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Wishing everyone Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas. There, I said it. I didn’t wish you happy holidays or a joyful Kwanzaa. I wished you a Merry Christmas. After all, the holiday predominately celebrated in North America and Europe this time of year is just that, Christmas.

Bringing Santa to town closes gap

Last week, I had the opportunity to help Santa Claus navigate the streets of Omak and Okanogan as he brought Christmas cheer to area children and collected donations for area food banks.

You can make Christmas merrier

It’s that time of year again, when we shop for presents, load up the refrigerator and put up Christmas trees. We go to church, proclaim our good will toward each other and wish everybody we meet a Merry Christmas.

Letter illustrates deceitful tactics

My how time flies, at least within the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. In the last few weeks, we’ve reported on the Haeberle family’s dismay at the agency’s attempt to use their ranch to boost Fish and Wildlife’s land acquisition efforts.

‘Catching Fire’ reflects our excesses

More than a year ago, I stood in a long line to see “The Hunger Games” on opening night. This past weekend, I was surprised to be one of very few people arriving early to see “Catching Fire,” the next installment of the series written by Suzanne Collins.

Photos tell more than you know

Are you one of those people who takes selfies and posts them to your Web page or Facebook? Do you use your cellphone to photograph your children and upload images for friends, family and others to see?

Deceased’s story isn’t easy to tell

Covering death in small communities such as ours isn’t an easy thing for any journalist to do. As reporters, editors and photographers, our job is to lay out the facts of tragic events for you, the reader, to get the big picture. At the same time, we need to be sensitive to the family and friends of those who die.

Health Plan Finder failing epically

Like many people around the country, I’ve been following the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act. And since we live in an arguably economically depressed area of the country, I specifically am interested in finding out how many of my friends and neighbors were benefitting from a program that supposedly would give many health care for the first time.

Board changes should be normal

In case you haven’t heard, three members of the Omak Stampede’s governing board have stepped down, trading their directorships spurs for the “honorary” board.

‘Sagebrush Rebellion’ alive, well

Should the federal government continue to own large tracts of land in western states?

Some lawmakers in D.C. continued to hear from constituents during partial shutdown, others didn't

Democrats shut down communications; Republicans keep lines open

Parks, forests belong to the people

Federal officials shouldn't have blocked access to public lands during partial government shutdown

Chronicle Website updates loom

All businesses must change with the times. And The Chronicle is no exception. Don’t panic. You’re still going to get the award-winning local news coverage, photographs and local advertising that you’re accustomed to. And no, our print edition is not going away anytime soon.

Tell wildlife officials how you feel

Washington state Department of Fish and Wildlife officials’ ears must be burning. Many area residents are talking about catching them in the act of trying to change wolf-kill rules in violation of an agreement made to pass a law giving the agency more money through license plate sales.

Don’t force community service

Two weeks ago, the Tonasket School Board stepped into the debate over whether to require community service to graduate.

Go get a dictionary and look it up

I’m not squeeing much this week after checking out the new words recently added to the dictionary. Oh, you’ve never heard of “squee”? That’s because it’s one of those new buzzworthy words in the Oxford Dictionaries, srsly.

Did ranger exceed his authority?

State law generally prohibits public employees from lobbying for or against proposed laws while on duty.

River programs offer possibilities

The Okanogan River ties the communities of Oroville and Brewster — and all the towns in between — together.

Keep forest roads open, repaired

Nothing irks me more than heading out into the mountains in my four-wheel drive on what was once a wagon trail or logging road only to run into a berm blocking access.

Open forest roads to ATV use, too

It feels like the U.S. Forest Service is trying to do everything in its power to limit the use of public lands.

Chairman change may open door

Kirby Wilbur. He’s somebody you may or may not have heard of. But in recent years, he’s influenced the rural voice of Eastern Washington, even though he didn’t live here.

State shouldn’t ‘rehab’ Spectacle

Like many of you, I enjoy a good day of fishing. Trout, salmon, bass, steelhead, sturgeon, walleye and once in a while, even catfish.

We’re not a societal ‘melting pot’

For more than a year, the media has been fascinated by the story of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin.

Tease photo

New ATV law means opportunity

A new state law will give those of us who live in The Okanogan a much needed boost — both in terms of the economy and accessibility to services.

Daughter is coming into her own

The day has come where I finally can see my daughter’s words coming true. But let me set the stage...

State shutdown may not be so bad

State employees should be receiving notices of potential layoffs in the coming days, if they haven’t already received them.

Don’t mandate community service

The 7th Legislative District Senate debate Monday night shed some light on a hot-button issue that’s sure to come up again. The issue is whether state law should be enacted to require volunteer service for high school students to graduate. Candidate Sen. John Smith said he supports the idea; challengers Mike Brunson and Brian Dansel both opposed it. Smith said mandating community service teaches leadership. He has a point. You don’t have to go very far in our neck of the woods to see who the movers and shakers are. In fact, it’s likely they are volunteering on a number of boards from chambers to rodeos to booster clubs; you get the picture. Dansel and Brunson said schools are in place to teach academics, not how to act as a member of society. They have a point, too. How can you mandate community service, something that is supposed to be voluntarily given? I’ll side with Dansel and Brunson on this issue. Coercing our youth to give s0-called “freely” of their time cannot guarantee leadership. In fact, that’s just the opposite. Leadership stems from making a decision, not being told what to do. If we want our youth to grow and develop, we definitely should encourage them to volunteer in activities they believe in, not order them to “volunteer” in activities and social programs we believe in. The bottom line is public schools were created for one single purpose — to educate students on reading, writing, mathematics and other academic subjects. In supporting that effort, shouldn’t our students choose where to spend their time and effort? Nothing irks me more than seeing parents use children to further political causes they do not understand. Mandating community service can devolve to just that. Given a chance, our high school students will find a way to make our communities a better place to live. But it only becomes better if they choose to do something. Indeed, several students already choose to make their hometowns better. Look at the ranks of the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Civil Air Patrol, etc. and you’ll see they have chosen to join a group that emphasizes volunteerism and helping others. And yes, there are also many students who choose not to be a part of those groups. But having choices is a fundamental building block of American society. Forcing youth into community service is counter-productive to making our communities better and building leadership. Rather than thinking about how to make our communities better, this type of coercion leads to “How can I fulfill another graduation requirement?” I’d rather reward students for taking initiative, than coerce them into helping out a teacher’s or parent’s pet project. Roger Harnack is the editor and publisher of The Chronicle. He can be reached at 509-826-1110 or via email at rharnack@omakchronicle.com.

Enjoy weekend with your father

I always knew my daughter, Olivia, would have an athletic injury. That day has finally arrived.

Don’t try to outrun these officers

It makes me nervous when I’m driving down the road and see the red-and-blue lights coming up behind me.

Time for FCC censorship to end

I spend a lot of my time in my truck driving to remote locations in our county, racing in out-of-state locales and just traveling to travel. Because of that wanderlust, I tend to listen to radio probably more than most people. So, I have an XFM subscription.

Memorial Day more than time off

This coming week, flags will be flying as Americans remember their war dead. But all too often, Memorial Day devolves into a weekend celebration of camping and fishing, boating and drinking.

Utility needs ratepayer oversight

It seems like only yesterday that the Okanogan County Public Utility District said it had to raise rates in order to stay solvent.

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