Archive for February, 2008

Feb 29 2008

Yeah, but he’s a Canyon County commissioner

Published by under Idaho

Why does this seem just, simply, natural? From an update on the Idaho Statesman web site:

“Canyon County Commissioner Dave Ferdinand thought he had prepped his bags for boarding an airplane Thursday, but he forgot one big thing – a loaded gun, county spokeswoman Angie Sillonis said. Ferdinand was headed to Washington, D.C., for a National Association of Counties conference when an airport X-ray discovered the weapon in a carry-on bag and alerted police. He was cited with a misdemeanor, then released to fly to D.C., said Sillonis, who talked to Ferdinand Friday afternoon.”

Wonder what they’d do if you’re not a county commissioner . . .

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Feb 29 2008

The Other Side of the Tracks

Published by under Idaho

The ipoff here is is quiet – the way this bill, a bill substantive and with real practical effect on a subject of undenied importance, just quietly slid through the process. That it seems to have generated no news stories was of course beyond the realm of legislators, but the quiet and apparent lack of debate – so far as we can tell, the relevant committee minutes from weeks ago still not having been posted – constitute the tell.

The bill passed the House 61-4 and is poised (as of records on line today) for a final vote on the Senate floor.

The subject here is House Bill 465, sponsored by Representative Lynn Luker, R-Meridian, which expands local government planning and zoning authority. In the Idaho Legislature? Without hoo-rah about ever-encroaching socialism? Well, the deal in this case is that local governments essentially have been barred, under state law, from discriminating against setting up group homes for the handicapped, which in extended definition includes those suffering from addictions. A federal law which covers related territory doesn’t include that extended definition, so this bill is structured as a sort of “bring it in line with” type measure.

But that’s not why the easy acceptance, of course. Few people really want group homes for addicts set up in their neighborhoods, and this would be a nice, quiet way to keep that from happening. It’s a sweep-em-under the rug measure, the only catch being that addicts, including those released from behind bars, have to go somewhere. So the bill is almost designed to set up a circular problem – a snake that eats its tail.

The immediate impetus for the bill likely was the series of group homes which has been organized in the Boise area by Dennis Mansfield. (We toured some of his New Hope facilities last month.) The norm in this sort of legislation is that you bring together affected parties and work through a compromise position. But on his blog, here’s what Mansfield is saying has happened:

Neither I nor anyone in this recovery-based industry nor
( I believe) the Department of Corrections ever EVEN knew the bill was being drafted, ever read the RS, ever were invited to any discussion on anything about it….and only came to the Senate Committee to give comment on the bill after I vigorously requested from Rep. Luker that the bill presentation be delayed so he could hear our concerns, but was denied the chance.

Lynn, who’s been a friend of mine in the past, expressed to me that this was a “mild’ bill. Read it for yourself. The new section of the bill reads as follows:

(d) The limitations provided for in subsections (b) and (c) of this sec-tion shall not apply to tenancy or planned tenancy in a group residence, as defined in section 67-6531, Idaho Code, by persons who are under the supervision of the state board of correction pursuant to section 20-219, Idaho Code, or who are required to register pursuant to chapter 83 or 84, title 18, Idaho Code, or whose tenancy would otherwise constitute a direct threat to the health or safety of other individuals or whose tenancy would result in substantial physical damage to the property of others.

What this appears to mean is that any person who is an addict AND on proba-
tion or parole SHALL NOT be allowed the equal protection of the Americans
with Disabilities Act or the Fair Housing Act.

If anyone has an alternative take on how the measure was presented an information about it distributed, let us know and we’ll post it. Assuming Mansfield is correct, what’s happened is a breach of legislative norms.

And an attempt not to try solving a problem, but to sweep it away – dump it in the landfill. Somehow. Somewhere . . .

Mansfield quoted one of his clients this way: “As I sat and listened to Representative Lynn Luker’s remarks about House Bill 465, I couldn’t help but feel the overwhelming “division” between “us” and “them”. From my perspective, he painted the perfect picture of “us” as the exclusion from “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…” We were at one time included, but because we made mistakes in our lives, we have been deemed unworthy of the above aspects of the unalienable rights. It is as if to say that yes, they acknowledge that we are human beings, but just a lower level of human beings than they.”

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Feb 28 2008

One in 99.1, and sometimes worse

Published by under Idaho,Oregon,Washington

Anybody considering their votes on the latest lock-em-up proposals on the Oregon ballot really owes it to read the just-released (released today) report on prison populations from the Pew Center on the States. The headline finding is that one out of every 99 adult Americans is now behind bars – an incredible thing in itself.

There’s a chart on page 14 showing, by state, how much of the state general funds corrections eats. Turns out the highest in the nation is Oregon, at 10.9% – and that was a 4.6% increase in portion of the general fund over the last 20 years.

All three Northwest states have something to learn and grimace at here, though. In Idaho, the percentage of general fund is 6.9% (up 3.8%), and in Washington 5.9% (up 2.4%). The national average is 6.8%. Nationally, over the last two decades, spending on prisons and corrections has risen 127%, while spending on higher education has risen 21%.

And Idaho has some of the most spendy trends: it incarcerates 784 of every 100,000 people in the states – 11th highest in the nation – to Oregon’s 531 and Washington’s 465.

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Feb 28 2008

Worlds in collision

Published by under Idaho

Agood description of world views in conflict, in a legislative setting . . . something that happens daily at a legislature, but only occasionally perceived well.

Idaho Representative Nicole LeFavour makes clear her view of the legislation in this case, but gets to the view from within the opposition as well in this from her blog . . .

The committee was hearing two bills from the prosecutor’s association. Both allowed for a felony charge if a person is found guilty of breaking a domestic violence protection order or a no contact protective order for a third time.
In debate, Phil Hart was concerned that his ex wife’s own past behavior and accusations would land him a felony charge even if he did nothing wrong. Raul Labrador thought that it was too easy for people to get a protection order just to try to get custody of the kids in divorce proceedings. Lynn Luker moved to kill both bills because he says that judges can put people in jail enough already under the existing law.
None of these legislators I suspect has ever experienced domestic violence or stalking. None has spent long months with every day feeling like a dreaded test of your will to live. Every day a question of whether you can survive psychologically long enough until you are no longer followed, no longer haunted by phone calls, impersonated, no longer tired of having the police on auto-dial, filing report after report, no longer exhausted waiting for your stalker to maybe snap and kill you with a gun, a car or fist.

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Feb 28 2008

Bad time for a gas tax?

Published by under Oregon

You’ve been reading no doubt about the heavy gas prices increases around the country. (And we’ve been grimacing on our recent road excursions around the region.) And the headlines about – uh – $4/gallon gas.

Sounds like a less than ideal moment for a gas tax increase.

As they’re finding out in Eugene. There, the city has had a three-cent local gas tax recently upped to five cents. Except that on Wednesday the Oregon Petroleum Association showed up with petitions bearing, it said, 11,084 signatures. Enough presumably to send the issue to the primary election ballot May 20, and halt the increase in the meantime. And costing city road repair funds an estimated $1.3 million a year.

Transportation is a tough one.

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Feb 27 2008

Under the Dome

Published by under Washington

Coffee at the Washington statehouse coffee shop (Under the Dome) yesterday with a couple statehouse reporters – Adam Wilson of the Olympian and Rich Roesler of the Spokane Spokesman Review, both fine bloggers – led to a Wilson post, which may be of interest (the focus being the Obama-Clinton race).

The statehouse reporters at Olympia work generally out of a building about a block from the legislative building called the Blue House (it formerly being a house, and it still being painted blue). It appears that the journalists working there overwhelmingly are bloggers, Wilson and Roesler being two examples. But the number is large and growing. Walking out of the building, we chatted briefly with a reporter from the Yakima Herald-Republic, who we thought wasn’t a blogger. Turned out, she was.

Before long, there may not be many reporters who aren’t.

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Feb 27 2008

Hot roads

Published by under Washington

Interesting morning on the Washington Senate floor, as the members scrapped over amendments to House Bill 2878, a supplemental budget bill.

Which one got so much interest? This was the transportation funding bill.

Just now, a proposal to increase funding for improvements on Highway 2 over the Cascades, a road that, in our observation, could use it. Nobody really argued that improvements aren’t needed; the issue was that the limited available money is being pulled in so many different amendments.

Even the Snohomish County delegation was split on the matter, and so were the King Countians. After Senator Ed Murray, D-Seattle, ran through a strong argument against the spending, another senator, Cheryl Pflug, R-Maple Valley, rose to object to his use of the word “snide.” He withdrew it. (The proposal ultimately failed, 19-30.)

And so it went on, and on – proposal after proposal, some of them aimed broadly (one that had to do with encouraging car sharing and leases) and narrowly (very specific projects – can you say “earmark”?). Through it, Senator Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, rose repeatedly to keep the existing transport funding bill more or less intact (more successfully than not, it seemed).

Do you get the impression that transportation is right up there on the political front burner in Washington?

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Feb 26 2008

Reasons for recall

Published by under Oregon

The mayor of Arlington, Oregon, has been recalled on a vote of 139-142, in large part because she once posted a picture – taken before she became mayor – dressed in what amounts to a swim suit.

Consider this another argument for reform of the recall law . . .

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Feb 26 2008

An open mind

Published by under Idaho

You hear about it with corporations – having a specific culture, in which things happen in part because they’re simply expected to, or not to. It’s true of other organizations too; patterns of thought become ingrained, and alternative ways of thinking just have a hard time taking root.

Consider the Idaho state Board of Education, recently hand-slapped, sort of, for “a non-knowing violation of the Open Meeting Law.” Today reporter Betsy Russell (of the Spokane Spokesman-Review), who filed the initial complaint leading to the AG’s action, blogged this:

“The state Board of Education has sent out its schedule for meetings this week, and it includes “open government training” this Wednesday at 3:30 p.m., followed immediately by – you guessed it – a closed-door, executive session at 5 p.m.”

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Feb 25 2008

A TV announcement

Published by under Oregon

Rick Dancer

Rick Dancer

Oregon has some back history of television newscasters running for public office, successfully. The most emblematic Oregon politician of recent decades, Tom McCall, a reporter and analyst at KATU in Portland for years, was one of them, until he ran successfully for secretary of state. He did, though, have some political experience, including staff work in the Oregon governor’s office and a failed run for Congress in 1954, as well as sundry Republican Party work, under his belt by that point.

Will lightning strike again? Oregon Republicans may be banking on it. On the 11 p.m. news program at KEZI in Eugene, anchor Rick Dancer announced he’s leaving his job and will run for secretary of state, as a Republican. He becomes the first Republican to specifically announce for any of the three constitutional offices (attorney general and treasurer are the others) up for election this year. Four Democrats are running for sec-state.

Dancer is well-known in the Eugene area; he has been a reporter or anchor at KEZI (which broadcasts north to Corvallis, south to Roseburg and west to the coast) since 1989. He’s a familiar figure, but not especially identified with specific issues. (His station does note on a descriptive page that he’s been “especially interested in children’s issues.”) In McCall’s day, in the late fifties to mid-sixties, local television was active in a wide range of issues, and long-form and even investigative reports – McCall did a number of those over the years – were an ordinary part of newscasting. Local television news, as anyone who watches it knows, is a lot different now. Dancer – for reasons certainly not his doing – has by necessity to enter the race as more of a cipher.

Politically, that could be good or bad. Dancer starts as a blank slate, so much can depend on how he defines himself.

But unlike McCall, who drew on political alliances and networks from early on, Dancer is starting from scratch. And Dancer evidently understands that; his announcement on his personal web site concludes, “Agreement on Dancer’s departure from KEZI-TV was not reached until last week. Because of his position as a TV journalist, Dancer has not been able to assemble his campaign team or make arrangements for organizing his campaign prior to Sunday night. Further details will be announced as they become available.” The four Democrats in the race have been organizing, campaigning and fundraising for months. That difference isn’t minor. Continue Reading »

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Feb 25 2008

This is your budget on drugs

Published by under Idaho

Our take on the policy argument is that Idaho’s Joint Finance-Appropriations (budget) Committee’s action restoring $10.7 million to the Office of Drug Policy – money that would be aimed at maintaining drug treatment services at existing levels, rather than being sliced to ribbons – was the right move. But it also had a secondary beneficial side effect: Exposing why the cut was proposed in the first place, and maybe revealing more even than that.

Last year Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter brought together several anti-drug state efforts under one roof, the ODP, and put former legislator Debbie Field in charge. The office handled significant funds, including a large $21 million federal grant. That money is going away, leaving the substance abuse treatment efforts with a measly $3 million. In preparing the proposed budget for this session, she proposed replacing much of it. In making his budget decisions, Otter eliminated the backfill, drastically cutting drug treatment programs.

Policy note here: He was doing that at the same time he was calling for major stat rampups on prison spending. That would suggest he’d rather spend vastly more money on warehousing people who have gotten deeper and deeper into trouble than spending fewer bucks working to keep them out of trouble and productive in the state’s society. But that wasn’t the argument he made. Continue Reading »

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Feb 25 2008

The UW poll

Published by under Washington

We’ve held off rolling out poll results for a while, but the new University of Washington poll – its 5.6% margin of error notwithstanding – seems a fair spot to jump back in. It is, after all, an academic rather than a partisan poll. Detailed results and specs are in powerpoint. Of interest here are the numbers developed for presidential and gubernatorial races. It was conducted between the caucuses and primary this month.

In common with polling in a number of other places, this one said that Republican John McCain polls slightly ahead of Democrat Hillary Clinton (48.6%-45.1%) but significantly behind Democrat Barack Obama (40.3%-54.9%). Where came the difference? Well, Clinton and Obama drew equally well among fellow Democrats, but while Clinton got no – literally zero – Republican crossovers, Obama got 9.7% – drawn straight out of McCain’s percentage. He also did better among independents.

In the gubernatorial, this poll showed a wider gap than some other polls in recent months. Most others have given Democratic incumbent Chris Gregoire a small edge, but within the margin of error, over Republican Dino Rossi. This one has a bigger margin for Gregoire – 53.7%-42.1%. What notable here is that the last time the UW polled on this, in October, the Gregoire lead was 42.4%-42.1% – essentially a tie. The change mainly reflected improved Gregoire numbers primarily among independents, and secondarily among her fellow Democrats. Rossi’s numbers remained close to the same from last fall.

We’ll be watching to see if other polling reflects the UW.

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Feb 24 2008

Obama/Clinton in Spokane

Published by under Washington

Just a pointer here to a fascinating precinct map of Spokane County on the Spokesman-Review web site. In last week’s Washington primary election (which was for Democrats, remember, a beauty contest only and not contested by the candidates), Spokane County split closely between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Obama apparently gained a thin lead in the most recent counting, but thin enough it could easily switch back.

The map shows where Obama and Clinton led. In Spokane itself, Obama did best on the south side (south of I-90, generally) and Clinton best to the north. Obama did well in most but not all of the rural areas. Clinton did well in many of the developing suburban communities such as Airway Heights, Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake. Have a look.

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Feb 24 2008

Vanishing records

Published by under Idaho

Not so very many years ago, a dozen maybe, Idaho had a state library, a solidly-staffed agency which managed a lot of books, documents and other resources. It served a while range of missions, from serving as a check-out and research library for the general public to providing information and reports for state agencies to serving as a repository for a official records from state agencies. And, on top of that, it served as a coordinating and assistance service for public libraries around the state.

Then, over a period of years, the Idaho State Library was gradually dismantled, and virtually destroyed. Comparatively little of it – mainly the library-assistance function and a few other things – is left. And so too has gone much of the reference and state recordkeeping function: Just gone. Poof.

We’ve made a few notes of this over the years. Today, a Betsy Russell article in the Spokesman-Review takes a more thorough look at some of the impacts. The eventual up side may be that agencies moving toward digital documentation may be able to easily develop storage in large databases; and that could resolve some of the ongoing problem. But the issue is too complicated for that as a simple resolution.

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Feb 24 2008

The Weiland donation

Published by under Washington

Not too often do you see a single donation that realistically could become a significant political game changer. But the Seattle Times has a story today about one such that could have real impact over time.

The background to that is the heated political battles over gay rights issues, from anti-discrimination to same-sex marriage to other matters – a hot political topic.

The news is a donation from Ric Weiland, who was one of the first five employees at Microsoft and consequently, wound up with a lot of money. After his suicide in 2006, most of his estate, $160 million, went to charities. (Most of the time since has been spent in sifting through the many legal details.) More than $19 million is going to a group based in Seattle called the Pride Foundation.

The Pride Foundation works in the Pacific Northwest, based around Washington, Oregon and Idaho (and somewhat beyond); its website says it “connects, inspires and strengthens the Pacific Northwest Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community in pursuit of equality. We accomplish this in rural and urban areas by awarding grants and scholarships and cultivating leaders.” It has done this actively, apparently, but on midest scale; it operates in part off a $3 million endowment. Up to now, that has made it not so different from a range of many other social interest organizations.

Weiland’s donation increases that endowment to $22 million – an order of magnitude at least. As for how the money will be used, the Times summarizes, “The money will support anti-discrimination campaigns and programs to help youths, develop future leaders and provide scholarships.”

This not a small deal. And it will have an effect on politics, gradually but clearly over time, all over the region.

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A truly down-home ad for Oregon Senator Merkley.

 

Back in Print! Frank Church was one of the leading figures in Idaho history, and one of the most important U.S. senators of the last century. From wilderness to Vietnam to investigating the CIA, Church led on a host of difficult issues. This, the one serious biography of Church originally published in 1994, is back in print by Ridenbaugh Press.
Fighting the Odds: The Life of Senator Frank Church. LeRoy Ashby and Rod Gramer; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 800 pages. Softcover. $24.95.
See the FIGHTING THE ODDS page.


 
JOURNEY WEST

by Stephen Hartgen
The personal story of the well-known editor, publisher and state legislator's travel west from Maine to Idaho. A well-written account for anyone interested in Idaho, journalism or politics.
JOURNEY WEST: A memoir of journalism and politics, by Stephen Hartgen; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, here or at Amazon.com (softcover)

 

 

NEW EDITIONS is the story of the Northwest's 226 general-circulation newspapers and where your newspaper is headed.
New Editions: The Northwest's Newspapers as They Were, Are and Will Be. Steve Bagwell and Randy Stapilus; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 324 pages. Softcover. (e-book ahead). $16.95.
See the NEW EDITIONS page.

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THE OREGON POLITICAL
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The Field Guide is the reference for the year on Oregon politics - the people, the districts, the votes, the issues. Compiled by a long-time Northwest political writer and a Salem Statesman-Journal political reporter.
OREGON POLITICAL FIELD GUIDE 2014, by Randy Stapilus and Hannah Hoffman; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, available right here or through Amazon.com (softcover)

 
 
THE IDAHO POLITICAL
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by Randy Stapilus and Marty Trillhaase is the reference for the year on Idaho Politics - the people, the districts, the votes, the issues. Written by two of Idaho's most veteran politcal observers.
IDAHO POLITICAL FIELD GUIDE 2014, by Randy Stapilus and Marty Trillhaase; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, available right here or through Amazon.com (softcover)

 
 
without compromise
WITHOUT COMPROMISE is the story of the Idaho State Police, from barely-functioning motor vehicles and hardly-there roads to computer and biotechnology. Kelly Kast has spent years researching the history and interviewing scores of current and former state police, and has emerged with a detailed and engrossing story of Idaho.
WITHOUT COMPROMISE page.

 

Diamondfield
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The Old West saw few murder trials more spectacular or misunderstood than of "Diamondfield" Jack Davis. After years of brushes with the noose, Davis was pardoned - though many continued to believe him guilty. Max Black has spent years researching the Diamondfield saga and found startling new evidence never before uncovered - including the weapon and one of the bullets involved in the crime, and important documents - and now sets out the definitive story. Here too is Black's story - how he found key elements, presumed lost forever, of a fabulous Old West story.
See the DIAMONDFIELD page for more.
 

Medimont Reflections Chris Carlson's Medimont Reflections is a followup on his biography of former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus. This one expands the view, bringing in Carlson's take on Idaho politics, the Northwest energy planning council, environmental issues and much more. The Idaho Statesman: "a pull-back-the-curtain account of his 40 years as a player in public life in Idaho." Available here: $15.95 plus shipping.
See the Medimont Reflections page  
 
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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    ORDER HERE or Amazon.com

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