Monday, June 21, 2010

Don Williams as Justice of the Peace Pro-Tem???????

[Edited with significant revisions, 6/22/10]

Good Lord! I knew we had some problems with "Justice" in Baker County, but will the County Commissioners really appoint Don Williams as an impartial Justice of the Peace Pro-Tem?? How bad can it get? I mean, don't they know that there are sane, legally trained people who could handle the job right here in Baker County??? First they want the elected JP's husband to take on there job as substitute (any conflicts there?), then Gary Marlette, and now they want to appoint a known partisan (extreme in my opinion), whose political views run in the completely opposite direction of the electorate as witnessed by the last recall election (the recall he promoted lost in a landslide). Mr. Williams statements and letters also seem to advocate unconstitutional promotion of sectarian prayer at City Council meetings and reveal a lack of compassion for some citizens affected by poverty. Who's next, Brian Cole?? Such an appointment will bring no "justice" or "peace" to Baker City. Commissioners, please get a grip--we do not need any intolerant and divisive personalities determining the fate of our citizens.

Here is the text of the announcement from the Commissioners office:

Agenda:06/23/2010 Commission Session Agenda

1. Call to Order/Pledge of Allegiance

2. Citizen’s Participation:
3. Review/Approval of Minutes:
a. June 2, 2010 Commission Session Minutes
. . . .

6. Documents to be Signed
a. Order No. 2010-144: Re-appointing Kurt Miller to the Transient Lodging
Tax Marketing Committee
b. Order No. 2010-145: Designating a paper of record
c. Order No. 2010-146: Appointing Don Williams as a Justice of the Peace Pro-Tem

I realize that the religious fanatics and anal retentives will applaud his seemingly irrational arguments, but I address my plea to the rational--do you want a man with these views dispensing "justice" in Baker County??? Would people affected by poverty and/or with property maintenance issues be treated fairly by Mr. Williams?

Don Williams statements, as recorded by the Baker City Herald:

Recall vote is justified

October 09, 2009

To the editor:
A serious absence of ethics: In May of this year, when considering the adoption of a property maintenance ordinance, Steve Brocato had the code enforcement officer survey properties owned by city councilors for compliance with the proposed ordinance. Several councilors owned properties which were not in compliance.

On May 26, one of those councilors, Bev Calder, wrote a scathing letter condemning the proposed ordinance. My letter to the editor on June 22 informed readers the genesis of her ire was most likely found in the fact that she owns and perpetuates one of the worst derelict buildings in the city, located at 1620 Valley Ave. A fact which she did not mention in her letter.

She, Dennis Dorrah and two fellow counselors colluded, (with the exclusion of three of their elected colleagues) and on June 9 fired Mr. Brocato. Over the last two months, Ms. Calder with her colleagues, assured the “derelict building” language was removed from the proposed ordinance. She voted and passed that ordinance, which, in my opinion will allow her to let her building rot in perpetuity at the expense of her neighbors, while the code will require her constituents to deal with their messy yards, and cover non-operating vehicles.

Mr. Brocato’s firing for his bedside manner in dealing with the council and a few incessant complainers, may be arguable. The surreptitious and unethical manner in which he was dismissed by these councilors, is not. By conducting the above survey, (one of his last acts as city manager), Mr. Brocato tried to assure the residents of Baker of the transparency and integrity of the ruling council, qualities that by their action, prove to be very foreign to Ms. Calder and Mr. Dorrah. A recall vote is justified.

Don Williams
Baker City

Council to vote on property rules July 28
Written by MIKE FERGUSON Baker City Herald July 15, 2009 03:19 pm

With one minor change made Tuesday, the Baker City Council will consider a proposed Property Maintenance Code for the first time during its next meeting July 28.

Following first and second readings that night, the new nuisance ordinance could become law as soon as Aug. 11.

. . . .
Interim City Manager Tim Collins said the proposal will actually strengthen the city’s enforcement ability, making it quicker because it removes the requirement that the city send a third set of notices to property owners who are in violation.

That action will place enforcement actions in Municipal Court faster, he told councilors.

This pleased Councilor Milo Pope.

“I desperately want us to adopt this ordinance as it exists,” he said, “and let us get to the business of enforcing this. We can’t keep wollying it around and piddling with it. Let’s assure these folks it will be the agenda at our next meeting and we will start the adoption process.”

. . . .
Don Williams pointed out that the proposed ordinance doesn’t address “perpetual garage sales” in which “inside furniture is being stored outside.”

Collins said he couldn’t find a prohibition against perpetual garage sales in other city ordinances, either, but said he didn’t believe the new ordinance was the place to address the problem.

Suzanne Moses said that in her 15 years living in Baker City, it’s apparent “we’re moving in the right direction” with cleaning up problem properties. “The contrast with how things were 15 years ago is remarkable, and I think it’s important to keep that in mind.”

Alice Lentz said that her work in social services has helped convince her that people do take pride in their community, but that “some people will say, ‘Don’t touch my junk,’ and if it’s not a safety hazard, I’m right there with them. There is a shared responsibility to improve our world and to leave it a better place than we found it, but on what level? On beauty, or on solid safety and community issues, and that is where I’d like to see the emphasis put. I don’t want to see people being portrayed as bad characters.”

In a letter to Collins and City Councilors, Barbara Fleming made a similar point.

“I realize government has a role to play,” she wrote. “Threat of liens are no doubt effective, but seem to me unfair. They suggest an uncaring attitude. I see more a poor, old, tired or jobless person needing assistance.”

Collins said that under the new ordinance, the whole process, from the moment Regan has an initial talk with the property owner to the time the city abates the problem, could be as little as two months.

“Two months for the wheels of justice to turn is exceedingly quick,” Collins said. “That is the quickest that you could expect action.”

The proposed ordinance is available online at

Renovation record speaks for itself

June 26, 2009

To the editor:
Mr. Williams’ letter regarding my property on Valley Street is nothing more than mean-spirited propaganda. The building has been an eyesore for many, many years.  Recently it was under threat of demolition and I decided to “rescue” the former church and drug treatment center and turn it into something that contributes to the neighborhood.  

This building could be a neighborhood center; a gathering place for the east Baker neighborhood with facilities for family gatherings, art and dance classes, maybe even an elderhostel for travelers visiting Baker City and exploring our history and enjoying our community.   

My house on Dewey Street, purchased in ’93, contained over five dump truck loads of rotting garbage, animal hides and offal. The yard was even worse. It took years to transform that hovel into the beautiful home it is today, but I believe it has had a positive impact on my neighborhood.

Baker City is still a land of opportunity. I was able to afford to purchase a home here on my own, even though I bought something most people would condemn and declare hopeless. All it took was some time, some hard-earned money and a lot of elbow grease and sweat.  

Many “derelict” properties in Baker City have been revitalized. The list is long and includes some of our most beautiful homes and buildings. I don’t have deep pockets, a trust fund, or a job funded by taxpayers. But I do work hard and have put everything I’ve earned into creating jobs in Baker City that support families and reinvesting in my community.  

Since purchasing the Valley Street property last year, I’ve tried to keep the yard mowed (between rain showers) and the sidewalks clear. All of the broken windows have been removed and stabilized with plywood. There are no cats nor transients living in the basement and there are no violations of city ordinances. I didn’t make the old church an eyesore, but it is my goal to make it something the neighborhood will enjoy and benefit from.  

Beverly Calder
City Councilor
Baker City

Councilor Should Clean up Property

June 22, 2009

To the editor:

In Councilor Beverly Calder’s letter to the editor of May 26, she decries the proposed new property maintenance ordinance and calls any such attempt of city government to govern the open storage of trash, or one’s failure to maintain structures, “un-American.”

What Ms. Calder failed to disclose in her communication is the most likely impetus for her objections to the proposed ordinance supported by Mr. Brocato; that is, she is the owner of a building in Baker City that would be considered a derelict building and a nuisance under even the most forgiving and liberal definition contained in any such ordinance. If the proposed ordinance is passed, she too would most likely be held responsible for the respectful maintenance of her property.

I am a homeowner on Valley Avenue, in the area between Resort and East streets. Recently, several neglected and unsafe structures have been razed, or revitalized; however, one building in particular in the area stands in constant neglect, and continues to diminish the value of homes nearby. That building is located at 1620 Valley Ave. Once a church, it has long since been abandoned. Its windows are broken out, its cement is crumbling, its asbestos siding is broken, and electrical wiring and conduit hang from its exterior walls. Its unsecured basement is home to a myriad of feral cats, and has been used by homeless probation clients.

It is owned by Councilor Calder, and stands as a monument of disrespect and hypocrisy toward her own community. I would encourage readers to drive by and take a look, and ask yourself if you would like it next to your home. Our elected leaders have a responsibility to set examples as citizens who demonstrate respect for their city, their community and the property values of their neighbors and constituents. If anyone should recuse themselves on casting a vote on this issue, or even serving in a position of City leadership, it should be Ms. Calder. Her time would be better spent showing some respect to her Valley Avenue constituents by doing some significant clean up, renovation, and/or demolition.

Don Williams
Baker City

Re-elect Tim Kerns to commission

October 23, 2008

To the editor:

In Baker County we have a candidate who merits your vote; a candidate who fits the bill to continue to provide good leadership and a voice of reason to county politics: Tim Kerns. 

. . . .
Don Williams
Baker City

Council's prayer policy a rarity

August 19, 2008 11:00 pm

To the editor:
In this letter, I continue my comments about prayer at city council meetings, which you published a couple of weeks ago.
On July 22, the issue before city council was supposed to be just a housekeeping change in the invocation policy: remove the word "nonpartisan" and replace it with "nonsectarian." Councilors Beverly Calder and Andrew Bryan had both championed such a change at the preceding city council meeting. But at the July 22 city council meeting, Councilor Calder moved to exclude both terms from the invocation policy, thus leaving the door as wide open as before for all kinds of unconstitutional sectarian prayers, i.e., prayers identified with a particular religion. The motion passed unanimously.

During the discussion before the vote, Don Williams opined that not allowing sectarian prayers was "intolerant." Councilor Terry Schumacher claimed it was in fact illegal to prohibit sectarian prayers at government meetings. (He failed to cite any legal source to back up his claim.)

From their comments, it's pretty clear that Williams and Schumacher are not aware that in the whole state of California it is illegal to say sectarian prayers at city council meetings.

Here's the background for the leading California case. In 1999 Irv Rubin, a Jew, and Roberto Alejandro Gandara, a Catholic, sued the city of Burbank for saying prayers that ended in "in Jesus' name." Rubin and Gandara prevailed over the city of Burbank at trial and before the California Court of Appeals. Both the California and U. S. Supreme courts refused to overturn the decision.

Here's what the court ordered in Rubin v. city of Burbank: City councils may not say sectarian prayers at their meetings and must instruct members of the public invited to give invocations that prayers must be nonsectarian.

P.S.: Invocations are not part of the agenda at city council meetings in 97.5 percent of the 234 municipalities in Oregon, and are not included in meetings of six of the seven city councils in Baker County. Baker City Council is pretty much out there all alone in mixing religion and government in Oregon.

Gary Dielman
Baker City

Who's the greater authority?

July 29, 2008

To the editor:

I'm writing in to comment on the prayer issue from the July 23 paper.

Don Williams put a warning out that if councilors give up the practice of opening meetings with prayer, churches would stop entering floats in parades and offering Easter sunrise services in public parks.

Tammy Marie
Baker City

Council decides prayers will continue

July 22, 2008 11:00 pm
Baker City Herald

The prospect of taking away the prayer that opens many Baker City Council meetings, it turns out, never had a prayer.
. . . .
Don Williams said he worried that instructing people how to pray would "make God generic, a meaningless and uninvited guest to this forum."

Even allowing sectarian prayers, he said, shows "a broad tolerance of what this country is about."

"You have been very tolerant of all prayers, and now you're being asked to be intolerant," Williams said.
He warned that if councilors give up the practice of opening meetings with prayer, churches would stop entering floats in parades and offering Easter sunrise services in public parks.

Bill Harvey, who lives in Haines but owns a Baker City construction business, called it "a joy" to pray for "wisdom, guidance, strength and help."

"I am human, and I can't make all the decisions on my own," he said. "I am sure tonight that many are praying for our city."
Gary Dielman, who sparked Tuesday's discussion when he criticized a prayer offered by Bob Vanderbilt to open the July 8 City Council meeting —Vanderbilt closed his prayer with the words "In Jesus' name, amen," — did not attend Tuesday's meeting.
Dielman declined to comment until he'd heard a tape of Tuesday's meeting.

Councilor Terry Schumacher said he hoped Dielman would take the hint from the outpouring of public support for prayer at council meetings "and quit coming back and doing this."

But Councilor Beverly Calder said that dissent is "an American right" and "quite often represents other unspoken voices."
Councilor Andrew Bryan was one of the few who "saw the logic" of putting a charter change on the ballot to let voters decide whether to include prayer and the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance on City Council meeting agendas.

"If we want an invocation and the Pledge, we want to set it on the hardest rock we have," he said. "If people really want the invocation and Pledge, the best way to assure that is to put it in the charter."

"You can put it in the charter or paint it on a wall," countered Councilor Dennis Dorrah. "That still won't change Mr. Dielman or someone else coming in here and raising heck about it."

At least the issue drew a crowd to Tuesday night's meeting, Calder noted.

"You came because this matter is important to you," she told the full house. "It's nice to have full council chambers. I wish we could have something this meaty at every meeting."

Maybe San Jose shows the way

April 23, 2008 11:00 pm

To the editor:
I have followed with interest the recent letter to the editor from Ms. Norick, and the responses it has generated. I must admit I agree with Ms. Norick's opinion (but with a softer approach) regarding the trashy condition in which some people choose to keep their yards in Baker City. It clearly has a negative effect upon the city's image.

I'll not spend much energy responding to the allegation blaming poverty, created by super capitalism, as a fabricated excuse for some folks who choose to collect trash in their yards. Heck, it may even be a psychological reaction to global warming! One thing for sure, though, it has to be the fault of government or some entity (certainly not the owner of the trash). Regardless of the cause, given the current price of steel, one may climb the economic ladder just a little bit higher if they'd give the scrap dealer a call to buy that ol' heap in their yard.

The exchange of opinions on this issue also prodded me to do a little research into the annals of the San Jose Mercury News, where I found an article of May 21, 2006, describing the Strong Neighborhoods Initiative, launched by Mayor Ron Gonzales, who is working with citizens to clean up neighborhoods. Even the infamous "poverty ridden" Richmond-Menker neighborhood has tackled gang and drug problems and has cleaned apartment complexes providing safe play areas for children. Imagine that: poor people cleaning their neighborhood ... how antithetical. Strong code enforcement is also credited with the success of this program.

No response has invalidated Ms. Norick's observation. We need to look for solutions rather than excuses. It would be nice to see our city leadership take the issue of this obvious eyesore seriously. More can be learned by visiting

Don Williams
Baker City