Friday, August 8, 2008

Summer Sunflowers

In This Issue:
- Summer Sunflowers
- Justice Quotes
- Contrived Complaints Concerning Calder
- Ordinance Jihad / Mandatory garbage pickup
- City Manager's Resume

[This a "final" version published on Monday, August 11, 2008.]

Sunflowers in Baker City Gardens; west Baker above, south Baker below.

From about mid-July to the first fall freeze, you can see a diverse array of sunflowers among the hollyhocks and vegetables in some Baker City gardens. To me, sunflowers are as an important part of summer as a patch of corn, a green tomato, wasted apricots, firewood cutting, huckleberry picking, or a wildflower walk in the woods. Even though sunflowers are fairly susceptible to frost, they will still come up naturally in Baker City gardens from last year’s seed fall, and provide a month or more of cheer.

Here is a small collection of sunflowers from my unruly weed patch of a garden:

Besides providing a good deal of color to a summer landscape, sunflowers are also appreciated by many local birds. Goldfinches and other seed-eaters, as well as the more omnivorous red-winged blackbirds, eagerly seek out their oil and protein rich seeds. (Oh, and they like dandelions too!) It is amusing and satisfying to watch the goldfinches feed their nagging youngsters with sunflower seeds from my garden.

Adult Male (above) and Juvenile (below) Goldfinches Snacking on Sunflower Seeds

Along with blueberries, cranberries and pecans, sunflowers are one of the few native North American plants used for food around the world. As early as 8,000 year ago the Native Americans were utilizing and domesticating our native sunflowers and their relatives in the Aster family (AKA Sunflower family) of plants. They were used for food and oil, medical preparations, and dyes for fabric, face paint, and other things.

Other Sunflower Relatives (& East Oregon wildflowers) in Aster family
that were used by Native Americans:
arrowleaf balsamroot (above) and Hooker's balsamroot (below).

After early Americans and explorers took the seeds back to the “old world,” the plants were used as ornamentals. Slowly, the sunflower gained importance as a food crop—most importantly in Russia, where decades of improvement resulted in disease resistant plants with seeds that were high in oil content. These were re-introduced back into the U.S. 1966, and became the basis for American commercial production.

Verticillium Wilt
The type of Verticillium wilt that affects sunflowers is a fungal disease that also affects many vegetables and ornamentals, including tomatoes, peppers, potatoes and dahlias. It is caused by the fungus Verticillium dahliae, which is fairly common in domesticated garden soils, as is its close relative Verticillium albo-atrum. If it is not already in your garden, it can gain a foot hold by bringing in infected soils or plants. Verticillium first attacks the roots and then plugs up the water and nutritional transport system, while at the same time producing toxins, both of which normally cause a progressive wilting and collapse of leaves up the stems. This may kill the plant and invariably causes reduced yields.

Verticillium Wilt just beginning, left, and more advanced, below.

Verticillium wilt is difficult to control even with fumigation, and V. dahliae is known to survive for up to 14 years in the soil, even without host plants present. Plants like tomatoes seem to require up to 24 hours in saturated soils to become seriously infected, so proper control of watering should reduce incidence of the disease. Purchasing resistant varieties of seed and plants, when available, is a wise choice for those using Verticillium infected soils.

Sclerotina Wilt
Another serious disease and economic problem associated with sunflowers is Sclerotina wilt, which is caused by a fungus in the soil (Sclerotinia sclerotiorum). Head rot and middle stem rot are also caused by this fungus. Sclerotina attacks the roots and the transport systems in the lower portion of the plant first, which normally causes a progressive wilting and collapse of leaves down the stems. In less than a week, the entire plant can shrivel up and die.

Sclerotina Wilt is a serious problem for farmers of sunflowers as entire fields can be wiped out in a brief period of time, and because the fungus is difficult to get rid of once it infests the soil. A problem for gardeners, is that Sclerotina, like Verticillium, can also affect other food crops like peas, dry beans and potatoes, and that weeds can serve as unaffected hosts which retain and/or spread both diseases. Sclerotina can be introduced to your garden from infected soil, seed potatoes, and sunflower seeds carrying the fungus from infected fields, and from windborne spores originating in nearby infected fields or other areas. Both Sclerotina and Verticillium wilt are enhanced by ample moisture, which can result when sunflowers are planted near heavy water users like corn, or simply by over-watering sunflowers. They should be removed from the garden as soon as symptoms occur, and ultimately burned. Keeping susceptible plants, including weeds, out of the garden area for several years will help reduce its reappearance in the future. You can still plant sunflowers in other uninfected areas, being careful not to over-water, and changing locations yearly.

Justice Quotes
From Information Clearing House :

"Where might is master, justice is servant": Proverb
"It is sheer folly to expect justice from the unprincipled": Proverb
"Much law, but little justice": Proverb
"Justice is itself the great standing policy of civil society; and any eminent departure from it, under any circumstances, lies under the suspicion of being no policy at all": Edmund Burke
We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people: Martin Luther King Jr.
"Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity": Martin Luther King, Jr.

Contrived Complaints Concerning Calder

In a continuation of the city’s new enforcement Jihad and campaign against Councilor Calder, officer Shannon Regan, wife of officer Michael Regan, cited Calder on July 31st for riding on the sidewalk downtown.

Section 55 of Ordinance 2893 reads:
Riding on Sidewalks.
No person shall ride a bicycle upon any sidewalk in the area located as follows: beginning at the northwest corner of First and Auburn, thence east to the centerline of Resort, thence north to the north line of Church, thence west to the east line of Main Street, thence north to the south line of Baker, thence west to the west line of Main Street, thence south to the north line of Broadway, thence west to the west line of First Street, thence south to the point of beginning. Riding bicycles is also prohibited in the Post Office Square Park. (As amended by Ord. No. 3009 adopted 1-22-91)

Calder was cited where everyone knows she usually rides on the sidewalk, in a portion of the last block of her regular bicycle trip to work during a time of day when there are few pedestrians about. She has indicated that she yields when they are encountered and often stops to visit with them. She also said that despite the report in the August 1st Herald article, which states that Lt. Brian Harvey indicated that “Warnings were issued last summer,” she has not received a warning for riding her bike on the sidewalk downtown. Another rider she knows WAS issued a warning, instead of being ticketed, just the week before.

Despite the City Manager's contention that there are only a few people with "issues," several people on the west side have expressed discontent about the current situation. Here are two more:

“They should have given her a warning first, not cite her when she’s been using the route for years. They are trying to make her quit—like they did that other gal.”

Concerning the city citing Calder and giving out wrong way parking tickets where it isn’t a real safety issue, another said: “This whole thing is a crock of shit! . . . . It’s all about revenues [and] revenue patrolmen.” This person also complained, to paraphrase, that cars are being broken into and gas is being siphoned out of cars at night, but the cops aren’t out here, they are busy citing people about petty stuff and furthering their political vendettas. Why aren’t they putting these extra personnel on night shift where they are needed? There is a concern that they are also ignoring other problems like adequate street lights, street maintenance, the constant blaring of train horns at night, and that City police don’t seem to be friendly like the Sheriffs are. “How often do the city police wave back compared to the Sheriffs personnel? The Sheriff’s people always wave back.”

Calder maintains that the campaign against her goes back to September 27 of last year when she was threatened with a citation for parking her bike on the sidewalk, near the curb, in front of City Hall. This is where in the past, even city employees, and other visitors like myself, have parked. City Hall is outside of the area where riding on sidewalks is prohibited.

Ord 2893 Section 6 Reads:
“No person shall park a bicycle upon a street or upon a sidewalk except in a rack to support the bicycle or against a building or at the curb, in such a manner as to afford the least obstruction to pedestrian traffic.”

In what she termed “a creative use of the English language” Chief Lohner told her his interpretation was that “I had to use a rack if one is available, if not a rack, then I had to lean my bike against a building and if there is no rack or bldg, then I can park at the curb.” All three of the new city power triumvirate—Petry, Brocato, and Lohner—have been involved in “creative” and very subjective interpretations of certain sections of the ordinance in question. Brocato has indicated to some that for his obviously flawed interpretation concerning the “dots” fiasco he is relying on the interpretation of City Attorney Van Thiel, but as of last week, these opinions had not been made available officially to the entire City Council. This has some questioning whether, after summarily firing the previous City Attorney, Brocato is trying to use the present one as his, or at least the Triumverate’s personal attorney.

The following is picture she took which shows how Calder was parked last year. Note the lack of a bike rack.

I checked around City Hall last week for bike racks that would help serve bike riders and could not find one at the front entrance, although there appeared to be one way around back near the stairs down to the basement. When I took my bike to the new police department building to get a license for it (a relatively painless and so far, free, process that is required by city ordinance), I couldn't find a bike rack there either.

Baker City Hall last week—Note there still is no bike rack for cyclists along or near the entrance.

If you believe that the Triumvirate is not capable of retribution against those who question their policies, just remember what is happening, and has happened, to those who have opposed them in the past.

We currently see what is happening to Calder, an outspoken and articulate opponent of the Triumvirate’s spending policies, including the inflated cost of the new police building, and who has opposed Brocato’s summary firing of the former city planner. Remember what happened to Vickie Valenzuela when she asked too many questions about the City Manager’s policies? After she sat on the floor due to her health issues, Brocato asked her to leave and Petry tried to make her look like a hippy crackpot in the local press. Brian Addison was fired from the Courier not long after raising questions about 4th Amendment rights in relation to police department behavior, and after Chief Lohner visited the Record Courier office to complain to Debby Schoeningh about Brian’s coverage of the police department. (Debby Schoeningh declined to comment about the reasons for Brian’s firing when I enquired.)
Welcome to Miner's Jubilee!
The picture above is of two vehicles which were parked the wrong way on "F" St. at Grove St. after families came in to go down to the rodeo during Miner's Jubilee. Those are not "Welcome To Baker City" notes on the windshields, they are parking tickets. Probably spent more money than they intended on that trip. Can't ease-up even for a moment during a Jihad!

The Wider Ordinance Jihad

In future editions, I will be covering the developing Ordinance Jihad by our elites and money hungry city bureaucracies against working people and the poor. It had a feeble start last year but sputtered to a brief halt over winter and while Officer Shannon Regan was on maternity leave. The new offensive was announced by Chief Lohner in his July 10 column in the Record Courier, in which he says he is transmitting the views of our expensive ($6,666 per month [almost $80,00/yr & Brocato gets around $96,000/yr or so] vs. MacKenzie's monthly salary of $5,171) new Planning Director, Donald Chance, about what he sees as “poor property maintenance”.

A primary concern seems to be that when people are not maintaining their homes and property, those that are able to do so, won’t see their property values increase as fast as they might otherwise, and that new people may be unwilling to move into the community, and that people will be less willing to invest. Perhaps he should have said he is worried about “property maintenance by the poor,” because it really is all about money and class values that favor the rich and increasing their wealth. That’s what some of the law is about anyway, isn’t it—just rigging things to favor the well off, and kicking the poor people out of sight? It really isn’t that new people aren’t coming to Baker City—I moved from Prairie City into an old existing home here in 2004—it is apparently just that many who find affordable housing here aren’t rich and/or ambitious enough. The economic elites seem to want a rural gentrification project (not electrification project!) whereby the poor and low income are simply forced out by oppressive ordinances and increasing taxes. Too many of us like Baker City the way it is--that seems to be what the business elites, new and old, people like Brocato, Petry, Schumacher (and Bryan?), don’t like. How many times have I heard business people complain about the current labor force that is available in Baker City? Councilor Schumacher even mentioned it when running for Council. How many times have I heard them say they need new people here? Do they mean a more malleable laborer with a fresh perspective and a little more desperate--something like illegal aliens maybe? But I digress....

Do low income people not maintain their houses because of criminal or defective minds, or is it just possible that they can’t frigging afford it? Perhaps, in addition, they just don’t share the shiny, bright, spic and span, middle or upper class values, or maybe they just don't know how to fix things? You want to see your property values improve? Help your neighbors, don’t criminalize poverty! Like I mentioned last year, this ordinance Jihad has all the earmarks of a war on the poor.

Now Brocato, who has almost dictatorial powers as long as four Councilors support him (the Charter needs to be changed), is asking the Council to take a look at Seaside, Oregon's mandatory garbage pick-up ordinance! A part of that contract reads: "The owner and/or occupant of any dwelling or business shall subscribe to and pay for service rendered to the dwelling or business." and "All solid waste disposal shall be performed by the franchisee [i.e., monopoly holder].... The person in control of any residential property occupied within the city shall provide for collection and disposal of solid waste from any such structure." (emphasis added) Let's see, the city has granted a monopoly for trash pick up, and now they are considering forcing every home owner to pay that monopoly every month? No matter if you have made other arrangements, like putting your garbage in a friend's half empty container (that's what I do as I have a small bag each week)? What kind of government would consider forcing you to contribute to a private business monopoly, when you can make other arrangements to get rid of your garbage?

Perhaps all this is related to the removal of the old city motto about Baker City being "the Premier Rural Experience" from the city's web home page. That "Premier Rural Experience" may put off some potential rich people from west of here or the cities back east, or even some of the Council and our new city staff hires, so maybe they are dumping the rural experience too. What do Brocato and Chance care, they have their wonderful homes in the country outside the city limits. Hopefully someone will take the time to show Steve how to use his tractor!

From what I've read in the Herald, the new Planning Director, Chance, has an appreciation for B. F. Skinner's understanding of human behavior, and is supposed to agree somewhat with Calder's view, that the punitive approach is a poor way to change people's behavior. Time will tell.

City Manager's Resume

Despite the gushing accolades about corporate experience from several of the City Manager's supporters when he was picked for the top job, some things may not have been mentioned (at least by the Council or the local media).

New York Times, February 23, 1997

"Morgan Stanley's Clunker of An Offering

Attention, Dean Witter customers (and amateur investors everywhere who are clamoring to get into new stock offerings): Morgan Stanley does indeed have a track record of doing some of the hottest deals on Wall Street, deals that you may be able to buy into once it merges with Dean Witter. But keep in mind that even Morgan Stanley, the investment banker to the corporate stars, underwrites the occasional stinker. Like the Cronos Group, which it brought public just over a year ago.

Cronos, based in Luxembourg, manages fleets of shipping containers. The company may be best known here as a sponsor of more than $400 million in limited partnerships investing in containers.

But Cronos just made history by becoming the first major company whose outside auditors found what they thought was illegal activity -- and reported it to the Securities and Exchange Commission as required by the Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995.

From a Securities and Exchange Commission filing found at :
"Stephen J. Brocato. From June 1, 1997 through March 31, 1999, Mr. Brocato served as President of Cronos Containers Limited ("CCL"), a United Kingdom corporation and one of the Company's primary operating subsidiaries. To terminate his employment agreement, the Company paid Mr. Brocato L209,525 (U.S. $328,954) in salary and expense reimbursements."

From the May1999 issue of "World Cargo News:"

"Cull at Cronos

Hard on the heels of the "resignation" of president Steve Brocato, a number of other Cronos Container executives have lost their jobs as part of new chairman and CEO Dennis Tietz's US$5-6 mill SG&A reduction plan...

There is also this concerning a Securities and Exchange Commission action against the company and its Chairman, who led the company during most of the time Steve Brocato worked there, in "Business Wire:"

November 16 1999: The Company has consented to the entry of an administrative cease and desist order, entered and published by the SEC on this date. Without admitting or denying the findings set forth by the SEC in the order, the Company has agreed to cease and desist from committing or causing any violation or future violation of Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933, Sections 10(b), 13(a), and 13(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, and certain rules promulgated by the SEC thereunder. The Company has further agreed to designate an agent for service of process and to cooperate with the Commission and its Staff in any judicial proceeding related to the order and in any administrative proceeding instituted by the Commission against former officers or directors of the Company.>>

August 11, 2000: href=""

Dennis J. Tietz, Chairman and CEO of Cronos, in commenting upon the SEC's enforcement action against Mr. Palatin, stated: "Mr. Palatin was removed as CEO of the Company in May 1998, and Cronos has been operating under new management since April of 1999. We are vigorously pursuing Mr. Palatin for the amounts he owes the Company. We recovered $5.3 million of his indebtedness in June of 1999 and have obtained a judgment for the balance of $6.6 million. We fully cooperated with the SEC in its investigation of the Company, and resolved that investigation as to the Company last November. We are not named in the SEC's enforcement action against Mr. Palatin."

Cronos also reports that, under the business plan new management adopted in April of last year, the Company has focused its efforts on reducing expenses, increasing container utilization, reestablishing banking and financing relationships, reinforcing third-party container owner confidence, restoring employee morale, and increasing profitability. Cronos announced that its net income for the second quarter of 2000 was $868,000, including $89,000 of investment gains, compared to a net loss of $103,000 for the second quarter of 1999. Net income for the first six months of this year was $3.7 million, including investment gains of $3.2 million, compared to a net loss of $196,000 for the first six months of 1999. Mr. Tietz added, "Our efforts to improve the financial performance of the Company have produced positive results. Management is pleased that Cronos has returned to profitability, and we remain focused on enhancing shareholder value."

When I asked Steve Brocato about the issues raised by some of these articles, he declined to comment on the questions I asked him, other than to say "Have a ball with that one!" My intent here is, of course, to ask questions and inform people, as I get my fun doing more pleasant things.

Billy Bragg and Wilco-- "The Unwelcome Guest"
By Woodie Guthrie

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