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About Wallowa County chieftain. (Enterprise, Wallowa County, Or.) 1943-current | View Entire Issue (Jan. 10, 2018)
January 10, 2018
Wallowa County Chieftain
Measure 101 is a Band-Aid but necessary one
he one-issue ballot that
arrived in your mailbox
and the complicated
question therein is proof that
something is rotten in the state
It’s a confusing,
complicated decision that
asks a lot — too much, we’d
argue — of voters. The voters’
pamphlet (again, all that for
just one question) includes
arguments in favor and in
opposition that are often too
thick to penetrate.
In short, Oregonians are
asked to decide the fate of
a two-year, 0.7 percent tax
on some hospitals that was
approved by the Legislature in
the last session. A 1.5 percent
tax also extends to insurers,
the Public Employees Benefits
Board and coordinated care
Voting “yes” keeps the
taxes; voting “no” repeals
If the tax is repealed, the
state would lose anywhere
from $210 million to $330
million in revenue, in addition
to $630 million to more than
$1 billion in federal Medicaid
matching funds. Proponents
say as many as 350,000
low-income residents could
lose health insurance, while
opponents say the state could
find other ways to cover them
(though they haven’t been
able to clearly identify any).
There is a lot at stake, but
voters have a right to feel like
legislators — and initiative
proponents — have put them
in a vise.
One jaw of the vise is the
fact that we know access
to health care for people
who cannot afford their own
insurance comes at a cost.
The cost is on those who
can afford it — they pay a
little extra to cover those who
Voice of the Chieftain
Supporting the sick and
suffering is something that
many believe is a moral and
financial obligation. And the
fiscal conservatives among
us also understand that the
obligation is lessened if we
pay a little bit up front (in the
form of insurance) instead
of a lot more in the end
(loss of societal production,
emergency room visits,
delayed care and avoidable
suffering and deaths).
Yet there is pressure from
the other side of the vise, too.
Measure 101 isn’t fair —
not everyone in the state pays
equally. People covered by
self-insured medical plans
through their employer (the
Chieftain, for one) and unions
are exempt, among others.
Small businesses, school
districts, nonprofits and
college students aren’t.
Shouldn’t everyone bear
the burden of supporting the
neediest in our society? The
insurers and hospitals are
likely to push their costs onto
customers, many of whom
count the high cost of health
care as one of the biggest
challenges in their lives.
Fiscal conservatives are
also justified in feeling that
the Legislature is holding
the state’s most vulnerable
residents hostage in its thirst
for ever-increasing taxes.
Who is going to argue against
medical coverage for sick
kids? But why weren’t deeper
cuts made in other programs
to offset this expense?
That’s the pattern of
the Legislature. As long as
powerful interests — such as
the public sector employee
unions — carve out their
pieces of the pie, solutions to
complex problems such as
health care will continue to be
unevenly applied. And applied
poorly, like a two-year Band-
Aid over an open wound.
And this is a Band-Aid
— a temporary solution that
does real good. It will make
many Oregonians healthier
and less financially stressed.
But it does mask the festering
Yet at the same time, we’re
not comfortable with complex
legislation being picked apart
by the initiative process.
We live in a representative
democracy, and we elected
our representatives to run our
state — to make laws, make
sure the bills are paid and the
right investments made.
The initiative process is
an excellent way to decide
on easily understood social
issues like same-sex marriage
or marijuana legalization. But
complicated tax policy should
not be nit-picked this way,
and repealing these taxes
would set a bad precedent.
Business and the government
both need stability in revenue
and expenditure in order to
make decisions and plan for
the future — the rug cannot
be pulled out from underneath
either at a moment’s notice.
We sent our legislators to
Salem to do a job and this is
the job they did. If we don’t
like it (and we don’t), then we
should vote them out. Until
such time, voters should
approve Measure 101.
In recent years, we’ve
seen the number of insured
dramatically in the state. And
with the help of coordinated
care organizations, we’ve
seen health outcomes
improve, too. The opioid
epidemic is lapping at these
gains, however, and we
cannot be complacent.
Assessing that situation,
a Band-Aid is better than
pushing a still recovering
patient back into the street.
Digging for ‘doody’ demands due diligence Strange behavior in
elcome to a special
New Year’s edition of
The Handyman’s Guide
To Doing Stuff. This week we’ll
explore the finer points of searching
for a long-lost septic tank lid and
digging holes while the ground is
Unearthing a reservoir of waste
matter hidden beneath snow and
ice combines the thrill of the chase
with a high degree of technical dig-
ging difficulty. Truly a challenge to
My recent scavenger hunt for
access to something you don’t nor-
mally desire to find was made even
more intriguing thanks to a metal
building that had been built directly
on top of where the lid turned out to
be. Really added a nice element of
challenge to the whole adventure.
I had not kept up on technologi-
cal advances in locating septic sys-
tems. The last publication I’d read
on the topic was the 1976 trea-
tise by Erma Bombeck, “The Grass
Is Always Greener Over the Sep-
tic Tank.” A classic, certainly, but
Bombeck’s research did not encom-
pass snow and ice.
Three test holes later, imag-
ine my delight when Rahn’s San-
itary revealed they possess high-
tech wireless poop-finding gadgetry.
They flush a little transmitter down
the pipe and track it with a beeping
science fiction device that reveals
where to dig. Somebody better
have gotten a shiny award for this
Safety Tip: Definitely wear
safety glasses while swinging a
miner’s pick into icy ground. Fro-
zen dirt shards propelled by a pick
axe are extremely sharp and pointy.
Seriously, wear safety glasses if you
have to do this.
A backhoe, excavator or steam
shovel was not really an option
because of that metal building being
in the way. So it was slow going,
literally chip-chip-chipping away a
little at a time, driven by the prom-
ise of hopefully finding sewage.
But that was OK. My alternative
was writing an earlier draft of this
column, where I was trying to do a
mix of The Year In Review along
with some Bold Predictions for
2018, that kind of thing. Hoo boy.
It was not going well at all. I’m
the reverse of a political junkie and
gladly leave that stuff for others to
examine and come up with theo-
ries about. But, man. As a barome-
ter of my own experience attempt-
ing to review 2017 and think on
what 2018 might bring personally, I
found that I much, much preferred
kneeling on ice slowly chipping
away frozen rocks, gravel and dirt
hoping to find a payload of feces.
So the best technique, in my
limited experience, is to tough it
out until you finally get beneath
the frost layer, then mine away the
etters to the Editor are subject to editing and should
be limited to 275 words. Writers should also include a
phone number with their signature so we can call to ver-
ify identity. The Chieftain does not run anonymous letters.
In terms of content, writers should refrain from per-
sonal attacks. It’s acceptable, however, to attack (or sup-
port) another party’s ideas.
We do not routinely run thank-you letters, a policy
we’ll consider waiving only in unusual situations where
reason compels the exception.
You can submit a letter to the Wallowa County Chief-
tain in person; by mail to P.O. Box 338, Enterprise, OR
97828; by email to email@example.com; or via the sub-
mission form at the newspaper’s website, located at wal-
lowa.com. (Drop down the “Opinion” menu on the navi-
gation bar to see the relevant link).
softer material underneath by pok-
ing around with your shovel or
breaker bar. Scoop that stuff out
until you have a nice overhanging
ledge of frozen ground.
Then stomp or smash that ledge
until it breaks away. Without the
support of the softer matter prop-
ping it up, the brittle nature of the
problematic top layer now works
against itself by snapping off in a
clean break. Very satisfying.
I finally did uncover the lid, got
it open and had a thousand gal-
lons of yucky stuff removed. Rec-
ommendations on how often to
have your septic tank pumped vary,
depending on different factors, but
some say a good general timeline is
every four years.
An election cycle. Hmmm. To
help me remember to assess the
need to clean out a potentially prob-
lematic buildup of ... let’s go with
“doody” ... in the future, I’m going
to associate septic service with elec-
tions, just as a mnemonic device. I
think I can remember that.
That’s not to say you have to
wait four years. Take my recent
experience, as an example. Things
were spilling over. It was just going
to get worse. Dealing with it was
certainly not pleasant. Not at all.
But the alternative, well, I didn’t
want to think about that.
Jon Rombach is a treasure
hunter specializing in lost sep-
tic tank lids and a Wallowa
County-based columnist for the
LETTERS to the EDITOR
Writer urges ‘no’ on
Measure 101 is not the way to fund Medicaid.
To do so puts the burden on the shrinking mid-
dle class and small business owners and lets the
unions and big corporations pay nothing.
I assume my Medicare won’t be taxed the 1.5
percent. But will my personally paid Medicare
Supplement Insurance Policy be taxed?
As a senior citizen, I ask you to vote “no” on
cyberworld these days
his week, a cyberspace
Regularly, our online
team sends out metrics for our
website and social media pages. In
comparison with the newspapers in
our ownership group, the Chieftain
does well in many categories.
One of the highlights each
month is determining which story
on the website was read most. It’s
always interesting to see what peo-
ple are clicking.
Several months ago, the top
story was a piece we had published
about shooting death in Troy ––
in 2006. That’s unusual to have a
story that old suddenly become the
Some of you may remem-
ber the case. Two couples camp-
ing at Grizz Flat near Troy on
Nov. 27. Gun play ensued and a
Yakima, Wash., man was eventu-
ally charged with killing a Weston
man. The story as told to the Chief-
tain by then-sheriff Fred Steen was
quite fascinating, the stuff movies
are made from.
Benjamin Paul Harrell was
eventually exonorated by a Wal-
lowa County Grand Jury and the
case quietly went away. Until back
in October 2017.
Suddenly, hundreds of people
began seeking out the story, click-
ing and reading.
For the next three months, the
story from the Chieftain electronic
archives was the most read and
commented upon. It was somewhat
We’ve never really figured out
why the sudden interest. In some
sleuthing of my own, I discov-
ered that the Chieftain story was
the only coverage of the incident
in newspapers published in a three-
state area, so that solved some of
But why now? It’s a 10-year
anniversary of the incident and we
couldn’t confirm anything else in
the current news cycle regarding
the two parties.
If I’ve piqued your interest,
visit our website and search “Troy
shooting.” If you find clues as to
why the sudden popularity of the
story, please share them with me.
Wallowa County’s Newspaper Since 1884
M eMber O regOn n ewspaper p ublishers a ssOciatiOn
Published every Wednesday by: EO Media Group
USPS No. 665-100
P.O. Box 338 • Enterprise, OR 97828
Office: 209 NW First St., Enterprise, Ore.
Phone: 541-426-4567 • Fax: 541-426-3921
Contents copyright © 2017. All rights reserved.
Reproduction without permission is prohibited.
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WAHL TO WALL
A TRAGIC report on the death
of Marc Duncan of Joseph finally
knocked the Troy story out of the
top spot for December.
Marc’s family shared an
extremely intimate obituary with
the Chieftain. Hopefully, the con-
tent will cause people to stop and
think about what they say about
folks who aren’t like them.
I’d like to believe our atti-
tudes regarding gay individuals
has changed over the past decade.
I’d like to believe that were Marc a
high school student today, his life
might have been less stressful.
I’d like to believe bullying for
any reason whatever doesn’t exist
in our schools.
I’d really like to believe that.
LOTS OF sporting events in the
county this past weekend. Joseph
hosted a wrestling tournament.
Cross-county rivals Joseph and
Wallowa squared off in basketball
The Wallowa gym was as full
as I have ever seen it. Both teams
played well, but the Eagles tri-
umphed in both the girls and boys
If you have the chance to attend
a Wallowa basketball game this
year, your olfactory sense will be
scintilated by the smell of popcorn
as you enter the gym. Do not leave
without having some. It is great
stuff and a bargain, to boot.
More coverage in our sports sec-
tion this week.
DO NOT miss the current art
exhibit at Joseph Center, “Puppy
Love.” It’s guaranteed to put a
smile on your face on even the
grayest winter day.
The exhibit runs through Feb.
14. Josephy’s gallery is open Mon-
day through Saturday noon to 4
Kudos to everyone who had a
part in this project.
Periodical Postage Paid at Enterprise and additional mailing offices
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Chieftain on the Internet
Send address changes to
Wallowa County Chieftain
P.O. Box 338
Enterprise, OR 97828