Archive for February, 2012

Feb 15 2012

Carlson: Lessons from St. Maries teachers

Published by under Carlson,Idaho

carlson
Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Those supporting repeal of the Luna/Otter Educational “Reform” package in general, and the Idaho Education Association, in particular, might want to take note of comments and attitudes gleaned from a recent sit down with three teachers at St. Maries High School.

The comments not surprisingly reflected a similar earlier sit down with a teacher in the Challis School District.

All four said without hesitation they intended to vote to repeal the three items on the ballot in November. Like many they are offended by the lack of due process alone. In their eyes it was a betrayal of trust for Governor Otter and State Superintendent Luna to have campaigned for re-election in 2010 and not to have said word one to any involved in education about what they were planning to introduce a scant seven weeks later when the 2011 Legislature convened.

To them it was deliberately deceitful, reflecting a lack of trust by these officeholders in teachers’ ability to thoughtfully analyze and provide valuable input into ideas for reform. To have it steamrolled through a compliant state legislature was just adding insult to injury. Invoking the “emergency clause” to force early implementation before all the unintended consequences had been worked out was just the frosting on the cake. Continue Reading »

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Feb 13 2012

Inmate death corrections

Published by under Oregon

The Oregon Department of Corrections says on its website “Oregon’s prisons are safe, civil and productive so inmates can pursue the goals specified in their corrections plans.” An important lack of candor may be throwing some clouds on that.

The Salem Statesman-Journal released a powerful report today on deaths at the Oregon prisons. One norm among most prison systems is that deaths internally are noted by a press release; DOC has issued one such death notice in the last two years. But there was not just one death, there were 79 of them. By itself, that seems like a large number. (The Oregon State Penitentiary at Salem alone accounted for 31, and Snake River Correctional Institution outside Ontario another 23.) And the nondisclosure may make Oregonians queasier.

And beyond that, the methods of death, by no means all natural causes. There was at least one drug overdose, several suicides (one “cut his wrist, swallowed a razor blade and repeatedly banged his head on a radiator”), one who injected into himself an “undetermined drug or toxin.”

And in the larger picture, you have to wonder exactly how this happened: “A 98-year-old sex offender who died of old age after a parole violation put him back behind bars in 2002.” 98 years old? Was he really so much of a serious threat to the rest of us that he had to be held in lockup? Was there no better solution?

The legislature should have some useful material to cover after reading its in-town paper today.

Note: A look at the DOC website does show a second inmate death news release on February 7, that the paper may have overlooked. The article’s point remains, however. And the department apparently hasn’t yet issued a response.

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Feb 12 2012

Lobbyist lineup

Published by under Idaho

The Idaho Press Tribune has out a general piece on lobbyists at the Idaho Legislature, an evergreen but useful subject. (Your scribe wrote two or three of them for newspapers back in the day.)

Most specifically interesting, as was usually the case, was the legislators’ ranking of the groups. The exact criteria to be used weren’t noted, and regardless it probably reflects what it often does: Foremost the relationship many legislators have with the lobbyists under considerations; but excluding the contract lobbyists – the hired guns – who represent as many as a dozen (or more) separate organizations.

Not especially surprising, the Associated Taxpayers of Idaho was on top. That probably reflects in part the very seasoned status of its executive director, Randy Nelson, and the organization’s role as a watchdog skeptical of taxes (although Nelson takes care to do more precise reporting and statistical analysis rather than lobbying of the putting-the-arm-on sort).

The city and county associations ranked, which may surprise people accustomed to hearing little non-critical about government from this legislature. But the lobbyists there too are of long standing and highly seasoned.

The highest ranking groups among the commercial groups are the Food Producers of Idaho, the Idaho Association of Commerce & Industry and the Idaho Association of Realtors. The Farm Bureau was on the list, as expected; many would rank it in the top three or so, but it ranked number eight here.

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Feb 10 2012

Implications from the Ninth

Published by under Idaho,Oregon

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision on Tuesday invalidating California’s Proposition 8 – effectively a ban on same-sex marriage – got plenty of attention nationwide. But some of the implications, if the decision stands, may not yet have been fully digested.

Before that day was out, Oregon Attorney General John Kroger sent a letter to Governor John Kitzhaber and legislative leaders with some initial thoughts on the decision. He promised a detailed followup, which hasn’t yet materialized (publicly at least), but his initial letter had some provocative things to say about its impact on Oregon. (And we would suggest, following the logic out, on Idaho as well.)

Here’s some of what Kroger said:

This morning, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held in Perry v. Brown that California’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the United States Constitution. Ninth Circuit decisions apply to all states within the circuit, including Oregon, which has a similar state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. There are important differences between how this legal issue has developed in Oregon (where the constititional provision did not remove an existing statutory right to marry) and in California (where the constitutional provision took away that existing right). Neverthless, the Ninth Circuit’s decision will inevitably raise questions about the constitutionality and legal viability of Oregon’s state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

We are currently studying the decision and will be ready to provide the Governor with a complete analysis of the decision and its implications for Oregon law within forty-eight hours.

If the decision stands, then, there seems to be at least a credible chance that Oregon’s constitutional amendment against gay marriage, adopted in 2004, may be invalidated, and Idaho legal provisions as well.

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Feb 10 2012

Boquist’s tangle

Published by under Oregon

Boquist
Brian Boquist

It’s not everyday your own state senator makes the national news. But Brian Boquist, R-Dallas, senator for District 12 (a sprawling area in northwest Oregon), has.

The issue concerns not a legislative bill or a fiery statement, but business operations he and his wife are involved with. From today’s Talking Points Memo (the story is lengthy and detailed):

The issue revolves around a private military training facility that he and his wife help operate in Cheyenne, Wyo., and which is complete with live mortar and car bomb training as well as actors dressed up like radical insurgents.

Two of their longtime partners in the business recently accused the Boquists in federal court of mismanaging the facility and redirecting its profits to the couple’s favorite Republican candidates and causes back in Oregon.

The article noted that Peggy Boquist said the political contributions were proper and not wrongly taken.

But as with many lawsuits involving political figures, the central legal issue may be a lot less politically pertinent than the surrounding background.

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Feb 09 2012

ID bill of the day: SB 1235

Published by under Idaho

Just directing a little attention back to Senate Bill 1235, which would put in Idaho law a kind of lobbying restriction – a limitation to the revolving door – in places in many states. And yes, it would have (or would have had, if already in effect), a clear impact on a number of current lobbying situations.

Its purpose:

The purpose of The Lobbyist Restriction Act is to clarify that current executive of ficials and legislators cannot register as a lobbyist or receive compensation (beyond that received in their of ficial capacity) to influence legislation, rulemaking or any ratemaking decision, procurement, contract, bid or bid process, financial services agreement, or bond issue. The legislation also puts in place a one year “cooling of f” period before an executive of ficial or legislator can register as a lobbyist after his or her departure from public service.

Introduced on January 20 (the Democratic caucuses are the backers), it has not progressed beyond its initial committee, the Senate State Affairs Committee, since.

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Feb 09 2012

WA bill of the day: SB 6082

Published by under Washington

Like Oregon, Washington has a lands use regime stricter than most states (in a whole different world from, say, Idaho). But it isn’t exactly the same. One of the key elements in Oregon’s is the policy of protecting farmland. Development can, and often has been, blocked if it means changing the use of farm land to something else.

Washington may be moving that way. Senate Bill 6082 has a bipartisan list of sponsors, most of them rural, who don’t seem to be local advocates of increased land use regulation. And the bill really isn’t. But it does make a telling addition to the 1971 State Environmental Policy Act.

From the bill report:

The Department of Ecology must add the following questions to the SEPA environmental checklist, and the checklist form must be updated in the administrative rules at the next update of those rules.
Is there any agricultural land affected by the proposal?
How much agricultural land will be converted to non-agricultural use as a result of the proposal?
Would the proposal affect the ability of adjacent agricultural landowners to continue farming?
Would the proposal affect existing agricultural drainage?
Would the proposal affect or interfere with normal agricultural operations?
Would the proposal result in placing or removing agricultural soils from the site?
Describe any proposed measures to preserve or enhance agricultural resource lands.
Lead agencies must evaluate the checklist to determine whether a proposal will affect or be located on agricultural land.

The bill’s title is, “An act relating to the preservation and conservation of agricultural resource lands,” and just adding the questions could well do that.

The bill is on track for passage. It cleared the Senate (unanimously) and is moving speedily through the House.

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Feb 08 2012

Carlson: Hoisted on their petard

Published by under Carlson,Idaho

carlson
Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

There’s an old saying some may recall: Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely! That so applies to Idaho’s Grand Old Party. Power has gone to the heads of many who drive the flashy Republican car model down the road. The road though is leading to a helluva crash and inevitable voter rebuke.

One cannot absolve the Idaho Democratic Party from its complicity. Failure to follow the tried and true “lunch bucket” approach led to the Idaho D’s drifting away from common sense conservation, balanced budgets, continuing investment in Idaho education and protecting the values which make Idaho such a great place to live. Instead, being on the correct side of hot button issues such as abortion, guns and more wilderness became the goal of what other Idahoans perceived as a party growing out of touch and into the hands of the “wine and cheese” liberal set as represented by multi-millionaires living in Blaine County.

From the mid 90’s on Idaho Democrats have appeared hell bent on narrowing their base of support. The voters noted and duly administered rebukes which should have awakened the D’s but so far haven’t.

Now it is the GOP hell bent on narrowing its base. In their zeal to eliminate anything that even smacks of “democrat,” these impervious believers now driving the GOP car have gotten the upper hand. Through adroit tactics that come down to good old grass-root organizing and getting their people elected to numerous vacant precinct committee positions they are in the process of solidifying their hold on the party structure.

Pardon the tortured pun but it seems like the phrase “democratic process” has itself become a target of the reformer’s zeal to take over because there’s a “democrat” in that there phrase, it’s got to go. So onto the very anti-democratic notion of purging those who aren’t true believers from being able to impact the right wing agenda.

A step in this process is to limit those who vote in a Republican Party primary to those who truly are members of the GOP. If one ain’t a registered member he’d best declare he is right there on Election Day or go home and watch for results on the television. If you’re an independent and prize your independence, tough luck. You are welcomed, however, to vote in a Democratic primary which is open to one and all.

Here’s the glitch the R’s aren’t advertising: once you say you’re an R you’re going to have to file a formal written renunciation of that affiliation by March (the filing deadline for the coming year’s elections) of the following year if you want to vote in a Democratic primary of any sort. Continue Reading »

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Feb 06 2012

Wyden at Newberg

Published by under Oregon

Wyden
Ron Wyden at Newberg town hall/Randy Stapilus

Two to three years ago, turnout at Senator Ron Wyden‘s Yamhill County town hall ranged upward of 100, to 200 and more. Big crowds that filled large rooms. Not so much this weekend, when Wyden came to Newberg; only about 20 county residents showed up. (The lower turnout levels is evidently part of a pattern this year.) Those who came had specifics on their minds, but the tone overall was more easy going than in some past halls.

This was number 611 among Wyden’s Oregon town halls, and the senator’s approach to it was easy and relaxed; he’s had plenty of practice. The residents did call for some explanations on a string of tough topics, for example.

The county Democratic chair said she’d been asked by a number of local Democrats about Wyden’s cooperative venture on health care policy with Republican Representative Paul Ryan; it sounded to many of them, she suggested, as if Wyden was giving up ground on the health care fight. Wyden’s response was that he wasn’t, that the effort with Ryan was very preliminary, far from the point of drafting a bill, at more an exploratory point, to find out what ideas they might have in common. He cited a few but suggested that the conversation is only in early stages.

He expressed hope that diplomacy and sanctions may accomplish enough in dealing with prospective Iran nuclear weapons, and he advised the Occupy movement (through one local McMinnville Occupy activist present) to start getting more specific on what they want.

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Feb 04 2012

One less candidate

Published by under Carlson,Idaho

This week’s column by Chris Carlson mentioned several prospective Idaho political figures for coming years. One of them, Douglas Siddoway, responds:

Please let your readers know that, while I respect my good friend Chris Carlson’s political acuity and appreciate his belief that I would make a good governor, I have no intention of doing anything significant in the state of Idaho right now other than the occasional fishing trip.

Duly noted.

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Feb 03 2012

Steve Appleton

Published by under Idaho

Never met the man, so such personal qualities as Steve Appleton had could only be extrapolated, from this vantage, from what public actions he made. Without getting into the kind of hagiography normal for the recently deceased, especially for the successful recently deceased, there are a few things that might be said, even from a distance.

Appleton was CEO of Micron Technology at Boise from 1994 until he died earlier today piloting an experimental aircraft. The first notable point is simply that time line: 17 years leading a large corporation in a highly challenging and fast-changing field. That’s remarkable by itself. So is the stick-to-it nature. He evidently dug in and devoted himself, to considerable part, to making this one corporation work.

It did that, and without the kind of ceaseless grabbing so many large CEOs seem to embrace. There was no ripping and running here, no obsession with financial twists. Micron started and spun off a few subsidiaries, but it stuck to knitting. It made something (well, several related things), something useful, and still does.

Micron shipped a lot of jobs overseas in recent years, but much of its core remains where it began, in Boise. You have to think that Appleton, who was not simply a title holder but – in the latter years at least – the dominant figure, was responsible for that. At least in considerable part.

Our assessment of these matters may come into clearer focus as his successor sets a direction. For now, Boise can only watch, and see. And offer condolences.

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Feb 03 2012

National redistricting

Published by under Oregon

This sounds like an idea that must not be new but sure doesn’t seem familiar: Instead of each state redistricting their congressional districts, that work would be done by a national National Commission for Independent Redistricting. Starting, if the legislation were passed, in 2020.

The proposal, by Oregon Representative Earl Blumenauer, will be immediately set upon by the states-rights crowd, but it merits some attention.

Nationally, when it comes to redistricting – for congressional and state legislative lines – there are two kinds of states: commission states and legislature states. Legislature states have the work done by legislatures. (Oregon still does it this way.) Commission states do it by using a special commission; Washington and Idaho do it that way. Generally – Oregon’s smooth experience this cycle notwithstanding – the commission approach seems to yield better results.

So why not a commission on a large scale?? Carefully balanced, it would have the potential to drew lines that weigh less with local political interests, and more with balancing voter rights.

Blumenauer on the measure: “In hallways and back rooms in state capitols across America, politicians are hard at work helping members of Congress pick their voters, so that for the next ten years, it will be harder for voters to pick their politicians. This system divides local communities of interest, resulting in districts that look like a raw egg has been splattered against a wall. It turns districts bright red and bright blue, making it harder to elect representatives with nuanced policies, rewards extremism, and makes it nearly impossible for the members of Congress they elect to reach bipartisan agreement to address our nation’s most urgent needs. This legislation will ensure that Congressional elections are more competitive and fair, and that voters get to choose their representatives. Now is the time to reform the redistricting process and act in a way that reflects broad public interests, rather than narrow and immediate partisanship.”

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Feb 03 2012

WA bill of the day: HB 2588

Published by under Washington

Striking headline in a Tacoma News-Tribune editorial: “It took Richard Nixon to go to China, Bill Clinton to reform welfare and state Rep. Jeannie Darneille to push House Bill 2588.”

It’s apt, and it could mark a breakthrough. DNA evidence is something relatively new on the civil rights screen, and complex to deal with. DNA can tell a lot about you; it is also a great identifier. It can help convict people of crimes – or clear them. It’s done both. It’s prospectively easy to collect; wherever you go, you may have left some behind.

Clarity at least is needed in this area, and House Bill 2588 by Darneille and others (both parties contributed sponsors) may help. Its digest says it “Addresses the collection of biological samples for DNA identification analysis from adults lawfully arrested for the commission of any criminal offense constituting a ranked felony or gross misdemeanor violation of certain orders.” But it also says the DNA evidence can only go into state and federal databases after review by a judge.

That’s pretty specific, and also seems to indicate when the evidence can’t be collected (short, presumably, of a judicial order).

That the line is drawn by Darneille, D-Tacoma, may give some comfort to people concerned about police overreach. As the TNT notes, she’s a card-carrying ACLU member, “has long been a champion of the underdog. She worked for years to make it easier for ex-cons to get back their voting rights, and she’s quick to challenge any proposed legislation that she thinks might have racist undertones or raise privacy concerns.”

It cleared the House Committee on Public Safety & Emergency Preparedness on January 31, and looks to have a good shot at passage.

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Feb 01 2012

Carlson: Five to watch

Published by under Carlson

carlson
Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter says he will seek a third term. Good! With the way he is “mailing it in” that may provide Democrats with the first real opportunity to occupy the executive chair since then Attorney General Larry Echohawk lost to Phil Batt in 1994.

In 2014 it will have been 20 years since an Idaho Democrat held the office. If one thinks history is a guide, and has noted the 24 year cycles, then Butch will get his third term in 2014 and the Democrats won’t recapture the governor’s chair until 2018.

Governor C.A. “Doc” Robins began a 24 year Republican hold on the office when he ousted Arnold Williams in 1946. Cecil Andrus began a 24 year Democratic hold when he ousted Republican Don Samuelson in 1970.

The key question though is can Idaho Democrats pick out a winner in 2014 or 2018, someone who can make the case for moderation and a non-ideological, bi-partisan approach to attacking and solving Idaho’s many challenges?

Democrats may start to get some idea who might be their next standard bearer when they attend the annual Frank Church Dinner on February 25th in Boise. The event is returning to the Riverside Inn and will allow potential candidates to host hospitality rooms.

In the run-up to securing the 2014 nomination here are five individuals to keep an eye on:

1) State Rep. Brian Cronin. If education is the issue, and whether the loony Luna/Otter phony reform package is repealed this November will be a real indicator, the 41-year-old Minority Caucus chair from District 19 is well positioned to speak out forcefully. An education consultant he has an Ed. M in Teaching and Curriculum from Harvard that he received in 1995.

His thoughtful and articulate critique of the many deficiencies in the reform package won respect from proponents who couldn’t help being charmed by his ability to disagree without being disagreeable. The Idaho Education Association would be a source of both funding and volunteers if he were to run.

2) State Senator Michelle Stennett. The 51-year-old Senate Minority Caucus chair represents Blaine County (District 25), the center of the “wine and cheese” liberal Democrats in Idaho. With a minor in business to go along with her degree from the University of Oregon in International Studies and Latin Languages, she also loves to hunt, fish, camp and horseback ride. Thus, she also has a foot in the “lunch-bucket” Democrats camp as well. Continue Reading »

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