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Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Sunday, April 15th, 2012.

Merkley gets an earful about forest road closures

Agriculture, Forestry & USFS, Politicians & agencies

http://www.bakercityherald.com/Local-News/Merkley-gets-an-earful-about-forest-road-closures

By TERRI HARBER

tharber@bakercityherald.com

Oregon – Backer City Herald

Scores of area residents came to see U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, who hosted a town hall meeting Monday afternoon at the Senior Center in Baker City.

Much of the meeting was devoted to people discussing and asking questions about the Travel Management Plan for the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.

The TMP, which was released in mid-March, will ban motor vehicles (except snowmobiles) from about 3,600 miles of forest roads.

The TMP is scheduled to take effect in June.

Tom Montoya, deputy forest supervisor for the Wallowa-Whitman, and Jeff Tomac, acting district ranger, also were on hand Monday to hear people’s concerns.

A common complaint is that detailed maps aren’t readily available.

Rozanne Shanks told Merkley that she’s frustrated because access to her rural subdivision on Black Mountain, about 15 miles south of Baker City, appears sharply curtailed under the TMP. Shanks said residents might have trouble getting out and that emergency vehicles might have trouble getting in should there be a fire in the area.

“It does seem quite a safety issue,” she said.

Adding to her uneasy feeling, Shanks said, is that a permit system allowing private property holders to use forest roads that are otherwise closed hasn’t been devised yet.

Montoya later explained that maps couldn’t be created until the plan was official and that a permit process should begin in June.

Baker City Mayor Dennis Dorrah described the TMP as “a horrible, horrible thing.”

Dorrah had large-size maps with him and asked several people to hold them up. Pointing to one map, Dorrah said road closures would make it impossible for irrigation officials to reach diversion dams.

Dorrah said he was told by the Forest Service that he could file an appeal because he has “standing” as an elected officer. He plans to use his standing but doesn’t know if it will be through the city, county or on his own. He intended to speak with city staff about it later in the week.

Jim Scott of Baker City is not happy about the road closures.

“I see a domestic enemy,” Scott said, referring to the Forest Service. “Where do they get their jurisdiction?”

Scott also mentioned having issues with enforcement by federal officials in some other national parks, especially the use of tasers in one highly publicized case, for example.

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Study: Barred owl out-competing spotted owl

Endangered Species Act

Ryan Imondi
The News-Review

NR Today.com

A three-year study released Thursday shows the barred owl is out-competing the spotted owl for resources critical for survival, but does not connect the barred owl to the spotted owl’s continuing decline.

The study, conducted by the Oregon State University and the U.S. Geological Survey, monitored interactions between 28 spotted owls and 29 barred owls.

Researchers found the barred owl’s larger population and ability to produce more offspring have left the spotted owl losing out on habitat and prey.

Many studies have followed the species separately, but this was the first track them simultaneously, researchers said.

The spotted owl was listed as a threatened species in 1990, causing sharp reductions in logging on federal forests. Recently federal scientists have concluded that barred owls are now on par with logging as a threat to spotted owls.

Geological Survey researcher David Wiens said the new study did not last long enough to determine if the barred owls’ growth was contributing to spotted owls’ decline.

Researchers reported that barred owls had a 92 percent survival rate each year compared to 81 percent for spotted owls. The barred owl produced six times as many offspring.

Wiens said the study confirmed previous findings that the barred owls is gaining dominance in the Northwest over the spotted owl.

“Pretty much wherever a spotted owl goes, it will encounter barred owls,” he said.

The spotted owl’s population has declined by 40 percent over the past 25 years.

Over the past 30 years, the barred owl has expanded its range from east of the Rockies and now overlaps the entire range of the northern spotted owl.

Loss of habitat to logging and competition from the barred owl are the two main threats to the spotted owl, according to federal scientists.

Wiens said the spotted owl’s low numbers make competing with the barred owl more difficult. He said there were signs the two species could coexist because the barred owl has a wider range of prey and habitat.

The Obama administration announced in early February it will consider shooting or capturing and relocating barred owls to help the spotted owl.

Douglas County Commissioner Doug Robertson said Thursday he questions the benefits of attempting to rescue the spotted owl if the species may already be doomed.

“If you look at that as a public policy, you can look at how perverse our role is on controlling nature,” he said. “Is our life going to change if we have barred instead of spotted owls in the forest?”

• You can reach reporter Ryan Imondi at 541-957-4211 or by email at rimondi@nrtoday.com.

http://www.nrtoday.com/article/20120413/NEWS/120419919/1063/NEWS&ParentProfile=1055

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First boxes for our local military headed overseas

Veterans & soldiers

County-wide effort in Siskiyou is working hard for our soldiers

  Here is a picture of some of the first boxes to be sent tomorrow morning to the soldiers of the 132nd from Siskiyou County. The 132nd is in Afghanistan now and based at camp Leatherneck. The boxes are from the Rotary interact students and the Mt. Shasta High school leadership club. Sue and I added some stuff also.

I will meet Jesse Loucks from the Mt. Shasta Rotary club at the Post office in the morning. The Rotary club will pay for the shipment of the packages. One of the boxes I am sending is full of DVD movies that Video Village donated to the 132nd.

I will be meeting with Jerry Hunt at ten o’clock at pages. He is the president of the Dunsmuir Rod and Gun Club. They are paying to send the quilts from the Scott Valley Quilters . This is a county effort to support our troops. The Daughters of the American Revolution are sending boxes also.

Dan Dorsey

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Special Series: California counties are more at risk of going belly up

State gov

PNP comment: California and the counties must become Pro-BUSINESS is they are to re-build economies.  Including Siskiyou County. — Editor Liz Bowen

Editor’s Note: This is the fifth in a CalWatchDog.com Special Series of 12 in-depth articles on municipal bankruptcy.

April 11, 2012

By Wayne Lusvardi

Cal Watchdog

There are many California cities likely to be facing future stress to their operating fund budgets because of rising public pension obligations. But even more so county governments are staring down the unthinkable: bankruptcy.

This is mainly because counties overlap in providing public services with the state. Under what is called “realignment,” the state is dumping prisoners, Medi-Cal patients and social welfare recipients on California’s counties without deregulating such programs.  This is a fiscal perfect storm waiting to happen.

The local level is where the action will be with the public pension system crisis and the associated prospect of municipal bankruptcy. It will take a vigilant and informed local citizenry to bird dog the process of renegotiating public pensions, reworking local government budgets and understanding the associated risks to taxpayers of pension reforms. The action will be in city halls, county halls of administration and county superior courtrooms across the state.

Let’s first take a look at the basics of municipal finance.

1.      The General Fund is a Common Pot of Funds

Local government budgets are called “general fund budgets” because they are a large common pot of revenues that funds a whole range of basic services: fire, police, parks, streets, water systems, sewer systems, the city manager, etc.  Typically, 70 to 80 percent of a city’s budget goes for personnel expenses: salaries, pensions and health benefits.

Pensions presently consume from about 4 percent to 9 percent of city and county budgets, although this is increasing and could balloon to 15 to 20 percent or higher.  As that percentage increases, other services provided by local governments are likely to get crowded out of the budget unless pensions are renegotiated, a court forces a reorganization “cram down” or taxes are increased to cover the mounting pension debt.

2.      Revenue Sources

The main sources of revenues for local government in California are sales taxes, property taxes, business taxes, utility users’ taxes (on electricity, water and telephones), federal block grants and fines and revenue sharing from state government. The revenue sharing can include a portion of sales taxes, gasoline taxes and vehicle license registration fees.  The state also collects a corporate tax, a capital gains tax and a gasoline tax.

3.      Pay-Go or Bonds 

Local governments typically have two ways to finance their obligations: 1) pay cash, called pay-as-you-go or “pay-go”; or 2) bond financing. Large or long-term projects of a local government are typically funded by municipal bonds, just as homeowners finance their homes with mortgages.  Bonds are like mortgages that are promises to pay a long-term debt and are backed by the “full faith and credit” of a municipality.

There are two types of bonds: 1) general obligation bonds; and 2) revenue bonds.

Investors find general obligation bonds or GO bonds attractive because they obligate everyone in the municipality to pay them off even if there is a shortfall in revenues.

This is all-important for understanding bankruptcy because a general obligation bond can require a tax levy at a rate for whatever level is needed — up to 100 percent — to recover a shortfall in taxpayer delinquencies.  In California under Proposition 13, a general obligation bond must be authorized by a supermajority — two thirds — of voters.  Voter rejection for raising taxes to pay a bond means that the local government will need to make space in its existing operating budget to make the debt payments.

Lots more to read:

http://www.calwatchdog.com/2012/04/11/california-counties-are-more-at-risk-of-going-belly-up/

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California controller outlines shortfall, says key months ahead

Politicians & agencies, State gov

By Kevin Yamamura
kyamamura@sacbee.com

Published: Wednesday, Apr. 11, 2012 – 12:00 am | Page 4A

Last Modified: Wednesday, Apr. 11, 2012 – 6:46 am

As state leaders hope for a surprise uptick in revenue this spring, state Controller John Chiang reported Tuesday that California lagged last month by $233.5 million, or 4.2 percent.

The state missed its target most in corporate income taxes, which were $125.8 million (8.2 percent) off the mark. Income taxes and sales taxes were each less than 2 percent behind Gov. Jerry Brown’s revenue forecast. For the fiscal year that ends in June, the state is now trailing Brown’s expectations by nearly $1.1 billion, or 1.9 percent.

“While revenues continue to fall short, the months ahead will be far more important to the state’s finances,” Chiang said in a release. “More than 35 percent of all revenues are expected in the next three months, making this the most important period for tax collection in the fiscal year.”

Lawmakers are delaying significant actions on the budget until Brown issues his May budget revision. Brown is circulating a new tax initiative with larger increases on sales and wealthy earners than his initial proposal in part to give lawmakers a bigger buffer against the possibility of disappointing spring tax revenue.

Read more here:

http://www.sacbee.com/2012/04/11/4404909/california-controller-outlines.html#storylink=cpy

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Funny op-ed on newspaper reporters

Enjoy, Op-ed

Just for fun, or maybe it isn’t fun

A Harley Biker is riding by the zoo in Washington, DC when he sees a little girl leaning into the lion’s cage. Suddenly, the lion grabs her by the collar of her jacket and tries to pull her inside to slaughter her, under the eyes of her screaming parents. The biker jumps off his Harley, runs to the cage and hits the lion square on the nose with a powerful punch.

 Whimpering from the pain, the lion jumps back letting go of the girl, and the biker brings her to her terrified parents, who thank him endlessly. A reporter has watched the whole event.

 The reporter addressing the Harley rider says, “Sir, this was the most gallant and brave thing I’ve seen a man do in my whole life.”

The Harley rider replies, “Why, it was nothing, really, the lion was behind bars. I just saw this little kid in danger and acted as I felt right.”

The reporter says, “Well, I’ll make sure this won’t go unnoticed. I’m a journalist, you know, and tomorrow’s paper will have this story on the front page. So, what do you do for a living and what political affiliation do you have?”

The biker replies, “I’m a U. S. Marine and a Republican.”

The journalist leaves.

The following morning the biker buys the paper to see if it indeed brings news of his actions, and reads on the front page:

“U. S. MARINE ASSAULTS AFRICAN IMMIGRANT AND STEALS HIS LUNCH”

And that’s sums up most media coverage these days!

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