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Posts published in September 2012

Pushing Pocatello retail

mendiola
Mark Mendiola
Eastern Idaho

Donald Zebe’s name isn’t exactly a household word in Bannock County, but it’s safe to say no single individual has done more to transform Pocatello’s previously lackluster retail market into a much more competitive, enticing place to shop by attracting large, well-recognized chain stores and restaurants to town.

Zebe – a Coldwell Banker retail leasing and commercial land specialist – was the driving force behind Pocatello Town Square, a 67-acre development southeast of Interstate 86’s Chubbuck interchange that boasts Lowe’s Home Improvement, Staples, Texas Roadhouse, Ross Dress for Less, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Ashley Furniture, Buffalo Wild Wings and Bed, Bath & Beyond as major occupants.

Another company, which Zebe declined to identify, has signed a letter of intent to open a restaurant next to Buffalo Wild Wings.

Zebe was involved to a lesser degree in getting Costco to locate its $17.5 million mega discount warehouse in the Gate City, working with Costco officials as early as 2003 to put it at Pocatello Town Square, but there wasn’t enough land there to suit their needs. He anticipates another Costco locating in the Idaho Falls/Rexburg area.

Among the many smaller ventures that he has succeeded in securing for the Pocatello/Chubbuck area are Ruby Tuesday, D.L. Evans Bank, Pita Pit, Jack in the Box, Walgreens, Del Taco, AT&T/Edge Wireless, Pizza Pie Cafe and Batteries Plus.

His latest ambitious project is Yellowstone Commons, another 67-acre retail development northwest of the Chubbuck interchange where Sherwin Williams has opened a large new paint store and Idaho Central Credit Union is constructing a new branch office along Yellowstone Avenue. Its size is large enough to potentially contain the likes of Target, Kohl’s, Best Buy and even a Wal-Mart. (more…)

No, it’s not in Spain

Stuff like this gets so strange you'd say, in the turn of phrase, you couldn't make it up. Except that someone, somewhere has.

This instance: The start of a rumor that President Obama has contracted with a company in Spain to count American votes there.

Where does this come from? It's so far from planet earth as to almost, but not quite, defy imagination.

The federal government doesn't count votes: Local entities, mainly counties, do. States over see. The feds may get involved in allegations of corruption, but that would be after the fact.

There is an amusing sidelight to this in Idaho, though. There, Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, asked about it by a reporter: "I just chuckled and said, 'Well, the Basques have been counting 'em for years — ever since Pete came in.'" A reference of course to the fact that Ysursa and his predecessor Pete Cenarrusa, who between them have held the secretary of state's office (which oversees but does not conduct elections) since 1967.

All you can do is laugh it off.

ID jobless: Declining rates, higher numbers

carlson
NW Reading

Here's an example of why looking at a single economic statistic doesn't often tell the whole story. From the Idaho Department of Labor:

Fewer people seeking available jobs was enough to nudge Idaho’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate down a tenth of a percentage point to 7.4 percent in August.

The loss of 2,600 workers from the state’s labor force – the first July-August decline since 1980 - offset an increase in hiring by Idaho employers at a rate just above their recession-era average,

August’s jobless rate was the lowest in over three years, but it was also the third straight month Idaho’s labor force has contracted. The loss of more than 5,500 from the workforce through the summer – the largest three-month exodus of workers on record – left the labor force at its lowest level since January.

Nearly 1,100 fewer people were working in August than July, the second straight month employment has dropped after rising steadily for the previous year, and almost 1,600 more workers left the ranks of the jobless, dropping the number of officially unemployed Idaho workers to just over 57,000.

Although the national unemployment rate dropped two-tenths of a point to 8.1 percent, Idaho’s one-tenth reduction keeps the state rate below the national rate for 11 years.

Nonfarm jobs, which account for over 90 percent of Idaho’s employment, continued to run 1.1 percent ahead of a year earlier and were up a third of a percentage point from July to August, reflecting the persisting, albeit slow, recovery from the recession. While the state’s service sector is approaching pre-recession job levels, the production side of Idaho’s economy remains at 1993 levels. More than 1,000 manufacturing workers were idled in primarily seasonal food processing layoffs during the month.

Still, there were 17,000 more people working in Idaho in August than a year earlier and 11,000 fewer unemployed. In the past 13 months, the jobless rate has dropped from a recession high of 8.9 percent to 7.4 percent. Only five other states – Michigan, Ohio, Florida, Nevada and Mississippi – have posted greater declines.

The state’s declining labor force has played a role in driving Idaho’s jobless rate lower in recent months, but employers may be picking up their hiring. Businesses report hiring 18,400 workers in August - most to replace workers who retired, were fired, found other jobs or left for some other reason - matching the average August new hires during the economic expansion from 2003 through 2007.

For the second month in a row, the Conference Board, a Washington, D.C. business think tank, estimated fewer than five unemployed workers for every two job openings posted in Idaho, the lowest ratio since late 2008. At the peak of the recession in late 2009, there were nine unemployed workers for every two job openings posted in the state.

Attention, Fox News junkies

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

You. Fox News viewer. You who no longer get your “news” anywhere else. You folks who call yourselves true Republican “conservatives.” Listen up. Listen carefully. This is just for you.
IT’S NOT YOUR NEWS ANYMORE! Faux News is no longer reporting the “news” for true Republican “conservatives.” None. Zip. Nada.

This is not my message. It’s actually from Frank Rich of New York Magazine - a man made of much sterner stuff than I. Frank Rich – a most respected journalist for many a year – did something few of us with little patience for the phony faux-journalistic outpourings of Rupert Murdoch’s little Republican talking points factory could ever do.

Frank Rich immersed himself in seven days of nothing but right wing media – written and broadcast. He read and listened to everything he could find to the exclusion of normally accepted newspapers and broadcasters. Even the I-Net. From responsible conservatives like George Will and David Brooks to the flatulent Rush and others further out there who believe “true conservatives” use only tinfoil as a head cover. He spent an entire week buried in a range media output from solid information to fearful paranoia.

And you know what he learned? The one overriding insight he gained from such mental depravity? Listen up, Fox believer.

Frank Rich learned Faux News is not broadcasting “true conservative stories,” not dealing with “true conservative facts” and seems to be ignoring the real issues of concern to real conservatives.
Rich found denizens of the conservative forest are talking to others in the trees about massive federal debt and how to reduce it – their desires for real immigration reform – putting some Wall Street types in jail for nearly sinking our national economy – beefing up the military – gaining control of state governments – and other issues seldom found on Fox in any detail.

Most of all, the folks out there aren’t talking much about Mitt Romney. Rich found sizeable evidence “true conservatives” have written off Romney and are looking for more information about this year’s congressional and state races. They’ve conceded the next four years to Obama and want to find someone better than Romney to get behind in 2016. They want that search to start – today.
If your digestive system will handle it, settle down in front of your TV for a couple of hours with Fox. A good sour mash whiskey helps. Listen to the verbal chaff from the talking hand puppets. Make a list of what they’re chatting about, who they’re talking about and how many times you hear the name “ Romney.” (more…)

It’s this smoky in eastern Washington

carlson
NW Reading

How smoky is it in eastern Washington? Very, the Department of Ecology said today in this statement.

Smoke is filling up the low-lying areas of Eastern Washington with weather patterns keeping a lid on most of the region with no relief in sight, according to the Washington Department of Ecology.

"Unfortunately, areas around Wenatchee remain in the worst shape," said Sean Hopkins, Ecology air quality specialist in Yakima. "At the same time, other areas are experiencing unhealthy air anywhere smoke lingers from the hundreds of wildfires that are burning."

Specifically, Ecology and Forest Service air-quality monitors in Chelan County are reading in the hazardous and unhealthy ranges. Poorer conditions are trending in the Quincy area and conditions could worsen around Spokane, Pullman and Clarkston.

Monitor measurements in Ellensburg are in the unhealthy range, but is trending better than earlier hazardous readings. Cle Elum readings by the Forest Service are moderate, showing some improvement.

All residents in the Wenatchee area should stay indoors and curtail their physical activities both indoors and out. Doors and windows should remain closed. In the remainder of the Yakima and Columbia basins common sense precautions should be taken by everyone, but sensitive groups -- such as children, the elderly and heart patients -- are particularly vulnerable.

The biggest health threat comes from the fine particles in smoke. These can cause burning eyes, runny nose, bronchitis and other illnesses. Smoky air also can aggravate pre-existing heart and lung diseases, and even lead to death.

Follow air quality online at the Washington Department of Ecology wildfire/smoke Web page: Go to Ecology's home page at http://www.ecy.wa.gov/ and click on "Wildfire smoke updates" on the right side under "Spotlight."

OR poverty rises again

carlson
NW Reading

From a statement by the Oregon Center for Public Policy released today.

Poverty in Oregon increased yet again last year, and poverty levels are particularly alarming among children and communities of color. It's time for Governor Kitzhaber and state lawmakers to develop a plan to reduce poverty.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported that the share of Oregonians living in poverty increased to 17.5 percent in 2011 -- up from 15.8 percent in 2010 and 12.9 percent in 2007, prior to the start of the recession.

Child poverty increased as well. Last year 23.6 percent of children in Oregon (almost 1 in 4) lived in poverty. This was up from 21.6 percent in 2010 and 16.9 percent in 2007.

Poverty levels are worse for communities of color compared to non-Hispanic whites. In 2011, the poverty rate for non-Hispanic whites in Oregon was 14.8 percent (1 in 7). By contrast, the poverty rate was 19.2 percent (1 in 5) for Asians, almost 1 in 3 for African Americans (29.7 percent), Native Americans (29.8 percent) and Latinos (29.8 percent), and more than 1 in 3 (36.2 percent) for Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders.

The rise in poverty has a direct and immediate cost to Oregon. Last year about 662,000 Oregonians were living in poverty -- 66,000 more than the year before. The increase in the total number of people in poverty adds to the demand for public services.

The lioness

carlson
Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Since the first “Lion of Idaho,” William E. Borah, was an elected United States senator (1907-1940), a case can be made that any aspirant to the title “Lioness of Idaho” also has to have been elected to public office.

If so, the clear winner is the first woman to serve Idaho in the Congress, five term congresswoman Gracie Pfost (pronounced “post”) who represented the First District from 1953 to 1963. The mere fact she could win and then hold the office through four re-elections in and of itself during the 1950’s, when very few women were being elected to anything, speaks volumes for her talent and tenacity.

She accomplished the feat in the face of tough opposition as well. Because of her relentless support for a public owned and operated single high dam in Hells Canyon, the media referred to her as “Hell’s Belle.” She believed strongly in public power, which put her at immediate odds with two powerful Idaho interests, the Idaho Power Company and Spokane’s Washington Water Power.

Both firms supported three smaller dams in Hells Canyon to be owned by Idaho Power. The ensuing acrimonious debate lasted a decade. She ended up being outmaneuvered and lost a key vote in the Interior and Insular affairs subcommittee in the late 50’s. Thus today one sees Brownlee, Oxbow and Hells Canyon dams on the Snake, but fortunately no High Mountain Sheep dam.

In 1962, hoping the Senate would be a better venue, Gracie gave up her safe House seat to run for the Senate seat vacated by the death of Henry Dworshak. She lost a close race (51% to 49%) to former Governor Len B. Jordan, a supporter of private power and its three smaller dams approach.

Legendary Washington, D.C., Democratic operator Robert Strauss once famously said “every politician wants you to think they were born in a log cabin they built themselves. . .” In the case of Gracie, however, it was almost true.

Biographical sketches all note she was born in a log cabin in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas in 1906. The family moved to Idaho in 1911 where she attended school until 16, quitting to take a job at Carnation Milk in Nampa. There she met and married her supervisor, Jack Pfost, who became her life-long political partner.

In 1929, she graduated from Link’s School of Business in Boise which led to temporary work in the Canyon County Clerk’s office that soon turned into a permanent job. From there she jumped into local county politics and for the next decade served as Canyon County clerk, auditor and recorder. In 1941 she was elected Canyon County treasurer and served another decade. (more…)

Smoky days

smoke

Pulling together the weather report this afternoon for the Weekly Digests I was struck by how the weather in so many places around the Northwest is dominated by smoke from wildfires.

Not west of the Cascades - it did not figure in any of those weather reports.

But in the National Weather Service reports (which I use), the weather reports for the Boise, Idaho Falls and Pocatello areas were dominated by their image you see on this post, signalling heavy smoke. Likewise Yakima, Bend the Ketchum/Sun Valley area, and Lewiston. Idaho seems much the hardest hit overall, with eastern Washington seeing some severe spots.

How’d he get so far, to be so wrong?

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

I’ve recently been told by good authority my life’s work has failed. Come up short. Things I’d striven for and achieved for family and loved ones are apparently overvalued in my own mind. Wanting nothing more than to be a bill-paying, flag-loving, family-values, church-going member of America’s highly valued middle class, I’m told now I’m not middle class. In reality, my loved ones and I are below the poverty line and are part of the nation’s growing needy.

Damn, where have I failed? How could I have been so foolish as to believe I’d achieved modest successes that have given me what appear now to have been false senses of accomplishment and worth? How could I have lived so long with the feelings I’d met my responsibilities and even exceeded some when, actually, I’d never risen even to that vaunted American middle class?

I’ve been drenched with the cold water of reality. My eyes should have been opened to all this before. I could have wound up buried on the downside of the flowers in potter’s field and not known. We’re all much better for this new, more accurate view of our real place on the economic food chain..
It came unexpectedly. It came at the hands of George Stephanopoulos – that finder of all things factual – that national distributor of reality in American life – that funny little former Clinton staffer on ABC Television. Him.

He was talking to – yea, grilling in his own Greek way – that paragon of America’s economic success to whom truth, vision and infinite perspective have been given – Mitt Romney. Mitt – the entire Republican Party’s official nominee for the office of President of the United States no less.

They were earnestly discussing a subject close to my heart all these decades. And this was to be the defining moment. The moment when all of life’s work would be substantiated by someone really successful. A voice to validate from his lofty economic perch the hard work of all of us who’ve spent a lifetime in the trenches – to give a realistic sense of middle class accomplishment for those of us who’ve been striving just to have a garage of our own – much less one with an two-car elevator.

Breathlessly, I listened as Mitt said “No one can say my (tax) plan is going to raise taxes on middle-income people because principle number one is to keep the burden down on middle-income taxpayers.”

“HOORAY,” I shouted! “HOORAY for Mitt. He understands America’s middle class. He’ll take the necessary steps to protect us. In his heart, he knows feelings of lifetime accomplishment and wants to protect me. Me!”

But George wasn’t satisfied. He wanted more. He wanted the truth!

“Is $100,000 middle-income?”

There was calm. Absolute calm. Then, with an air of someone who’s been enormously successful and a tone of voice just hinting at the warmth of a banker’s heart, Mitt replied “No, middle-income is $200,000 to $250,000.”

That did it! My heart sank. A sense of misplaced accomplishment drained from my elderly body. I had just found out I was not middle class at all. That, in reality, after a life of striving and sacrifice, I was below the poverty line. Oh, what have I done? Where did I go wrong?

Suddenly, it all came crashing back. Just as Mitt had said. I had NOT asked my parents for college money. I had NOT thought of General Motors and other corporations as “people.” My wife did NOT have “a couple of Cadillac’s” like other wives. We did NOT have four homes. I did NOT put my money in foreign banks. At least I don’t think so. (more…)