Writings and observations

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Credit Raul Labrador with holding a town hall meeting, and for not hot-footing in and out. The three hours he spent there must have been an endurance challenge; most town halls I have attended over the years have been substantially shorter, usually half as long.

In other respects, compared to other recent town halls around the country, it was not terribly different: Republican representative appears and is jeered by hundreds of people in normally friendly locations. Across the state line in the adjacent eastern Oregon congressional district, Representative Greg Walden encountered much the same in Hood River (his small home town), Bend and elsewhere: A Republican routinely re-elected by supermajorities over two decades faced unusually large and stunningly hostile crowds. It must have been unlike anything he’d seen before.

And in Idaho? Would anyone other than Labrador’s loyal chorus show up?

They did; and, true, some Labrador (and Donald Trump) backers did too. But the fact that this event was held in the Republican heartland of Meridian, and lines formed hours in advance, did not discourage the opposition from showing up and getting loud. The crowd was reported as numbering around 800, an unusually big number for this sort of thing. At town halls, organizers usually have to search out prospective questioners; this time, questioners lined up by the dozens at the available mics.

All that was secondary to the electricity in the air (evident even if you watched the video), and the reason was clear: This was one of the relatively few occasions when the inside and the outside of Idaho politics came face to face.

It doesn’t happen a lot. Mostly in Idaho (with variations happening as well in other states), there’s the Republican infrastructure and its supporters over here, and what’s been dubbing itself the Resistance (Democrats and others in opposition) over there, usually in their highly separated bubbles. Theoretically, actual contact could happen more often at the Idaho Legislature, where it should happen, and it does in a limited way on specific issues. The town hall, though, was a chance to raise ideas and frame them independently. The outsiders here were able to face off directly with their opposition, and hear back in kind.

Along the way Labrador may have heard some things from constituents he might not have heard from them before, or at least not in force, things politicians don’t hear often – and that many Idahoans don’t often hear from each other.

When he said, “I don’t think there’s anything in the law that requires the president to provide his tax returns,” he got boos. Whatever else, this marked a clear expression of different world views bumping against each other.

When he said, “I do not believe that healthcare is a basic right,” much of the crowd roared its disapproval. (Question: What other rights are meaningful without health, or while you’re crushed underneath medical bills?) Labrador did say he thought people should have access to health care. One woman responded, “I have access to buy a Mercedes. The only problem is, I can’t afford a Mercedes. Many people can’t afford decent health care if it is not provided by the government.”

Mostly and traditionally, Idahoans have been polite and gentle-spoken around their elected officials. Contrariness usually isn’t a big part of the picture; the ideas “espoused” by most elected officials (in Idaho, Republicans basically) rarely draw much direct blowback. But on Wednesday in Meridian, they did. Some of it wasn’t polite, as Labrador noted ironically (“I’m super popular tonight”). But he certainly was hearing from more than the hallelujah chorus. And remember: The yelling often comes from pent-up frustration at not being listened to, as it did in the days of Tea.

A side of Idaho that doesn’t usually make itself very visible is doing that now.

In Idaho’s other House district, Representative Mike Simpson has been quoted as saying, “I’ve never been really active in doing town halls. Town hall meetings I have found, generally, disintegrate into yelling efforts.”

Meridian was a demonstration that even if they do, something awfully useful can happen there. Simpson might be well advised to reconsider.

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Idaho Idaho column Stapilus

jones

There has been so much heated public discussion about climate change that it is hard for a person without scientific training to make heads or tails of the issue. Sure, some of the science is not subject to dispute. It is certain that burning fossil fuels, like coal, releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. A simple lab test will show that increasing the amount of a greenhouse gas in an air sample will increase the heat holding capacity of the sample. And, we know that 2016 was the Earth’s hottest year on record, eclipsing the 2015 record, which beat the 2014 record. So, our planet is getting warmer, but is human activity contributing to the warm-up? That is the real question.

Those who believe that human activity is warming the atmosphere point out that ninety-seven percent (97%) of climate scientists say human-caused climate change is happening. However, the skeptics point out that the other three percent (3%) disagree. The believers say that virtually all of the world leaders support their position. The skeptics counter that two important world leaders, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, agree with them. It makes it hard for a person to decide which side is right.

The skeptics argue that global warming is the result of natural causes like volcanoes and forest fires. The scientific community says that natural causes do produce some greenhouse gasses but that the dramatic increase in carbon dioxide releases from human industry in recent decades has driven the warming trend. They say that billions of tons of carbon dioxide are released into Earth’s atmosphere each year from fossil fuels and industry, including about 35 billion tons in 2015.

The 97% of scientists say the oceans are warming, which results in more violent weather; that the oceans are becoming more acidic, which endangers fish habitat and seafood production; that polar ice and glaciers are melting at an alarming rate, which will result in rising ocean levels, which will endanger coastal cities; that changing weather patterns will cause widespread drought and consequent mass starvation and population migration in underdeveloped regions of the world; that military planners consider climate change as a serious threat to national security and global order because of conflict over scarcer water and foodstuffs; that forested areas will suffer more destructive fires; that these climate change effects are increasing and irreversible; and that immediate action is necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to keep things from getting even worse. The 3% of scientists say this would all happen anyway so just learn to adjust.

So, what does a reasonable person do? Like any other problem, it seems best to rely on the people who are knowledgeable about the issue. I would not ask a financial advisor to diagnose an illness or take my car to an ice cream shop for repairs.

And, I would put more faith in a consensus opinion of experts, rather than a minority position. If I had a serious illness and 97% of the specialists said I would surely die without undergoing a certain treatment, while 3% dissented, I think any reasonable person would go with the majority. Even if I discounted the opinions of half or two-thirds of the 97%, I would not go with the 3% because the stakes are too high. If 97% of the fire officials in the state said my house would burn down if I stored flammable liquids under the stove, although 3% said it was not a problem, I’d be inclined to remove the liquids. While this is not a particularly scientific approach it seems to make common sense. If the skeptics are wrong, the result is catastrophic. Can we afford to take that chance?

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Jones

carlson

Sometimes irony in life is simply too rich. And all too often even incredibly bright people do not see the train wreck they are headed towards. In such instances one has little choice but to sit back and laugh at the absurdity of it all, rather than cry.

For the most recent example of this unintended consequence of not thinking through a matter we have Idaho’s Senior U.S. Senator, Mike Crapo, a Harvard law product no less, to thank.

In going along with his party in rationalizing not even holding a hearing on President Barack Obama’s nomination of District Judge Merrick Garland, one of Senator Crapo’s expressed reasons was a perception on Crapo’s part that Judge Garland was weak on Second amendment rights.

In voting to secure Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination by President Trump, Crapo joined his majority Republican colleagues in doing away with the requirement that 60 votes is needed to end a filibuster. That they don’t see this as a precedent that will be invoked with regard to legislation sooner rather than later is stunning.

Without the ability to hold up the process by filibuster, defenders of the Second amendment are going to discover they have lost their greatest aid. In Crapo’s case it is so ironic that he invoked Judge Garland’s perceived weakness on gun rights only to turn around and vote for the “nuclear option” which literally shatters 2nd amendment protections.

All it will take will be for the Democrats to recapture the Senate (which will happen sooner or later), then do away with allowing filibusters on legislation, then ram urban-oriented legislation down the throats of small states and in particular western states. Turn about will be fair play in their game play book, just as it is in the GOP play book.

Republicans of course blame the Democrats for starting this downhill slide when Harry Reid of Nevada was the Senate Majority Leader. Reid did invoke and utilize a modified form after getting fed up with Republican stalls on lower court nominees. Two wrongs do not make a right, however.

To the extent there is shared blame, though, there is some truth, but the historical comity of the Senate will be lost and a pure form of hard, harsh partisanship will result with a minority no longer having any rights or an ability to influence legislation.

Welcome to this Brave New World where the winner takes all and the opposition is totally and cruelly crushed, and thanks Senator Crapo, as well as thanks to his equally blind colleague, Senator Jim Risch. It is truly sad that neither of them demonstrated any ability to look down the road to see the inevitable turning of the worm.

This abject failure to protect the rights of the minority is simply disgusting. Its an action that belies any talk by Crapo, Risch and their Republican colleagues that they believe in bi-partisanship and fully respect and dutifully honor Senate traditions. Pure balderdash.

Robert Byrd (D-WV) and Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), two former majority and Senate Pro Tempore leaders, are rolling over in their graves at the stupidity of their former colleagues and the damage they have done to the institution as well as the smaller, western states in the Union.

By utilizing this “nuclear option” (It was dubbed this by Republican Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee for a reason), Republicans are virtually guaranteeing the Senate will become as dysfunctional as the House. It is a win at any cost strategy that destroys the check and balance role of the Senate and thwarts the purpose of the Founding Fathers in setting up a bi-cameral legislature. The fact that they could pull it off regardless of the cost to the institution does not make it right unless one believes absolute power has absolutely unchecked rights.

Don’t be taken in by Republican rhetoric, either, that this is just hard-ball politics. It is the first time in American history that the Senate deliberately stalled on even holding a hearing on a Court nomination until after the result of a coming presidential election was known. On the contrary, there were 13 instances where the Senate did its duty even when an administration was expected to change.

The really sad thing is that in Idaho Crapo and Risch will never be held acccountable to the voters for their unconscionable role in diminishing the influence of the body in which they sit and its historical respect for the rights of the minority. Remember that when an increasingly urban and suburban dominated senate starts riding roughshod over your second amendment rights or your property rights.

They’ll rant and rave as if they are the unknowing victims of this terrible perversion of the process of which they consciously aided and abetted. One wishes they had a sense of shame for what they’ve done but don’t hold your breath.

The illusion of comity and bi-partisanship has gone the way of the dodo bird.

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Carlson

mckee

After watching and listening to the charades between Trump and the President of China at Mar a Lago, together with the dearth of information coming from the Secretary of State as he continues his whistle-stop tour around world, the notion that our President and his posse of amateurs are going to get the best of China’s President Xi Jinping in anything more complicated that a game of rock-paper-scissors is more than worrisome.

While Xi neatly shuffled the economic issues down the road with a 100 day plan to continue “discussions,” of significantly more importance today is China’s position with regard to North Korea. In this area, we are acting like the spoiled child and China is the responsible adult in the room. Whether Trump and his advisers will see this and change course in time is becoming crucially important.

Secretary Tillerson, continuing our course down the wrong path, placed the United States right behind the eight-ball when he declared that no further discussions would be had with the North Koreans on the matter of nuclear proliferation; a declaration that is exactly 180 degrees from where we need to be. To make sure that the forthcoming disaster was not ignored, President Trump then told Xi Jinping at their dinner, and then confirmed it all in a series of tweets, that if China did not take steps to neutralize North Korea’s nuclear threat, the United States would do it alone.

This single-sentence threat to Xi has to rank among the dumbest things Trump has uttered on the international stage in his short term as President. Just exactly who does the Old Fool think is being backed into a corner? It sure as hell is not China! “Oh, you think you can do this without us? Well, why don’t you just go ahead and try?” Slam.

Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, of North Korea, is not backing down. He promptly announced an intent to conduct a nuclear test within the near future, and threatened that if the U.S. took any aggressive action at all towards North Korea, it would respond with attacks on U.S. bases in Japan and South Korea.

Not to be deterred, and in typical fashion, Trump doubled down and dispatched a carrier strike group, the U.S.S. Carl Vinson and its coterie of missile cruisers and destroyers, to the Sea of Japan off the Korean Peninsula, due to arrive in the next week or so.

So far, every threat from us has been met with a counter-threat from the North Korean government, increasing the stakes and repeating the positon that we, not they, are the aggressors here, and that any aggression from the United States will be met with immediate counterattack. Although it may be uncertain what China’s position would be if North Korea strikes first, China is treaty-bound to come to North Korea’s aid if we preemptively attack.

Now, if there is a war on the Korean Peninsula, and China stays out of it, there is no question from a military standpoint that North Korea would completely and quickly lose. North Korea may have a first-strike capability of intermediate range missiles and nuclear warheads that would inflict great damage upon all of South Korea and as far as the remote coasts of Japan, but it has no staying power, and it is completely incapable of sustaining any kind of war term. Our immense military capability would eventually prevail, no matter how extensive the initial destruction might be. However, although we would win this in the end, the devastation to South Korea and perhaps Japan from just the first strike would be horrendous.

If military action is started and China does get into it on the side of the North Koreans, the long term outcome is not at all certain. If it could be contained to the Korean Peninsula that would be one thing; if it spilled over, the premonition is WWIII. Macarthur’s caution of over 65 years’ ago, to avoid at all costs war on the mainland of Asia, which we repeatedly ignore to our everlasting regret, is as timely today as it was then. What has to be obvious is that is if we are to continue to attempt to escalate the military situation anywhere in the Orient, things cannot improve – ever. So long as a military intervention appears imminent, any action by either side will mean an utter and complete world-wide catastrophe.

What is required of us is that we totally upend our present foundations and foreign policy thinking towards China and North Korea and completely reset the dialogue in a new direction. We must realize that the despotic leader of the hermit kingdom can only be cajoled off the ledge of thermonuclear war, and ideally into coughing up his stash of nuclear weapons, through diplomatic means, and that the increasing demands and threats of military action from us do not work but will lead to disaster.

This means we must abandon our time-honored bullying tactic of threatening forthcoming military action if our demands are not being promptly obeyed. We must de-fuse the situation militarily. We should take back the threat we made to Xi, recall the Navy strike force, and assure the Koreans – both North and South – and all of Asia that we have no intention of precipitating military action of any kind. And then we must get out of China’s way in order to allow it to work out a negotiated agreement with North Korea.

We must recognize that we are the wrong entity to lead on a diplomatic solution to this problem. The country with the depth of knowledge, cultural skill and political clout sufficient to pull this off is the despot leader’s next door neighbor, China, which also has an intense interest in seeing North Korea back into the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty, and the elimination on its northern border of the war-like attitudes of the supreme leader. China understands the North Koreans, understand its leader, and understands the importance and nuance of “face” and of allowing Kim Jong-un a way out of this mess without a loss of face. It is clearly in China interest to see this happen, and Xi has as much as said so. He does not need blustering threats from our Old Fool to do what needs to be done.

While remonstrating against Trump for his overbearing position, China has still invited the U.S. to cooperate. “Military force cannot resolve the issue,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned recently. But then he said, “Amid challenge there is opportunity. Amid tensions we will also find a kind of opportunity to return to talks.”

The huge question remains, is there anyone listening who can get this to Trump in time, or will the generals win out and insist on blowing something up first?

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McKee

rainey

Despite the oft-quoted “wisdom” of the young, there are some things you really can’t talk knowledgeably about in life until you’ve lived a good many years. Gotten lots of rings on your trunk, as it were. One such subject is the dignity of work.

I’m a people watcher. Guess it’s part of the old reporter instinct – always keeping an eye on folks on the street, in a store, a fast food joint, the doctor’s office, church or … well, just anyplace. But, because of my four-score-plus years, it’s the older ones I’ve been noticing more lately.

When I say “older,” I mean 65 and up – people who’ve retired or reached the age when they could retire if financially able. Which not everyone is. Just because you physically reach 65, that doesn’t mean retirement is automatic. And Social Security? Few of us could live on the $1,200 or so a month which is the national average. That ain’t living.

So, lots of grayhairs work. Some because we have to – some because we want to – some because that’s what we’ve considered a normal part of living during a long life. It’s where we find value and a sense of self-worth. Maybe a little extra money is nice but having a place to go – a time to be there – a task to complete – those may be as important. Or more so.

Oregon has many fine things to offer. But not legally being able to pump your own gas isn’t one of ‘em in most of the state. So, there are several examples of seniors working at the station I frequent. Just above minimum wage and no more than 20 hours weekly. No benefits, either.

One guy is retired military. Probably Marines. Always a fresh buzz cut – stout physical frame – deliberate moves when working – looks you right in the eye. Another one appears retired from business or corporate life. Short but very fit stature. Wears black slacks and white shirt like the rest but his look is tailored, black shoes shined, haircut just the right length – always. And always calls me “Mr. Rainey.” These two work, I’d guess, because they have done so all their lives, it’s important to stay active and the extra few dollars are great but not the driving force. The kid with the tattoos, an ear ring and a bad complexion while listlessly pumping gas – who knows?

Across town at a fast food joint, a small, plump woman, probably of Italian heritage – 70+ with jet black hair piled high on her head and always with a colorful comb tucked in. Light makeup. Her uniform seems to fit better than the others because she likely tailored it herself. Always a pleasant word for strangers as she empties garbage cans, mops floors or cleans public restrooms. Always! Probably working mostly for the money.

At another fast food spot in town, a guy in his 70’s with the obligatory uniform complete with the ridiculous little cap on his head. He dusts things off a lot and looks like he’d rather be anyplace else. Any place. Never says a word. When a 20-something manager gives him a task, you can see hurt – if not disgust – on the guy’s face. He needs the $500-600 a month. Needs it.

There’s a 70-something guy where I get my oil changes. Greets, washes windows and checks air in the tires. They won’t let him down in the pit area. The ladder climb is bad for his legs. He doesn’t talk much but, when he does, it’s bad grammar and often a complaint about weather, politics or something else. I’d guess he’s probably related to the kid manager who tolerates the attitude because the senior family member needs the money.

These are people that come to mind when some blowhard member of Congress – making $175,000 a year plus health insurance, expense account and staff – makes threats to cut Social Security, Medicare or some other senior-earned entitlement. The mouth runs but the brain has no concept of the guys at the gas station – the lady and the fella cleaning fast food joint restrooms – the 70-something washing my windshield.

These are people who work. Some because they have to. Some because they want to. All of them – ALL are products of the 30’s-40’s-50’s who grew up learning to work, having to work, knowing they would likely always have to. They don’t think about “entitlements.” They work now because they need the small, extra income or because they want to – some because they need something outside themselves that adds value to their lives. Maybe the value of dollars. Maybe the value of still participating and staying active. Maybe just the value of the work.

The old know it. The young will learn it. The people I know who seem to have the most meaning in their lives are the busiest. Some for money. Some for just the work itself. It’s called dignity.

On a dreary coastal morning, that sort of dignity can even help you get through doing your own laundry.

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Rainey

Water rights weekly report for March 20. For much more news, links and detail, see the National Water Rights Digest.

In the final days of the 2017 Idaho legislative session, lawmakers approved a change in state law to allow people or entities to apply for the temporary use of surplus water to prevent flood damage, recharge ground water, or work on ground or surface water-quality remediation. Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter signed the amendments to Idaho Code § 42-202A into law on March 30. An emergency provision makes the new law effective immediately.

Colorado legislators are struggling over legislation intended to require that the Bureau of Reclamation allow farmers to use their allotment of water stored by Bureau projects, even if that use is to grow plants in the cannabis family. The farmer whose case was on point, a grower in the Rocky Ford area near Montrose, was seeking only to grow hemp, which has no significant psychotropic qualities and is used for a wide range of other purposes. The Bureau of Reclamation denied him the water.

A high-end development of new residences near Bellingham, Washington, is slated to use existing wells for a water supply, with the water coming from the Governors Point Water Association. The development involves a half-dozen tracts on Governors Point, on a lake front south of Bellingham.

The commissioners of Washington’s Spokane County said last week they plan to set up a water bank for the county, and agreed to spend $1.2 million to get it started.

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Digests

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for April 17. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter on April 11 vetoed legislature which sought to exempt grocery purchases from the state sales tax. He also allowed to become law, without his signature, a measure substantially expanding spending on state highways. The grocery sales tax measure had cleared the Senate on a vote of 25-10 and the House by 51-19.

Idaho Supreme Court Justice Daniel T. Eismann (pictured) said last week that he plans to retire from the court on August 31.

Idaho Republican Party Chairman Steve Yates said on April 10 that he intends to step down as State Party Chairman effective April 24.

Reservoirs are filling across southern Idaho, and fisheries managers are looking forward to the benefits that big water brings.

Idaho Power Company is asking state regulators to approve an average 1.3 percent increase in an annual rate adjustment mechanism that allows the utility to recover its fixed costs of delivering energy when energy sales decline due to reduced consumption.

Canyon County voters in six precincts will have new polling places beginning with the May 16 election.

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Briefings

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The question is, who is taxed?

We’ll circle back around to that, as we review the last hot topic of the Idaho legislative session, the grocery tax.

Or, to be more precise, the sales tax as it applies to groceries, which in Idaho it does. In nearly all of the 45 states that impose a statewide sales tax, groceries are exempt from the tax, or in some cases their sales carry a reduced rate. Idaho’s in the minority on this one.

The idea of exempting groceries from the Idaho tax has been around for decades, and it has had backers from both political parties. (Shall we mention that Idaho’s current sales tax was pushed through half a century ago by a Republican governor and legislature?) In an era of tax cutting among anti-tax legislators, the grocery sales tax cut hasn’t engendered really strong support for a long time. But backing for it energized this year, picking up support from various wings of the Republican legislative caucuses and among Democrats as well. The vote margins were strong enough that a veto likely would have been overridden if the legislature were still in session.

All that said, the veto by Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter, who proudly has pointed to many tax cuts in recent years, but also criticized the repealer bill, did not come as a shock.

This section of his veto message did, though: “The advice from Utah was simple and straightforward: Don’t do it. The ramifications of lifting the sales tax from food had made budgeting much more difficult with the loss of what indisputably was their most stable and consistent source of revenue for essential government operations. Taxpayers benefited almost imperceptibly while lawmakers found themselves dealing with the peaks and valleys of income tax and other financial supports that are far more susceptible to economic fluctuations. Everyone benefits from some kind of government service. Everyone eats.”

There’s a real logic to this, a reasonable case. What’s a little shocking is that Otter, he of such libertarian background and inclinations, would be the one making it. You could make similar arguments for any number of the tax cuts enacted over his governorship, which have been estimated at a billion dollars worth, but Otter never did before this. Otter making the case for a veto that a benefit to taxpayers would be “imperceptible” while legislators would have to struggle? Imagine what he might say if a Democratic governor ever had the temerity to use that line of logic.

We don’t much have to guess, since the response from other Republicans has been mostly angry. On Facebook, legislator Marv Hagedorn (a contender for lieutenant governor) declared himself “Very disappointed. This repeal would not have affected the next year’s budget, so we would have had next year’s session to tweak it as needed. There is no way to know how much sales taxes come in for food alone as the state has no method of garnering that information, nor do we know how much sales taxes are being lost due to Idahoans shopping across state lines where there are no taxes on food.”

Lieutenant Governor Brad Little, one of Otter’s closest allies, took the unusual step before the announcement of publicly urging Otter not to veto, setting himself up to take the contrary point of view in the race for governor. In that developing and crowded race, he won’t be alone; at least two of his fellow candidates also favor repeal.

What constituents might be pressing for, at least as much in the coming debate though, is an answer to another question.

In a legislature so eager to cut taxes, why has this one – one of the most regressive taxes on the books – had so much more trouble making a way to passage over the course of so many years, than so many other tax cuts? Not only Governor Otter should be the recipient of that question.

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Idaho Idaho column Stapilus

trahant

A couple of years ago a tribal leader showed me an abandoned lumber mill. The company promised jobs. And, for a time, for a couple of decades, there were those jobs. But after the resource was consumed, the mill closed, the company disappeared, and the shell of the enterprise remains today.

This same story could be told in tribal communities across North America. Sometimes the resource was timber. Other times gas and oil. Or coal.

The lucky communities were left with a small toxic dump site. More often there was major cleanup work required after (plus a few more jobs). And in the worst case scenario, a Superfund site was left behind requiring government supervision and a major cleanup.

But all along, and in each case, the accompanying idea was that jobs would be a part of the deal.

There would be construction jobs to build the mine, pipeline, or processing plant. Then there would be truck driving jobs moving materials. A few executive jobs (especially in public and community relations) and, of course, the eventual supervision of the cleanup (especially if the tribal government had its own environmental protection agency.)

That was the deal. But it’s one that is no longer true. Now the resource is extracted, pipelines are built, and toxic waste is left behind … while the promised jobs are limited to the initial construction jobs.

The renewed effort to build the Keystone XL pipeline is a classic example of this shift. When President Donald J. Trump signed the executive order to approve the project he promised “thousands of jobs.” That’s true enough for the construction phase, but only 35 employees would be needed to operate the pipeline, according to the State Department report.

Keystone, at least, is prospective jobs. New ones. But the bigger challenge for the Navajo Nation, the Crow Nation and some thirty tribes with coal reserves or power plants is that new deal for resource-based plants and extraction does not create as many jobs.

The numbers are stark.

The U.S. Energy and Employment Outlook 2017 shows that electricity from coal declined 53 percent between 2006 and 2016. Over that same period, electricity from natural gas increased by 33 percent and from solar by 5,000 percent.

Coal is still a major source of energy. But it’s in decline. Coal and natural now gas add up to two-thirds of all electricity generation in the U.S. And that’s expected to remain so until at least 2040 when the market share declines to a little more than half.

But because it’s a market that’s going down it means that tribes that develop coal will not share in the rewards of either major profits or in a spike in jobs.

The only hope for this shrinking industry is to export the coal to other countries (something that will be extremely difficult because so many other nations have already agreed to the Paris climate targets). As Clark Williams-Derry has reported for the Sightline Institute:

“Robust, sustainable Asian coal markets were never a realistic hope for US coal exporters: the transportation costs were too high, the competition too fierce, and the demand too unstable. So the coal industry’s PR flacks may continue to spin tales about endless riches in the Asian coal market, the financials are telling a much more sobering story: that the coal export pipe dream continues to fade away, leaving a bad hangover on the coal industry’s balance sheets and a lingering bad taste in the mouths of coal investors and executives alike.”

On top of all that, Derry-Williams points out that China’s coal consumption has fallen for three consecutive years.

And the international context is that coal is the most polluting of the three types of fossil fuels. More than 80 percent of the world’s known coal reserves need to stay in the ground to meet global warming targets.

There are jobs in the energy field, but, as the Department of Energy report puts it: “Employment in electric power generation now totals 860,869 … (and) the number of jobs is projected to grow by another 7 percent but the majority will be in construction to build and install new renewable energy capacity.”

The green economy is taking over. (Trump or no Trump.)

The extractive economy (like the farm economy a generation ago) reached its peak, probably back in 2014. Oil and gas employed 514,000 people year. Today it’s 388,000. Coal and extraction related jobs peaked at 90,000 and now that number is about 53,000.

Then Indian Country’s development of coal (or not) has been the story so far in the Trump era.

Last month Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke signed a memorandum lifting restrictions on federal coal leasing. He said the “war on coal is over.” Then he quoted Crow Tribal Chairman Darrin Old Coyote saying, “there are no jobs like coal jobs.”

A day later the Northern Cheyenne Tribe filed suit. The tribe said the Interior Department did not consult it prior to lifting the restrictions. “It is alarming and unacceptable for the United States, which has a solemn obligation as the Northern Cheyenne’s trustee, to sign up for many decades of harmful coal mining near and around our homeland without first consulting with our Nation or evaluating the impacts to our Reservation and our residents,” Northern Cheyenne Tribe president L. Jace Killsback said in a news release. There are 426 million tons of coal located near the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation at the Decker and Spring Creek mines.

Meanwhile in Alaska, another coal project was put to rest in a tribal community. The village of Tyonek has been opposed to the Chuitna Coal Project. (Previously: Mother of the Earth returns to Tyonek) After a decade of planning, PacRim Coal suspended the project last month because an investor backed out. The project could be brought back to life. But that’s not likely. Because coal is a losing bet for any investor.

According to Alaska Public Media that meant a joyful celebration in Tyonek. The president of the village Native Council, Arthur Stanifer said, “What it means for us is our fish will continue to be here for future generations, also our wildlife, like the bears and the moose and the other animals will be secure and they’ll be here. They’ll have a safe place to be.”

But what of the jobs? That’s the hard part. The prospects for extraction-related jobs are about to be hit by even more disruptive forces. For example in the oil fields of North Dakota one of the great paying jobs is truck driving. Moving material back and forth. But already in Europe companies are experimenting and will soon begin the shift to self-driving vehicles. It’s only a matter of time before that trend takes over because it fits the model of efficient capitalism. Self-driving trucks don’t need rest breaks, consume less fuel, and fewer accidents. That same disruption of automation is occurring across the employment spectrum. Jobs that can be done by machines, will be.

So if jobs are no longer part of the equation, does natural resource extraction benefit tribal communities?

The answer ought to include a plan where the United States government and tribes to work together to replace these jobs: Retrain workers and invest in the energy sector that’s growing, renewable fuels. But that’s not likely to happen in Trump Era.

Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReports

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A few years from now political scientists and historians may look back on Idaho’s 2018 gubernatorial election as one of the most significant, game-changing elections since Cecil Andrus knocked off
Republican incumbent Governor Don Samuelson in 1970.

It will mark 24 years of the Republican hold on the governor’s chair following the 24 years before that of Democratic hegemony under Cecil Andrus, John Evans and Andrus again. Andrus’ first election, incidentally, ended another 24 year period of Republican rule.

Might there be a pattern emerging here?

For now, though, virtually all political pundits in Idaho already concede whoever wins the GOP primary will be the next governor of Idaho. The primary promises to be one of the more spirited contests in years.

Making it especially interesting is the expected entry of Tea Party darling and Freedom Caucus conservative member of Congress, Raul Labrador, who represents Idaho’s first congressional district. He is expected to announce around June 1st and may be crowned as the “favorite” because of name id and his affiliation with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS).

Incidentally, conventional wisdom speculates that former state senator Russ Fulcher, who gave Governor C. L.“Butch” Otter such a tough run for his money before narrowly losing in the 2014 primary, is just a place-holder for Labrador. Think otherwise. Fulcher ran a smart 2014 campaign, has learned from his loss and is no placeholder for anyone.

Labrador will be surrendering his safe seat to whomever wins the GOP primary here also, with conventional wisdom establishing former Idaho
Attorney General and Lt. Governor David Leroy as the early favorite.

The other complicating factor is the entry of developer Dr. Tommy Ahlquist. A multi-millionaire with friends on both sides of the political aisle, he is traveling around the state attending Lincoln Day dinners and calling the political influentials in each county to introduce himself and make his pitch.

He has one of those rare political gifts, much like Cecil Andrus has and George Hansen had – the ability to listen carefully to what a constituent is saying and do so in a manner that leaves the constituent feeling at that moment he or she is the most important person in the world. There’s no looking over the constituent’s shoulder to see if there is someone more important in the room.

Add to that his piercing blue eyes and the message is clear – he’s smart, hard-working and wealthy. He also does his homework. His “elevator speech” is short and sweet. He is campaigning on job creation, tax reform and the state taking the lead on health care reform.

Asked about the sale of federal public lands a month ago he confessed he had not yet studied the issue but promised he would. Last week a Republican lobbyist told friends they’d heard the good doc discuss the issue and thought it was as knowledgeable and thoughtful as anything he’d heard.

So where does this leave Lt. Governor Brad Little? A year ago many had already bestowed the crown on his head. Today, many are revisiting that prediction. Writing off Little would be terribly premature, however. He has traipsed all over Idaho introducing
himself, displaying his thoughtfulness on the issues and his understanding of the state. It’s Idaho retail politics at its best.

Little knows he has to differentiate himself from Otter and start talking about his vision for Idaho’s future – and he must do so without appearing to be an ingrate. He also knows he has a solid base of support that will stick with him during the primary and he will be able to raise plenty of money to finance a first-rate campaign.

Common political sense says he ought to be urging four-term Attorney General Lawrence Wasden to get into the race, also, which in theory would take away more from his challengers than from him.

Predictions months ahead of the 2018 G OP primary are always risky especially when there are more than three candidates in a race. Right now, though, I’d still bet that when the smoke clears Brad Little will be the GOP nominee.

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