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Posts published in “Day: April 15, 2007”

A symbol of urbanity

Baker Tower

Baker Tower

Some towns - some small towns or midsized towns - give you the impression that community leaders of the past had the idea, and acted on it, that this place was going to become a major urban center in time to come. And though it never did, the landmarks remain, testimony to that long-ago ambition.

You notice it, for example, in Wenatchee, Washington. And in Baker, Oregon. As you bypass Baker on Interstate 84 you can pick out the downtown a couple of miles away, and even from that distance you get the sense that this was a place of ambition. From a distance, and even more close up, you can see in the Geiser Grand Hotel, restored now to much of its former glory (and a place worth staying for an out of town jaunt, by the way).

And, of course, a few blocks from there, and most of all as a marker of Baker urbanity, the Baker Tower (which also was once a hotel).

That's its name, and it's what you'd call it if you didn't know the name. It is 10 stories high, the tallest building in Oregon between the Cascade Mountains and Boise, Idaho. By itself, it connotes that Baker was and is something more than just a highway stop of a burg.

We note this today because the tower, rehabbed in 2001 into usefulness as retail and office space, is up for sale at auction. The reserve price ($1.8 million) is less than the cost of the rehab work, suggesting an emergency sale; but no immediate explanation for the sale has been released. In any event, the eyes of Baker will be upon the results. History and pride ride on it.

Empty ballots

This is an off-year for elections - did you know there are elections this year? Loads of local government offices, especially but not limited to school districts, are up for election this year all over the northwest.

The Medford Mail-Tribune ran a piece today on the smallish number of candidates for the five seats to be filled on the Medford school board. Bob Hunter, the paper's editor, later blogged about it, noting the usual explanations - Everyone's happy with what the current board is doing; the unpaid positions are too much work for all but a handful of people. Then he adds:

At the risk of sounding self-centered, I think there’s a better explanation: We (the Mail Tribune) never ran a story saying the positions would be open for election — not one story, paragraph or sentence that I could find in our archive. Now, if you’re very plugged into politics, you would know that school board positions come up for a vote in May of odd-numbered years. But most people aren’t that plugged in and have no idea. In the Medford School District, we have five candidates for five positions. Three are incumbents and one is Penland’s son. You can be pretty sure the district administration knew the vote was coming.

But this is not the school district’s issue — it’s ours. We blew it. Without overvaluing our importance, I think it’s safe to say that had we told people there were open seats to be filled, more candidates would have signed up. It happened last year, when the race for a Medford City Council position had no candidates until we ran a story. Within days, four candidates appeared.

Sounds like a factor.

WEB META Hunter's blog also notes that the Mail Tribune's web site will be thorough made over come Wednesday. We'll check it out.