Archive for February, 2011

Feb 18 2011

Two statements

Published by under Washington

After President Barack Obama released his budget, Representative Doc Hastings, of Washington’s 4th district, had this to say – a statement generally similar to that of many other Republican House members:

““In recent years, Congress and the White House grew government and spent trillions that we don’t have – from bailouts of Wall Street and the auto industry to the health care law to stimulus spending and more. Unfortunately, President Obama’s budget proposal continues down the same path of massive spending and deeper deficits. The higher taxes and bigger government included in his budget ignore the reality of the budget crisis facing our nation and will harm efforts to create private sector jobs and revive our economy. As a result of the Washington, DC spending spree, it is even more difficult to get our fiscal house in order.”

The same day, on the subject of funding for the Hanford project (which is in his district), there was this:

“In terms of Hanford cleanup, the requests for ORP and RL when taken together are certainly sufficient to keep cleanup progress moving forward. I have questions though about the tradeoffs associated with increasing funding for WTP at the expense of critical projects within the Richland Operations Office.”

He did say, later, that “a distinction can and should be made between activities that the government has a legal obligation to fund and those that are optional.” That’s often, of course, in the eye of the beholder.

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Feb 17 2011

Sources of emotion

Published by under Idaho

Imagine that you have, scattered around your state, sworn police officers who have reason to arrest someone violating a state law, but are barred from taking them to court – to pursuing action against them. There you have the situation of the tribal police in Idaho. And there, after a vote in the Idaho House today which could have changed matters, the situation remains.

The statement of purpose of House Bill 111 says that it “authorizes law enforcement officers employed by a federally recognized Indian tribe in Idaho to exercise powers given to peace officers pursuant to, and in accordance with, the laws of the state of Idaho, within the
boundaries of the reservation of the tribe employing the law enforcement officer” – allows a tribal officer to enforce state law inside the reservation (doesn’t cover enforcement outside of it). And, “There is no negative fiscal impact to state or local government. The Indian tribe bears the expense of POST training under current law, which will continue. Positive fiscal impacts may result from the addition of qualified law enforcement officers employed by a federally recognized Indian tribe within the state of Idaho in the Indian reservation rural areas, without county or city expense.”

If you’re interested in stronger law enforcement, without even raising taxes, this should seem to be up your alley. It was backed by a conservative Republican, Representative Rich Wills of Glenns Ferry, a retired state trooper who chairs the House Judiciary Committee. Sounds like a slam dunk.

But no; the House rejected it today, 34-35.

Betsy Russell of the Spokesman Review reported that Wills “said he’s received hundreds of calls and e-mails threatening him and questioning his integrity for backing the bill. “I’ve had threats I’d better never go into the county again,” he said. “I’ve been called all kinds of sundry names.” Opponents raised fears, ranging from the tribe taking away the guns of non-Indians who have concealed weapons permits and pass through the reservation to provisions of tribal code being used to impose civil penalties on non-Indians – something that already can occur today on the reservation. “This doesn’t change anything about that,” Wills said. Instead, it addressed criminal violations – saying tribal police officers could enforce state law against non-tribal members, but they’d have to be cited under state law and into state court.”

There was also this, from Representative Mack Shirley, R-Rexburg, who was in favor of the bill, and who said during debate that he was “stunned to hear that the first question a dispatcher asks in Benewah County is whether the person calling in with an emergency is an Indian or non-Indian. That’s just not right, he said.”

Some of the bill’s opponents argued that the opposition really didn’t have racial undertones. Put that pitch in the category of a tough sell.

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Feb 16 2011

Uneasy nullification debating

Published by under Idaho

This would not seem to be, and rationally shouldn’t be, a part of current Northwest political debate. But mull over this quote: “Our states have neither more nor less power than that reserved to them in the Union by the Constitition – no one of them ever having been a state out of the Union. The original ones passed into the Union even before they cast off their British colonial dependence; and the new ones each came into the Union directly from a condition of dependence …”

You’ll note that analysis: The states did not exist before the union did; before the union, they were colonies. This is what a plain reading of history tells us. (There is an excellent point-by-point description of this in Garry Wills’ fine book A Necessary Evil, among many other places.) And the quote? That came from Abraham Lincoln, a Republican the last we checked. And whose actions pretty much put paid to the whole nullification concept almost 150 years ago.

Except in Idaho (a territory Lincoln helped bring into being), which is what this has to do with politics today in the Northwest. Plain facts misunderstood, to a truly eye-rolling degree, led today in the Idaho House to some of the most peculiar and poorly thought-out legislative debate we’ve ever heard on the floor of a legislative chamber in the region.

The measure in question is House Bill 117, which in essence says that Idaho won’t obey the 2010 federal health care law. Its statement of purpose said “The purpose of this legislation is to declare the two federal laws: Public Law 111-148 and Public Law 111-152, void and of no ef fect in the state of Idaho.” The bill passed the House 49-20 – overwhelmingly.

Veteran Representative JoAn Wood remarked that “we have the right to dissent,” as of course we all do. Her remark, in this context, suggests that we also all have the right to pick and chose which laws we want to obey.

Representative Tom Trail asked whether the state could simply decide unilaterally to not obey any number of other federal laws (notably unfunded mandates). Sponsor Representative Vito Barbieri didn’t seem to answer directly, but by implication his answer was yes: “I do not believe that states are creatures of the federal government … the states voluntarily joined the compact with respect to the other states.” (Which as noted above, wasn’t the case.)

Trail wryly responded, “United we stand, divided we fall.”

The ethics-troubled Representative Phil Hart extensively quoted the Declaration of Independence as the founding document for the nation. It wasn’t; the constitution was. Barbieri said in his closing argument that “This issue was resolved in the Nuremberg trials” – comparing intended nullification of a federal law aimed at extending health care to resistance to Nazi holocaust orders.

The vote, as noted, wasn’t close. The bill goes for action next to the Idaho Senate.

ALSO A suggested trailer bill for this one: A secession bill.

ALSO A Facebook comment from Coeur d’Alene City Council member Mike Kennedy (also cross-posted on the Huckleberries blog): “I think I’ll make a motion at our next City Council meeting to nullify Idaho’s sales tax formula and keep our revenue here locally.”

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Feb 16 2011

Carlson: A Mormon primary?

Published by under Carlson,Idaho

Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

The internet website Politico has dubbed it the “Mormon primary” – the possibility of two articulate, intelligent, conservative-to-moderate former governors, who also are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon), will be slugging it out along with other contenders for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.

It is an intriguing possibility, one that contrary to conventional wisdom may actually be a welcomed development by the presumptive front-runner, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the first serious Mormon candidate since his father, former Michigan Governor George Romney, ran in 1968.

The possible entry of former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman Jr., who resigned his seat a few months after winning re-election with 78 percent of the vote to become U.S. Ambassador to China, is causing GOP aspirants, as well as the incumbent, to redo their political calculations.

Why now? Why didn’t he wait until 2016? What has he seen or figured out that others haven’t? These questions reflect the tremendous respect Huntsman commands with political cognoscenti across the spectrum.

The 16th governor of Utah has more going for him than just an impressive resume. He has a certain charisma that flows not just from his obvious intelligence and his personal charm. He has that “noblisse oblige,” much as John, Robert, and Ted Kennedy did, that sense of obligation and duty to give a real return on the gifts they have been blessed with and the fortunate circumstances of their birth. (His father, Jon Sr., chairman of the worldwide chemical production plants, is one of the nation’s leading philanthropists.)

It’s the biblical parable of the talents: To whom God has given much, much is expected. Continue Reading »

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Feb 15 2011

Coal fired: The future of Centralia

Published by under Washington

col fired testimony
Coal fired testimony at House Environment/capture from TVW

The big hearing at Olympia today is centered on a subject of largest interest about 45 minutes south – at Centralia. But it’s a very big deal in Centralia: There, among other things, it means jobs. The bill (House Bill 1825) calls for phasing out coal-fired plants – it sets up an institutionalized structure for it – in Washington, and the one significant one in Washington is at Centralia. There, Trans-Alta employs about 350 people.

The plant has been slated for operating generally as is through 2025, by which time it would transition from coal; the bill would considerably shorten that, to as early as 2015.

A number of them seem to have shown up at the House Environment Committee hearing on the bill, which was proposed by a group of mainly Seattle legislators (17 of them, including the Environment chair). A goodly number of backers were there too.

Politically, the majority Democratic constituencies were split: Environmental groups were among those in favor, but area labor unions were sharply critical. There were economic concerns (this could throw a block in the way of some electric power ramp-ups) and health concerns (climate change, and mercury emissions from the plant). The debate ranged from the industry’s environmental record to the substantial environmental improvements at this particular (albeit older) plant. The league of Women Voters favored the bill; so did young mother who has asthma.

One interesting set of stats grew out of the suggestion by proponents that if coal fire production had to be phased out, the transition of the plant to other uses might generate nearly comparable numbers of jobs. But the point didn’t seem to be explored in much depth during the hearing.

This could be among the more significant pieces of legislation this session. What will it mean economically? Maybe more discussion will follow.

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Feb 15 2011

Following the ed money

Published by under Idaho

Another piece to consider when reviewing the details of how and why the education program offered this year from Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Lunaa plan now being retooled – was submitted for prime time.

Often, it helps to check the personal ties and connections – who is being listened to, who is working with and talking with whom.

Consider this, a timeline developed by Boise writer Grove Koger:

1993 Thomas J. Wilford becomes President of Alscott
1995-2003 Wilford President of J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation
1999 VA-based K12 founded by former U.S. Secretary of Ed. Bill Bennett
1999-2001 Wilford a Director of Albertson’s Inc.
2002 Idaho Virtual Academy created in cooperation with K12

Nov Wilford becomes a Director of K12
2003 Wilford becomes CEO of J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation
2004 Wilford becomes a Director of IDACORP
Wilford becomes a Director of Idaho Power, an IDACORP subsidiary
2005 J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation give grants to several charter schools, including Idaho Virtual Academy
2006 08/10 Maryland-based Connections Academy contributes $500 to Luna’s campaign
09/29 K12 donates $5,000 to Luna’s campaign
12/19 K12 donates $891.29 to help retire Luna’s Primary ’06 debt
12/19 K12 donates $4108.71 toward Luna’s Primary 2010 fund
2007 Wilford’s total compensation from K12 for 2007: $354
2008 Wilford’s total compensation from K12 for 2008: $28,578
2009 Wilford’s total compensation from K12 for 2009: $55,829
2010 04/30 TN-based Education Networks of America contributes $1,000 to Luna’s Campaign
05/11 PA-based Apangea Learning donates $1,000 to Luna’s campaign

07/02 Education Networks of America contributes $1,500 to Luna’s campaign

07/26 Wilford sells 5,000 shares of K12 stock; retains at least 3,041 shares Wilford donates $250 to Luna’s campaign

09/20 Apangea Learning donates $2,500 to Luna’s campaign

09/28 AZ-based Apollo Group donates $2,500 to Luna’s campaign

10/20 K12, whose curriculum is used by the Idaho Virtual Academy (largest Idaho online public charter school), donates $25,000 to Idahoans for Choice in Education. Almost immediately Idahoans for Choice gives $25,000 to Arizona firm for broadcast advertising and production in an independent campaign supporting Luna’s re-election

12/16 Wilford ceases to be a Director of K12; not clear whether he is still a stockholder. Wilford’s total compensation from K12 for 2010: $107,114
2011 01/29 J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation takes out ad in Idaho Statesman supporting Tom Luna’s education plan

When the Luna-Otter plan emerged seemingly out of nowhere a month ago, in other words, it didn’t really emerge out of nowhere.

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Feb 14 2011

Art critics no more

Published by under Oregon

Metro daily newspapers used to employ, as a matter of course, art critics. They worked for newspapers in places like Seattle and Portland, among other metros.

Note the past tense: Another indicator of what newspaper scaledowns have been leading to.

Blogger Eva Lake writes that at the Oregonian, “D.K. Row is no longer The Art Critic. But he’s not leaving. He’ll write about philanthropy, amongst other things (which still peaks my interest, in ways I’ll detail in a future post) at the paper. But as to who will be writing and how they will do it, he couldn’t say. So it’s possible there will no longer be this major voice at the Oregonian.”

The point, as the Stranger‘s Slog notes: “There goes the last standing full-time art critic at a daily newspaper in the Northwest.”

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Feb 14 2011

Disconnects in place

Published by under Idaho

The 20th Public Policy Survey from Boise State University has produced a number of results that don’t easily match up – pieces that don’t seem to make sense together. Blogger Chuck Malloy has written about that on his blog, and concluded that “the survey is a bunch of bull.”

A prime piece of evidence, Malloy writes, concerns the finding that fewer Idahoans (49%) think the state is going in the right direction, than have so thought since the polling started. Malloy: “By reading those results, you’d think that Republicans and Democrats would have about equal numbers in the Legislature, and maybe a few Democrats in state offices and the congressional delegation. … But that is not the case. For the most part, Idahoans voted for the same people who they supposedly were unhappy with, then added a few more Republicans in the Legislature for good measure.”

There’s a significant point in this, because unhappiness with general direction and political results often match up. They don’t in this Idaho survey and haven’t for some time.

That doesn’t invalidate the survey, however; rather, it says something significant about Idaho (and other places too).

There’s a prevailing sense that budget cuts have had major negative effects. “Budget cuts have affected the quality of children’s education” – 75% agree. “The State is investing enough in higher education in Idaho” – 59% disagree. But: “Idaho should raise the sales tax by $0.01 to help close the budget gap” – 56% disagree.

Or this. “Idaho should be able to opt out of the 2010 health care bill” – 58% agree. While: “Public funds should be used to help provide health insurance to people who cannot afford it” – 63% agree.

Or this. “Idaho should pass a law concerning illegal immigrants similar to the law Arizona recently passed” – 58% agree. While: “A program should be created that would allow illegal immigrants to stay in this country permanently” – 73% agree.

Polling in other states and nationally have found similar kinds of results – contradictory all over the place – though some of the Idaho results, considering the elective officials in place, may be especially noteworthy. The point is that many people do not put the pieces together. They want the services they count on, but don’t like to pay for them. And so on. What do the people want from their elected officials? Who can say? “The people” don’t seem to have figured it out. Will they be happier if the Idaho Legislature slashes programs than if it raised taxes? Odds are, they wouldn’t be happy either way. In which case, what difference does it make who you vote for?

The polling suggests an underlying problem: A disconnect between causes and effects, between money and “policy” on one hand and real world impacts on the other. Those connections are real. But a lot of people seem not to have linked those pieces together.

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Feb 13 2011

Definitions of insanity

Published by under Oregon

A highly useful read today in the Oregonian following up on what happens after the criminally accused take an insanity defense – as in guilty except for – and what happens afterward.

Not always, it turns out, what they or many other people think.

For one thing, a good many of the people who are detained and hospitalized are held for a very long time – in a number of cases, a good deal longer than a full prison term might have run. Some of the reasons involve delays in paperwork processing.

And the cost is very high.

The article notes that “At the same time Oregon taxpayers are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into treating a few hundred criminally insane patients in the state hospital, thousands more sit in prison with limited mental health treatment, and thousands more live on the street with no treatment at all.”

And: “More than half the inmates in Oregon prisons have some kind of mental health diagnosis, and nearly one-quarter have high to severe treatment needs, according to the Department of Corrections.”

Again leading to the thought that if more treatment were available earlier in the process, some the high expenses that come later could be averted.

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Feb 11 2011

OR: Video games for politicals

Published by under Idaho


In Virginia, where state elections are held in odd-numbered years and so pressure is on right now for reapportionment, one of things that’s happening is a college game. A competition among teams of students from 13 schools (two of them fielding two teams): Who can take the newly emerging census data and craft the best Virginia congressional and state legislative districts?

Those maps, of course, may not be the basis for whatever Virginia finally adopts. But the process may be watched closely for what it says about some important aspects of reapportionment 2011: public involvement, and mapping software.

Twenty years ago reapportionment mapping software hardly existed in any form; a decade ago it was cumbersome and hard to use. But now, as George Mason University Professor Michael McDonald of the Public Mapping Project told the Oregon legislature’s reapportionment committees (meeting jointly today), these things are changing. The public involvement side, where Oregon long has been strong anyway, has been growing (from 37 states holding public hearings in 1991 to 42 a decade later). And the mapping software, as you might expect, has taken off.

Calling in from Virginia, he was able to offer a demonstration of one such, called DistrictBuilder and broadly available around the country. It allows for drag-n-drop rapportionment: You can start with a blank state or with existing districts, and move counties or census tracts around from one congressional or legislative district to the other – visually, with relevant numbers attached. You can see the population of the resulting districts, along with minority population estimates, a statistical estimate of just how compact the district is, whether it meets legal requirements, and so on. (You can play around with it to some extent as a guest.) A video game for the political junkie.

Oregon, which as the one legislative-remap state in the region, seems likely to be the first of the three Northwest states to jump into the reapportionment pools, seems likely to make a good deal of use of some of these tools. Many of them will be available on line, and the opportunity will be there for Oregonians to craft their own and – depending on the rules adopted – send them in to the legislature. With detailed statistical analysis to back them up.

And the impetus may be there, since the reapportionment committee (or committees – there’s no solid determination yet of how closely the House and Senate panels will work together) is planning to take the subject on the road around the state. Some scheduling is expected to be announced “soon.”

By the way: One person at Friday’s meeting noted that February 12 marks 199 years since the infamous “gerrymander” map was signed into law by Elbridge Gerry. Get out a glass of something and prepare to draw.

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Feb 10 2011

Wi-Fi to go

Published by under Oregon,Washington

One of the single most logical moves these days for transport operations – whether private like Greyhound buses or sort of public like Amtrak, is to provide free wi-fi service. Now, in many instances, both of them do.

Amtrak now reports, of its Vancouver-Eugene northwest run: “Amtrak Cascades® now connects you to more than your destination. Our customers asked for Wi-Fi service, and we answered by equipping every Amtrak Cascades train from Vancouver, B.C. to Eugene, Oregon with FREE wireless Internet service. Now you can stay connected to the office, e-mail, entertainment, and anywhere else the Internet takes you along your route. Just remember to pack your laptop, smartphone, and other portable Wi-Fi-enabled devices the next time you travel. ”

Linda this week took the Greyhound bus south from Salem to northern California, to visit family. After boarding she discovered the bus had free wi-fi, and electric outlets for her computer. She stayed in touch with the world at large the whole trip, and sent messages along the way.

Which providers will be next? Would make sense that they all will be, eventually.

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Feb 10 2011

Birther humor

Published by under Idaho

But he might have been wiser to make sure up front that this crowd knew that Puerto Rico is part of the United States. The guess here is that not all of them knew.

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Feb 09 2011


Published by under Idaho

The web site 24/7 Wall St. notes in a current post that “Regions with better-educated people tend to find it easier to draw and retain businesses. These regions are also likely to be more competitive in contrast to nations around the world like China, which has posted sharp increases in the level of educational attainment among its citizens.”

Okay, seems clear enough. And the significance of an analysis the site did of the 50 states, working out: “National Assessment of Educational Progress scores for math and reading in 2003 and 2009. We also looked at the percentage of people in each state with bachelor’s degrees, and their increases compared to the increases in the total populations in their states. We analysed the Bureau of Labor Statistics data on the portion of each state’s population which has white collar jobs. To supplement the figures which we used in the final analysis, 24/7 also reviewed numbers for high school and graduate school education.”

Fie on them for not noting the rankings of all 50 states, just the lowest 10. Consequently, Washington and Oregon aren’t noted here.

But Idaho is – at fourth from the bottom. It said: “In 2000, 84.7% of adults in Idaho had completed high school. By 2009, the number had dropped to 83.3%. This decrease of 1.71% is the third worst rate in the country. Idaho had the eighth worst percent difference in residents with bachelor’s degrees from 2000 to 2009, and the sixth worst percent difference in residents with advanced degrees.”

Other western states in the top (er, bottom) 10: Colorado (1), Oklahoma (3), Alaska (5), Arizona (6), Wyoming (7), Texas (9), Utah (10). Most of the Rocky Mountain west, in other words.

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Feb 09 2011

Lines of attack

Published by under Idaho

Always the temptation in public policy to do everything at once, and do it unilaterally. Increasingly, while education funding in Idaho is likely to take a hit this year in any event, the folly of the quick and overwhelming revolution proposed in the new plan by Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna is likely to undo some of the useful ideas contained within.

Several effective lines of attack seem to be developing at once.

One is the loss of teachers and the larger class size. That may not be a problem area for Luna and his allies, but it is for a lot of other people, including a lot of people linked to schools (parents included) around the state.

Another is the newness of the effort, and its lack of review. It was a totally unknown quantity until literally less than a month ago, and less than three months before the Idaho Legislature would be asked to pass it. There’s also a criticism that this plan isn’t what Luna ran on for re-election last fall: Not only didn’t he mention it, he ran counter to some of its underlying principles.

And then, just emerging, there’s the “follow the money” argument. Search for Luna’s motivation in proposing the plan in the first place, and if you’re a Luna critic you needn’t look hard to find a money trail. A Public Education Association member (a teacher, a member of the union, in Bill’s Pea Soup) connected those dots neatly in a recent blog post. From it:

Betsy Russell of the Spokesman Review reported October 20, 2010 that K-12 Incorporated, a for-profit education vendor based out of Virginia, “donated $25,000 to a Nampa-based political committee… which immediately spent $25,000 supporting the re-election of Tom Luna.” Mr. Luna must refuse these funds or face consequences about whose interests he is beholden to, K-12 Inc.’s shareholders or the parents and students of Idaho.

K-12 Inc. is an embattled company founded by former U.S. Secretary of Education William J. Bennett. Bennett who, speaking of reducing crime in the U.S. said, “I do know that it’s true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could, if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down” (Education Week, 10/12/2005, ‘Bennett Quits K12 Inc. Under Fire’).
In 2004, The Pennsylvania School Boards Association sued the state over its contract with K-12 because, the school boards association said, K-12′s potential profit was too great (Arkansas Times, 2/13/2004).
As recently as 2008, K-12 Inc. has been criticized for outsourcing the grading of English papers to India (Education Week, 9/10/2008). Is this Mr. Luna’s platform for education in Idaho? If so, every voter in Idaho should be alarmed, and angry.

This is clear evidence that Mr. Luna has lost touch with those who have a real interest in Idaho’s educational future: parents, students and educators of this state. “I’m not surprised that a special interest organization, a for-profit educational vendor nonetheless, is contributing heavily to a group that is supporting Mr. Luna’s campaign,” Olson said. “This is just more proof that Idaho students are not priority number one for Tom, but rather special interest groups who need to turn a profit from our kids and their test scores. I suggest that he deny the use of these funds as this company has shown to be nothing more than one controversy after another, with no clear interest in Idaho’s school children, their educational quality or educational success and future.”

Failure to deny these funds might suggest Mr. Luna’s interests lie with corporate boards, shareholders, and for-profit education vendors. If this is the case, every taxpayer and parent should wonder, is public education in Idaho for sale?

One more thing, Apple computers was lobbying our representatives last week to pass Luna’s bill.

We remarked before that complex bills tend to – at least in the short run – accumulate enemies faster than they do friends. Luna is probably discovering just that for himself about now.

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Feb 09 2011

Carlson: Eye on the rabbit

Published by under Carlson,Idaho

Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

There’s an old hunting expression, “keep your eye on the rabbit,” that former Gov. Cecil D. Andrus would invoke when a staff person would get “off message.”

In the current debate over Gov. Butch Otter effectively abrogating a key clause in Idaho’s heretofore ironclad agreement with the Federal government NOT to store even a minimal amount of commercial nuclear waste, even that used for research purpose, on an interim basis, it is Andrus who is keeping his eye on the rabbit.

The 1995 agreement was altered by Gov. Dirk Kempthorne in the early years of the first decade of this century to allow a minimal amount of commercial waste for research purposes. Gov. Andrus, who initiated the negotiations that led to the 1995 agreement finalized by Gov. Phil Batt, lent his support but suggested that once the research was completed the research waste had to be shipped right back to its point of origin.

The premise for all of this was that all waste would be removed by 2035 and stored at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Years and billions of dollars later it is clear Yucca Mountain will never be opened let alone operational. Likewise, there’ll be no other high level repository anywhere in the nation.

One quickly concludes any waste brought to the INL site will not be leaving for generations to come. This conclusion is inescapable and warrants the warning flag Gov. Andrus has raised. Candidly, the orchestrated campaign by the defenders of the Department of Energy to minimize the Gov.’s warning (it’s been called exaggerated, simply not factual, etc.) confirms that the four-term governor hit the bull’s eye dead center.

Unfortunately, the fact the governor even had to raise the flag speaks to the sad but steady decline by the State in carrying out its oversight responsibility.

Gov. Andrus enjoys a high standing in the minds of Idaho voters astounding for one who has not held elective office for 16 years. Idahoans know, though, they can trust him to look out for the public interest, that he measures his words carefully and his intellect as well as political instincts remain razor sharp especially for one who will turn 80 years young in August.

He began monitoring the activities at the site in the early-70’s and quickly recognized the potential danger posed by poorly stored transuranic (mid level) nuclear wastes. Almost single-handedly he forced the old Atomic Energy Commission and its successor agency, the Department of Energy, to commit to a schedule for removal of this poorly stored waste from above Idaho’s Snake River plain aquifer and repackaging for storage at properly constructed salt caverns in New Mexico.

When the AEC put out a document that was a preliminary effort to find and identify a storage site for accumulating commercial nuclear waste, he appointed a Blue Ribbon Commission of distinguished Idahoans to study the matter, hold hearings and respond. The response was overwhelmingly against Idaho becoming a waste repository for any nuclear waste especially that generated by nuclear power plants.

After returning to the governorship in 1987, he ordered the Idaho State Police in 1988 to place a squad car across railroad tracks just inside the state line with a burly state trooper standing in front with folded arms. The subsequent picture ran in newspapers nationwide, delivering the message to DoE that Idaho was not about to accept any waste from Rocky Flats. DoE got the message and dropped its plans.

Things are different now say the defenders of DoE. Yes, to a degree because of the agreement Andrus started negotiating with the federal agency and Batt finished negotiating in 1995. When Andrus says he fears that agreement has been effectively abrogated by a legal precedent opening the door even a crack to importing more commercial waste allegedly only for interim purposes, Idahoans should sit up and listen.

Since Gov. Kempthorne’s amending of the agreement, the Idaho National Laboratory folks have taken a couple of subtle steps designed to get the state to lower its guard. This includes hiring Gov. Kempthorne’s former press secretary as the site’s communications director and the lead contractor at the site also hired as its chief Boise lobbyist Gov. Kempthorne’s former chief of staff. Those are not coincidences, my friends.

It’s a far cry from 1988 and a sad commentary on how easily some people do not let history be a guide. Andrus, though, knows otherwise. Ten years ago he concluded a chapter on nuclear waste in his book “Politics, Western Style” saying:

“But I still reserve the right to raise hell. My role is that of a kind of human monitoring station on the Department of Energy’s performance. I will be back on the hustings if the federal government welshes on any of the work it has committed to perform.”

With the connivance of the state’s current Gov., the DoE has committed a calculated breach and Gov. Andrus, stepping into the breach, is keeping his eye on the rabbit n which could start to glow much sooner than any one realizes.

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Feb 07 2011

The birds

Published by under Idaho

Geese at the Idaho Statehouse/Randy Stapilus

Probably a metaphor for something. Feel free to invent your own.

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Feb 07 2011

A bipartisan budget?

Published by under Washington

Something remarkable seems to be happening in the Washington legislature: Bipartisan budgeting.

There’s an increasingly likely – if surprising – trend in both Washington and Oregon in this direction. In Oregon, there’s some necessity to it: The exact half of the Oregon House that is Republican could block anything the Democrats otherwise in control might want to do. So far, the split Oregon House seems to be working reasonably well.

Democrats still control the Washington Senate and House, though with smaller numbers than last year, so they could ram budgets through. But evidently they’re not. Both the state House and Senate have passed supplemental budgets, separately, with some significant input from both parties.

Notably in the Senate, which passed its budget 38-9.

Senator Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, often a Republican hawk on the budgets, sounded a generally positive note about this one: “This sets the stage to get some air behind us … and consider how we shape and reform state government.” He said he considers this budget a collaborative approach, and while “there are things I dislike a lot, there are things we didn’t do, but we’re moving.”

Senator Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, said that “the budget has always been a partisan statement … To move to a bipartisan process on the budget, the way we’re working it, is radical … It’s important for us to step toward the middle and trust the other side.”

Radical indeed. (More about this on the Capitol Record’s Legislative Review program.)

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WASHINGTON-OREGON-IDAHO Our acclaimed weekly e-pubs: 35-45 pages Monday mornings getting you on top of your state. Samples available. Contact us by email or by phone at (208)484-0460.



This will be one of the most talked-about Idaho books in Idaho this season: 14 years after its last edition, Ridenbaugh Press has released a list of 100 influential Idahoans. Randy Stapilus, the editor and publisher of the Idaho Weekly Briefing and author of four earlier similar lists, has based this one on levels of overall influence in the state – and freedom of action and ability to influence development of the state – as of the start of 2015.
100 Influential Idahoans 2015. By Randy Stapilus; published by Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 202 pages. Softcover. List price $16.95.
100 Influential Idahoans 2015 page.

100 Influential Idahoans 2015
"Essentially, I write in the margins of motherhood—and everything else—then I work these notes into a monthly column about what it’s like raising my two young boys. Are my columns funny? Are they serious? They don’t fit into any one box neatly. ... I’ve won awards for “best humorous column” though I actually write about subjects as light as bulimia, bullying, birthing plans and breastfeeding. But also bon-bons. And barf, and birthdays." Raising the Hardy Boys: They Said There Would Be Bon-Bons. by Nathalie Hardy; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 238 pages. Softcover. $15.95.
Raising the Hardy Boys page.



"Not a day passes that I don’t think about Vietnam. Sometimes its an aroma or just hearing the Vietnamese accent of a store clerk that triggers a memory. Unlike all too many soldiers, I never had to fire a weapon in anger. Return to civilian life was easy, but even after all these years away from the Army and Vietnam I find the experience – and knowledge – continue to shape my life daily."
Drafted! Vietnam in War and in Peace. by David R. Frazier; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton OR. 188 pgs. Softcover. $15.95.
The DRAFTED! page.


Many critics said it could not be done - and it often almost came undone. Now the Snake River Basin Adjudication is done, and that improbable story is told here by three dozen of the people most centrally involved with it - judges, attorneys, legislators, engineers, water managers, water users and others in the room when the decisions were made.
Through the Waters: An Oral History of the Snake River Basin Adjudication. edited by the Idaho State Bar Water Law Section and Randy Stapilus; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 300 pages. Softcover. $16.95.

Oregon Governor Vic Atiyeh died on July 20, 2014; he was widely praised for steady leadership in difficult years. Writer Scott Jorgensen talks with Atiyeh and traces his background, and what others said about him.
Conversations with Atiyeh. by W. Scott Jorgensen; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 140 pages. Softcover. $14.95.

"Salvation through public service and the purging of awful sights seen during 1500 Vietnam War helicopter rescue missions before an untimely death, as told by a devoted brother, leaves a reader pondering life's unfairness. A haunting read." Chris Carlson, Medimont Reflections. ". . . a vivid picture of his brother Jerry’s time as a Medivac pilot in Vietnam and contrasts it with the reality of the political system . . . through the lens of a blue-collar, working man made good." Mike Kennedy.
One Flaming Hour: A memoir of Jerry Blackbird. by Mike Blackbird; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 220 pages. Softcover. $15.95.
See the ONE FLAMING HOUR page.

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.


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 (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.

How many copies?


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 (softcover)


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 (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.


How many copies?
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, 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 For the print edition, order here or at Amazon.