Archive for May, 2007

May 23 2007

A crime study: high, getting lower

Published by under Washington

Longview crime

Police calls at Longview

Significant changes without an obvious matching significant cause are always worth note, and you can see a good case in the odd spikings of crime statistics at Longview.

The Daily News story on the recent police statistical report on recent shifts in reported crime. In 2003, it spiked – way up – and now has dropped fast, by 24%.

That’s speaking generally. The department’s presentation on the crime stats also notes what look like some anomalies:

–- Since 2003, overall Part 1 crimes [“such as homicide, forcible rape,aggravated assault, robbery, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft, and arson”] have been reduced by a significant 24%.
–– Since 2003 Arrests for drug offenses are up by 16%. Since 2003 drug arrests have increased by 106%.
–– DUI arrests are up to 158 in 2006 from a previous 105 in 2005.
–– Arrests for vandalism are up 65% compared to 2005.
–– Arrests for liquor law violations are up 69% compared to 2005.
–– Traffic citations are up 95%.

Not sure how all these pieces fit.

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May 23 2007

On the edge

Published by under Idaho

Here are the points against which to measure tonight’s community college vote in Ada and Canyon counties:

The need for the college is fairly clear. No money was being asked for (in this vote – that would come later); this vote concerned only creation of a two-county community college district. It had strong bipartisan support from a lengthy string of leaders, including most of the mayors in the counties and Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter. It had strong corporate support. Substantial money was raised for its passage, and substantial organizations were put together for its passage. By all accounts and evidence we’ve seen, the campaigns were intelligently and energetically run, in part using some sophisticated mail ballot approaches. (The mail ballots appear to have done their job very well, drawing in somewhere around 90% favorable votes.) No organized opposition appeared to exist; only a few people spoke out publicly against the proposal.

With all those advantages, the college (the College of Western Idaho) looks as if it just – just – cleared the bar, the two-thirds vote needed to create it. The district fell short in Canyon County (62.2%) but did better in Ada County (70.5%). (Returns from Ada were very slow coming in.) It appears to have gotten about 68% or maybe a hair less overall, just enough to pass.

Next challenge comes when the new board has to ask for money.

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May 22 2007

Romney’s sweep (of Idaho)

Published by under Idaho

If any doubt remained that Mitt Romney is sweeping the Idaho Republican Party, be it noted that to the previous list including Senator Larry Craig and Representative Mike Simpson add (among others):

Lieutenant Governor Jim Risch, state Controller Donna Jones, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, Senate President pro tem Robert Geddes, House Speaker Lawerence Denney, Senate majority leader Bart Davis, House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, and a long string of other state legislators as well. (They’re noted on our presidential support page.)

The only major gets remaining are Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter (governors usually stay out until nominations have been decided), Senator Mike Crapo, Representative Bill Sali and three other statewide public officials. Romney’s roster of endorsements in Idaho would be dominant even if everyone else went for another candidate.

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May 21 2007

If we did do this, theoretically

Published by under Washington

Dino Rossi

Dino Rossi

Dino Rossi sure sounds like a man who wants to run for governor again next year. His quote to moderate Republicans at Wenatchee was, “I tell you what, if we did do this again, theoretically, we’re going to need you and everyone you know. You and everyone that you know.”

A piece about his near-campaign in the Tacoma News Tribune also says he plans to announce his plans by year’s end. He may need to quit hedging before that. This cycle is speeded up, weirdly so, to the point that in many major races, candidates are being pressed hard to fish/cut by Independence day at the latest. That would be absurdly early in most cycles. In this one, with so many candidates entering so early, a lot of money and support is likely to be tied up long before year’s end. Under those circumstances, Rossi would be hobbling his campaign by waiting so long, if he does ultimately run. And because other Republicans are awaiting his answer before making any moves of their own, he’d be hobbling campaign campaigns if he opts out.

That he wants to do it seems clear enough, but he also seems held back. And that may be because the race would be tough – not impossible, but tough. In 2004 he benefited from a number of factors unlikely to repeat next year: A Democratic Gregoire campaign that fired on only half its cylinders, that didn’t spend time or money especially well and took too much for granted, that could dovetail with an absolutely top-line Republican organization (not likely, on the evidence of 2006, to be fully matched in 2008), and his own almost mistake-free campaign that took Attorney General Christine Gregoire by surprise. There’ll be no surprising her this time, or any underestimation, considering Gregoire has raised a large pile of money already. Opposing an incumbent governor is never easy. And Rossi, a fresh face in 2004, would be a rerun candidate next year. And 2008 still looks to be a strong Democratic year, more like 2006 than 2004. And the state’s political environment has changed: The King County eastside, still mostly Republican in 2004, now – considering the last round of elections – is mostly Democratic.

None of this necessarily is fatal to a Rossi candidacy, or to say that he won’t run. But we suspect these are some of the considerations that may be giving him pause at least.

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May 21 2007

The gangs of Rupert

Published by under Idaho

Aquarter-century or so ago in another life, your scribe was writing editorials for the Pocatello Idaho State Journal, and on one occasion blasted – sarcastically – at the then-sheriff of Bingham County, who was trying to persuade county officials of his need for a collection of Uzis. For security. Doubtless needed, we suggested, to battle back against all those counter-insurgent forces at Firth.

Still, small and rural community law enforcement isn’t always a simple matter, and it can become as violent as the urban variety, as the shooting spree at Moscow last weekend demonstrated.

And certainly we were struck by the report delivered last week by Rupert police officer Sam Kuoha to his city council, of gang activity around Burley and Rupert. From the South Idaho Press: “Though he said he was not at liberty to name specific gangs, Kuoha said those in area gangs fall into five basic categories: southern California, northern California and Chicago Hispanic gangs; motorcycle gangs; and miscellaneous groups that have not been designated as gangs but are cause for concern, such as white supremacist and eco-terrorist groups. Kuoha said activities commonly associated with each group vary somewhat. For example, he said, Hispanic gangs are known for vandalism and burglary while motorcycle gangs take part in prostitution and murder for hire.”

Five categories . . .

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May 20 2007

Swan Falls, explosion 2

Published by under Idaho

Swan Falls Dam

Swan Falls Dam/BLM

The last time Idaho Power Company butted heads with the state of Idaho over water rights at the Swan Falls Dam – this was in the first half of the 80s – the results rocked the state. Many of the results have worked out reasonably well; the Snake River Basin Adjudication, which was a direct result of that last conflict, probably will be a long-term benefit for southern Idaho.

The new lawsuit filed by Idaho Power Company, filed now as then in protection of 1905-dated water rights at the Swan Falls Dam on the Snake River roughly south of Boise, has a more dangerous edge. Back then, Idaho Power, in protection of its water rights (which it uses to generate cheap electric juice), did serve notice to thousands of southern Idaho water users that their water might be cut off. But at the same time, the utility was negotiating, trying to find a way to protect its rights while avoiding damaging and alienating its customer base. And, more or less, they and state and federal officials made it work. They guaranteed a minimum water flow for Idaho Power in return for state control and distribution of water flowing through the Snake above that minimum.

But water has been getting tighter in recent years, and now Idaho Power maintains there isn’t any more beyond their guaranteed minimum and that, to meet its rights, many water users (mainly of ground water) will have to be shut off. In contrast to the 80s, the room or inclination to negotiate seems considerably less.

The room has to do with the physical realities of the situation, which could upend large parts of southern Idaho agriculture.

The inclination could come from somewhere else. Our suspicion for some years has been that once work on relicensing the three Hells Canyon dams to Idaho Power was complete, that corporate vultures would swiftly circle and dive-bomb at Idaho Power, which so far has been Idaho-based – but might not be for a lot longer. The new Swan Falls lawsuit feeds into that scenario.

Here’s how, deep inside an Idaho Statesman analysis by Rocky Barker of the legal action: “Idaho Power provides irrigation customers lower, subsidized power rates to run their pumps. Putting those customers out of business would give Idaho Power more low-cost power to sell to customers who pay higher rates. Critics say this is Idaho Power’s real intention and would make the company a more attractive buyout target.”

A buyout was a lesser consideration a quarter-century ago. Today, it seems more a matter of time, and an Idaho Power based not in Boise but across the country might be a very different animal. Southern Idaho irrigators might be wise to give that careful consideration as they plot their next moves.

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May 20 2007

Potter: Odds out

Published by under Oregon

Tom Potter

Tom Potter

Portland Mayor Tom Potter doubtless could have another term for the asking. His popularity is all any politician could hope for; he likely would not draw serious opposition in a run for a second term. Whether he wants to run is another matter.

After reading today’s Oregonian update (“For Potter, success is doing by not doing”) on the Potter mayoralty, we’d weight the odds against a run next year for a second term.

And we’d take him at his word if he suggests, as he likely would, that this month’ defeat of the strong-mayor city charter change would have nothing to do with it. Some of the reasons are relatively concrete: He will be 68 next fall, would be 73 winding up another four-year term; he has a history of moving on from key jobs (like police chief) after relatively short stretches.

And such ambitions as he has expressed have largely been fulfilled. The Oregonian put the matter this way: “After 12 years under Vera Katz, a sharp-tongued whirlwind whose to-do list was taller than she was, Potter offered himself as a straight-talking stoic more interested in building relationships than esplanades.” And he has been building relationships and opening the city government more than it was before – the things he talked about in his campaign. If he left after a term, he could say he’d done what he set out to do. Our guess now is that is what he will do.

NEXT So who would run? Council member Sam Adams is presumed in the race almost automatically if Potter isn’t. But don’t assume even a well-organized council member would have it in the bag; former Council member Jim Francesconi presumed so too, until Potter walloped him three years ago. More names are bound to surface, like the proposal a week ago by blogger Ted Piccolo of businessman Roy Jay.

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May 19 2007

First in and self-propelled

Published by under Washington

Sue Madsen

Sue Lani Madsen

Via the Olympia dispatch by the Tri-City Herald‘s Chris Mulick, word about a prospective 2008 legislator who enters the field with three assets.

The entry is occasioned by the pending retirement of Representative Bob Sump, R-Republic, a nearly unbeatable (61.2% last year, 64.1% before that, in a solidly Republican district) six-termer who has said he will opt out next year.

Sue Lani Madsen ran for the other House seat in District 7 in 2004, finishing last in a three-way primary (the winner being Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda). She pulled 25.8% of the vote, and won just one of the district’s six counties (Lincoln).

On the other hand. Sump’s will be an open seat (Kretz was an incumbent). Madsen is getting in very early – hardly anyone has announced regionally for a legislative seat this early, more than a year before the region’s first primary election anywhere. She now has some name ID and some campaign experience.

Her entry becomes an irresistible mention here, though, for what ought to be her campaign slogan. Madsen is an architect by profession but also has ownership in an Edwall company that controls weeds and other unwanted plants using goats and sheep. The web site for Healing Hooves LCC calls its service “Self-propelled weed control with an attitude.”

If we’ve heard a better slogan for a legislative candidate in a district like this, we can’t recall it.

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May 19 2007

Annexation and the alternative

Published by under Washington

You find some thought-provoking stuff in the comment sections. In this case, Sound Politics blogger Jim Miller gives a shout-out to a just-discovered local newspaper, the Eastside Sun, which appears to focus on the Kirkland area.

That drew an appreciative comment from John Gilday, the editor, who added: “We believe Kirkland is a GREAT little community that should seek to stay both, great and little. There’s no reason we need to annex everything around us and become the 7th largest city in the state. There’s no reason the Kirkland City planners should operate with no oversight and total impunity, stealing in the form of ‘fines’ and have neither checks nor balances. There’s no reason Kirkland Police should break laws to help their friends.”

Hmm. He picked up some support from near-Kirkland resident Piper Scott St. Clair, who added a further list of horribles about the city and its management: Fearing annexation, “So far, I fear for my life, liberty, and property!”

However, form Deb Eddy, there was also this: “Oh, dear. I haven’t read the Eastside Sun, and I will. But Gilday’s post, alleging that there’s “no reason we need to annex everything around us” can’t stand unchallenged. King County presently assesses taxes, county-wide, which end up not in regional services that benefit us all (courts, public health, etc.), but end up providing local services to unincorporated areas like those needing annexed to cities like Kirkland. Please read the Growth Management Act and the King County County-wide Planning Policies, plus various reports on the Urban Subsidy (there are real dollars involved here) before weighing in on annexation issues. No, it isn’t easy to understand, but if you want government to be efficient and to spend dollars effectively, you have to do some real economic study.”

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May 18 2007

Taxes rebutted

Published by under Oregon

Before we leave the week, we should note results from the string of elections in southwest Oregon on Tuesday, concerning proposed taxes aimed mainly at replacing the big chunk of federal funds cut last year. (We wrote about one of them, the Jackson County library proposal, on Tuesday.) These proposals had to do with paying for basic services, in most cases including large portions of local law enforcement activities.

Oregon Catalyst has a concise summation:

Lane County Income Tax defeated by 71%
Jackson County defeated a property tax levy by 59%
Josephine County public safety measure failed
Coos County defeated a property tax by 68%
Curry County rejected a property tax by 67%

A Central Oregon 911 tax and a West Linn Public safety levy failed to get decent voter turn-out and was rejected. Both gained more yes votes but failed to convince voters that the election was important enough to participate in.

Worth bearing in mind.

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May 18 2007

The weight of clout

Published by under Idaho

We have no particular take here on the technical issues involved, but watch closely how this issue comes out – this matter of a conflict between a batch of local governments in Kootenai County, and the Real Life Ministries at Post Falls.

The background matter is the fragile Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer, which underlies much of western Kootenai County and beyond, and provides drinking water for the metro area – upwards of a half-million people. Officials in Washington and Idaho have been working to avoid pollution of the aquifer. To that end local governments in Kootenai, including the cities of Post Falls, Rathdrum and Hayden and local water and sewer districts, have been pulling together plans for a centralized sewer system, and gradual elimination of the mass of septic tanks and systems in the area.

Real Life is an evangelical church which has been growing wildly in the last decade (and it is only about a decade old). Until recently, the big church in the region was New Life at Rathdrum, which as of a few years back had grown to upwards of 3,000 people; people from its membership became important political players, two at least state legislators. But in the last few years Real Life at Post Falls has blown past, averaging Sunday turnouts of around 7,000 and drawing an estimated 12,000 for last month’s Easter services. It is the largest church in Idaho by a couple of orders of magnitude, and the largest in eastern Washington as well.

Real Life last built a main structure in 2004, but in response to its growth has been pressing for building expansion. Its plans, news reports say: “The church hopes to build a new campus over the aquifer, including a 3,500-seat worship center and nine other buildings totaling 458,000 square feet.” And a new septic system as well, which led to the concerns from local mayors and others.

This is a situation with political implications. Watch it closely.

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May 17 2007

Radio wars/Idaho

Published by under Idaho

Here’s something lawsuits are sometimes good for: Providing insight, shining halogen lights on sometimes significant places we might not otherwise see.

The Idaho Radio blog has a fine post about the conflict between Citadel Broadcasting and Peak Broadcasting, both significant players in Idaho radio (as predecessor and successor), drawn from court documents over their battle. The documents suggest an insiders’ view of radio programming and competition in the Boise market.

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May 17 2007

Interest from Bates

Published by under Oregon

Alan Bates

Alan Bates

In our post yesterday on the emerging (ever so gradually) Oregon U.S. Senate race, we noted that state Senator Alan Bates, D-Medford, has been mentioned as a Senate prospect but hadn’t much indicated whether he actually was interested.

Turns out he is. Today, Blue Oregon has pulled together material from the Ashland Daily Tidings and other sources about Bates’ interest in the race, which is evidently quite real. The Tidings reported “Bates said he’s been considering a run against Smith, Oregon’s two-term junior United States senator, for six months, but said he did not want to announce his interest prematurely, hoping that ‘somebody with a better chance and who was better known’ would emerge.” He went public after the last of the Democratic U.S. House members said they didn’t plan to run.

Bates described himself as a “dark horse,” and that may be good positioning, but his assets are stronger than that suggests. He is an experienced candidate, running strongly in areas where his party is not in the majority, and certainly not running as a Republican-lite candidate; it helped that in the Medford area he was a well-known public figure and professional leader long before entering the legislature. He became third in line in Senate Democratic leadership – almost immediately after moving from the House to the Senate. He has good campaigning presence and skills. He’s respected as a legislator, and at Salem has taken on some highly ambitious projects (including, with fellow Senator Ben Westlund, a health care plan in Senate Bill 329 that could be the most important single piece of legislation in the Northwest this decade – if it passes).

And his rhetoric is clear and strong: His blasts at Smith over Iraq, for example, is all a Democrat would want of a Senate nominee.

He said he will announce a decision shortly after the legislature adjourns (which is expected for late June).

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May 17 2007

An immigration backboard

Published by under Idaho

Common sense tells us that there’s no such thing as a “solution” on the immigration issue. The rate and type of inflow, our nation’s needs and our ability to control travel are ever-changing. The most we can hope for is an ongoing monitor and adjustment, developed outside the context of panic and hysteria the topic seems to produce in so many areas.

Northwest politics likely will be affected, then, by the new compromise immigration bill in the U.S. Senate. Idaho Senator Larry Craig, who has worked with a wide variety of senators on immigration (one of his best allies has been senior Senate Democrat Robert Byrd) offered this: “While there is no way to please everyone on an issue as complex and divisive as this one, the legislation the Senate will be debating next week has many provisions that will promote our economy, protect the security of our country and its citizens, and deal fairly with both citizens and non-citizens alike. I believe this bill will serve the interests and needs of Idaho and the nation well.”

The bill will not, however, much satisfy the anti-immigrant community. You can expect to be hearing a lot more about this soon.

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May 16 2007

Salaries, and what’s behind them

Published by under Washington

The attention, naturally, will go to the dollar amounts. The Washington Citizens’ Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials has proposed the next-term round of salary increases for state elected officials, and the numbers ($167,000 for governor, as of September 2008) are understandably the focus. Though, to be sure, there’s nothing especially mind-bending there.

There’s a better civics lesson, though, in the reports the agency produces – reports that analyze, from several perspectives, the jobs that these elected officials are supposed to perform. If you ever wondered what it is exactly that the governor of Washington does, or at least is responsible for, here’s your chance.

And you gotta like the agency’s slogan (yes, they have one) – “We evaluate the position – Voters evaluate the performance.”

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May 16 2007

Scratch Blumenauer; next?

Published by under Oregon

Earl Blumenauer

Earl Blumenauer

Almost all of Oregon’s Democratic top tier now has taken a pass on a run next year for the U.S. Senate, with the announcement today by Representative Earl Blumenauer that he will stay put. From his political/campaign site, about deciding not to taken on Republican Senator Gordon Smith:

My issues, from ending the Iraq war, stopping global warming, making sure everyone has health care they can afford, a quality education, and a good job, have gained not just attention, but traction and even momentum. My committee assignments put me in the best possible position to deal with these priorities everyday. I’ve been working for over a decade to get on the Ways and Means Committee and to regain a Democratic majority. I say with January both of these dreams become a reality. Speaker Nancy Pelosi also chose me to serve on the new Global Warming and Energy Independence Committee.

At this unique moment in history there is too much work to be done in the House of Representatives to take on a campaign for the US Senate.

The winning candidate should devote 100 percent effort for the next 18 months to overcome the onslaught that will come from the incumbent, Karl Rove and the Bush White House, and the many special interests who want to keep Smith in office.

Understandable, and similar to the logic keeping the other Oregon Democratic House members where they are. Smith was helped immeasurably by the Democratic takeover of the House last November.

The only undeclared in our estimate of the Democratic top-tier prospects, state Senator Ben Westlund, D-Tumalo, is widely rumored to be planning a run at state treasurer instead. The only Democrat now in the field, activist Steve Novick, is smart and sharp-tongued but also acerbic and a first-time candidate whose fundraising prospects are unclear.

Other possibilities? On the national Daily Kos, blogger mcjoan points to state Senate Majority Leader Kate Brown, D-Portland; we’d call that an interesting prospect, and her legislative skill and energy are solid, though the transition from a south-central Portland district to statewide may be a little tough. House Speaker Jeff Merkley, D-Portland, would also be a credible prospect. Another name mentioned recently (not, so far as we can tell, by the principal) is Senate Majority Whip Alan Bates, D-Ashland, a physician elected and highly popular in a politically mixed district, and bringing some strong campaigning and legislative skills to bear. (He has been working with Westlund on an ambitious statewide health care plan.)

Overall, though, between Blumenauer’s announcement and the endorsement from the state’s Indian tribes, this has been a good political week for Gordon Smith.

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May 15 2007

What kind of community

Published by under Oregon

Saving the libraries

saving the libraries

One of our key indicators of the thoughtfulness of a community is its level of support for bookstores and libraries, those being among the best indicators that a community is educated, values education and learning and encourages it broadly, and is – by virtue of that – better positioned to deal with the realities of a complex future.

So what do we make of the vote reported tonight at Medford and nearby communities, which rejected – 59.3% voting no – a ballot issue which would have reopened 15 libraries in Jackson County.

The libraries were all closed several weeks ago because of drastic cuts in federal timber payments on which the county has been heavily reliant. (Several other counties in the area, including Coos and Curry, are deeply damaged by the federal cuts as well.)

The group Save Our Library System has been organizing to pass a ballot issue to raise enough money to reopen the libraries. It made the case for what libraries mean in a community:

Over 36,000 children and teens participated in reading programs throughout the year.
Each day, an average of 3,000 people visit the library and 770 people access the library from home or business
Last year, Jackson County residents borrowed 1,444,813 items from the libraries. Circulation for children’s items exceeded 434,000.
Many senior citizens and homebound rely on outreach programs to provide them with library materials.
Children read 63,000 books in the summer reading program alone.

Its proposal was not extravagant: “The average property owner will pay about $9 per month for three years to create the bridge to find a long-term solution to library funding.”

But Jackson County voters decided, decisively, that libraries weren’t worth it. Which raises the question: in that case, why not own up and declare the county rid of them permanently?

We suspect there’ll be some reluctance to do that overtly, if only because the only possible interpretation is that, in Jackson County, learning is not much valued, reading is unimportant, and if you can’t afford to buy it at the book store, too bad.

But then, today’s vote may have made that interpretation unavoidable anyway.

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Idaho 100 NOW IN KINDLE
 
Idaho 100, about the 100 most influential people ever in Idaho, by Randy Stapilus and Martin Peterson is now available. This is the book about to become the talk of the state - who really made Idaho the way it is? NOW AN E-BOOK AVAILABLE THROUGH KINDLE for just $2.99. Or, only $15.95 plus shipping.
 

Idaho 100 by Randy Stapilus and Martin Peterson. Order the Kindle at Amazon.com. For the print edition, order here or at Amazon.


 

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    watergates

    ORDER IT HERE or on Amazon.com

    More about this book by Randy Stapilus

    Water rights and water wars: They’re not just a western movie any more. The Water Gates reviews water supplies, uses and rights to use water in all 50 states.242 pages, available from Ridenbaugh Press, $15.95

    intermediary

    ORDER IT HERE or on Amazon.com

    More about this book by Lin Tull Cannell

    At a time when Americans were only exploring what are now western states, William Craig tried to broker peace between native Nez Perces and newcomers from the East. 15 years in the making, this is one of the most dramatic stories of early Northwest history. 242 pages, available from Ridenbaugh Press, $15.95

    Upstream

    ORDER HERE or Amazon.com

    The Snake River Basin Adjudication is one of the largest water adjudications the United States has ever seen, and it may be the most successful. Here's how it happened, from the pages of the SRBA Digest, for 16 years the independent source.

    Paradox Politics

    ORDER HERE or Amazon.com

    After 21 years, a 2nd edition. If you're interested in Idaho politics and never read the original, now's the time. If you've read the original, here's view from now.


    Governing Idaho:
    Politics, People and Power

    by James Weatherby
    and Randy Stapilus
    Caxton Press
    order here

    Outlaw Tales
    of Idaho

    by Randy Stapilus
    Globe-Pequot Press
    order here

    It Happened in Idaho
    by Randy Stapilus
    Globe-Pequot Press
    order here

    Camping Idaho
    by Randy Stapilus
    Globe-Pequot Press
    order here