Danny Westneat’s Seattle Times column today ended with this: “This is the mood of the city. Joggers are packing heat. Moms of toddlers are contemplating arming up or heading out of town. It’s insane, yes. We are losing it. Can you blame us?”

Well, yes.

That’s not to dismiss the tragic events of the last week. A week ago: A man shot at the Northwest Folklife Festival. Shortly after: Four drive-by shooting incidents in South Seattle. Wednesday: Four killed in a cafe in the University District, a woman shot to death in another neighborhood – by, it turns out, the same man, who then shot himself.

Westneat’s column reflects the attitude of a lot of Seattlites, to either arm up (he writes about a jogger visibly carrying a firearm) or get out of Dodge. (You can imagine how local TV news has been dealing with this – scaring the bejeebers out of everybody.)

Some blame the police. Some blame the Department of Justice, which has been leaning on the police over civil rights issues. There’s a lot of blame being spread around elsewhere, too.

Consider it this way:

The meshing of these events into a short span is a fluke of timing. Nothing has changed. Seattle, in large part, is a safe large city, a fact true two weeks ago and true today.

The shootings reflect two trends contributing to violence especially in larger cities: gangs and mental illness. Both are challenging for police to deal with, but better approaches do seem to be coming along. (Seattle might cast a glance southward to Portland, for example, which is working on some innovative approaches in dealing with potentially hazardous mental illness cases.)

There’s nothing really new here. The mass of bullets is just, simply, drawing our attention to what’s already there: Problems that will take hard, slogging work to resolve. Seattle will probably figure that out before long.

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Washington

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Rudy Crew

Oregon has never had a chief education officer; newly-hired Rudy Crew will be the first. He may have a big effect on Oregon education – certainly, that’s the hope – and while a number of the policy points inherent in overhauling the state’s education system are already in place, many will have to be devised on the fly. Crew will the guy in charge, more than anyone else, of doing that.

The immediate news reports have noted that he’s been a major figure in national education circles: Head of public schools in New York and Miami, executive director of the University of Washington’s Institute for K-12 Leadership, and an academic more rcently. His tenure at these spots has been described as “contentious,” and there’s some acknowledgement that he has both fans and detractors, but we haven’t been given much sense of what that translates to. Being controversial could be a good thing or bad, depending on how you assess it. Governor John Kitzhaber and other Oregonians clearly, as the Oregonian pointed out, want someone who will shake things up. They seem likely to get that with Crew.

But what sort of shakeup?

Here are two paragraphs from the (heavily footnoted) Wikipedia entry on him:

Crew’s leadership in Miami was reflected in recognition as a finalist for the prestigious Broad Prize for three consecutive years (2006–08),[4] and in School Improvement Zone being named a Top 50 Innovation by Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Institute,[5] 12 high schools being named among the best by Newsweek,[6] Crew was named the 2008 National Superintendent of the Year by the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), topping the 50 state winners.[7] His initiatives have led the District to be viewed nationally as a model of success,[8] with the secondary-school reform program being credited with Miami’s graduation-rate boost.[9]

Crew has also garnered controversy. At a June 2008 school board meeting, Crew said the district had overspent millions of dollars during the past two years because it had hired more teachers than budgeted, lost state funding, and encountered rising costs.[10] School Board member Renier Diaz De La Portilla called for Crew’s ouster, criticizing the way he has managed the schools’ budget.[11][12] Ana Rivas Logan, another board member, called Crew “insubordinate.”[11] At an August 4, 2008 school board meeting, the item to terminate Crew’s contract failed. Despite Crew’s strong support from business and community leaders,[13] the School Board bought out his contract at its September 10, 2008 meeting.

Is there a way to characterize what sorts of change Crew might want to push toward?

crew

Probably: He has written a book about school reform, “Only Connect: The Way to Save Our Schools” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007). This is from the Publishers Weekly review of the book, giving a general sense of what Crew is contending:

“Deeply concerned about the failure of America’s educational system, Crew (former chancellor of the New York City schools and currently superintendent of the Miami-Dade County schools) has a vision of what must be done. In spite of the billions we spend on education, six years after No Child Left Behind (NCLB), one-third of our eighth-graders can’t do basic math, and only 60% of our 10-year-olds can read, he argues. Furthermore, NCLB’s focus on testing has pre-empted attention from other important dimensions of education—building character, citizenship and workplace literacy. Crew proposes a new strategy. First, school systems need to be run like businesses, with explicit goals, implementation plans and budgets. The school must become the nucleus of the community, the center of a web connecting business, the arts, health services and any other social institutions that can be drawn into the school’s orbit. Connected Schools, as Crew calls them, bring outside resources in and give students workplace literacy, i.e., a better sense of what is going on in the larger world. But it’s the personal anecdotes that stand out: when Crew describes how his hardworking father put him through school, readers can almost believe that Crew has the grit and determination to make his reform plan work.”

He may have the chance: The kind of change this speaks about delivery of education is an analogue to the kind of systemic change Oregon officials are hoping to develop in health care. It’s an intriguing idea that, together with closer links between the pieces of the education system, could make the whole work at much higher practical efficiency.

Assuming that the various parties work together. There was this, too, in Wikipedia, summarizing a couple of news reports: “In both New York and Miami, Crew was blamed for organizing efforts to remove independent oversight during his tenure. Crew engaged in a campaign to have New York’s independent investigator Edward F. Stancik removed by accusing him of exaggerating his reports saying they were overly dramatic and adversely affected the school system.[22] In Miami, a civil suit was brought against Crew by the former Miami-Dade County Public Schools Inspector General, Herbert Cousins, a former FBI agent who alleges Crew and his staff slandered and defamed him to obstruct his investigation and disclosure of illegal activities by Crew and some board members.” (The original reports on this are available at the New York Times and the Miami New Times).

Bottom line is hard to reach here. The potential seems great; the risks seem substantial. A close watch will be warranted.

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Oregon

Today’s court decision throwing out Initiative 1053 may reshape quite a bit of Washington politics. It was a lower court decision, by King County Superior Court Judge Bruce Helle, but there’s a strong chance it’ll be upheld at the Washington Supreme Court level (where it certainly will reach).

I-1053 was the measure requiring that a two-thirds majority is needed in the state legislature to pass tax or many fee measures. It has put a severe limit on state budgeting options. The group No on 1052 – Uphold Our Constitution argued, “Initiative 1053 is Tim Eyman’s latest attempt to wreck government, funded by out-of-state corporations like BP, ConocoPhillips, Shell, Tesoro, Bank of America, USBank, and Wells Fargo, who want to change the basic rules our Legislature has operated by since statehood so they can preserve their special tax breaks. Under Initiative 1053, seventeen out of one hundred and forty seven lawmakers can block any revenue-raising bill that they don’t like. Initiative 1053 is an assault on our cherished tradition of majority rule – the bedrock principle of our democracy. It would effectively give a fringe minority the ability to veto important fiscal decisions.”

Helle’s short summary judgement decision was more to the legal point, that the initiative’s “supermajority vote requirement violates the simple majority provision of Article II, Section 22 of the Washington constitution, rendering that provision of the statute unconstitutional.” A mandatory referendum requirement, he wrote, violates another portion of the constitution.

If upheld, that means nothing like 1053 can hold up – Tim Eyman and his initiative organization can’t simply try against with different words. The concept is too flawed, by this legal ruling.

Since the Supreme Court is unlikely to deliver a decision on this before the Washington Legislature convenes in January, this is going to create a big squabble. Not least in the upcoming general election.

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Washington

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Second District Congressman Mike Simpson continues to make a case to be Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives some day. He believes in solving problems and making government work. We need more like him.

He recently spoke candidly to the Idaho Conservation Leagues’ annual retreat at Redfish Lake. What he said was a breath of fresh air to those who are beginning to wonder if either political party will figure out that real solutions to the nation’s challenges will require compromise and bipartisanship.

Simpson not only figured it out a long-time ago, he has taken steps to form a working coalition of like-minded Republicans and Democrats. His frustration is that outside of the “Gang of Six” in the Senate he sees little else that gives any hope that the Senate, which has failed to pass a budget for three straight years, will be of similar mind.

In what some would consider heresy, Simpson repeated his endorsement of the castor oil but comprehensive approach worked out by the Erskine Bowles/Allan Simpson Commission. It arrived at a combination of entitlement reform, spending cuts and revenue enhancements that would be a path forward out of the debt wilderness would folks, including the President who formed the Commission, get behind it.

Asked about the unholy hold “take the no taxes pledge or else” Grover Norquist seems to have over most Republicans, Simpson said he’d signed the oath once and had refused to do since. He pointed out the illogic of closing loopholes and supporting tax reform being translated into further tax increases by Norquist.

A line that brought applause was a statement that he no longer signed any pledges or requests by any interest groups, that the only oath or pledge any member should take is the oath of office that pledges to defend the Constitution.

Other statements by Simpson included:

* 40 of the 87 freshman members of Congress had held no prior elected office. Simpson was strongly implying these were the ideologues that think compromise is a dirty word.

* Solutions to challenges facing the nation had always been and would of necessity always have to be bipartisan solutions and that reasonable compromise was essential to good legislating.

* 90 percent of legislation passed by Congress has to do with governance and usually reflects bipartisan votes while only 10% deals with divisive social issues that are matters of principle to advocates. Unfortunately some members infuse every vote as a matter of principle instead of good governance.

Asked about whether Governor Andrus who spoke earlier on the need to use an Antiquities Act declaration by the President to get Simpson’s carefully crafted compromise wilderness legislation moving, was not correct given a hold on the Senate side by Senator Risch, Simpson said he was not ready to give up on a legislative solution.

Simpson opined that there could be several vehicles utilized as the session ended. He bluntly said despite senatorial courtesy that allowed one senator to stand in the way, he didn’t think in the final analysis Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada cared one bit what Jim Risch thought. Simpson was clearly saying Risch would be overridden and his hold tossed aside.

He did allow there was a possibility that if all else failed, and especially if President Obama were defeated in November, the Antiquities Act might be invoked. He pointed out correctly that the Act tends to be utilized most by presidents as they leave office.

He predicted one way or the other the Boulder/White Clouds would get the additional protection it merits.

Asked whether he shared Governor Andrus’ concern about INL seeking to change the 1995 agreement with the Dept of Energy and the Navy signed by Governor Phil Batt Simpson stated the agreement had to be modified simply because DoE was not going to be able to meet the deadlines contained in the agreement.

While extolling the contributions of INL Simpson did make it clear he did not support INL ever becoming the nation’s nuclear repository. His sense of what’s realistic told him though that a compromise had to be reached between the State and the Federal government.

There’s that word again. Agree with him or not, like his candor or not, he clearly works for solutions and understands people are elected to high office to solve problems not pass them along to future generations.

Candidly, that’s the kind of mentality the public needs in a Speaker rather than the confrontational approach by current Speaker John Boehner who appears hell bent on repeating the crisis of self-fulfilling prophecy that a refusal to increase the debt ceiling always becomes.

This is one writer who hopes he can again address Simpson as “Mr. Speaker.”

CHRIS CARLSON is a former journalist who served as press secretary to Gov. Cecil Andrus. He lives at Medimont.

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Carlson Idaho

You can understand the confusion that the Washington Post wonders about.

The beer, from Utah, called Polygamy Porter is available for sale in Idaho, in stores generally that sell beer.

But Idaho liquor stores, you can’t buy another Utah alcohol product called Five Wives Vodka, made in Ogden. They sell it in Utah (which Polygamy Porter isn’t), but not in Idaho. The Post quoted Idaho State Liquor Division administrator Jeff Anderson as suggesting it was offensive: “The bottom line is, we represent everybody. It’s masterful marketing on their part. But it doesn’t play here.”

We can think of some quarters, at least, where it would play just fine.

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Idaho

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Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

From time to time, I’ve used this space to describe the unique nature of the several counties of Southwest Oregon. Politically, socially, economically – they don’t resemble any other section of the state. Now, because of some of our “differences,” folks here are starting to feel a lot of hurt. In several ways, that hurt is – and will be – self-inflicted. It’s already begun.

First, some background. Geographically, we’re isolated. Only Interstate 5 and Highway 101 on the coast run north and south through several counties. Some communities have no direct east/west access. Several are large but most land is owned by one level of government or another. Most communities are small. Timber cutting/processing is big. But – because of limited access to those government trees and given today’s sluggish economy worldwide – unemployment is high and the standard of living for many is pretty low. The economic importance of commercial fishing is not near what it used to be and likely won’t ever be again.

Population in several counties is older than typical. Several regional Vet’s Administration hospitals account for a lot of that. Retirement, too. Not much here to keep lots of young folks. So, with many older people on fixed incomes – and without the usual liberalism balance of youth – politics hereabouts is very conservative. From right-of-center to edge-of-earth. Seceding from Oregon is not uncommon talk in our neighborhood.

A lot or our county commissions, city councils, boards and the like often have people who’ve served 10-20-30 years or more. Because of that – and the fact our county-city populations are mostly small, the folks that serve and folks that elect often have close relationships. Which – in some ways – has added to our problems.

Example: a multi-county electric cooperative nearby had a member who had been on the board more than 40 years. The co-op board prided itself on almost never raising electric rates, regardless of increases in costs of power it bought. It just didn’t pay all the bills each month. The situation got so out-of-hand the federal agency that loaned the millions for all the system improvements over the years demanded a new repayment plan. Now! Or the Bonneville plug gets pulled! Rate increases – sizeable rate increases – hit the mailboxes and restructuring of the board of directors soon followed.

Another problem. Several counties have been receiving sizeable federal checks annually for years. The millions are supposed to support schools and other services because (a) the feds own so much land here and (b) the feds don’t pay taxes. So “in lieu” monies were paid under a special program – a program that’s now going away. Most everyone knew it would.

So – in the midst of our national economic troubles – these counties have been hit double. The hurting has begun. But only begun.

Our little burg is a one example of the problem, even though details here are better than most. Consider this: every dime of property tax raised here goes for county law enforcement. Every dime. All other county expenses come from various fees, the state and other sources. Like those federal timber payments. The ones ending. Our commissioners created a savings fund several years ago and it has helped. But when it’s gone soon – then what?

For the last few months, the sheriff and some leading Republicans in Josephine County have been pushing hard for a small tax increase dedicated entirely to law enforcement. No increase, the sheriff said, and he’d have to reduce the number of jail prisoners from 90 to 30 and fire 70 deputies and staff. He’d have three contract deputies to patrol an entire county. No court security – no detectives – fewer prosecutors. A few weeks ago, voters said “NO INCREASE” at the polls by a large margin. The pink slips have gone out. Property and other “minor” crime lawbreakers are getting tickets and a pass. Permit applications for concealed weapons permits are skyrocketing. What now, Josephine County?
Lane County is hurting. Jail and court operations curtailed. Dozens of prisoners turned loose. Lane D.A. Alex Gardner says “”It’ll really be the Wild West here” meaning more lawbreakers on the street. Lane, Jackson and Coos Counties are cutting in all areas.

Curry County planned to go to voters for a local sales tax in a few months and had already told the State of Oregon it would go broke without it. But remember that consumer-surprise delayed electric rate story? And the vote in Josephine County? Curry has no savings account. In a county with a population of about 25,000 or so, who’s gonna pay? And how much? And now this. NEWS FLASH: In the primary election a few weeks back, the two commissioners who proposed the local tax vote earlier this year – just proposed a vote – were defeated in their primaries this month. Defeated badly!

It is no overstatement to say the conservative nature of politics in SW Oregon, the isolation, the end of a long-standing federal support program and local dependence on what are now more limited natural resources have combined in something of a “perfect storm.” And all of that is playing out around a sizeable population of people who live here just for that isolation and who want to be “off the radar.” They are not highly sociable – not joiners – not part of the folks who do the volunteer and other tasks necessary to make a community close. And they hate taxes of any kind!

Though sprouts of green are showing up in the nation’s economy, we’re hurting here in SW Oregon. A unique set of circumstances – combined with an isolationist mind-set of far too many folks – is creating more problems than solutions. I don’t hear a lot of “let’s-get-our-shoulders-to-the wheel-and-get-back-on-the-road” talk. We’re seeing more folks at local food distribution centers even though things may be getting better in Seattle and Omaha and Cleveland. Too many people who should be in jail around here are not. And some of the laid-off people responsible for putting them there are leaving.

If none of this applies to conditions where you are, I’m happy for you. But these are the conditions in our neighborhood. And it’s gonna get worse.

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Oregon Rainey

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A time-lapse image capture of construction of a new rail bridge across the Willamette. (Photo/capture from Tri-Met)

Last week, economic forecasts around the region showed a slight improvement – but just slight. In Idaho, some county jobless rates fall, but others rose.

Oregon state auditors say that school districts in the state have missed $40 million in energy cost savings. Washington State University researchers say they have come up with a new super battery. RealNetworks settled on a series of customer complaints with the state of Washington. Idaho legislators pushed for more potato sales access in Mexico.

The first fires of the season in Washington were reported. In Idaho, discussion flared about whether Idaho might be at risk of having to take more nuclear waste (the governor says not). Representative Doc Hastings had his say on a federal stormwater-logging rule. The Portland-Milwaukie light rail picked up some major federal financial support, while Metro worked on a new process on public engagement. A new transit center moved toward reality at Moscow.

All this and a lot more in this week’s Briefings. For more, write us at [email protected]

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Digests

Most years, the job of precinct committee person (each major party has them) flies quietly under the radar. In Idaho (and some other places), not this year.

Across Idaho, battles for precinct committee positions have erupted, reflecting an ideological struggle inside the Republican Party.

One of the problems Idaho Democrats long have had is the lack, in many places, of precinct leaders. These are important, basic, building-block positions for party organization, important for local organizing and choosing local party leaders, and sometime filling vacancies for offices like state legislator. In Idaho, the Republican Party long has outshone the Democrats in getting many more of those spots filled. (Neither party fills them all.)

Ordinarily, only one person runs for nearly all precinct committee spots, but this year Republicans had an unusually large number of contests, in places around the state. They became intense enough that I spotted something I’ve not seen before, in any year – a campaign web site devoted to one precinct, aimed at one political party. (It is Kootenai County precinct 61; the web writers describe it as “A resource for the republican party members of precinct 61.”

In Twin Falls County, the Republican Liberty Caucus ran a slew of challenges to often-veteran precinct officers, and won almost a third of the seats. The mainstream party leaders expressed relief that the challengers hadn’t won a majority, but they’d better not count on the fermet to ease off soon. Many races were competitive; one was decided by a coin flip.

Another coin flip came in Ada County, home to a large pile of contests, where Roger Brown, a Ron Paul activist, unseated governor’s aide Roger Brown. In another race, a party nominee for state legislator lost a precinct office. One of the most prominent Paul backers in the county, former legislative candidate Lucas Baumbach, was defeated. But Paul backers won more than a third of the precinct seats in the Ada County party organization, enough to have impact.

Overall, the Paul forces fell short of the statewide precinct numbers they would have needed for their more ambitious projects, like the attempt to shift Idaho national convention votes to Paul from Mitt Romney. (That one never felt like much of a starter.) In Bannock County, a county meeting projected by one veteran county party official, Jim Johnston, as “a bloodbath”, turned out sedate.

But getting even a third of the votes in a county organization has its uses. Here’s an indication how.

Kootenai County Republicans earlier this year asked Texas congressional candidate Richard Mack to speak to the party’s Lincoln Day dinner. After the invitation was made, 14 precinct committee members sent a letter to the local party leadership objecting to Mack, saying his “support of the Republican Party and Republican Party candidates is inconsistent, intermittent and questionable.” The battle raged for a while and went public. Eventually, the Mack invitation held up, he spoke, and the event was held without incident. Not without trepidation on Mack’s part: He told reporters he had never felt as unwelcome as he had before coming to Coeur d’Alene.

It doesn’t take a majority to create a civil war. Just ask the South.

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Idaho

Presidential candidates campaign, as such, during general election races in states where the votes are up for grabs – Virginia, or Florida, say, or Ohio. Not so much in Oregon, where both sides know the state is highly likely to vote for Democrat Barack Obama.

Still. You wonder if there may be a little bit of irritation about Republican Mitt Romney’s third visit to Oregon (upcoming June 4) not to campaign but, each time, to hold a fundraiser.

Blue Oregon notes, “And once again, he won’t actually be talking to any real voters — and won’t even be doing the sort of pro forma political stop that usually accompanies an ATM run. He’s not even going to go read stories to kids, or tour a factory floor, or anything.”

After a while, doesn’t it seem a little crass, even for a presidential campaign?

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Oregon

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Some may recall an ad for a brokerage firm a few years back. Folks would be talking and suddenly everything would go silent as everyone strained to hear what the man from E.F. Hutton was saying. The message was simple: when E.F. Hutton speaks, everyone listens.

Former four term Governor Cecil D. Andrus spoke this past weekend to the Idaho Conservation League’s annual retreat at Redfish Lake. He had two very pointed messages not just for the ICL, but for all the Idahoans as well as the states’ elected leadership.

Everyone should stop everything they are doing and listen. Nothing less than the future of Idaho as a viable, economically growing state is at stake.

Cece is 80 now, still sharp as a tack, but hard of hearing, has vision impairment in one eye (Not his shooting eye he’s quick to tell one), and manages other ailments that come with age. Gifted with energy as he is, inevitably the old clock starts to slow down, but his devotion to a state he loves and led during 14 years as governor compels him to speak out.

His first message was typically blunt. He told his friends at the ICL and Congressman Mike Simpson, who also spoke later, that it was time to quit fiddling around with trying to please everyone regarding the need to provide additional protection for the high peak areas of the Boulders and White Clouds to the east of Redfish Lake.

Andrus called on the ICL and Simpson to write President Barack Obama that just as Jimmy Carter had to do in Alaska, President Obama had to declare the Boulder/White Clouds a National Monument. Both Simpson and the ICL, who have worked so hard for so many years to obtain compromise wilderness legislation, had to support this step as the only way to overcome Senator Jim Risch’s “hold” on Simpson’s wilderness bill and galvanize the Congress into acting.

While complimentary of Simpson’s extraordinary efforts to achieve reasonable compromise, Andrus was critical of Senator Risch for bowing to the single issue interests of those who simply desire to take their snowmobile or ATV anywhere they want on public lands, damn the consequences.

Andrus’ second message was a clarion call on the ICL to make a new #1 priority out of protecting the great Snake Plain Aquifer from probable radioactive particle pollution, a happenstance which he called not only a threat to the future of Idaho agriculture but also to the state itself.

Holding a document presented in April by retired Admiral John Grossenbacher, director of the Idaho National Laboratory, to Governor Otter’s Leadership in Nuclear Energy (LINE) commission, Andrus called on the ICL to take the lead in opposition to the proposed changes in Idaho’s carefully negotiated 1995 agreement with the Department of Energy.

The INL power point asked that the state of Idaho let the DOE off the hook on its commitment to have calcined all liquid waste on-site by the end of this year. DoE is asking that a new agreement putting the date off to 2040 be accepted since they are barely started.

Additionally DOE wants to be able to receive 3000 metric tons of commercial spent fuel rods for “interim” storage, but no longer wants to be held to the 2035 date they told Governor Otter they would honor last year if he would accept a small amount of commercial spent fuel rods each year for the next 23 years for “research purposes.” Now they want a date of 2050 as the deadline for removal of these interim stored wastes.

All of this is being driven by the colossal failure of Yucca Mountain, Nevada, despite billions of invested dollars, to be developed as the nation’s ultimate repository site. Andrus correctly knows that if Idaho buys this pig in a poke it will not be interim storage but indeed Idaho will be the de facto permanent storage site.

And the idea of Idaho taking ownership of the plutonium let alone the INL site is complete lunacy given the potential liability.

In exchange for what, he asks? The answer though is no amount of money or jobs is worth risking the future of the state’s agriculture and the need to protect the state’s greatest source of water. Why risk the future given DOE’s long record of broken promises, he further asks.

Listen up, Idaho. Your greatest governor is telling you that you are about to be betrayed by your current political leadership and you won’t even get the Biblical 30 pieces of silver for the betrayal.

Chris Carlson is a writer and former press secretary for Governor Andrus. He lives in Medimont.

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Carlson Idaho

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

From time to time, seems to me the “correctness police” take things a step too far. A State of Oregon busybody group is the latest “correctness” over-reacher.” Specifically our Board of Education which has decided that – henceforth- our public schools may no longer have mascots, nicknames or logos that are Native American in nature.

The official “thinking” behind banishing all things Indian connected to Oregon schools is that somehow they’re “racist,” “shameful,” “dehumanizing.” Apparently some in the American Indian community feel that way. Equally apparent, some don’t. Also apparent, some don’t give a damn.

I’ve never attended an Oregon school with an athletic team or image that contributed to this official human “shame.” We were the Bend High Lava Bears and, frankly, we didn’t much care if a few bears in Central Oregon or elsewhere were bent out of shape about it. The notoriously bad play of our football team in my senior year would have created enough shame even if we were St. Catherine’s of the Cascades. Bummer.

But here in the “burg-in-the-woods” where I now live, the local high school must surrender to this “correctness” which means removal of all things Indian from buildings, uniforms, letterheads, football end zones, basketball courts and cheerleader outfits. All must be done because the Board of Education “correctness police” are watching. And if all “dehumanizing” accouterments aren’t gone in 60 months, state funding will be withheld!

Imagine, for a moment, your state legislature took a dislike to the name of your town for some “correctness” reason, and told your city council to rename your village posthaste or there would be no more state dollars come 2017. “BLACKMAIL,” the cry would go up. “FISCAL BLACKMAIL!” Schools, however, are expected to roll over and get their collective tummies scratched.

What makes it even more ridiculous is this. In the community of Oakridge, school athletic teams are called “Warriors.” And they’ll continue to be called “Warriors” because the “correctness police” have drawn a fine hypocritical line between that label and any other thing “Indian.”

Suppose you lived in the little Oregon town of Marcola where teens attend Mohawk High School? All of the identity there is “Mohawk!” What are you supposed to do?

Social “critics” abound in all societies. That’s what they do. Sometimes they even have something valid to offer. But there’s the occasional rant that goes too far. In my mind, this is one of them.

As a nation, we’re supposed to be a “melting pot.” Indian, Chinese, Polish, Jew, Mexican, Jew, Indian. Keeping the values of one’s ethnicity while sharing that value with others was a founding principle. Honor the heritage but become American. Be proud of your ancestry while becoming something more by sharing in the new identity.

Instead, we act like victims of ethnic division (read “correctness police”) and followers of those who would keep us apart. We’re a nation heralding our differences rather than honoring our oneness. Our unique sameness. While there can be abuses of someone’s heritage, 11 guys in football uniforms don’t seem to me to add up to that.

I’m a native westerner. With a good number of Indian relationships. I’ve been blessed by getting to know their uniqueness and have opportunities to share their pride. I even quote some of their history from time to time because – in many ways – their history is my history, too.

I know of no school – no athletic team – no community – which identifies with American Indian history that does so in a demeaning way. While I’m sure there are some Indian Americans who may feel so, none of my Native American acquaintance do. To have a governmental body like the State of Oregon Board of Education levy this type of societal censorship – backing it with a blackmail threat – is demeaning in itself.

Our little burg has many Indian residents. Lots of local folk are employed in various Indian businesses. One of our major employers is the confederation of tribes in their many businesses. Their culture is celebrated many times during the year in these parts. Huckleberrying. Fishing. Pow-wows. Hunting. We even gamble in their casino which is all decked out in an Indian theme. Where WERE the “correctness police?”
Try as I might, I haven’t been able to find anyone who believes our little high school with it’s “Indian” athletic teams is a source of societal complaint to a lot of people hereabouts. Indian or not.

What IS a source of complaining is a State Board of Education – listening to a minority of voices which seem to be outside the mainstream of community majority – acting as the “correctness police” and using an economic hammer to enforce a solution looking for a problem.

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Oregon Rainey

When Washington 1st District Representative Jay Inslee resigned to run for governor – in what looks like unfortunate timing – he set up a number of curiosities in his old district.

In November (and in the primary too), voters will have the oddity of being able to vote for two different people to represent the 1st – one for a “short term”, really short, just a month – and the other for the full two-year term. Candidates can run for both, since the terms are consecutive, not concurrent.

In one sense, why should they run for both? Here’s another oddity: The 1st district to be represented is different in the two elections. It was reapportioned, dramatically, with the boundaries moved much to the east, so that the new and the old district only overlap about half of the population. Campaigning may be a lot more complicated running in, in effect, two districts at once.

(Left: Current District 1; Right: New District 1/Daily Kos)

In the last few days, though – last week being filing week – there’s been quite a tussle about who runs in one or both. Word was that state Democratic Chair Dwight Pelz wanted his main candidates to run just for the full term, in what will be a very competitive new district, more closely competitive than the old Democratic-leaning one has been. But there’s been some pushback.

For one thing, John Koster, the presumptive Republican standard-bearer, is running in both – and there are good reasons. An article in Daily Kos points out one factor applying to all candidates in the races:

By running in two elections at once, FEC contribution limits are doubled, so donors who’ve already given the maximum amount allowed by law can be re-solicited. Burner was reportedly concerned that Koster, the Republican standard-bearer, would also jump into the special, giving him a financial leg up. Koster did ultimately wind up doing so, but it appears Burner made the first move—and that prompted most of the rest of the field to abrogate their agreement with Pelz and follow suit, lest they, too, wind up at a disadvantage.
The one holdout was, as I mentioned, Hobbs, who put out a press release hammering the other candidates for trying to “dodge federal campaign contribution laws.” It’s not clear why Hobbs didn’t follow the herd, though perhaps he thinks he’s got a good angle with voters by avoiding what he called “financial trickery and shifty politics.”

That would be Darcy Burner, who has run twice (unsuccessfully, but in close races) in the 8th district, part of which makes up the new 1st (but not the current 1st; see?). And legislator Steve Hobbs.

Of the seven candidates for the two-year term, just two – Hobbs and Independent Larry Ishmael – aren’t running as well for the month term. But, oddly, the short term has drawn a raft of candidates. They include one Independent (Bob Champion), eight Democrats (compared to five for the 2-year) and two Republicans.

The top-two primary will winnow the lists, of course, presumably to Koster and one of the Democrats. But working out the calculus beyond that has gotten a little harder.

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