it doesn’t bother you that those who are on limited income who can’t afford higher taxes will have to pay higher taxes for the school bond, then vote yes.

If on the other hand those that can’t afford higher taxes and realize that this school bond is totally unnecessary and not affordable, then vote no.

Ron Johnson

Baker City

Baker’s buildings are beautiful, but our schools are left behind

Baker City has so many beautiful amenities in which we have invested. This includes our library, museum, the new playground equipment and pavilion in Geiser-Pollman Park, the Leo Adler walkway, Leo Adler House, and improvements to the fairgrounds and event center, just to name a few. Our downtown is also picturesque.

The exception, unfortunately, are our schools. More than one professional has left the area because of the physical state of the buildings. The economic development director is absolutely right about schools being a huge factor in attracting new business.

Citizens in 1948 were wise enough to make an investment in schools. It’s our turn once again to step up to the plate.

Jim and Sue Martell

Baker City

Harvey wasn’t straight with audience; I’m voting for Nichols

I don’t like being lied to. I believe Mr. Harvey told at least three big whoppers at the recent Cattlemen’s forum regarding the late audit.

First, Harvey said that the changing of the auditor was the reason the audit was late. He further said that Guyer and Associates told him they did not have enough staff to continue doing the audit. False. The county kept getting the material to Guyer’s later and later each year interfering with the busy tax season and clients. The new audit firm is large and did not have the time to hold the county’s hand, expecting the information to be completed and to them in a timely fashion. Even though the audit happens every year at the same time, requiring the same information, this did not happen. Who is doing the audit is a non-issue. The county was not prepared.

Second, Harvey said the audit firm “was not waiting on them, but the county was waiting on the audit firm.” In fact, the county has been scrambling to complete the work.

Lastly, Harvey stated that the audit has never been late before under his leadership. According to the article in the Baker City Herald, the county has in fact been late the past six years.

Commissioner Harvey is the one who oversees the budget and manages staff. Clearly, he is doing a poor job of doing both. This falls squarely on his shoulders.

Harvey stated the most important thing he is faced with is road closures. Mr. Nichols stated that while this is one important factor, the main focus is the daily operation of the county. Nichols is correct.

This county has been controlled by the same mob that elected Harvey. They care about one thing only and that is driving their four-wheelers and jeeps wherever they want to.

Thankfully, Commissioners Bennett and Nichols have kept Harvey in check which needs to continue should Harvey be re-elected, God forbid.

For the record, I didn’t vote for Harvey last time, nor did I this time. Vote for Bruce Nichols for Commission Chair. It’s time for real, grown up leadership.

Lori Raley

Baker City

It’s our turn to step up for schools and the community

Let’s get real. This school bond needs a Yes vote from our citizens. This is not just for kids. It is for the health and economic viability of our community. Our school buildings are crowded and just plain worn out. I’ve toured them. They lack decent spaces to accommodate the educational opportunities and mandates added to our system over the last 60 years. The only modern structure is the one rebuilt with insurance after the fire in 1989, which now is only half full and waiting for middle schoolers. In the elementary schools we don’t need to read to kids in halls or closets, have music class next to time-out spaces carved out of the long-gone cafeteria/auditorium stage, a library cut in half to make a new classroom. We don’t need trains passing South Baker shaking lessons from the electronic boards used by teachers.

But poor schools don’t just affect kids and teachers. I’ve been told by colleagues that when professionals are recruited to a promising job in the health field, accounting, teaching, management, and when new businesses want an educated workforce where they settle, a tragically large number do not accept because of the poor schools. People want good schools for their children and it will drive where they choose to live, because they can choose. When we don’t respect the value of education as our basic responsibility we lose the very people who will settle here and contribute to our economic and cultural vitality. It is incredibly shortsighted to say one can’t afford the cost of the common good. It wasn’t easy for our parents either. The equivalent of two months of a cellphone bill, or adding a satellite TV bill if you have a fine home, would pay the yearly tax to rebuild our schools and make Baker a quality place to live because we care. Or do we just care about our cellphones and entertainment? Please step up to that wonderful moment when we do something for the common good. Make that choice as our parents and grandparents did. Please don’t opt out of your turn.

Aletha Bonebrake

Baker City

School bond measure could tax people out of their homes

I have spent most of my adult life teaching in the public schools of Oregon. During that time I worked with teenagers on the high school level. The building I taught in was built in 1935. The school district maintained its buildings, keeping them in good repair and in the early 1980s, our building was renovated. The result was wonderful, and it looked like a new school. As it was being worked on, classes continued with little discomfort.

The scholastic and athletic performance was outstanding and it didn’t depend on new buildings. Great student achievement does not depend on buildings; it is the result of great teachers and hard work. The Baker School District has such teachers!

The need is in the proper tools of instruction. Computers, lab equipment, up to date texts, etc. There is no correlation between new buildings and academic achievement.

The proposed school bond would be economically crushing to patrons who are having difficulty paying the present real property assessment. According to the Baker City Herald’s edition of Aug. 15, 2018, the population of Baker City has “stalled” and as a result the tax base is very narrow. Remember, this new assessment is in addition to what people pay now.

The average cost of an average home today is about $350,000. According to the Herald on Feb. 16, 2018, the present tax bill for the Baker School District is $4.6051 per $1,000 of assessed value. A $350,000 home’s tax bill would be about $1,611.79. If we add the new assessment of $1.97 per $1,000 of valuation, the new total for our example would be $2,301, for 30 years. Then there are always more bond issues in the future. I ask you, what average homeowner can afford that? Over time you could be taxed out of your home.

I don’t care what other communities pay in taxes; I am concerned about our economic situation! I strongly urge a No vote.

Ralph Brazofsky


Schools need to produce before they get more money

If Measure 1-88 passes it will add approximately $850 to my taxes to the District, in just the first year. This bond will not be paid off for 30 years. Do the math. It will cost me a minimum $25,500. As a small business owner, I can’t afford that kind of increased tax burden and continue my sponsorships to FFA and other school-related activities. Fair warning to customers — the cost for your rent or housing, services and commodities, will increase in price substantially, and be passed on to you should this measure pass.

What will Measure 1-88 give you for all your money? Improved educational outcomes? Not a chance. It provides comfort and convenience, not better education. Sad facts about our public education:

• According to the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), U.S. students rank 38th in science, 24th in math and 23rd in reading, and it’s getting worse annually. Countries of Estonia, Macao, Vietnam, Slovenia and Poland, to name a few, are producing better outcomes. Many of these countries suffer with abysmal poverty, and the ravages of war. Yet their educational systems always outperform ours.

• Oregon has one of the shortest school years in the nation, and one of the worst graduation rates, ranking 47th with only a 67 percent high school graduation rate.

As evidenced above, it is not economics, class size, comfortable spaces or money that will stop this pathetic spiral. One has to be in class to learn and succeed. In Oregon there are diminishing days that the doors of our schools are open for our children to learn. Our governor avoids this union-driven debacle like a scalded dog, and the Board of Education quivers at the thought of the lobby they must confront to salvage our public education system. Yet it needs to occur. Nothing will change until educators accept the facts, or someone in the halls of the Capitol develops the fortitude to say enough.

Keep your money. Demand outcomes before expenditures. Please vote No on Measure 1-88.

Darin Van Dyken

Baker City

Harvey has kept promise to stand up for county

Looks like Bruce Nichols had joined the national ranks with absurdities. Apparently he now claims two positives make a negative. Two very positive actions: 1) demolition of the old lime plant structures; and, 2) accepted an invitation to go to Washington, D.C., to testify before the Congressional Oversight Committee on how coordinating with land management agencies improves the health of our federally managed lands and Baker County.

Bill Harvey has cultivated a very strong voice for utilizing our natural resources and it is resonating at the national level. How silly would it have been to pass on this invitation? The vague criticisms that Bruce gives during the debates claims that he hurt people’s feelings. God forbid someone’s feelings got hurt because they were told they had to obey the law. Bruce’s motto, “minding the county’s business,” actually means let the city and federal agencies run the county which questions the need for his existence in that commission seat.

Bruce grades himself as an A+ according to his flyer. After attending the debates my score for Bruce is an F-. Bruce made it very clear that he will evoke a “play along to get along” way of doing business. This approach has not worked the last few decades and it will not work for our children’s future. When I elect somebody I want to know they are acting on behalf of my best interest and the betterment of the county. That is why Bill Harvey was elected and that is why Bill Harvey needs to be re-elected.

No one who drives past the site of the old lime plant will say that this is not a great step for our county. The county can finally benefit, not only from the liability risk those structures caused, but revenues generated from the sale of property will be worth every cent!

Bill Harvey also played an integral role in the Grocery Outlet that has been tremendously successful.

Please join me in voting for Bill Harvey. An unnecessary revolving door of this county chair position is bad for business and bad for this County.

Trudy Matthews

Baker City

Pharma money raises questions about Walden

This Oct. 22 Lund Report headline caught my attention: “Walden A Top Recipient In Millions Funneled By Pharma To Lawmakers.” Greg Walden, the report stated, citing Kaiser Health News, has received contributions from drug-making corporate PACs totaling $269,800 since January 2017 and $851,042 since 2007. Who is Greg working for?

Every year, pharmaceutical company political action committees (PACs) contribute millions of dollars to U.S. senators and representatives in a multipronged effort to influence health care lawmaking and spending priorities.

Pharma money flows to congressional committees with jurisdiction over pharmaceutical issues like drug pricing and FDA approval. Walden has watched his coffers swell with drug-maker PAC money since he became chairman of the powerful House Committee on Energy and Commerce in early 2017.

With six months to go in the 2018 cycle, Walden had already raised an additional $71,000 over the 2016 cycle — or 11 times more than drug-makers gave him a decade ago.

While PAC contributions to candidates are limited to $5,000 per primary or general election, a larger donation frequently accompanies individual contributions from the company’s executives and other employees. It also sends a clear message to the recipient, campaign finance experts say, one they may remember when lobbyists come calling: There’s more where that came from.

Pharmaceutical companies also wield their political power in ways veiled from the public, giving to “dark money” groups and super PACs — independent groups barred from directly donating to or coordinating with campaigns — bent on swaying lawmaking.

Given the drug-makers’ money flowing into Walden’s coffers, it is unsurprising that he has consistently voted against efforts to control prescription costs.

It’s time to free Congress from corporate control. Unfortunately, Greg Walden works for his corporate sponsors — not for his Eastern Oregon constituents. This is why I’m voting for Jamie McLeod-Skinner for Congress.

Bill Whitaker

La Grande

Nichols best choice for commission chairman

I am writing to encourage everyone to consider electing Bruce Nichols to Baker County Commission Chair.

Mr. Nichols possesses fiscal knowledge as a CPA and a management style based on cooperation, openness, honesty and integrity. These skills and attributes are the type of representation that we all should demand and deserve from our elected officials.

Please vote for Bruce Nichols, our best choice for County Commission Chair.

Mark Pollock

Baker City

Passing school bond will reduce maintenance costs

I’ve been following the effort to obtain a bond measure to improve our schools for quite some time; I’m surprised by the lack of research done by some who oppose the measure.

The District released a Facilities Assessment Report in August 2016 that details the condition of each district-owned instructional facility. I admit that I expected to find skewed information that would fit with what district facility goals were; I was wrong. This report was very important in my understanding of current district conditions and capacities.

My question to people who think the school district neglects maintenance is this:

Why hold the current district administration, school board, and students responsible for facility issues that arose decades ago, and that are still ongoing? This is not a fair argument in my opinion. The district currently spends double what many other districts in the state spend for the maintenance of aged, outdated, and in many cases crumbling, buildings. I appreciate spending within the budget allotted for maintenance.

When remodel of an aged building is undertaken there will always be increased cost due to unknown structural and other issues, and usually a need to expand or modify a building’s footprint. When building new, the footprint and cost is straightforward, and increased building costs can frequently be mitigated. The maintenance budget need will also decrease due to a more efficient building, and more closely located schools.

I understand the increase in taxes is burdensome to many, and it will increase my own property taxes as well. In order to attract families to our beautiful valley, we need to attract businesses to employ them.

If we aren’t willing to contribute to the development of a vibrant community, we cannot expect to attract business — and help our other industries and families thrive. Everything is connected and dependent on what we do with our schools. The current proposal is one I support, and I encourage your support as well. Vote Yes on 1-88.

Farrah Chastain

Baker City

I don’t trust 5J’s numbers; vote No on school bond

The 5J School District has failed to be honest and transparent with the public since the first announcement of this school bond. At first in the newspaper it was $68 million. Then later on it was $42 million. Then there was a flier around town stating $52 million, now in the voter information the number is $48 million. At first announcement the term was 20 years, then all of a sudden I was told it was 30 years, and now in the voter information it is not to exceed 31 years. I would be willing to bet that the payback of a $48 million bond over 31 years will exceed well over $100 million. Now comes the cost to the taxpayer. It was to be $1.97 per thousand dollars of assessed property value, now it is only estimated to be $1.97. What the heck does that mean? Somewhere between $1 and $7 per thousand of assessed property value?

I feel the 5J school district can’t be trusted when they can’t tell the same story twice. I know when I was growing up what they called a person that couldn’t tell the truth. I say no to this school bond, and no to anyone else that proposes to acquire public monies in a vacuum and under a cloak of darkness.

Bruce Morrison

Baker City