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Posts published in September 2012

OR: Min wage pay raise for 128,000

From a release today by the Oregon Center for Public Policy.

About 128,000 Oregon workers are due for a raise, following today's announcement that Oregon's hourly minimum wage will go up 15 cents in 2013.

"A rise in the minimum wage is good news for workers and Oregon's economy," said Jason Gettel, policy analyst with the Oregon Center for Public Policy. "It helps the lowest-paid workers make ends meet, and helps the Oregon economy when the workers spend those extra dollars in local businesses."

Oregon's minimum wage will rise from $8.80 to $8.95 on January 1 of next year, the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) announced today. The adjustment, mandated by a ballot measure approved by voters in 2002, reflects the increase in the cost of living as defined by the August Consumer Price Index (CPI), which increased 1.7 percent from a year ago.

OCPP calculated that the increase means an additional $312 a year for a family with one full-time minimum wage worker.

According to OCPP, about 128,000 Oregon jobs -- about 1 out of every 13 jobs in the state -- will pay more due to the minimum wage increase set to take effect next year. That estimate comes from Oregon Employment Department analysis of Unemployment Insurance wage records showing the number of jobs paying less than $8.95 in the first quarter of 2012, the most recent data available.

The 128,000 estimate is probably low because jobs paying just above the minimum wage may also have wage increases, as employers adjust their overall pay structures to reflect the new minimum wage, Gettel said. (more…)

A look into Seattle school purchasing

From a Washington state auditor's release about an audit of Seattle Public Schools.

The Washington State Auditor concluded an investigation into Seattle Public Schools construction program small contracts from 2006 to 2009 and found a lack of employee oversight, operation outside normal accountability channels, failure of internal controls, and lack of an adequate means for employees to raise their concerns.

The District asked the State Auditor last fall to conduct an investigation after the King County Prosecutor’s office advised the District of additional potential illegal activity by a former employee. District adopted corrective measures to address the issues in this new report, so no new procedures or corrective measures will need to be adopted as a result of this review

“The School District asked the State Auditor’s Office for this investigation, and we respect the findings,” said Sherry Carr, School Board Director of Chair of the Audit and Finance Committee. “In the past 18 months, the School Board has worked hard to strengthen internal controls and oversight. Through governance measures and partnerships, we are raising the bar with respect to ethical behavior at the District and are creating strong checks and balances for accounting.

In the summer of 2010, SPS asked the Washington State Auditor to investigate issues surrounding the Regional Small Business Development Program. The District paid for that investigation, which resulted in audit findings released in the State Auditor’s Office Special Investigation Report on Feb. 23, 2011. The School Board also asked for an independent investigation, and that report by Patricia Eakes was released on Feb. 25, 2011.

The original investigation was primarily focused on the Regional Small Business Development Program itself and the recruiters and trainers and did not examine the small construction contracts prior to 2009. Once it became apparent that there may have been issues with the construction contracts, the District asked for a second investigation. This second investigation focused on small works construction contracts – those contracts that do not exceed $200,000 - issued from 2006 to 2009.

The Regional Small Business Development Program was eliminated in Spring 2010. All of the management leaders to whom former employee Silas Potter reported are no longer employed by Seattle Public Schools.

Rainey: Diplomacy saves lies, ignorance kills

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

From poorly-informed presidential candidates to bar flies an hour before “last call,” voices are heaping ill-deserved criticism on the Obama folks for the fires and murders in the Middle East. A lot of ignorance is showing.
Shortly after Eve and Adam lost their lease on the Garden for lying, son number one killed son number two and the Middle East has been carrying on the murderous tradition since that time. If it’s not one of them killing the other, it’s one of them killing somebody living somewhere else. Or killing the damned fools from outside who think they can bring “lasting peace” to countries that have never known it.

And for those who think some terribly produced, short hate film made in California directed at Muslims is at the bottom of the current binge, tain’t so, McGee. In nearly every instance of violence there is ample evidence this is terrorist-sponsored. What may have started as legitimate outrage – in the eyes of a very few Muslims over deliberate mocking of their religion – has been quickly turned into nationalist outrage sponsored by those who’ve been sitting in the bushes just waiting for the right fuse to light.

Little groups of haters of this-that-and-all-other-things Western long ago learned how to manipulate large crowds with just a few well-placed voices. They can take an argument between two used camel dealers and turn it into a building-burning horde in 10 minutes. It’s masterful crowd control in the wrong hands. It also goes back centuries.

Evidence of this is plentiful. Black flags of the hate groups hoisted or waived conspicuously in protests across North African countries. Local Taliban or other anti-western groups identified prominently in crowds and taking credit on the I-Net while urging more people into the streets. Some of the participants – in more countries than Libya – showing up with grenade launchers and automatic weapons. Some religiously pissed Muslim locals showing off for the cameras? I don’t think so.

The previous administration got us into two “wars of choice” in the Middle East. The current folks are trying to get us out and have already pulled the plug on one of them. But neither president – and none before them – could have cured the anti-American fever. It’s just the latest outbreak of the continuing sickness that is directed at all things not Western. And a few things that are Muslim but not the kind that’s “pure” enough. (more…)

Carlson: Indices to follow

carlson
Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

As the contest for the Presidency begins here is a list of “keys to the outcome”:

1) The 80/40 rule. This refers to the President’s standing among minority voters. As long as he maintains above 80 percent of the minority vote (which he is doing), Mitt Romney has to garner over 60 percent of the total white vote. Ronald Reagan came close in his re-election campaign, but not even the Gipper beat the 60 percent mark. On the other hand, it will be difficult for the President to maintain above 80 percent of the minority vote.

2) Where are independent women going? The independent female vote is especially critical for both candidates. Republicans are betting economic concerns will drive their vote. Democrats bet the social issue of access to abortions, especially in cases of rape, incest, or life of the mother, will drive this vote. It is noteworthy that Romney, once the nomination was secured, tilted back to his historic position of sanctioning abortion in cases of rape, incest, or the health of the mother.

Hard core, pure pro-life conservatives will swallow their displeasure and still support Romney given the President’s incredibly liberal stance on this issue.

Both party’s made a good pitch for women through strong presentations first from Ann Romney and then from Michelle Obama. Polling results gave the nod to the First Lady for doing the better job of humanizing their spouse----but both did well by their man. The question is who will women identify most with? The betting is with Michelle, not Ann. (more…)

Nate’s story

Dennis Mansfield, best known around Idaho for his conservative politics, has been powerfully affected over the last dozen years or so by a specific person in his life - his son, Nate. That personal story briefly emerged in 2000 when Mansfield was running for Congress and Nate faced criminal charges over drug use. About three years ago, Nate died of a drug overdonse, and Mansfield was - well, it affected him as any parent would be.

He has written a book on the subject, Beautiful Nate: A Memoir of a Family's Love, a Life Lost, and Eternal Promises, published by Simon and Schuster.

The Amazon description says, "Though Dennis and Susan turned their attention to helping drug addicts and their families, they were powerless to stop the death of their own son in 2009 at the age of twenty-seven. Beautiful Nate lucidly recounts these difficult years while painting a picture of what did and did not work in raising a child within the evangelical framework. Rather than lose faith in the God he trusted, Dennis eventually found new joy and purpose—with a much more compassionate and realistic view of the role parents play and the guidelines they follow."

Haven't read it yet. It promises to be a compelling read.

CORRECTED to reflect the cause of Nate's death.

A down cycle

idahocolumnn

This election year, hot nationally, is a down cycle for Idaho.

Politically, that is, in a way that has nothing to do with specific parties or candidates. This is a year when relatively little on the state level is on the ballot - no governor (or other statewides) or senator.

It happens once every 12 years, every third presidential election. The last low cycle was in 2000, before that 1988, before that 1976. Sort of a political Halley's comet effect.

That usually means a subtly lower level of energy, and lower level of attention from outside; national people, political, journalistic and money types, are interested in a state first if it's a presidential battleground (as Idaho clearly is not) and secondly if it has a strong Senate or gubernatorial race up. After that, attention usually shifts to other states. Oregon, which is in a near-down cycle this year (no governor or Senate, but a few statewides) is in a similar position. Washington, with a runaway Senate race but a very hot contest for governor, gets more national interest.

This can matter, because the outside influence has effects on races down below. Contact nationally is diminished a little. Campaigns are sometimes a little smaller and less noisy, budgets sometimes (not always) a little lower. In-state attention to the campaigns often seems to be down, just a little.

Does this translate to a partisan benefit for anyone? Generally, doesn't seem so, at least based on past cycles. And that has been more or less the case in the last few down cycles.

In 2000, Republican dominance established in most of the previous decade was quietly maintained. That year, Republicans gained three legislative seats, which was the average change over the course of the three previous cycles. The first district U.S. House race was interesting because then-Representative Helen Chenoweth-Hage was opting out, and Republicans had an energetic primary contest. But the November general election was an easy win for now-Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter.

In 1988, remembered now as a relatively good Democratic year in Idaho, the numbers actually show something of a holding pattern. There was no partisan legislative seat change at all, and very easy re-elects for both U.S. Representatives, Republican Larry Craig and Democrat Richard Stallings.

In 1976, there was a gain of five Republican legislative seats, which balanced an eight-seat gain by Democrats in 1974 with a 10-seat gain by Republicans in 1972. (Seats tended to shift around a little more in those days.)

This year, there's little expectation in Idaho that the November results will leave very great difference in the state's elective offices, either the U.S. House or legislature, more likely a continuation of existing trend lines.

Of course, the presidential election this year might give down-ballot Republicans some boost. That might be countered, in a few legislative races, by competitive races in districts where Democrats ran reasonably strong but lost in the Republican wave year of 2010.

But if this isn't one of those years when political attention flows Idaho's way, there's some reason for that.

Peterson: The case for Barnes

carlson
Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Editor’s Note: This week’s Carlson Chronicle is a guest column by former U of Idaho assistant for government affairs, Marty Peterson, who states the case that the better nominee for “Lioness of Idaho” would be the late Senator Frank Church’s chief of staff, Verda Barnes, who grew up in St. Anthony. Marty currently is the acting executive director for the McClure Center for Public Policy in Moscow. A former executive director of the Association of Idaho Cities, he also served on the staffs of Idaho Governors Cecil Andrus and John Evans, as well as on the staff of the late Senator Church.

Few, if any, readers of this column will have heard of Verda Barnes. That would have pleased her. If she were alive and knew I was writing this, she would have insisted I not. Over a span of four decades, the impact of Verda Barnes’ work was felt by Idahoans throughout the state and few were aware that she even existed.

She was born in Willard, Utah, in 1907 and moved with her family to a farm near St. Anthony, Idaho, the next year. After graduating from high school, she attended Albion Normal School and then Brigham Young University. She was married briefly in the early 1930s and had a daughter. As a single parent, she spent much of the 1930s living in Boise. With the repeal of prohibition, she became the first director of the newly formed Idaho Liquor Commission. Governor C. Ben Ross assumed that by hiring someone from a well-placed Mormon family, she would be above reproach.

In the days before form letters were common, she received a letter from James Farley, the Postmaster General and chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Farley had managed Franklin Roosevelt’s first two presidential campaigns and was widely viewed as being responsible for his political ascendancy. Farley sent out a national mailing challenging people to become a part of Roosevelt’s New Deal. Barnes, assuming it was a one-of-a-kind letter sent to her personally, took up the challenge and, with her young daughter, moved to Washington, D.C. She quickly became involved with organized labor, working with such groups as the Amalgamated Clothing Workers and the CIO as a political organizer. Then she went to work for the Department of Interior as an assistant to Secretary Harold Ickes, and to the newly formed Securities and Exchange Commission, where she worked with William O. Douglas, who later became a Supreme Court Justice. This was also a time when she began compiling what would become a legendary list of influential personal contacts throughout the federal government and in numerous non-governmental organizations. (more…)

Environmental extremism

idahocolumnn

In Idaho politics, the word “environmentalist” is almost always preceded with the adjective “extreme” - in Gem State political verbiage, there seems to be no other kind.

But in the terms of that narrative, consider two of the most significant Idaho news stories from last week, both very much about environmental concerns.

One, a subject of hot Panhandle discussion for many years, is the Coeur d’Alene River Basin cleanup, a federal-based (Environmental Protection Agency) action ongoing since the 80’s. For all the dispute, there’s been little disagreement on the existence of the problem, contamination from decades of mining in the Silver Valley. The EPA describes its effort simply: “The cleanup is part of a continuing effort to reduce risks to people's health and the environment from heavy metals.”

The work has come in phases and parts, and it has been imperfect. For a large area around the Coeur d’Alene River’s south fork and the Bunker Hill mine area, a “record of decision” was released in 2002. There were complaints and comments, a lot of them, about 6,700. These have had effect: “In response to widespread public request, EPA has changed the scope of the RODA. The cleanup’s cost has been reduced by nearly half, to about $635 million. The cleanup’s projected time frame has been reduced to about 30 years. In response to public concern about the cost of the cleanup and technical challenges, EPA removed construction of a river liner from the cleanup plan. This reduced the cost of the plan by nearly $300 million. To address contamination seeping into the river in the Osburn and Kellogg areas, we will instead collect and treat groundwater from those areas. Many public comments asked EPA to reduce the number of mine and mill sites slated for cleanup. EPA agrees that it makes sense to focus on the highest priority sites with the greatest potential impact on water quality. EPA has reduced the number of sites to be cleaned up from 345 to 145.”

For all of the EPA’s local reputation as opaque, unreachable, un-knowable and bureaucratic, it appears to have been moved quite a bit.

The other Idaho environmental news last week concerned a mining operation proposed for the Boise Basin area near Idaho City, an area that has seen plenty of mining over the years.

Mosquito Gold, a mining firm from Canada, has proposed in the CuMo Exploration Project to mine for molybdenum in the area (political junkies may remember the fight over another proposed moly mine in central Idaho 40 years ago), building about 10 miles of roads and sinking hundreds of drill holes around the Boise River headwaters. That would be only the beginning of what might transform a large ad beautiful backwoods area. The Idaho Conservation League described it (in terms similar to those seen elsewhere): “This drilling project is the next step toward constructing what the company hopes will be one of the largest open pit molybdenum mines in the world.” The U.S. Forest Service gave its okay.
Is opposition to a massive open-pit mine necessarily extremist? At least under present terms, Federal District Judge Edward Lodge, no riotous liberal, appeared not to think so. In last week’s decision, he said that the Forest Service’s approval was arbitrary and capricious and that at the least, study and analysis of groundwater in the area is needed.

Maybe some review is needed to consider what’s extreme, and what isn’t.