Writings and observations


Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Boise Elevated, a new business group (Boise Statesman)
Idaho gas prices above average (Nampa Press Tribune)
Sawtooth Society speaks on monument plan (TF Times News)
Avalanche warning at Sun Valley (TF Times News)

Amtrak train stopping at Albany (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Eugene city council debates climate change (Eugene Register Guard)
UO increases recruitment efforts (Eugene Register Guard)
Alex’s Plaza closes (Ashland Tidings)
Packwood on Wyden’s challenge (Portland Oregonian)
Ill tidings for CRC in Olympia (Portland Oregonian)
Plans for burned downtown Salem tract (Salem Statesman Journal)

Snohomish v Pierce for 777X work (Everett Herald)
Legislative session opens (Kennewick TriCity Herald, Port Angeles News)
Yakamas want to ban pot in some area (Kennewock TriCity Herald)
West Main realignment stressing businesses (Port Angeles News)
Port of Vancouver in oil legal case (Port Angeles News)
Yakima labor fight at Supreme Court (Seattle Times, Vancouver Columbian)
Interim Seattle police chief plans (Seattle Times)
University Road overpass rejected (Spokane Spokesman)
Pierce County prosecutor won’t handle pot lawsuits (Tacoma News Tribune)
Clark County property tax increases (Vancouver Columbian)
Republican plan moves public employees to 401k (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take


Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Strangers find a plane (Boise Statesman)
Washington legislative session begins (Lewiston Tribune)
Washington’s Fagan would change sexual prdator law (Lewiston Tribune)
Dangerous Highway 55 (Nampa Press Tribune)
Extreme drought possible (Nampa Press Tribune)
Online Canyon College hit by state (Nampa Press Tribune)
Malad post office robbery a hoax (Pocatello Journal)
Idaho legislative session starts (Sandpoint Bee)
Community radio station KRFY names new leaders (Sandpoint Bee)
Committees review common core (TF Times News)

Eugene cemetery in bankruptcy court (Eugene Register Guard)
New Klamath Promise coordinator (KF Herald & News)
Not a drought so far, but close (Medford Mail Tribune)
Oil transport trains lightly regulated (Portland Oregonian)
2014 legislature preparations (Salem Statesman Journal)
Alcohol funds apportionment (Salem Statesman Journal)
Statesman Journal says it will add more (Salem Statesman Journal)

Monkey housing Everett (Everett Herald)
Washington legislature ahead (Tacoma News Tribune, Everett Herald, Vancouver Columbian, Longview News)
Banks rejecting pot industry funds (Kennewick TriCity Herald)
New Pasco prison opens in April (Kennewick TriCity Herald)
Dispute over Richland school letters (Kennewick TriCity Herald)
Real estate prices down (Port Angeles News)
Heavy storm on coast (Port Angeles News)
Rehab for Port Townsend library (Port Angeles News)
Yakima labor dispute hits Supreme Court (Yakima Herald Republic)
Yakamas seek pot ban on some of its land (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take

idaho RANDY

Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter’s state of the state speech last week was mostly a recitation of the familiar – education? Check; wolves? Check – but his reference to $15 million he’d like to spend on water projects seemed a little out of the blue.

“Water sustainability initiative projects”? Doesn’t sound very Otter-like.

And 2014 would seem to be a year when water matters settle down: This is likely to be the year a “final decree” is issued in the Snake River Basin Adjudication, which at last nails who has rights to what in Idaho water.

Throw in a few factors from here and there, though, and it does begin to fit.

There is, of course, the growing likelihood that this will be a parched water year.

Another was the reference to water not long after he spoke about economic growth in the Magic Valley. Many businesses setting up in that region either rely on a strong water supply, or rely on other businesses that do.

Idaho and its history are richly woven with water projects, the bulk of them more than 50 years old. The collapse of the last major project, the Teton Dam, seemed to slam the lid on big dams in Idaho.

Bear in mind that, although his proposal for $15 million was singled out in the speech and got a fair amount of media attention, the amount of money is, in context, small. To build a single large dam would cost hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars, one of the reasons so few have been built in recent decades. What Otter is proposing are much smaller-scale.

Those include (his budget book says) “acquiring water rights to provide a reliable water supply to Mountain Home Air Force Base ($4 million); conducting studies of the Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer to support the establishment of [city] water rights for long-term needs ($500,000); initiating environmental compliance and land exchange analysis for the Galloway Project ($2 million); completing Arrowrock enlargement and flood control feasibility study ($1.5 million); beginning Island Park Reservoir Enlargement Project ($2.5 million); developing computer infrastructure necessary for the operation of the Water Supply Bank ($500,000); and developing additional managed recharge capacity ($4 million).”

Galloway is iffy. It’s been a subject of interest since the U.S. Senate authorized a study in 1954, and there have been studies (like a 2011 state-authorized study on gaps of information) and even specific action (an early 70s withdrawal of federal lands for a dam and reservoir site). But the difficulty and the costs (recently estimated at more than $500 million) keep emerging as too high, and benefits too low.

Most of the others are more straightforward, and could fall in the category of a small amount of spending that could generate large returns. The Water Supply Bank, for example, probably is underused and might extend Idaho’s water supply with more cooperation. The Rathdrum Aquifer could use more detailed attention; Washington state, which shares the aquifer, certainly is paying ample attention to the limitations and opportunities there.

The largest chunk of the water money, a still-modest $4 million, would go toward Snake River Plain recharge – maybe one of the smartest long-term investments the state could make. House Speaker Scott Bedke remarked that, “Being from southern Idaho, I’m encouraged by putting the money back into the water infrastructure, so that we can prepare to recharge.” Plenty of area water users likely would agree.

This could be spending small in amount, but large in effect.

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Idaho Idaho column


The hot political ticket this week may be Tuesday’s legislative hearing on the Columbia River Crossing bridge proposal – not that it is likely to put the issue to rest.

At this point, it seems, hardly anything is likely to.
The CRC, just as a reminder, is the label for a new and improved bridge on Interstate 5 between Portland and Vancouver, to upgrade from the often traffic-stressed road it is now. The key here is that two states necessarily are involved, Oregon and Washington.

The overall CRC story goes back a long way, but the trajectory for this part of it comes from last winter when, after Oregon’s legislature and other public officials flipped the green light for committing to their part of the deal, Washington’s legislators couldn’t (in large part because part of the Clark County delegation was opposed) gather enough to pass their counter-measure in Olympia. Without both states signing on, federal funding seemed unlikely, and there the matter seemed to stand – stuck for the foreseeable future.

A number of Oregon officials, however, and these included Governor John Kitzhaber, refused to let it go. New, less-costly plans were developed, alternative approaches were worked out to make sure Washington (or its drivers) eventually coughed up enough of the cost, and a new funding formula was worked out. But would it work? And would Oregon be too much on the hook if it didn’t?

There are not yet any totally clear answers to those questions, and the waters have gotten muddier. Murmurs from Olympia have grown a bit louder with the coming of legislators there, but some of those voices are of the “try again” variety while others ensure the approval will go no further this year.

Reports on the Oregon side have gotten murkier too. A new study out on January 10 says that the main effect of tolling on the I-5 bridge would be push drivers over to I-205, to the east Portland and east Vancouver bridge, to the point that bridge’s capacities would be severely stretched. Political people in Clackamas County, through which I-205 runs on the Oregon side, are concerned about the prospects.

Another report, this one financial, came last week from Oregon state Treasurer Ted Wheeler. He didn’t slam the door shut, but he didn’t exactly offer a resounding blast of confidence either: “If the assumptions underlying the projections made by the project consultants are valid, the tolls will be sufficient to service the project bonds. That said, we need to be sure Oregon can collect them.”

He added, “A key concern is ensuring a legally enforceable way to ensure tolls are collected from drivers registered in Washington State, who will make up an estimated two-thirds of the bridge users. The current plan calls for Oregon to lead the bridge financing and construction effort.”

There may also be this: Support for the project might be higher among elected officials, of both parties, than it is in either party’s base. Plenty of people in those quarters, left and right, have been extending criticism of a big project that, if it’s to succeed, logically ought to have a large based of support.
Arrayed against that is the massive amount of effort, money and political capital already thrown into the project.

If it seems unlikely to happen in anything like the near term, it also seems unlikely to go away soon.

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Oregon Oregon column

rainey BARRETT


In terms of useful work accomplished, the recently ended session of Congress was bad – worst ever. The new session that began last week will strive for – and likely surpass – that historic low. The square earth cancer existing in the House for several years has spread to the Senate, guaranteeing already single-digit voter approval ratings will slip even more.

Grim forecast? Yes. Without basis? No. Indicators are all over the place. But here are three that resonate with me.

First – the longer-than-usual list of members quitting. But not just that. What makes these departures more problematic is the political leaning represented by many in the exiting group. Moderates. Many from the middle who’ve historically cooperated with that “other” party. Some who’ve had to beat off primary challenges from the tinfoil hat crowd in the past because of their willingness to “get-the-job-done” using the politics of compromise. Punishment for statesmanship. Attacked by the ignorant for doing the job they were elected to do. At some point, a guy gets fed up being clobbered for doing the right thing.. At some point, he quits. We’re seeing it this time in spades!

Additionally, even some of those who’ve carried water for the far right have somehow slipped into disfavor – encouraged the wrath of the foil folk – finding themselves “primaried.” You won’t find that word in Webster’s or SpellCheck. It means the nuts have put up someone further right-of-center than you and you’re going to have to spend big bucks to win your own primary – then more big bucks to battle the other party in a second election.

Rep Mike Simpson (R-ID) comes to mind as a prime example. Sen. Minority Leader McConnell, (R-KY), too. Though hewing to the square earth Republican line – even when that line was a guaranteed loser – both men are raising money to battle their own party folk. Then still more bucks if a Democrat shows up for the November general election. Gotta have “purity,” dontcha know.

The exit of moderates – especially GOP moderates – assures the mess we’ve endured in recent years will get even messier. A victory here and there for newly minted extremists will simply further foul a bad situation.

Second – both political parties are shrinking in membership. Large numbers of people who previously considered themselves Democrats or Republicans are abandoning whatever’s left of those organizations and moving to the Independent banner. But that’s a very, very sharp two-edged sword.

While one might feel personally and philosophically rewarded by being politically free to pick and choose, the problem is there is no viable “Independent Party” with any clout. Many states don’t allow candidates who aren’t Democrat or Republican on the ballot. So what you get in many cases is the recognized two parties put unacceptable candidates on the ballots for the disenfranchised “Independents” to chose between.

Unless – and until – enough people can create a real Independent Party made up of truly fed-up former Democrats and Republicans, there’ll be no real change. The third party folk will simply have abandoned the recognized and lawful system and have no clout to change anything. The choice really amounts to being disenfranchised or going back to the political party you’re trying to escape from while trying to change it.

Third – there are 534 members in the current Congress. Right? How many would you guess are millionaires? MORE THAN HALF! Yep. At least 268 had a documented 2012 net worth of a million. Or more!

Used to be easy to look it up. But the Center for Responsive Politics that researched those figures says Congress quietly changed the rules recently so you can’t tell how much over a million they might really be worth. Chief Obama hater Rep. Issa (R-CA) is generally judged to be the most well-heeled at about a billion. Even Idaho’s little Sen. Risch is up in the multi-million range.

So, next time you consider the Republican cut to food stamps of $40 billion, ask yourself this:”With more than half the people voting who should eat – how much and when – being millionaires, what do they really know of hunger? How in touch with people trying to keep their families fed are these guys?

Or, that old Republican bugaboo – unemployment benefits. What do Issa and Risch and the 266 other millionaires really know of being unemployed while trying to keep a family together? What do they know of the absolute need of $200 or $300 a week to survive? When more than half the folks writing our laws and determining benefits have checkbooks with seven or eight or nine figures in them, how concerned are they about the necessities you have to deal with on a daily basis?

Is the new Congress going to be worse than the last? Will there be more partisanship and stalemate? Will the foil hat crowd continue to sabotage democracy? Will the more than half the Congress worth over a million apiece remain out-of-touch with today’s reality at your house?

Yes. Yes. Yes. And yes.

Happy New Year anyway.

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Found this remarkable paragraph in the most recent report on Idaho National Laboratory operations for late last year. I can’t recall seeing any news reports …

INL researchers recently released independent testing results of a wireless charging system designed for plug-in electric vehicles. The system tested, Evatran’s Plugless Level 2 Charging System, uses inductive technology to wirelessly charge a PEV’s traction battery, which powers the vehicle. Soon, drivers of electric vehicles may only need to park to begin charging their batteries. INL continues to conduct independent testing of PEVs and charging systems. The Plugless system is the first wireless power transfer technology to be independently documented and published.

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ridenbaugh Northwest

A guest opinion from former Idaho Supreme Court Justice (and former chief justice) Linda Copple Trout.

From Amazon to Google, Apple to Microsoft, 21st Century business is driven by technology, the Internet and constant and necessary improvements in efficiency and productivity. Idaho’s court system must also perform at the highest levels and in the same modern information technology environment.

Idaho courts have long taken pride in staying abreast of the needs of a 21st Century economy and we have reached a critical point where technology investments must be made if we hope to ensure that the thousands of cases that come to Idaho’s courts annually are resolved fairly, timely, and efficiently.

Idaho’s courts will be asking the coming session of the state legislature to invest in a well-planned, comprehensive approach to updating the judicial branch’s critical technology infrastructure. It’s not inexpensive, but it is essential and we have developed a range of options to fund the necessary upgrades that we believe will allow the legislature and governor to meet the need.

In truth, the court’s existing technology infrastructure has reached what the experts call “the end of life.” The software that supports the court’s statewide ISTARS system, in place for 25 years, is obsolete and licenses are no longer renewable. Realizing that we must face these technology challenges if Idaho’s courts are to continue to meet the Constitutional mandate to resolve cases without delay, the Supreme Court established a technology committee to evaluate options.

After months of work and consultation the committee is recommending a modern 24/7 web-based case management system for Idaho that will benefit every aspect of private commerce and public business in the state, and will join all of Idaho’s 44 counties into one cohesive system. By taking advantage of significant advances in technology generally, and in court technology specifically, the new system will generate across the board cost savings, while enhancing productivity and efficiency.

One-time costs of $21.6 million for this critical update can be spread over five years and will include:

· New software to handle case management along with the necessary infrastructure, and new electronic court records equipment

· Replacement of out-dated courthouse computers, printers, and digital recording software

· Video conferencing capability at all Idaho courthouses

· Moving to a paperless court system

In developing these proposals for the legislature and governor the Idaho courts have concentrated on applying proven technology already in everyday use in many different courts across America and capable of being fully implemented during the planned five-year transition period.

It will ultimately be up to the legislature, of course, how to fund this essential investment, but we believe it can be done by an increase in the existing Court Technology Fee, or alternatively an increase in that fee accompanied by bridge or transition funding, or by a redirection of filing fees already being collected by the Courts and deposited into the State’s General Fund. We look forward to working with the other branches of Idaho state government to find the best approach to paying for the kind of 21st Century system we must have.

Once implemented the modern court technology system will provide real and significant time and cost savings to Idaho taxpayers, lawyers, litigants, counties and cities, and the numerous different court records consumers, whether they are private or commercial enterprises such as banks and credit unions.

Our courts are the final line of protection for individual rights. They provide access to justice, help ensure the safety of communities and protect our most basic Constitutional rights. Our courts also have an essential role in supporting a growing economy by operating – as business must – with the help of modern technology that helps ensure efficiency and ever enhanced productivity.

Idaho’s old, outdated technology system needs to be updated. We have little choice but to start that process in 2014.

(Linda Copple Trout is a former Chief Justice of the Idaho Supreme Court.)

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rainey BARRETT


Dealing with my feelings about the Edward Snowden story creates some of the same thoughts I have about pornography. As an issue, I’m opposed to porn. But that doesn’t mean I don’t take a quick look if it pops up unexpectedly on a web site I’ve happened across.

What Snowden did – stealing and distributing U.S. government secrets – is abhorrent – a clear violation of oaths he took when granted a security clearance to work with classified documents. He’s no hero. He’s a criminal and should be punished as such. He betrayed the trust granted by his civilian employer – and the entire nation by implication – and he may be a source of lasting damage to our national security. So far, that’s doubtful but not all the information he purloined has been published.

With that said – like porn – we’ll all take a look at what stolen details come out of the electronic stash of documents. And they’re coming. Some boring – some interesting – some downright scary and unsettling. It’s certain there will be more revelations, like the ever-present surveillance of the National Security Agency in all our lives. It’s likely to be an even bumpier ride.

Like it or not, what we’re learning about “big brother” and the gaze on us all by the “eye that never sleeps,” is alarming – yet fascinating – stuff. Kind of like that brief, occasional glimpse of porn. Those doing the surveillance are pissed because we now know. But – as the surveilled – we need to know. We have a constitutionally guaranteed right to know.

I hear many people say, “Well, so what? I’m not doing anything wrong. Go ahead and look. They won’t find anything.” Two things scare me about people who say that. First, they’re probably licensed to drive on the same highways I use. Second, the issue is not what we’re doing but rather why should our government be watching us?

This is not a political issue for which this administration or the previous one – or the one previous to that – can be solely criticized. If it’s true the neo-cons of the first Bush years started this, it’s equally true all subsequent administrations have approved it.

In the days after 9/11, there may have been sufficient reasons for ramping up surveillance of electronic traffic. Or, it may have been an overreaction to fears raised by that terrible attack. Makes no difference now. What does make a difference is we’ve had a dozen years to see if such government snooping on its citizens is warranted or is simply being continued because it “may” be effective to identify terrorists. Operative word there is “may.”

There’s been plenty of time to assess the value of such surveillance. The question is, has anyone done such an assessment? If so, what were the results? If not, why the Hell not? One agency says, “Well, we don’t look at these messages from those sources” and another says “We only look at these people.” Is there any coordination here? Who’s in and who’s out? We need to know.

As happens so often when we or a corporation or a government try to operate secretly, the word will get out eventually. The cat’s out of the bag now on this national “secret.” We know – in at least some vague ways – our privacy is being violated by a government trying to do due diligence in matters of national security. But we don’t know exactly by whom, how or what the results are. The fact that no one has flown another airplane into another building is not the answer we deserve. That’s simply a political brush off.

The question of whether Edward Snowden and Bradley – oops – Chelsea Manning were motivated to betray the national trust placed in them is for another time and other discussions. Assuring necessary security in the field of classified national information in the hands of millions of people needs to be addressed now. And safeguards – such as there may be – instituted immediately.

This administration – and whatever intelligent members of Congress we have left – need to make a “full court press” inside government and out. Why do we have these programs? What kinds and how many? Run by whom? Effectiveness? Are there adequate safeguards? Are there other, less invasive ways to get the same results? How are we screening those who are allowed access? And we – you and I – need to be told PDQ the answers to those and other pertinent questions.

Now that the “surveillance cow is out of the national security barn,” we need to know how it got out and what went with it. Even NSA doesn’t seem to know what Snowden took, how he took it or where it is. Those are the folks we’re supposed to rely on when we put our heads on the pillow each night.

Can’t speak for you but I’ve been sleeping with one eye open lately.

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carlson CHRIS


No holder of high public office in Idaho could have been happier to see 2013 end than U.S. Senator Mike Crapo, the senior member of the state’s four-member, all Republican delegation.

Counting Christmas of 2012, in slightly more than 365 days the normally quiet workhorse (as opposed to a show horse) made the headlines on three occasions that can only be described as embarrassing and mortifying to a senator long known for his probity and sense of propriety.

First there was his arrest for driving while impaired in northern Virginia just before Christmas of 2012. Few reporters bought his story about deciding to go for a late night drive. The rumor mill churned into over-drive but the senator is justifiably held in such high regard that no one in the media chose to pursue speculation regarding where he may have been headed or where he was coming from.

His years of good conduct and solid, stolid work got him a “move along” card. Strike one, however.

A few months later another story hit the headlines regarding the mishandling of $250,000 in campaign money that appeared to have been loaned to one of the Senator’s campaign staffers. This brought a rebuke from the Federal Election Commission. Strike two.

And just a few weeks ago the Senator appeared on the Senate floor with what looked to most observers like a “shiner” below his right eye more commonly associated with a left hook. Why he chose to display the black eye, allegedly the result of a fall while moving furniture, instead of stopping by the Senate’s television studio to have a little make-up applied to cover up the shiner, is a complete mystery.

The shiner led to the kind of jokes and one liners that no politician likes to be the butt of and no Idaho politician had been the recipient of since former Senator Larry Craig’s toe-tapping incident in one of the restrooms in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport. Strike three, Senator Crapo.

In baseball, three strikes and you’re out of the game. The same should also prevail in the political arena. Unfortunately, that is not the case and when one comes to the Senate from the most Republican state in the nation, Senators Crapo and Risch can pretty much count on staying in the Senate as long as they wish including right up to their dying day.

There is just one answer left to the Idaho voters: pass an initiative limiting service in all the statewide offices and the federal offices to a maximum of 12 years. Thus, a U.S. Senator could only serve two 6-year terms, a member of the House could only serve six 2-year terms, and a governor could only serve three 4-year terms.

Something seems to happen to even the best of office-holders after 12 years. For lack of a better phrase it can be called the “been there, done that” syndrome. Yes, it is a form of arrogance but the person starts thinking he or she has seen it all, know it all and they stop listening.

Some start thinking they have Ronald Reagan’s Teflon suit and the media can’t touch them. They start minimizing contact with the press—–let the press secretary handle the pesky questions. Others get lazy and suspend their town hall meetings in off-election years. They start coasting, rationalizing as Senator Risch did last year that because the Congress is grid-locked, nothing gets done, so just coast along and get some foreign travel in while marking timed.

Idaho’s previous mistake with term limits was that of being too broad a sweep and applying it to county and municipal offices as well as highway districts, school and cemetery boards. It’s the prestigious offices that need limits, not these lesser offices or the State Legislature.

Senator Crapo should recognize the signs of battle fatigue and step aside when his third senate term is up in 2016. There really is life after the Senate. Overall, the Senator has built a solid if not spectacular record for himself. Given the troubling signs of late it appears he can only tarnish this solid record by further service.

Odds are if he does retire he won’t go back to Idaho Falls and resume the practice of law (“They never go back to Pocatello” in the immortal words of former Oregon Senator Richard Neuberger). All Senator Crapo has to do, though, is look at the lucrative positions paying seven-figures that former colleagues like Steve Symms, Dirk Kempthorne and Judd Gregg are commanding. Forsaking further public service is easily salved.

Absent term limits, whether he will or won’t, only he knows. Hopefully he will recognize he took three strikes in 2013.

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Carlson Idaho

trahant MARK


It’s a new year — and a new story. There is nothing more important to political discourse than a good story. It shapes our thinking, sets the rules for the debate, and, sometimes, warps reality. Stories matter. We humans think in terms of story. We dream, tell, and remember stories. We live stories.

So what’s Indian Country’s “story” for 2014?

Before I answer that question, let’s look back at recent narratives.

The first story goes like this: Congress broke promises made to Indian Country by cutting federal budgets beyond all reason, especially through the sequester. This made reservation life far more difficult, removing children from Head Start, scaling back educational opportunities, severe funding for healthcare delivery, and basic government infrastructure.

The New York Times, in a July editorial, captured this storyline. “It’s an old American story: malign policies hatched in Washington leading to pain and death in Indian country. It was true in the 19th century. It is true now, at a time when Congress, heedless of its solemn treaty obligations to Indian tribes, is allowing the across-the-board budget cuts known as the sequester to threaten the health, safety and education of Indians across the nation.”

This is an important story to know. And to tell. But it’s also important to know that the story already has its ending. There are only two ways to change what happens next, vote out Congress or limit the damage. (More about both of those scenarios in future columns.) The second alternative is remote, but possible in 2014, with measures such as Montana Senator Jon Tester’s bill to fund Indian health programs a year in advance.

Another story told this year is about changing the name of the Washington NFL team. This story is important because it’s a success story (I know, the issue isn’t resolved. Yet. But it’s inevitable. The question is how long the team owner will fight on, not the outcome.) Forget the merits of the mascot debate for a minute and just think about the storytelling aspect.

This story is all about the long view. Suzan Shown Harjo, Raymond D. Apodaca, Vine Deloria, Jr.; Norbert S. Hill, Jr.; Mateo Romero; William A. Means; and Manley A. Begay, pressed a case calling for the cancellation of the team’s trademark protections. It’s step-by-step litigation that’s built a through record about “pejorative, derogatory, denigrating, offensive, scandalous, contemptuous, disreputable, disparaging and racist designation for a Native American person.”

The velocity of change picked up in February when the National Museum of the American Indian held a public symposium on the mascot issue. This was a story told in the heart of Washington, challenging and burying status quo.

So much so that Harjo and her allies have already won the tides of history and public opinion. The NFL doesn’t see it that way. Yet. But it will will. And if not, the litigation continues in a new form, the case now known as Blackhorse et al v. Pro-Football Inc. This is a story that’s ready for an ending.

A third story — another one about success — is the signing into law of reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, including provisions that recognize tribal jurisdiction. This law is a tribute to the power of story. It probably would not have become law until Deborah Parker, Vice Chairman of the Tulalip Tribes, told her story to Sen. Patty Murray and then in a Senate news conference. Parker’s narrative changed the politics. The law’s supporters built a successful coalition that trumped the politics of the ordinary, especially in the House of the Representatives. This Violence Against Women Act story, though, needs an ending. It’s not enough to pass a law, there has to accounts about how this law has really made a difference in the lives of women are abused.

One problem with stories, at least in a political context, is there potential for misuse. A story can be told that warps or ignores reality.

Consider the stories told about the failure about the Affordable Care Act. Yes, there are problems with the law, serious issues that should be explored, and, if possible fixed. But at the same time, every cancellation of an insurance policy is not “because” of Obamacare. Stories of millions of cancellations are not possible when only 14 million people have individual health insurance plans. Even before the law, those plans changed often. Cancellations were common. But it didn’t matter as a story because eight-in-ten Americans, before the law and now, get health insurance through their employer. But it’s so easy to use Obamacare as the excuse, covering up problems that existed long before the Affordable Care Act.

So what are the Indian Country’s stories for 2014? The long view stories will continue to unfold. Two years ago, in 2012, there was a successful effort to turn out Indian Country’s voters. Will that narrative come back? Or will history again show that off-year elections are wasted opportunities? Already there’s a projection of a Republican sweep this year from Larry Sabato.

But most of the stories for this year we won’t know until they, using the vernacular of the Internet, “go viral.” A story that’s told that suddenly resonates across Indian Country and beyond. It’s those stories that can be effective in shaping the world as we’d like it to be.

Mark Trahant is the 20th Atwood Chair at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He is a journalist, speaker and Twitter poet and is a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Comment on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/TrahantReports

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