Writings and observations

Last week, the new (and former) California Governor Jerry Brown said he had learned that the state was paying for 96,000 cell phones for state employees. He issued a statement saying that “It is difficult for me to believe that 40 percent of all state employees must be equipped with taxpayer-funded cell phones,” and ordered half of them to be turned in by June 1.

Which led to the question: How many state cell phones do Washington, Oregon and Idaho have?

We posed the question to the three states. The one responding so far is Oregon, where a Department of Administrative Services spokesman advises us via email, “that number is 17,142.”

Which on a basis of per-capita population in the states, means Oregon state government has considerably more. Could be interesting to hear if there’s a good reason for that.

We’ll check in again with Washington and Idaho too.

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Oregon

Take note that Idaho state Senator Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, is a conservative in good standing, and as a long-time co-chair of the state’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, no free spender.

Listening to discussion today from Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna today, though, he had a question that economist Paul Krugman might have posed.

Luna has proposed a large-scale effort to change public education in Idaho, and one piece of that involves doing away with hundreds of teaching jobs in the public schools. The plan is being proposed, in part, as beneficial to the Idaho economy.

Cameron’s question: “You indicated that the economy demands this type of change. I have to wonder in my mind why a thousand less people working helps the economy.”

His point seems totally clear: A thousand fewer paychecks, many of them in rural areas, would seem to mean less money circulating in local businesses and more people on the unemployment line. Among other non-beneficial factors.

Luna’s response, according to reporter Betsy Russell: “Understand that through attrition, most if not all of these positions can be absorbed.”

Did he get the question?

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Idaho

The megaloads will roll up U.S. 12, from Lewiston to the Lolo Pass (and then beyond), on Monday.

To no great surprise, Idaho Transportation Department Director Brian Ness went along with his hearing officer’s report and signed off on the shipments. From the department’s press release:

“I am convinced the record showed the loads can be moved safely, without damage to the roads and bridges and with minimal disruption to traffic and emergency services,” Ness said. “Every argument has been heard and considered. We can no longer delay this process.”

Ness said he based his decision on four key factors:

– Administrative process was properly followed

– All sides received a fair opportunity to present their case

– An independent hearing officer recommended the permits be issued

– No compelling reasons were found in the interveners’ appeal to overturn the hearing officer’s recommendation

Two permits will be issued today to transport two loads beginning Monday, Jan. 24, if weather conditions allow. The permits can be extended if weather does not allow the transport.

“I will not comment further on this case because litigation is possible and because of the similarities of the pending request from Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil to transport oversized loads on U.S. 12,” Ness said.

Litigation is certainly likely, as are the shipments from other oil companies – hundreds of them, eventually.

Procedurally, that puts an end to the matter. Now, political and other efforts may come into play.

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Idaho

This site has a feature (we’ll probably be taking it down in a bit) noting where Idaho journalists go when they leave the news media but not the state. The Center for Responsive Politics now has up something similar for members of Congress: Where do they go when they leave office?

They don’t always leave Congress, exactly: Some of them go to work as lobbyists. Others in private businesses, academia or elsewhere.

No listing yet on the Northwest’s most recent ex-members of Congress, Democrats Brian Baird of Washington and Walt Minnick of Idaho. But we’ll be checking back in for what’s reported there.

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Northwest