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Posts published in April 2013

First Take: Zero TV, pot impairment

news

ZERO TV Not a totally local story, but this comment in the Seattle Times website was irresistible: "If cable companies would let us pick the few channels we DO want to have, instead of making us pay for loads of toilet bowl filler that we don't want, they'd have more subscribers." The article, originally in the Los Angeles Times, is about corporate concerns over the growing number of people cutting cable TV, and even broadcast, and using online steaming and other Internet sources for their viewing entertainment. (We do, almost entirely, in our household.)

POT IMPAIRMENT A possibly significant decision out of the Idaho Court of Appeals on a case involving a man who had consumed marijuana - at some point fairly recently - and was arrested on DUI, charged with under the influence of pot. His erratic driving doesn't seem to be at issue, but the cause of it was: He said that he has paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar disorder (sounds like a great guy to get out on the road in the first place), and there was no evidence he had ingested the pot recently, as in the last day or two. The pot-longevity question may be of some significance in places like Washington state, which are in the process of reviewing a number of laws in that area.

The armed ‘defense’

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

In a public display best called “neanderthal,” and “outrageous,” the NRA has stepped all over its own feet in the worst case of self-inflicted public relations injuries I’ve ever witnessed. It chose the wrong place to debut its latest “independent” gun safety B.S. and it did so with two dozen armed “body guards” for protection. From there, it went straight downhill.

The chosen site was the National Press Club in Washington D.C. I used to be a member and can assure you it’s one of the safest – and also most boring – places in D.C. For nearly 100 years, presidents, kings, prime ministers, celebrities and wannabee celebrities have used its podium to make statements profound and ridiculous. The NRA set a new low for ridiculous.
The occasion was to announce an “independent” committee’s findings and recommendations the NRA would “adopt” on gun safety. The committee was far from independent and the “findings” could have been published before its first meeting.

Chaired by former Congressman Asa Hutchinson (R-AR) the NRA tried to use his credibility as its own. In other words, the NRA bought and paid for that “credibility.” Hutchinson admits he was “hired” but won’t reveal his price. He picked his own “committee” which also was bought and paid for by the NRA. Again, Hutchinson won’t talk dollars. But there was nothing “independent” or “citizen volunteer” about it. No one connected to schools of any sort.

While the back-story of this NRA-front group was bad enough, the worst was how the NRA chose to publish the “findings.” Used to coming in the front door of the Press Club unfettered, reporters and crews were stopped by armed guards who conducted body and equipment searches. NRA guards. Some in private security uniforms; some not. But nearly two dozen of them and all “packing.” Reporters who would not submit were barred.
During Hutchinson’s presentation, he was flanked by armed guards. Others mixed with about 60 reporters and crews – shoulder and hip holsters bulging. When Hutchinson was finished, they circled him like the Secret Service and the proceedings were over. No more questions. No follow–ups. Hutchinson was hustled out. To “safety.”

To anyone reading this who feels this is just a case of the media getting its nose out of joint, go back and read it again. And again. And again. Until the weight of this demonstration of the perverse use of power sinks in. (more…)

More of the same

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
The Idaho
Column

As this year's Idaho legislative session cranked up in January, many observers noted two significant changes in it: An unusually large number of freshmen, and a new House speaker who, for the first time in decades, had ousted an incumbent who would still be in the chamber in the session ahead.

There was some suggestion that these things might be a big deal in the course of this year's session: New people, a new way of doing or looking at things.

That legislature adjourned just before noon on Thursday, a mid-length session. Now, looking in the rear view mirror, looking at the large picture, it seems reasonable to say: Eh, not so much.

That doesn't mean the commentary from a season ago was totally off base. In the Idaho Legislature, very little of real substance has changed in two decades, even while some (not all) of the names have, so people understandably get excited about anything new that does happen.

And it's not that the new freshman crowd and the new Speaker Scott Bedke have made no difference. Both certainly mattered in what may be the keynote event of the session, the passage of a health insurance exchange bill. A group of 16 freshmen may have provided the legislative lubricant to ease it through to a narrow win in the House, and Bedke may have made possible progress on the bill, period; it had died a year earlier under his predecessor, Lawerence Denney.

Bedke's administration of the House was widely touted as smoother, more efficient and less controversy-prone than Denney's. (There even seemed to be somewhat fewer “quotable quotes,” the kind that go viral nationwide, than in the last few sessions.) The Legislature's “climate” - emotional and temperamental – was said to have improved. People inside the building tend to notice and appreciate that sort of thing a lot more than people outside it. (more…)

Goodbye to a reliable friend

Menzel TOM
MENZEL

 
Washington
My Home

Last week I got the message that I had dreaded for months. I pretty much knew the day would come, but I didn’t think it would be so abrupt. We first met in the 1950s in the small Wisconsin town where I was born. I was just a kid looking for something to do when my neighborhood pals went home for dinner. For most active 8-year-olds, a minute of downtime can feel like an hour.

We were enthusiastically introduced by my parents, who somehow knew we’d get along. They were so right. Our relationship blossomed over the years – growing deeper as we spent more time together. Even in high school we kept in touch almost daily, despite all the distractions that could have easily pulled us apart. We continued our relationship non-stop almost every day for more than 50 years, even after I moved to Idaho, then later to Washington. After brief separations – for fishing trips, backpacking adventures or family commitments – I always scrambled to catch up so I wouldn’t feel left behind.

Monet
Monet reading

However, in recent years I knew things were changing. No matter how hard I tried, barriers were gradually building up between us. Then on Tuesday, April 2, the message suddenly popped up on my screen:

“Your free access has ended. Subscribe today for unlimited access!”

Yes, I had been freeloading on the Seattle Times for a couple of years. I was among those who stopped subscribing to the “dead tree” edition which had been delivered miraculously to my semi-rural home since moving to the Puget Sound in 2003. For the first time in my life I was reading a daily newspaper that wasn’t on paper. The Times was online. It was free. It was even updated with the latest news throughout the day. Unless I was incapable to part with tradition, I had no reason to pay $300 a year for my daily news fix.

But there it was – front and center on my screen when I tried to call up a story. “Time to pay up, pal!”

I had wondered why they waited so long, but I felt almost insulted when it happened. Pretty strange for a former newspaper editor who knows that it takes real money to run a newspaper. In my previous life, I pulled a salary (albeit not much of one) out of newspapers for 14 years – four at a daily in Wisconsin and 10 at the Idaho Statesman in Boise. Those were heady days for newspapers. Many were influential – some perhaps too powerful. And many owners were among the rich and famous.

Power and riches aside, I have always had great respect for the fourth estate – at least the responsible ones. Although I never worked at a major daily, I read the respected Milwaukee Journal as a kid (starting with the comics, of course) and discovered that I could write my way out of almost anything in high school. I then graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a journalism degree and proudly worked as a reporter, photographer and editor until I started my communications consulting business in 1986. I enjoyed the newsroom so much that I didn’t even notice when I spent 50 hours a week or more on the job, which I did regularly. (Why I left a career I loved is a whole different story.)

I’ve always been, and always will be, a news junky. Therefore, I’m a huge fan of C-SPAN, TVW (Washington’s excellent state public affairs television network), PBS NewsHour, NPR – any news program without Cialis ads. It was my fate. My grandfather owned the small but prosperous daily in my hometown. My mother wrote for the paper. My uncle was the editor for many years. And I delivered them every day, even in the middle of January blizzards. The news was as much a part of our family as a pet is to some.

So, of all people, I should be willing to pay for a good newspaper, right? A solid news operation needs cash to pay skilled reporters who take their work seriously and can write circles around 99 percent of the population; under-appreciated photographers who are some of the best on the planet; competent editors and newsroom managers who have to be disciplined and independent while knowing when to pull on the reins. They have to pay for (but probably not for much longer) massive rolls of paper by the ton, ink by the barrel, amazing machines that pound out thousands of papers 365 days a year without fail, and the skilled pressmen to run them (I even had the privilege of yelling “Stop the presses!” several times). Finally, every daily has to pay for a cumbersome system that delivers a bundle of news directly to our homes by an unheralded pack of young kids (and some adults) trying to make a few bucks. (more…)

Budget hearings

One of the changes in this year's Idaho legislative session from last was ... no public hearings on the budget. Last year, hundreds of people jammed hearings on budget settings. This year ... no hearings.

As to why no hearings this time, we'll leave aside. But it's worth quoting for a moment from a press release issued last week at the Oregon Legislature, which also is bearing down on budgeting.

Senator Richard Devlin (D-Tualatin) and Representative Peter Buckley (D-Ashland), co-chairs of the Legislature’s Joint Ways and Means Committee, announced today that the committee will hold six public hearings across the state to consider comments on the state budget.

The hearings will begin in Eugene and will include stops in Ashland, Bend, Hermiston, Portland, and Tillamook as well as a hearing at the State Capitol. Several of the meetings will offer live streaming of the meetings, and the Hermiston meeting will offer video conferencing so participants in other eastern Oregon locations can participate remotely.

Not getting our money’s worth

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Today’s word is “SEQUESTER.” The two most popular definitions are “to hide away” and “to take by authority.” I would propose a third: “a nationally crippling action – totally self-inflicted – taken by the most incompetent Congress to ever sit in Washington, D.C.”

We’re entering our second month of this sequester madness. Little by little, “we, the people” are feeling the pressures. Each day brings word of new restrictions or ending a government service or program. Each day, millions more citizens who can’t afford the loss are forced to do so. Each day, the collective members of Congress sit on their collective asses and do nothing.

Here we are – two months in – and the only time you hear the word “sequester” is when it’s attached to some news story describing another loss of the government services we’ve already paid for. That’s the ONLY time!

Think about it. In the last two weeks, for example, have you heard the word “sequester” used positively in a story describing how concerned our members of Congress are about the load they’ve thrown on the electorate? Us? Have you read a single story – just one – saying Democrats and Republicans are working feverishly to end the moronic fiscal madness their infighting has caused? I mean, of course, aside from elimination of public tours of the White House which has angered traveling GOP constituents.

I have not. From beltway media, we’ve heard about immigration, gun safety, phony budgets passed in one house that won’t even get to a vote in the other. We’ve heard blame, name-calling, descriptions of new Republican-backed abortion bills and the 35th attempt to kill Obamacare. We’ve witnessed spineless filibusters to block presidential appointees and legislation that should’ve been placed for an up-or-down vote. We’ve heard tea party-types and their ignorant rants and even heard Hispanics called “wetbacks.” All in the last three weeks.

But honest work to solve real problems their intransigence and bickering have cost millions of Americans? None! Action to end this madness that threatens our national security? None! And it’s getting worse. Each day.

Here’s a tiny example in our northwest neighborhood. In Idaho, four small airports are losing FAA controller staff. Sequester. Accompanied by yet another government lie. “Closing the tower (and 148 others) should have no effect on safety,” according to an FAA spokesman. Take it from a former pilot, that’s not true. When existing traffic control was instituted at those airports, the FAA justified it by saying new services would “improve safety.” Well, if it did that then, how would removal not affect safety now? Which is it?
Some airlines won’t fly into airports without traffic control. Stop flights and how many lodging, restaurant, rental car companies and others will soon feel it? How many minimum wage employees will be let go? How many will turn to state and county governments for assistance? And who pays those bills? (more…)

First take: Vancouver waterfront

news

VANCOUVER DEVELOPMENT This was in the Briefing last week but certainly merits another highlight: What might be the single most transformative building project now up in the Northwest. It is a waterfront building effort in Vancouver on the shore of the Columbia River, where old mill property once was. A region once cut off from downtown by road and rail ways, it's now poised to become a major adjunct to downtown, and maybe over time even the center of it. A very big deal, highlighted on the front page of the Oregonian today.

A lobbyist’s take on the session

Watts
 
Greater Pocatello Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Matt Hunter (left) chats with lobbyist John Watts at an Idaho Falls luncheon. (photo/Mark Mendiola)

 

mendiola MARK
MENDIOLA

 
Reports

John Watts, a partner at Veritas Advisors, has been lobbying Idaho legislators since 1983 on behalf of a wide range of clients.

When he addressed an Idaho Falls Mayor’s Business Day luncheon on April 2, two days before the Legislature adjourned, he said its 2013 session has been “truly uniquely different,” setting new precedents and breaking traditions.

The Boisean said 24-hour cable news, cell phones and social media like Facebook and Twitter were not in existence 30 years ago when he started his career as a lobbyist, but they have dramatically changed the way business is now conducted at the State Capitol.

Everyone at the Statehouse also is worrying about issues at the federal level that directly impact Idaho, Watts said. “Then, along comes redistricting,” which brought about a whole new set of legislative districts and a crop of 32 brand new legislators.

And, for the first time in his memory, a sitting speaker of the House was defeated for re-election, Watts said, referring to Scott Bedke’s defeat of fellow Republican Lawrence Denney for the top post, which Denney has held since 2006.

A Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee education bill was defeated on the floor of the Senate. Watts said he does not remember in 30 years a JFAC bill dying such a death. Usually, JFAC legislation is considered a given because representatives of both houses work together to draft it.

Six of 10 Senate chairmanships and seven of 14 House chairmanships are
held by new legislators, Watts noted. There also is a new minority leader in the Senate. “Sophomores are sitting as chairs,” he said.

Watts likened the Idaho Legislature to a business where one third of the work force is replaced and told to start work the next day with up to 60 percent of the managers brand new. This session also marked the first time it was mandatory for all legislators to undergo ethics training.

One of the longest debates in the Legislature’s history also happened this session, pertaining to establishing a state health insurance exchange in response to the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare” taking effect.

The controversial issue was debated for nine hours on the House floor and for seven hours in the Senate, ranking for length of time with when abortion was debated in the Legislature during the early 1990s, Watts said. Full hearings regarding the health care issue took nearly two full months, too. (more…)

Coeur’s shuck and jive

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

Pure unadulterated balderdash. Pure B.S. That's the only way to describe the baloney Coeur - the Precious Metals Company - is serving up as its excuse for relocating its corporate headquarters from Coeur d'Alene to Chicago later this year.

It's bad enough that most corporate Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) and Presidents are grossly overpaid by compliant boards, even when the CEO has failed miserably but is still given the proverbial golden parachute. When boards though give way and acquiesce to pure CEO vanity, shareholders ought to sue.

Make no mistake, folks, this move is an exercise in personal vanity by Coeur's president and chief executive officer, Mitchell Krebs. He and his wife both hail from the Chicago area and want to get closer to home.
So let's just pick up the corporate headquarters and move, ma!

What does it matter that 45 of their 65 employees will not be moving and will lose their jobs? After all, the company offered to relocate any one that wanted to keep their job by moving. Such a deal. So what then if a supportive community loses 45 good-paying jobs? And add 90 more secondary jobs (2 to 1 economic multiplier) for a total of 135 lost jobs.

So let's examine the proposed rationales. Chicago supposedly provides improved access to key stakeholders. Just what does that mean? Krebs can more frequently have lunch at a downtown club with a shareholder who if he really wanted to talk face-to-face could be in his corporate jet and in Coeur d'Alene within three hours?

More and easier access to your operations? Come again. Presumably he must mean commercial air access since Coeur does not have its own jet. To get to their Kensington Mine outside of Juneau one has to go through Seattle. Last time I checked Coeur d'Alene and Spokane's airports are closer than Chicago to Seattle.

Or their Chilean property. Best way to go is through Los Angeles. I think Spokane is closer than Chicago to LA's Airport.

Where the B.S. really starts to get thick is Krebs parroting Mayor Rahm Emanuel's propaganda about Chicago being a totally pro-business city.

Really? More so than Coeur d'Alene? Extremely doubtful. Chicago has one of the worst public school systems in the country. Chicago is very much a union town and make no mistake the historic patronage system is still alive and well.

Oh, but Coeur will also have access to a larger talent pool? Really? In this age of the internet that is doubtful. Besides, when mining companies go shopping for talent they tend to look where there are still vital schools of mines such as the Colorado School of Mines, or Montana Tech in Butte, or the University of Nevada at Reno or the University of Arizona.

Indeed, if one really did need to move for most of the trumped up reasons Krebs mentioned, most industry observers say that Phoenix or Denver would make much more sense. (more…)