August 07, 2003 11:00 pm

In the game of appointments to state office, you lose some and you win some. Sitting here on the east side of the state, it would have been wonderful for Gov. Ted Kulongoski to appoint Pendleton lawyer Gene Hallman to a vacancy on the Oregon Supreme Court.

Instead, the governor selected Willamette Valley appellate judge Rives Kistler.

But chalk one up for Kulongoski in appointing La Grande attorney Ray Baum to one of two open positions on the state Public Utility Commission.

Baum, 47, who has been in a private law practice in La Grande since leaving the Oregon House of Representatives in 1996, will bring a rural perspective to the three-member PUC.

As Baum told The Observer's editorial board Wednesday, "We live and die on utility rates out here." Baum knows how critical a fair rate structure is to the economic well-being of businesses and families in Eastern Oregon.

Baum will bring his quick mind and pleasant approach to the three-member commission. He does not see his service on the PUC as a political job, but as a way of balancing the need for ratepayers to be treated fairly while allowing the utilities to remain financially viable.

Baum's understanding of the law and his negotiation skills in bringing opposing sides to the table to seek solutions will also be put to good use on the PUC.

Baum got a taste for government service during his four terms in the Legislature and is eager to serve the public again. The Senate should confirm him. He will do well in his new assignment.

Seek peaceful solutions

It's fascinating that during this week's Oregon Mayors Association's summer conference in La Grande, a shooting involving present or former city councilors in Granite is in the news.

Mitchell Fielding, 49, is in the Grant County Jail, accused of shooting William Dobell, 54, Monday night in the small community. The shooting, which left Dobell in critical condition at a Portland hospital, was fueled by a long-lasting feud involving the two men over Fielding's business, The Lodge at Granite.

Fielding is a Granite City Council member, and his wife, Patricia, with whom Dobell also reportedly was feuding, is mayor. Dobell is a former council member in the community that has a population of 25.

Monday's violence underscores the need for communities, no matter what size, to have dispute-resolution programs in place. It's obvious that the dispute involving Dobell and the Fieldings went on much longer than it should. An effort by someone to get at the cause of the feud and help resolve it may have averted this terrible tragedy.