Archive for June, 2011

Jun 18 2011

The hazards of AG

Published by under Oregon,Washington

Attorney general would seem to be a good state office from which to move up to higher office – a good title, a record of defending and advocating for the public, limited need to wade into major controversy. And a number of former attorneys general in the Northwest have moved on to governor or senator (Washington’s current governor, for one).

But there are hazards, showing up in recent reports on Oregon and Washington.

In Oregon, Democrat John Kroger, who won the office in part on the strength of a reputation as an aggressive New York federal prosecutor, has begun taking regular hits for being too hard-charging in Oregon. Today’s lead Oregonian story was about the resignation of Sean Riddell, the chief criminal division lawyer for Kroger, whose approach has been described as severely bullying and intimidating. Cases he was involved in, including a purchasing issue at the Department of Energy and problems with the Umatilla County district attorney, grew out of real or at least questionable issues, but ballooned into vastly oversized prosecutorial monoliths. These were high profile efforts, cases Kroger too must have been watching closely.

Protecting the public interest, yes; but at what price? It’s fair to say the question is circulating around Oregon, and is likely to when Kroger is up for election next year.

More mundane issues can come back to bite, too. Washington’s Republican AG, Rob McKenna, who has just announced for governor, has a smoother and generally moderate reputation, but a number of discrete issues have surfaced over the months, and more will.

A post on the Stranger Slog yesterday notes this: “According to data obtained from the AGO, the number of Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) positions in the office grew from 1,274.9 in 2005, at the time McKenna took over, to 1,316.8 in fiscal year 2010. That’s an increase of 3.3 percent. But during that same period, total state General Fund FTEs actually shrank from 41,970 in 2005 to 40,389 in 2010, a reduction of 3.8 percent. And at the same time he was growing his staff while state government as a whole was contracting, McKenna paid more in bonuses to his employees than any other state agency, almost $600,000 in 2009 alone.”

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Jun 15 2011

Carlson: On Andrus and I

Published by under Carlson

Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

For readers who have been entertained or, hopefully, intellectually stimulated by my musings for more than a year, I have some news: Idaho’s oldest publishing house, Caxton Press of Caldwell, will be publishing a book by me.

Entitled “Cecil Andrus: Idaho’s Greatest Governor,” the book recounts an insider’s view of events that happened in the 10 years I worked for the “good, great former governor.” Elected to four terms covering 14 years with a 10-year break between the first six years and the second eight years, Andrus is without question the longest serving, most influential political practitioner to ever hold Idaho’s reins.

He is the standard against which all previous and subsequent governors will be measured. His total tenure will never be exceeded, nor will his margin of victory in the 1974 election (73 percent) ever be topped. He is considered by many to be one of the five best persons to ever serve as Secretary of the Interior.

The book describes the governor’s early years on the family farm outside Hood River, Oregon, where he was born on August 25, 1931. It also describes his teenage years, early marriage (he was 18), and service in the Navy on board a P2V Neptune patrol bomber and intel gathering aircraft during the Korean War. Few know, for example, he survived a potentially disastrous air crash.

His years as a gypo logger in northern Idaho and his election in 1960 to the Idaho State Senate from Clearwater County at the age of 29 (then the youngest person elected to the Legislature) and his years serving in the Senate also are recounted. Little has been written about these formative years and experiences.

Throughout the book I recount anecdotes from our years working together when he was governor and then Interior secretary, as well as during our business relationship at the Gallatin Group in his post-political office years. I try to help the reader understand how such an extraordinary politician emerged from such ordinary circumstances.

When a reader is finished with this book, I can only hope those that know him will say “Yup, that’s Cece.” Those that don’t at least will feel they have met and gotten better acquainted with him. Even 16 years after leaving office, according to almost all polls, Andrus remains the most popular and best known hunter/ fisherman in the state. Many believe he could easily win the governor’s chair again. Continue Reading »

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Jun 15 2011

Dealing with details

Published by under Idaho

Big, sweeping changes are never simple – one reason why legislation that is of large import is so often so large. Consider the education overhaul bills in Idaho this year; the bills themselves offered only an outline, and many of the details have yet to be filled in.

A Dan Popkey piece in this morning’s Idaho Statesman made the point. He talked to Alan Dunn, superintendent of the Sugar-Salem School District in eastern Idaho, who saw in the new law, among other things, the requirement that school provide new distance learning for their classes, through the Idaho Education Network. He got together with several other superintendents in the area to put together some regional distance learning programs. That, he figured, would satisfy the requirements.

Then he had a conversation with an aide to Superintendent of Public Insutruction Tom Luna, who said that no, it didn’t meet the terms of the law. Dunn came away with: “That wasn’t our understanding as we went through this. That may change the things we were planning to do.”

This could become … complex.

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Jun 14 2011

Ron Sims returns

Published by under Washington

Ron Sims, the former King County executive who has spent the last couple of years as a top executive at the Obama Administration’s Department of Housing and Urban Development, says he’s leaving to return to the Puget Sound.

Specifics were few, though he said he is “retiring from public service.” What exactly that translates to, we’ll see.

Certainly Sims is one of the more charismatic candidates – strong campaigning skills – in the area, and he’ll be watched as a potential candidate for something. Evidently, though, not right away.

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Jun 14 2011

ID remap: the hearings

Published by under Idaho

Tonight, the Idaho’s Citizen Commission for Reapportionment gets started on its public hearings around the state. The first is at Rexburg (evidently not streamed, though we’re told that plans are for at least some of the others – maybe half of them – to be streamed).

The others will be at Idaho Falls (June 15), Pocatello (June 15). Soda Springs (June 16), Coeur d’Alene (June 22), Sandpoint (June 22), Lewiston (June 23), Moscow (June 23), Burley (June 28), Twin Falls (June 29) and Hailey/Ketchum (June 30). Two in Boise and Caldwell already have been held. The commission’s schedule for July evidently hasn’t been worked out or set yet, and may not be until the hearings are done.

There’s always some virtue to hearing from the public, and this mass of meetings should provide more than if the commissioners just stayed in Boise.

At the same time, we’ll be curious to know what the turnout is. Oregon completed its redistricting hearings not so long ago, and turnout ranged from moderate to low. Only a handful of spots led to actual large audiences, over 100 of, say, actual local participants and witnesses. Most of the smaller cities drew far fewer – mainly county commissioners and mayors saying their official piece.

What they have to say in Idaho will be worth watching.

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Jun 13 2011

Gregoire is out

Published by under Washington

So far, the recent widespread predictions about the Washington governor’s race 2012 – Republican Rob McKenna in, incumbent Democrat Chris Gregoire out, Democrat Jay Inslee in – are holding up, two for three. And indications are that the third will materialize as well within a few days.

They’re linked. McKenna’s announcement put immediate pressure on Gregoire to clarify her intentions – if she wasn’t running, she had to clear the decks for another Democrat to gear up. That could have come any time in the next few weeks, but maybe the seriousness of McKenna’s candidacy prompted the speed – her announcement today that she will not seek a third term following on his by less than a week.

Don’t expect to be kept long waiting for Inslee, either.

Will there be others? Maybe … but the widespread presumption that this will be the core of the field seems to be having a pretty solid track record so far.

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Jun 12 2011

When your bank bets against you

Published by under Oregon

Jeff Merkley

A couple of months ago Senator Jeff Merkley met with a group of political-writing bloggers (this writer among them) to talk about various subjects. Merkley had one specific topic, though, that he wanted to address: Mortgage reform.

He outlined a half-dozen proposals on mortgage practices, most of which sounded as if they would be good business for banks and other lenders. (His most recent amendment was proposed on Thursday.) Some of them made you wonder, why don’t the banks just do some of those things, absent a law? They can’t benefit, can they, by the fact that houses by the millions are being foreclosed upon, driving down the value of their own assets?

The housing market may not; homeowners may not; but yes, it turns out that many of the lenders can. How?

Read today’s Steve Duin column in the Oregonian, focused on a foreclosure case in which a soldier based in Iraq may return to Bend on leave to … somewhere other than his family’s house, which may have been foreclosed on by then. His father (the owner) has been making payments and thought he was on a loan modification path until he abruptly learned, after paying for months and years in good faith, like so many others, that he wasn’t.

Merkley, has gotten involved in the case: “It has parallel elements to hundreds of stories we’ve heard. Families think they’re involved in modification, then suddenly discover they’re on the path to foreclosure. … This is not an accident.”

How so? Duin: “Many of the worst mortgages are pooled in trusts. The banks are selling securities that bet against those trusts. All too often, everyone but the homeowner gains “if the mortgage is dysfunctional.””

In other words: Your banker may be betting that your loan will fail, and make money if it does; and if it can mislead you, jack you around, withhold or deliver false information so that you lose your home – the bank wins. In the short term. Big picture, of course, the economy and homeowners, and the country, lose.

Merkley has been, from the evidence, pursuing the mortgage legislation steadily, but encountering plenty of resistance. A suggestion here: He (or, more practically, a staffer) should start a daily blog, detailing exactly what is happening with the legislative and from where, exactly, the resistance is coming. This whole area could use a much brighter spotlight, and Merkley would be well positioned to provide it.

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Jun 11 2011

Two and out?

Published by under Washington

Oregon last year just busted a record. Never in its 160 or so years had it elected the same person as governor more than twice. Both of the newer states Washington and Idaho have done that, but Oregon, never – not even Tom McCall (who sought a third term in 1978) could pull it off, until John Kitzhaber finally did last year.

Idaho has had one four-term (elected four times, in two separate runs) governor, Cecil Andrus, and two elected three times (Robert Smylie and C. Ben Ross). Washington has had just two: Daniel Evans (the only person to serve three consecutively) and Arthur Langlie, both Republicans (and each breaking the record for the youngest person in the state’s history to become governor). Both, at this point, go back a ways – Langlie in the 40s and 50s, and Evans in the mid-60s to mid-70s. Other governors, even though a number were still popular at the end of their second terms and probably could have run successfully again (Gary Locke probably could have), have generally passed.

Is the two-term thing a jinx or some sort of informal limit, or maybe an indicator that most governors just wear out their welcome after a couple of terms?

On such answers some people probably will be reflecting when the current two-term Washington governor, Chris Gregoire, announces her plans. She is going to have to do so soon. With a strong Republican, Attorney General Rob McKenna, now in the field and running hard, Gregoire cannot hold off on her intentions for very long without beginning to impair her party’ ground work.

The thinking that she will not run again is widespread and seems to be an operating presumption. She won by half a hair in 2004 and did better in 2008, but whether she could pull it off a third time is uncertain. Gregoire’s polling numbers – those publicly reported anyway – have been poor, her numbers low enough to suggest that she’d have trouble hanging on. (Some other Democratic possibles, such as Representative Jay Inslee, seem to be better-positioned.)

Another indicator, maybe, of the unnecessity of term limits, at least for some offices: In the case of some offices, like governor, voters seem to ordinarily impose their own.

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Jun 08 2011

McKenna enters

Published by under Washington

Rob McKenna

The 2012 campaign for Washington governor has been launched, with Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna‘s entry this evening.

He may be starting with the best odds of any Republican seeking the job since the last one who won it, then-King County Executive John Spellman in 1980 (with the advantage of his King base and a deeply unpopular Democratic incumbent, running within a Republican surge; but even the 1984 Republican surge couldn’t save Spellman that year). He had three terms on the King County council, and retains some clear support there (how much in a governor’s race against a Democrat remains unknown). He was elected AG in 2004 in a heated campaign, and strongly in 2008 in a very Democratic year. He has a reputation (which more than a few Democrats have and will contest) as a moderate, which would be helpful in the general. There are no obvious substantial opponents in the Republican primary.

In early-heat matchups, he polls closely with the presumed leading Democratic contender (not yet announced), Representative Jay Inslee. Notwithstanding the razor-close race of 2004, a lot of Republicans have long seen this as their best shot at regaining the governorship they last won more than 30 years ago. And that long run of Democratic control, the longest in the nation, is sure to be a big point of discussion over the next year and a half.

Against some of that are a series of land mines that should evoke to comparisons of Indiana Jones in the cave at the start of Raiders of the Lost Ark. He has already been treading carefully, stepping this way and that, so as not to tick off the conservative base while alienating the middle – an uncommonly difficult task this cycle. Democrats, well aware this has been in the works for a long time, have been firing shots in a variety of ways for quite a while; and comparisons to other Republican governors around the country have been in the air for some time now. (You can get a good overview of that at the Democratic site called Rob McKenna for Governor.)

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Jun 08 2011

ID: A crack at the legislative districts

Published by under Idaho

As the Idaho redistricting commission moves deeper into its mission on its second day, a quick shot – here – at a legislative redistricting plan, with the idea of isolating where the stress points and idiosyncrasies may be.

Stapilus legislative plan (1)

The map as developed is available at the Idaho Maptitude site under the user stapiluscarlton, as “My Current Legislative fast.” The latter referred to my intent of doing it quickly, with an eye to keeping the deviations between district size as small as possible, but political considerations (such as legislator residences) to a minimum. It started from the current districts, and held to population equality as a main principle, along with keeping counties and cities and general communities intact where possible.

The norm in Idaho remapping is to start from the north and working south, since the panhandle districts are more dictated by the narrow geography. Here, I followed a piece of advice offered Tuesday morning, to start both there and in the southeast – another mostly lightly-populated area – working toward the big Ada-Canyon population center, where shifting lines would be most easily accomplished. The other advantage, and the one specific district bias I had in drawing it, was to eliminate the ungainly district at the southeast corner of the state running from Preston to north of Driggs, often through country without a highway serving the widely scattered communities. It is the poorest district in the state at present, and I simply concluded the people there shouldn’t have to put up with it for another decade.

The end result is not perfect (there are a number of small oddly-assigned areas, which don’t change the bigger picture but were hard to remove). But the highest deviation for any district was 4.7%, pretty low, and most were much lower than that. It probably could pass legal muster. (I think.)

Here are a few things that became clear in the process of drafting it.

bullet Lewiston and Moscow always have been united in their own separate districts, and anchored them. That may simply not be possible this time. This map splits Lewiston, and it may be hard to redistricters to avoid doing something like that. That’s just the nature of the population shifts.

bullet The long-running big district in the east, long anchored at the southeast by Rigby and running off to Salmon and Challis, would logically this time be split up. A district tossing Lemhi and Custer counties in with Blaine would make redistricting sense – and a real pot boiler of a district.

bullet Because the current Democratic/competitive districts of Ada County (16, 17, 18, 19) lie toward the middle of a large population area, many outcomes are possible. But absent heavily political maneuvering, this seems most likely: One district (19) with an ongoing Democratic advantage, and the other three with infusions from precincts which have had strong Republican advantages. Of the three districts, 16 (or a rough equivalent) seems most likely to give Democrats some advantage, and 18 least.

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Jun 08 2011

Carlson: Hough and the dams

Published by under Carlson

Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

For years millions of radio listeners were tantalized each noon hour by the news and personal interpretations of the great radio commentator, Paul Harvey. He would throw out a nugget to tease his listener before a commercial break and then come back with “and now, for the rest of the story.”

That thought, and an old saying – “success has a thousand fathers, failure is a bastard” – came to mind as I read recent reports regarding removal of the dams on the Olympic peninsula’s Elwha River.

On June 1, the process of shutting off generators in the Elwha and Glines Canyon Dam powerhouses began. This will lead to dismantling the two dams that have blocked the return of once bountiful salmon and steelhead runs following construction of the projects shortly after Woodrow Wilson was elected to the presidency in 1912.

Restoration of these salmon runs and acknowledgment of their centrality to the religion of the indigenous native American Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, is the primary driver for this historic action.

It is the largest dam removal project in American history, will take three years to accomplish and cost America’s taxpayers $325 million. While there will be many who claim parentage, some with legitimacy, such as the tribe and the advocacy group American Rivers, much of the credit should go to a former aide to Governor Cecil Andrus: John D. Hough.

Hough first hooked on with Andrus as campaign press secretary during Andrus’ successful 1970 governorship race. Adept and imaginative at generating coverage for candidate Andrus, once in office Hough chafed at the “baby-sitting the media” role called for in a press secretary.

Hough’s true love was and is resource policy. He convinced Andrus to make him his natural resource aide. Eventually, Andrus made him chief of staff. Before then, though, Hough left fingerprints on a number of successful resource protection issues. Continue Reading »

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Jun 07 2011

OR: The bi-part legislative plans

Published by under Oregon

The new bi-partisan state Senate plan/committee map

On the same day the Idaho redistricting committee was sworn in and got to work, the Oregon rdistricting legislative committees (working jointly) produced something many people had no more than half expected to see: An actual bipartisan plan, one for state House and one for state Senate districts.

(MIA: A congressional plan. And the guess here is that, what with the central seemingly irresolvable issue of dividing Multnomah County, it may go on missing, for a while if not permanently.)

Here’s how the legislators described their result in a release:

“This bipartisan agreement represents the first step towards approving a final legislative redistricting plan for the next decade,” said Representative Shawn Lindsay (R-Hillsboro). “This is an excellent
example of how Democrats and Republicans can work together for the people of Oregon.”

The proposed map is based on hours of public testimony. It honors the statutory requirements to create districts of equal population, not divide communities of interest, and connect communities within districts by transportation links.

”This bipartisan proposal is the result of hours of testimony and work by both the House and Senate committees,” said Senator Suzanne Bonamici (D-NW Portland/Washington Co.). “We heard the public when they overwhelmingly encouraged us to reach a plan within the Legislature.”

The House and Senate Committees on Redistricting will take additional public testimony on the proposed bill, including proposed maps, later this week.

“We’ve managed to put many of our differences aside in what is typically a very partisan process,” said Representative Chris Garrett (D-Lake Oswego). “Reaching bipartisan agreement on this plan is a major achievement for this Legislature.”

“This is an accomplishment that Oregon can be proud of,” said Senator Chris Telfer (R-Bend). “A bipartisan redistricting map represents the legislature at its best, working together and finding common ground, even in the face of big obstacles. This is a fair and bipartisan plan that will give Oregonians quality representation over the next ten years.”

What jumped out most immediately: How similar many districts look to the districts now in place. The Senate districts particularly are so strikingly similar (at least other than some of the geographically-smaller metro districts) to those at present, that most people probably can reasonable assume they” just continue to be in the same-numbered district they’re in now. The House districts seem to vary a little more, but not by a lot.

The similarity is not total, of course, since numbers had to be adjusted for population shifts – the whole point of the exercise. Districts bulged and contracted here and there. But the appearance is that the new districts will resemble the current ones about as closely they could numerically can. Anyone hoping for a radical redraw is going to be disappointed; people who just want as little interruption to their current districts as possible may be happier.

Hearings on virtues and lack thereof are forthcoming – possibly this week.

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Jun 06 2011

The bridge case

Published by under Oregon,Washington

The Columbia River Crossing design/CRC site

Meant to note this last week, after finishing reading the article on the MAX …

Nigel Jaquiss’ latest piece in Willamette Week, “A Bridge Too False,” may be one of the most valuable pieces of news writing in Oregon this year. It pokes a series of holes in the usual narrative about the Columbia Crossing Bridge, the planned I-5 upgrade which, we are given to understand, is all but a done deal since the governors of Washington and Oregon approved a design plan earlier this year.

The narratives says that the bridge expansion will help solve a growing traffic congestion crisis at one of the country’s worst highway bottlenecks, is needed because the existing bridge will soon become dangerous, and adequate payment plans have been developed.

Jaquiss skewers all of these presumptions. He drew on well-established stats, often from the state of Oregon, to argue that the congestion is not as bad as often thought, is not getting worse, is nowhere near one of the worst in the country, is not particularly dangerous … and the money side of the equation is iffy. A must-read.

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Jun 05 2011

Tim Woodward (no r.i.p. for you)

Published by under Idaho

Often when these posts have a name at the top, it means they’ve died. Tim Woodwood, a writer for 40 years at the Idaho Statesman, has – happily – not died. But with today’s final set of columns in the Statesman, he has retired, taking from the paper its leading writing icon. His columns have been regular reading from here for, oh, well over 30 of those 40 years. They have been a tonic: After absorbing the regular bulk of ugliness and strangeness in Idaho public affairs, Woodward’s columns were a corrective, a reminder of older Idaho, of human Idaho, of the good things so often otherwise untold.

Not often told is Woodward’s help in launching the sequence of activities that led to, among other things, Ridenbaugh Press and this blog.

In 1987, I was at the Idaho Statesman covering politics, and was weighing the idea of writing and publishing a book on that subject. The politics I knew something about; about writing and publishing a book, virtually nothing. Fortunately, my office desk was only a few feet away from someone who had done just that, with some success: Woodward, who had published several collections of his columns (and was at work on the Vardis Fisher biography Tiger on the Road for Caxton Printers, 1989). Woodward was one of the first people (there would be others, too) to offer both encouragement and highly practical information and advice. He was one of the people without whom that book, Paradox Politics, might not have seen light. And after it came Ridenbaugh Press and a string of other publications, one of which you’re reading now.

So from Ridenbaugh Press: Have a happy retirement, but keep those words of enjoyment, advice and tonic coming.

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Jun 04 2011

Ryan, district by district

Published by under Northwest

The budget proposal by U.S. Representative Paul Ryan – especially, his proposal for Medicare and Medicaid – is bound to continue to be a centerpiece of political discussion nationally. At least, it will if Democrats have anything to say about it.

Some of the shape of that may emerge through some online documents developed by the Democratic caucus on the House Energy & Commerce Committee. These are reports outlining the effect of the Ryan plan congressional district by district.

They’re accessible on a map page.

Here’s sample, a small slice of the report from Oregon’s 1st district:

The Republican proposal would have adverse impacts on seniors and disabled individuals in the district who are currently enrolled in Medicare. It would:

• Increase prescription drug costs for 8,500 Medicare beneficiaries in the district who enter the Part D donut hole, forcing them to pay an extra $84 million for drugs over the next decade.
• Eliminate new preventive care benefits for 97,000 Medicare beneficiaries in the district.

The Republican proposal would have even greater impacts on individuals in the district age 54 and younger who are not currently enrolled in Medicare. It would:

• Deny 620,000 individuals age 54 and younger in the district access to Medicare’s guaranteed benefits.
• Increase the out-of-pocket costs of health coverage by over $6,000 per year in 2022 and by almost $12,000 per year in 2032 for the 128,000 individuals in the district who are between the ages of 44 and 54.
• Require the 128,000 individuals in the district between the ages of 44 and 54 to save an additional $29.9 billion for their retirement – an average of $182,000 to $287,000 per individual – to pay for the increased cost of health coverage over their lifetimes. Younger residents of the district will have to save even higher amounts to cover their additional medical costs.
• Raise the Medicare eligibility age by at least one year to age 66 or more for 71,000 individuals in the district who are age 44 to 49 and by two years to age 67 for 496,000 individuals in the district who are age 43 or younger.

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Jun 02 2011

One of the many health answers

Published by under Oregon

It’s long been our contention that no one silver bullet will solve the health care fiscal crisis (and we do so define it). But the hail of a million smaller bullets can bring it under control.

Just after the Regence hearing in Portland, we walked over a few plugs to an unrelated meeting were some actual health care cost solutions emerged.

This was at the Portland Linux Users Group, which focuses on linux and open source software. Here was tonight’s subject: “Introduction to OpenEMR, maybe the most downloaded open source Electronic Health Records system in the world.” Open source means, among other things, that the cost is going to massively less than you’d see from most commercial software providers.

The recent federal health care law requires more extensive and meaningful use of software to track health care provision and costs, and new kinds of software will be needed. Tony McCormick, a project leader for this effort, which spelled out is “open electronic medical records,” said that number of downloads has increased drastically in the last couple of years.

The whole medical field has had very little by way of open source software – most of what has been and will be in that area is apt to be riotously expensive. Sounds of a piece of the industry … but it doesn’t have to be that way. McCormick would be happy to talk about it.

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Jun 02 2011

Regence hearing: More questions than answers

Published by under Oregon

Regence hearing at University Place in Portland/Stapilus

The public hearing this afternoon on the 22.2% rate increase request by Regence Blue Shield of Oregon should have been commonplace rather than something new and unusual – an open discussion of the cost of health care. An editorial note: We should have been doing this for a generation. There should be much more, with every rate increase and cost increase proposed, in every state and even in every county. (There is legislation afoot at Salem to accomplish that.)

Large pieces of the costs were spotlit, laid out, examined, analyzed. We all could surely use more of that.

It gives the insurer, who was on the hot seat in this unusual proceeding (usually only paperwork, much of it out of public view, is involved), a change to make their case. And for the first hour of this presentation, out of the scheduled two and a half, Regence aggressively did just that.

The state Insurance Division presenters said that no rate proceedings have ever drawn as many public comments (maybe in part because few have gotten nearly the media attention – even local TV showed up for this.) About 250 people showed up, and the speakers appeared heavily oriented against the increase. They were calm, patient and well behaved. But, you got the clear sense, not happy. (Only anti-rate increase speakers drew applause.)

Regence argued both on statistics and otherwise – a tad too slick and defensive both. They spoke of “people like Kathy and Michael.” And one other (name lost in notes here), referenced regularly, each of whom received hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. The premiums paid by them (whether per month or per year was unclear) were noted as $3,400, $7,370 and $1,850. If annual, what kind of terrific deal were they getting? If monthly, they – the first two anyway – were paying a hell of a lot in premiums.

A state questioner noted that this is an increase request higher than most competitors – and Regence acknowledged that customers are using less health care.” The reply noted that percentages can be misleading,” minutes after – and without a tracy of irony – a presentation loaded with percentages.

Some of its points were sounder. One Regence speaker remarked that better cost transparency is needed, that better analysis of effective treatments be developed. And “It’s going to require we change the economics of health not to reimbursing hospital on ho many times I show up in their office but when I get better.”

Like any insurer, a Regence speaker said, it has to collect enough in premiums to pay out for medical costs, and they need to collect enough (this was in response to a question about whether higher prices will continue driving people away from insurance). “If we pick wrong, who will pay?” A pertinent question, but maybe one constituting a better argument for something like single payer.

Laura Etherton, The speaker for OSPIRG Foundation – a nonprofit that has been working on medical costs – said the increase “will likely drive more Regence customers (to either drop out or move toward more high-deductible policies (“benefit buydown,” in the lingo), further destabilizing the health insurance market. Regence has increased insurance rates by double digits every year of the last decade, while enrollment dropped. (Regence downplayed the dropout effect of a rate increase and suggested enrollment should remain stable; OSPRIG said that 43,000 customers have dropped out over the last decade or so, from a peak of more than 100,000.

(Start here for more of the OSPIRG’s research, which is extensive, here.)

Because of the tendency of insurers to avoid non-health people, “If you’re sick (with pre-existing condition) you’re pretty much stuck here” while healthier employees would be more able to move – or opt out of insurance. Among other things, that will make the Regence clientele progressively “sicker” – more expensive too. (And presumably an ever higher rate increase next time around.) Continue Reading »

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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.